Steven Biel: Last week we heard Republicans sermonize about how Gov. Paul LePage’s racially divisive, vulgar, and threatening statements towards a sitting legislator were a “seismic event” that would get anyone in the private sector fired. Now we learn that they will hold the governor accountable by doing … absolutely nothing. No censure, no impeachment, no special session, nothing. Is this what “corrective action” looks like?
Lance Dutson: Republicans have sure found ourselves in a horrible mess, thanks once again to this abominable governor who seems hell-bent on destroying the GOP. To be fair though, the GOP Senate has been pushing to hold the governor accountable, and their willingness to put Maine first will hopefully protect them from the avalanche that is likely to come down on Election Day.
Steven: House Minority Leader Ken Fredette and the House Republicans have been the governor’s most consistent enablers, but Senate Republicans don’t deserve nearly that much credit. Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau spent all week making sad faces at news conferences, but when the rubber hit the road, he had the governor’s back. Just like Rep. Fredette, he refused to support a special session to even discuss accountability.
Lance: Sen. Thibodeau butted heads with Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves about the details of the special session. But at the end of the day, the House Republicans had the power to veto anything, and there was no way around their obstinance. What Sen. Thibodeau is trying to do is extremely difficult — protect his caucus while doing the right thing for Maine at the same time. And I think he did his best to do that.
Steven: The right thing to do for Maine is to send the clearest possible message to the whole country that we reject the hatred and buffoonery spewing out of this emotionally unhinged racist (yes, I’ll say it, even if Rep. Drew Gattine didn’t). If the Senate Republicans had voted for a special session, that would have isolated the House Republicans and at least shown some semblance of bipartisan condemnation. Instead, at the moment of truth, Sen. Thibodeau fell in line with Fredette and LePage.
Lance: Maine’s legislative leaders don’t have the power to force their members to do anything. And it’s too bad — we’ve got an imbalance of power where the governor lords over his coequal branch of government like a monarch, but our legislative leaders tend to follow their caucuses rather than lead them. I think what makes this complex situation so hard for people like Sen. Thibodeau is that most of us can’t imagine staying in office after such a horrible meltdown. I believe if Mike Thibodeau did what Paul LePage did — embarrassing his family, his staff, and the entire state of Maine — he would resign immediately. I think the same is true for Reps. Eves and Fredette and Democratic Senate Leader Justin Alfond. But Paul LePage has no shame, and the back-slapping sycophants he surrounds himself with continue to goad him on.
Steven: So we’re stuck with the guy. As Trump would say, he could stand in the middle of Capitol Street and shoot someone and he wouldn’t lose the support of Republicans in the legislature.
Lance: At the very least, I wish legislative Republicans would say in public what they’re saying behind closed doors — that Paul LePage should resign. There isn’t anyone in Augusta who wants to spend the next two years dealing with his bumbling temper tantrums on either side of the aisle. They say the first step to fixing a problem is admitting it, and I’m really shocked this latest incident wasn’t enough of a reality check for many in the Republican Party.
Steven: It really is amazing. In fact, I think the most incredible moment of the week was when Republican House Leader Ken Fredette was asked by a reporter, “if this doesn’t cross the line, what would be too far for you?” Rep. Fredette just stood there, frozen in a thousand-yard stare. That’s about all voters need to know about the Republican legislative leaders in Augusta as they go to the polls.
Lance: Yes, I’m afraid the only corrective action we’re going to see is at the ballot box in November. And speaking as a Republican who worked to get LePage elected in the belief that he’d bring conservative policies to life in Maine, this is a terrible tragedy.