Friday, January 21, 2011

And a child will lead them...

Do you remember the night our president asked us to treat each other in a way that would make a nine year-old child proud of us? I do. He said it to a sports stadium full of emotional Tuscon students and residents still coming to grips with their town's part in the current national tragedy. He said it to those of us undone enough by the act itself and the ensuing palaver that we wanted to hear a reasoned voice, an adult, tell us we were all going to be o.k. He did. Most of us were proud and grateful to have President Barack Obama as grown-up in chief.

This national exhalation took place about 24 hours before I read a news story that made our governor's comparative level of maturity startlingly clear. It was about 24 hours before I had settled in a comfy chair and opened my my laptop to check on the political news of the day. It was about 24 hours before my own nine year-old walked behind my chair as he headed to the bathroom to brush his teeth and get ready for bed. It was about 24 hours before I had to quickly shut my laptop screen, worried that my nine year-old might see it. It was about 24 hours before I was so ashamed of our state's governor's immature language that I couldn't read a news story on my computer within my son's eye-shot.

Gov. Paul LePage's remark that members of a prestigious civil rights group could “kiss [his] butt” if they didn't like his choice of Martin Luther King Day activities did not surprise me. His earlier witticism, “I'd tell him to go to hell,” describing what he would say if he had the chance to speak to President Obama, convinced me that the 30 odd percent of the Maine voters had provided the rest of us with a rude rube for a governor and his tenure would be long and painful. It was the proximity to the President's eloquent requests that surprised me. Our state's blowhard in chief could not wait even 24 hours before adding to his already unsavory reputation for thuggish speech.

Can we assume that Gov. LePage did not hear President Obama's words? Probably. Is it clear he is someone who most needs to take them to heart? Definitely. Trouble is unless something fundamental changes about the way this man operates, he is unlikely to listen to anyone aside from his insiders, his family, his election-hardened supporters, the Maine Refounders and Tea Partiers. To say he has a tin ear is to insult those who cannot hear a note.

Side note: In a new piece, the NYer's Hendrik Hertzberg asks some questions about our political atmosphere and puts to rest the we're-all-guilty-meme.

Cross-posted at DirigoBlue.