U.s. News

Maine’s Madman Governor Paul LePage Strikes Again

The Daily Beast

Just 100 days into Gov. Paul LePage’s Tea Party-fueled administration, his fellow Republicans are fighting back, defeating his push to bring back toxic baby bottles. Now Maine faces a choice between the Republicanism of moderate Olympia Snowe or the more bellicose LePage, reports Colin Woodard.

After November’s election, Maine Republicans had reason to feel heady. Their candidate, Tea Party-backed conservative Paul LePage, was headed to the governor’s mansion in Augusta, where the GOP had won a majority in both legislative chambers for the first time in nearly half a century.

But a hundred days into his administration, Gov. LePage has managed to alienate legislators, invigorate his opponents, and generate more negative national press attention than any Maine politician since James G. Blaine, who retired from the U.S. Senate in 1881. On the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, he told the NAACP to “kiss my butt.”   He defended a campaign to lift a ban on the endocrine disruptor bisphenol-A in baby bottles by joking that the worst thing that could happen is “some women may have little beards.” Then he had a mural illustrating the history of Maine’s labor movement taken out of a Department of Labor waiting room after an anonymous letter compared it to murals in North Korea aimed at “brainwashing the masses.” The removal triggered large protests by artists and union members, and a possible federal Department of Labor fine in excess of $60,000, for breaching the terms of a grant that helped cover the mural’s purchase, and widespread editorial condemnation, with the Bangor Daily News describing the act as “straight out of Orwell’s world.”

“Gov. LePage has spent the early days of his administration seeking out third-rail issues,” says Ron Schmidt Jr., chairman of the University of Southern Maine’s political science department. “In traditional political math, he should be trying to grow his base”—LePage won by 1 point, with 38 percent of the vote—“but things like the mural could even erode his base.”

The central question in Maine politics has been whether Republican lawmakers would stand by LePage’s more contentious proposals, such as rolling back all environmental laws to match laxer federal standards. Recently it has become clear that many of them are frustrated with the governor, and that the feeling is mutual. On Monday, eight of 20 Republican state senators criticized the governor’s often bellicose behavior in an op-ed published by the state’s largest newspaper chain. The next day, LePage’s bisphenol-A initiative was rejected 35-0 in the state senate, after a 145-3 defeat in the House.

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The Daily Beast: Obama Needs An Enemy

Folks are coming down hard on the president, but as The Daily Beast asks,  “…compared to what?  Wait till people get a better look at John Boehner and his band of corporate fat cats. Peter Beinart reports on the good news for Democrats.”

The Daily Beast

Amid the misery of the moment, here’s something Democrats can look forward to: President Obama is about to get his foil. He’s needed one throughout his career. In 2007, it was the contrast with Hillary Clinton that accentuated Obama’s freshness and authenticity. In 2008, it was during the presidential debates—where McCain looked erratic and uninformed and Obama looked analytical and centered—that Obama put the race away. In 2009 and 2010, by contrast, Obama has had no one to contrast himself with except for George W. Bush, and that stopped working long ago.

He’s remained, for all his troubles, far more popular than Congress. But with Congress in Democratic hands, he hasn’t been able to wield that contrast to his benefit. Instead of a political foil, Congress has provided political baggage. In passing legislation, Nancy Pelosi has proved masterful. But politically, she owns a favorability rating of 15 percent, according to this week’s New York Times, which helps explain why Republican candidates rarely utter the president’s name without mentioning hers as well.

Next week, however, things will change. A lot of Americans are about to be introduced to John Boehner and it’s unlikely they’ll like what they see. Partly, that’s because congressional leaders are usually unpopular. They’re sausage-makers, practitioners of an art that most Americans despise. And they’re rarely good on TV, which is not surprising given that they’ve been elevated within their parties because of their skills behind closed doors.

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