Politics & Other Mistakes: The mysterious Mr. Quinn

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“What is your opinion of the performance of Representative Paul Quinn?” asked the recorded voice on the phone. “Press 1 if you approve. Press 2 if you disapprove.”

Press 3 if you’re confused.

Who’s Paul Quinn?

After a few more questions, I realized this sloppy survey from some out-of-state polling firm I’d never heard of was attempting to assess the mood of the electorate in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District. “Paul Quinn” was the pollster’s creative interpretation of the name of our Republican U.S. representative, Bruce Poliquin.

Too bad. I was ready to vote for Quinn.

In fact, I’m ready to vote for almost anybody but Poliquin, not because I disagree with his positions on issues, but because I often have no idea what those positions are.

The congressman, on advice from his weaselly political advisers, has adopted a policy of refusing to comment on anything with even the slightest hint of controversy. According to a recording of a private talk he gave in August to a conservative group, he does so because, “It would be stupid … to engage the national media to give them and everybody else the ammunition they need, and we would lose this seat, but I get it.”

No, you don’t, Paul. I mean, Bruce.

The Maine media no longer employ any reporters in the nation’s capital, so your constituents are dependent on major news organizations for information about your activities. Even when you’re back home, you rarely give interviews to reporters who are likely to ask tough questions. Instead, on those rare occasions when you respond to journalists’ queries, you do so in carefully crafted emails that usually say nothing at all.

It’s obvious you’re afraid not only of the media, but also of the voters. And it’s obvious you care very little about convincing the public that your political positions are reasonable. What you care about is getting re-elected. That’s a lot easier if you haven’t taken any stands that anyone could possibly disagree with.

It’s worth noting that what’s his name, Quinn – no, Poliquin – might not even be seeking another two years in Congress. He could be waiting to see if GOP U.S. Sen. Susan Collins runs for governor. If she doesn’t, Poliquin might file for that office (why not, every third person in the state is already running). But for purposes of this little discussion, let’s assume he’ll try for a third term in the House.

What stands in his way is that rarest of electoral phenomena: The Democrats might have a credible candidate to oppose him.

While a number of Dems have announced their intentions of opposing Poliquin, most of them can be characterized by the technical term “sure losers.” Jonathan Fulford has run for the Legislature twice – unsuccessfully. Tim Rich runs a coffee shop in Bar Harbor, and that’s the extent of his resume. There may be a couple other clunkers with no name recognition, no money and no chance, but my research budget doesn’t allow me to track down information of such an obscure nature.

And then there’s Jared Golden.

Golden is a state representative from Lewiston. He’s currently the assistant majority leader in the Maine House. He’s a U.S. Marine Corps veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq. He has worked for the State Department and for Sen. Collins in Washington. He’s experienced and (assuming he had nothing to do with that blundering “Paul Quinn” poll) smart. Unlike Poliquin, he really lives in the 2nd District. Unlike the incumbent, he’s not afraid to answer reasonable questions about his positions on issues.

I’m not always happy with those answers, which sometimes reflect a tired Democratic agenda that’s going nowhere. But even that’s an improvement over the non-responses of Silent Brucie.

Oh wait, Poliquin does have a position on one thing. He thinks Golden is too young to serve in Congress. In a fundraising email, the 64-year-old congressman repeatedly referred to his potential opponent as “Young Jared” and “Young Mr. Golden.”

Golden is 35 years old.

Old Mr. Poliquin was never in the military; he served his country by amassing a fortune on Wall Street. In his email, he dismisses Golden’s combat service as an “attempt to appear somewhat moderate or conservative.”

Who wouldn’t try to enhance their political credentials by taking enemy fire? It’s the easy way to boost your poll numbers.

Either that or use a pseudonym like “Paul Quinn.”

It’s your golden opportunity to email Al Diamon at aldiamon@herniahill.net.