Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Gubernatorial scorecard: Break time

Published in the Portland Phoenix

Summer's here, and everybody needs a break. Even Governor Paul LePage seems to be taking a holiday from the hard work of keeping his mouth shut in public. What a relief for him to finally be able to relax, wag his chin, flap his lips, and score those wonderful headlines again! Herewith, our seventh Gubernatorial Scorecard, in which we score LePage on political savvy, and on whether what he's trying to do is good policy. Note the running total.

PRAYER BREAK | LePage issued a proclamation saying August 6 was a "Day of Prayer," and then promptly denied it was related to Texas governor Rick Perry's call for a "National Day of Prayer and Fasting" on the same day. Perry's move has generated controversy for being closely tied to the American Family Association, a conservative evangelical Christian group. Maine GOP lawmakers are circulating a letter of support, saying "the struggles we face as a state are often beyond the power of government to solve," and calling on God's aid.
POLITICS • It's an easy pander to his base, and an easy dodge to distance himself from the like-minded Perry | 8/10 POLICY • For a party that campaigned on fixing government, this sounds like "islam" — the Arabic word for "surrender" | 1/10
CRITICISM BREAK | When Marine Resources Commissioner Norman Olsen, generally a reasonable guy, resigned, he issued a damning statement accusing LePage of boot-licking special-interest groups and having a secret agenda kept even from his cabinet members. The press leapt on that, and on LePage's dismissive response was quick, concise, and atypically vengeless. But quietly, he undermined Olsen by giving a GOP operative evidence to the contrary, and later issuing that operative's resulting blog post as an official press release.
POLITICS • He ousted a qualified cabinet member, then quietly wrecked the guy's rep | 8/10 POLICY • Politics aside, third competent cabinet member to exit | 5/10
URBAN BREAK | In Olsen's allegations was a claim that LePage refused to cooperate with Portland leaders because Maine's largest city voted against him last year. LePage met with city mayor Nick Mavodones to assure him that the business engine of the state was never far from gubernatorial thoughts, but made no apology, real promises, or statements of substance.
POLITICS • Pissing off people who already hate him? A big win in the Other Maine | 8/10 POLICY • Stupid threats, especially when retracted, weaken an already struggling leader | 3/10
MEDIA BREAK | Before the meeting with Mavodones, LePage swung wildly at his favorite piƱata — the media. Singling out State House insider Mal Leary (of Capitol News Service) for rare praise, the gov claimed that the press didn't publish his side of the Olsen mess, and specifically accused MaineToday reporter Rebekah Metzler of having "never written an honest thing since I've been governor."
POLITICS • It's an old, tiresome canard for most of us, but it works for his anti-media supporters who also hate Portland | 9/10 POLICY • Is he done shooting the messenger yet? | 3/10
SCHOOL BREAK | LePage has proposed extending Maine high schools to five years, after which students would graduate with a standard diploma and an associate's degree or equivalent college credit. How much it would cost Maine taxpayers remains to be seen, but it could boost educational and income levels in our state, which is nationally low in both areas.
POLITICS • A social program couched in economic-development terms — very slick | 10/10 POLICY • An idea with real potential to put Maine among the nation's leaders | 10/10
This month's total | Politics 43/50 | Policy 22/50 | Last month: Politics 40/50 | Policy 13/50 | Overall: Politics 231/350 | Policy 141/350