The Universal Notebook: Feeling sorry for LePage, Maine

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Google “America’s craziest governor” and see who comes up. Yep, that’s right.

Maine politicians were once pillars of reason, moderation and diplomacy. Now our governor constantly makes national headlines for being irrational, immoderate and combative.

When it seemed for about 24 hours last week that Gov. Paul LePage was about to do the right thing and resign, I unexpectedly began to feel sorry for the man. I have been arguing that LePage is unfit for public office most of the time he has been humiliating us as our governor, but the prospect of him being driven from office by his own demons made me sad.

Where were the people who are supposed to love and care for him? Doesn’t he have any friends who will tell him the truth? Doesn’t he know he has a behavioral problem? Doesn’t he have a clue how much harm he has done to this state?

“If I’ve lost my ability to help Maine people, maybe it’s time to move on,” LePage said in the wake of his profanity-laced voicemail to Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, and his subsequent suggestion that he’d like to shoot Gattine between the eyes.

That brief moment of clarity dissipated, however, as the governor drifted back into that delusion state in which he believes he has done good things for Maine people. Yes, the welfare rolls may have been reduced, but not by sound social policy or thoughtful efficiencies, but by throwing people out to the street to beg.

LePage behaves like a petty tyrant because he can’t understand that the legislative and judicial branches of government are his co-equals. He sees himself as a Donald Trump Mini-Me – a tough-talking, no-nonsense boss man.

Of course, Trump is as delusional as LePage.

When Trump came to Maine last month, he said LePage “is a very talented guy, he is also a great person, a tremendous person, and if he were available, I would certainly find something for Paul because he’s done a great job up here. He’s not only popular, he’s done an unbelievable job, so I would certainly say that he would be a candidate.”

Popular? In your dreams. LePage’s approval ratings are in the 30s, making him one of the five most unpopular governors in the country. Maine people dislike him because he is just plain mean.

LePage’s tenure as governor has been marked by vicious and vindictive attacks on anyone and everyone who opposes him. Of his vulgar attack on Gattine, LePage eventually said, “I just lost it and there’s no excuse.”

He said he “lost it” because Gattine called him a racist. Gattine said he didn’t, but heaven knows this would not be the first time someone did.

One of the surest signs that LePage had reached a tipping point with his obscene voicemail and threats against Gattine was that Rep. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough, a longtime LePage supporter, had had enough. In a Facebook post, Volk named the elephants in the room when it comes to LePage’s behavior.

“What I do not know,” Volk said, “is whether it is due to substance abuse, mental illness or just ignorance. I certainly hope that his family and small circle of close staff are considering how best to address the issue. Things definitely appear to be out of control.”

In fact, things were out of control a long time ago, like when LePage resorted to extortion to get Speaker of the House Mark Eves fired from the Good Will-Hinckley School. The state Senate should have impeached him for that abuse of power, but it failed the Maine people.

Now legislators should be looking at Article V, Part I, Section 15 of the Maine Constitution, which provides for removing the governor for “mental or physical disability.”

Section 15 comes into play if the governor voluntarily declares himself unable to perform his duties, but it also spells out a process of removal: “When the Secretary of State shall have reason to believe that the Governor is unable to discharge the duties of that office, the Secretary of State may so certify to the Supreme Judicial Court, declaring the reason for such belief.”

The state Supreme Court would then determine the governor’s fitness for duty.

While I’m not sure we want to have the secretary of state and Maine Supreme Court passing judgment on the sanity of our elected officials, it is profoundly sad that we have reached a point in the public life of Maine where we need to consider just such a possibility.

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

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  • EABeem

    I do hope many Mainers saw substance abuse counselor Steve Bentley’s guest column in yesterdays Maine Sunday Telegram. I have suggested several times that Paul LePage behaves like a mean drunk. Bentley said he is a mean drunk and explained all of his behavior in terms of being an alcoholic with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) brought on my abuse in childhood. “Get some help for the sake of us all,” Bentley concluded. The newspaper printed Bentley’s column in the Sunday paper, but then it pulled it from it’s website. I believe Bentley is correct and that the Secretary of Staet should refer LePage’s fitness for duty to the Maine Supreme Court as prescribed in the Maine Constitution.

  • Thomas Czyz

    “FYI – This is Steve Bentley’s op-ed that was pulled by the PPH. I was able to salvage it from another source.”

