Times Record: Bully pulpit (Jan. 11, 2013)

If you don’t agree with this editorial, go away.

Well, that’s not very good business, is it?

If you’re a politician, it’s even worse.

We’ve seen a lot of that kind of attitude these days. We expect it of Congress, perhaps, but it’s disturbing to keep hearing it from the state’s top executive in a neighborly state like Maine.

Gov. LePage did it again this week, making headlines and rankling would-be allies with imprudent remarks about a state panel charged with certifying some of Maine’s first-ever charter schools.

LePage wants them to “go away” because they didn’t rubber-stamp what were obviously flimsy applications to operate what is essentially a brand new public school system in Maine.

It’s like when someone asks him to meet with minorities, and he tells them to “kiss my butt” — a horrific statement from a chief executive.

Or when someone asks him to help regulate a dangerous chemical, and he replies that the only danger is that “some women might grow little beards.”

Or when a reporter asks him to clarify his residency and property tax status and is later threatened with a “punch.”

Or when asked what he would do if people protested the removal of a labor mural, to respond, “I’d laugh at them, the idiots.”

Or when he tells state workers they are “corrupt,” or that the IRS is a “new Gestapo.”

By now — actually, by about a year and a half ago — thinking Mainers have had enough of this silly rhetoric. None of it befits a governor elected by only 39 percent of Maine voters, a guy who’s faced with a State House outside the rule of his own party, at a time Maine’s economy continues to shed jobs and impoverish people.

It’s a shame LePage’s discourse hasn’t advanced past potty training, because some of his policy initiatives — if not his means to achieve them — are quite worthwhile, from ending domestic violence to reducing energy costs.

But with a divided government and another round of shocking, ill-informed rhetoric, we suppose we should gird instead for two more years of flagrant disregard for careful governing and a caustically dismissive approach to all opponents.

In a nation founded on divided government, where no one answer solves any problem, and where people of goodwill go farther than those who want to blow things up, we need — now, more than ever — to be able to keep talking to each other. Left and right. Liberal and conservative. Democrat and Republican.

Mainers want negotiated answers and bipartisan cooperation. The Democratic landslide on Nov. 6 is proof of that.

It’s like this, governor: Maine is not a kingdom, and you are not its king.

Be ready to argue your point with facts, not bullying or threats.

Entertain the possibility that you don’t have all the answers — or that you can’t get 100 percent of what you want in every debate.

Start with your domestic violence initiatives — a sure bipartisan winner for which you will be able to claim credit.

Be a constructive participant — not a blustering blowhard.

If we’re wrong about the usefulness of divisive rhetoric in government, we’re certainly open to hearing why.

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