So, our new governor was in office just over a week before he managed to make himself look like an ass.
Basically, the Maine chapter of the NAACP (that’s the one that tries to improve the condition of black Americans, not the college sports one, by the way) had invited him to a number of events they were hosting, and he’d declined. These events included a voter registration drive in a prison and an MLK breakfast they’re having today at the University. They were a bit disappointed that he’d turned them down, and on Friday, a reporter asked the Republican, Tea Party-backed governor for his thoughts on the matter. Here’s the clip.
First of all: obviously, LePage is not an out-and-out racist. Anyone can have some black friends, but he’s got an actual black son. The son he mentions, by the way, is a foster son; Devon Raymond Jr. is a 25-year-old Jamacian who came to live with the LePage family in 2002, graduating from Waterville High School, Husson, and Grambling State in Louisiana. Raymond’s father is a Jamacian who met LePage while working as his golf caddie. Raymond is an accomplished golfer himself, and says he’s “chasing the dreams of being a PGA pro.”
Ok, so he’s not a white supremecist, but obviously he needs to work on his people skills in a major way. What’s he going to say when someone offers some criticism of one of his policies, tell them to go f**k themselves? LePage is known for being a straight shooter, speaking his mind without worrying if he ruffles a few feathers. In other words, he’s rude and obnoxious.
What’s really disturbed me is the way people have responded so positively to his terrible manners. “It’s so refreshing to hear a politician speak his mind, and just tell it like it is,” they say, “Good for him for standing up to the special interests.” I don’t know how anyone could be stupid enough to mistake his childish badmouthing for something admirable, but there you go. They hear him say something politically incorrect, they see him ruffle a few feathers, and they think he’s a guy full of candor, cutting through the BS and standing up for common sense, when in reality he’s just too lazy to think his positions through or defend them properly.
And as for standing up to special interests? That sounds like a laudable goal, but you have to look at what really constitutes a special interest. They range from the tobacco lobby to Greenpeace to the NRA to the Sierra Club to the VFW. I certainly imagine (or I hope, at least) that if the VFW were to petition him with certain things they’d like to see him do, he wouldn’t just tell them to buzz off the way he did the NAACP. As for the NAACP, they’ve over a century working to guarantee the civil rights of black Americans. They helped to end lynching, to destroy Jim Crow, to end segregation in schools and in public life, and to ensure that black Americans were allowed to vote. Over the past few decades they’ve worked toward ending discrimination and closing the gap that exists between mainstream America and much of the black American population. And as for the event in which they wanted him to meet with only black prisoners and not not white prisoners? That’s not what they asked him to do. They asked him to take part in a voter registration drive at the Maine State Prison in Warren, where half the prisoners are white, and the event would not have been segregated. Also, while LePage said that he couldn’t go to the breakfast because he had to attend the funeral of a Maine State Trooper, but he had already declined the invitation before the trooper’s death. Making arguments using facts that that are inaccurate or even totally false? Unfortunately, that’s another thing LePage has become known for.
I’m going to have to beg your forgiveness in advance for using such a horrendously hackneyed phrase, but frankly, the man’s just too big for his britches. He’s arrogant and doesn’t give much of a hoot what others think even if they know more about what they’re talking about than he does. I spoke with someone who attended the inauguration last week, and she said that as he was meeting with well-wishers at the end of the evening, 9:00 rolled around and he decided to call it a night. He just headed out and left a line full of people who had been waiting hours to speak to him. He seems like a pretty decent person (as opposed to a number of other Republican politicians) but he needs to remember that it’s his job to run the state, and that spouting off careless bravado is never a characteristic of good leadership.
In the end, though, LePage showed himself to have some people skills after all, and attended an MLK community breakfast sponsored by the Rotary Club in his former hometown of Waterville. He even took part in an African dance.
Is this a happy ending to our story? It’s certainly worlds better than if he hadn’t attended at all. It’s hard to say whether or not it was just a political move to satisfy his constituents, but at least he was a good sport about it. We’ll have to see if he starts realizing he’s not the only person in the world whose ideas and opinions have merit, or whether he’ll keep acting like he’s Gov. Peter Griffin.