    ‘Alcohol is clouding LePage’s view
    His erratic behavior shows he needs help for the PTSD and other issues stemming from his unstable upbringing.
    By Steve Bentley
    I am a recovering alcoholic with a two-year degree in chemical dependency counseling, a bachelor’s in psychology and a master’s in rehabilitation counseling. I have no doubt as to the nature of Gov. LePage’s problems with resentments, impulsivity, black-and-white thinking, self-absorption, rigid, negative attitudes, rage reactions and what the co-founder of AA once called “self-will run riot.”
    He is also overweight, bloated and often sporting facial flushing – all common with excessive use of alcohol.
    Perhaps most telling is his “external locus of control,” which simply means that LePage consistently blames other people and other things for his problems.
    It goes beyond blaming blacks for the state’s drug problems, immigrants and welfare for our financial problems and some liberal or Democrat for making his life miserable. He has a nearly pathological inability to see his part in these unending dramas.
    Witness LePage playing the victim after threatening a legislator – he actually considered himself the wounded party.
    Given the trauma of LePage’s childhood (his horrifically abusive father, his life on the streets when he was homeless by age 11), it is little wonder that he has deep-seated and unresolved psychological and emotional issues. They should be addressed with expediency and with compassion.
    Not to do so is negligence of the highest order, and those who consider themselves his friends should take into consideration that enabling this behavior is destroying him as a man and as a political entity. Yet and still, the throes of addiction are no excuse for the governor’s offensive comments.
    I spent two years in Vietnam as a combat engineer, and as a result I have a visceral response to “chickenhawks” who denigrate veterans or their families.
    LePage recently dismissed Khizr Kahn as a “con artist” who is “using the death of his son to go after (Donald) Trump.” To offhandedly belittle the family of a dead serviceman for some sort of perceived political gain is despicable and ignorant.
    Decent and thoughtful Americans know how to separate soldiers and their loved ones from war policies and politics.
    When I saw the mother of a man killed in the Benghazi attacks brought before the Republican National Convention to share her pain, my gut reaction was that she was being exploited by con men of the worst order. However, I never for a moment would belittle her loss by questioning the depth of her personal anguish.
    If you have no compassion for all the victims of war, then you are not tough at all – you are emotionally constricted and psychically numb.
    For 10 years or more, I served on the national board of directors for Vietnam Veterans of America, where I founded a special Committee on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Substance Abuse.
    The short definition of PTSD is that it’s the psychological and emotional damage that occurs in someone who has experienced trauma outside the confines of normal human experience.
    Watching your brothers, sisters and mother being beaten by a raging drunk, and being severely beaten yourself and thrown into the streets at age 11, is well outside the confines of normal human experience.
    The supreme irony here, Paul Richard LePage, is that you are turning into your father.
    The booze has hardened your heart and clouded your view. It is making you abusive.
    Get some help for the sake of us all.’ “

  • Jimmy_John67

    “Where were the people who are supposed to love and care for him? Doesn’t he have any friends who will tell him the truth? Doesn’t he know he has a behavioral problem?”

    Funny, I ask those same questions about Ed Beem. Unfortunately much like LePage, Ed is a narcissistic, insecure wind bag who can’t fathom a world in which he is not always right and anyone who says otherwise is just a kook who is out to get him. The similarities are astounding.

    • poppypapa

      Interesting point, that.

      • EABeem

        Ah, the Dark Tetrad surfaces once again.

    • Aliyah33

      🙂 “…and rarely helpful to human beings”…

  • Username7325

    I just discovered this site. I enjoyed the column, but I suggest a slight stylistic change to the page layout. I think the author’s picture is much too large. This is not a criticism of his appearance; it is a fine picture. Yet the amount of space devoted to the image on the page is a distraction.

    • EABeem

      Agreed. Thanks.

  • EABeem

    A study of the psychology of Internet trolls bears out pretty much what I have experienced over the years. Here are a few paragraphs from a Slate article on the subject:
    “In the past few years, the science of Internet trollology has made some strides. Last year, for instance, we learned that by hurling insults and inciting discord in online comment sections, so-called Internet trolls (who are frequently anonymous) have a polarizing effect on audiences, leading to politicization, rather than deeper understanding of scientific topics.

    That’s bad, but it’s nothing compared with what a new psychology paper has to say about the personalities of trolls themselves. The research, conducted by Erin Buckels of the University of Manitoba and two colleagues, sought to directly investigate whether people who engage in trolling are characterized by personality traits that fall in the so-called Dark Tetrad: Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy), and sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others).

    It is hard to overplay the results: The study found correlations, sometimes quite significant, between these traits and trolling behavior. What’s more, it also found a relationship between all Dark Tetrad traits (except for narcissism) and the overall time that an individual spent, per day, commenting on the Internet.”

  • poppypapa

    “Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others),
    narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), psychopathy (the lack of
    remorse and empathy), and sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others).”

    An apt description of the accumulated characteristics of your columns, in many of which you go on name-calling tirades, express utter disdain for others, remind any and all what a wonderful person you are, and argue for the merits of socialism.

    Thanks for codifying your own editorial posture.

    And for once again demonstrating your innate deficit in self-awareness accounts.

    • EABeem

      Ah yes, the tiresome “I know you are but what am I?” defense so popular among conservative commenters. Very sad. Of course I anticipated it. And I do not qualify as an internet troll because 1) it’s my column in question and 2) I am not an anonymous coward. How about you do Maine a great public service and, great and good citizen that you believe yourself to be, get your buddy Paul to stop drinking and abusing the people of Maine.

      • poppypapa

        Troll or not, the characteristics clearly apply; you have left too many tracks on the record. Even going so far as to suggest neighbors be surveyed to see who is more revered. Your insatiable ego knows no reasonable bounds.

        As to ‘anonymous,’ you have identified me numerous times on these comment threads and it’s done you untold good.

        As to ‘coward,’ now you try the glove slap. If I had an ego even one-tenth the size of yours, it might have an effect. But I don’t, so you can stop projecting your own upon others.

        Conservative? Proudly so, having recognized that common sense should even apply to our governance.

        Great and good citizen? That’s not for me to decide, is it? I recognize that you see it as your duty to identify yourself as such; it makes the world so much more “around you.”

        Now go shine your mirrors, Conrad.

      • Jimmy_John67

        Oh look Ed Beem has learned a new word!! He has unveiled the dreaded “troll” label (albeit years and years late). Unfortunately like most people of advanced age he also has no idea what these kooky new labels and sayings spawned from the interwebs even mean. To think he is immune from qualifying as a troll because he pens an article and attaches his name is laugh out loud funny! Piece of advice for you Ed if you want to stop being a punchline for the first time in your life…stick to what you know.

        P.S. Nice one recycling my line from last week. Everyone already knows you lack all semblance of creativity, originality and wit but at least wait more then a week before stealing material. That’s just plain lazy.

  • yathink2011

    Feeling sorry for the the readers of the Forecaster.