Politics & Other Mistakes: Gutter watch

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Over the summer, some nasty stuff has accumulated in the political gutters. Let’s clean it out.

Hypocrisy watch: In December 2019, Adrienne Bennett, then a Republican congressional candidate in Maine’s 2nd District, told the Bangor Daily News she opposed Central Maine Power Co.’s plan to build a transmission line through western Maine to bring Canadian power to Massachusetts. Bennett said she’d even signed a petition to put the project out to referendum, so she could vote against it.

Al DiamonBennett lost the 2020 GOP primary but recently resurfaced as the spokesperson for Mainers for Fair Laws, a political action committee sponsored by CMP to promote the same power corridor Bennett once opposed.

Or maybe she still does. Earlier this month, Bennett told the Bangor Daily she joined the PAC not for a fat paycheck, but because the ballot question would “empower politicians to target Maine people and businesses by making new laws that apply to events that happened legally in the past.” In a newspaper op-ed, she claimed the “dangerous and overreaching” referendum could be used to stop “landing strips, pipelines and railroad tracks.”

The referendum doesn’t actually give the government any new power over any of those things, but that shouldn’t bother Bennett. Before her ill-fated congressional bid, she was the mouthpiece for former GOP Gov. Paul LePage, so she’s well-versed in contradictions, half-truths, and outright falsehoods.

Honesty watch: Speaking of LePage, as he seeks to reclaim the Blaine House his tendency to tell the truth is still lagging. For several weeks, he’s told audiences that under Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, Maine has the highest nursing-home death rate in the country due to COVID-19.

The state’s nursing-home fatality rate, actually, has been the fourth-lowest in the nation.

Even after that falsehood was pointed out, LePage continued to repeat the claim, and he’s since added to his repertoire of misinformation. At a GOP fundraiser in August, he insisted Mills had decriminalized the possession of many illegal drugs, including the powerful opioid fentanyl.

A bill that would have done that was introduced in the Legislature this past session, but was defeated – not in small part because Mills opposed it.

Watching the transparent: The Maine Department of Health and Human Services recently released a report showing that 143 children have died in the state since 2007 of causes ranging from neglect to homicide. Many of these young victims were from families that had dealings with the department before the fatalities.

Why would DHHS release such damning evidence of its incompetence? According to testimony Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew presented to a legislative committee, it’s all about transparency. “We are committed to change and that includes increased accountability,” Lambrew said.

Maybe. The information became public only after it was obtained by the nonprofit Maine Monitor news service. The department likely figured getting it out before the Monitor could report on it would give DHHS more control over the narrative.

It also makes it appear the department is committed to dealing with its shortcomings – even if it isn’t.

Watching the invisible: You probably don’t recognize the name Ed Thelander. He’s running for Congress but hasn’t had much success making the voting public aware of his existence.

Not that it’s likely to matter. Thelander of Bristol is one of a long line of right-wing Republicans seeking to take the seat currently held by Democrat Chellie Pingree. As with his soundly defeated predecessors, he seems utterly unaware that Maine’s 1st District is solidly blue.

Thelander thinks Congress is doing a lousy job, an assessment most senators and representatives would agree with. He’s against the government paying off student loans. He’s against most immigration. He’s against vaccine mandates. He’s against teaching critical race theory in schools.

Is he for anything? Maybe. His wife is one of the organizers of a campaign to force Maine to conduct a “forensic audit” of the 2020 presidential vote, the same process Arizona has turned into a national embarrassment.

Thelander is also a retired Navy SEAL, training that has little to do with lawmaking but might come in handy the next time QAnon invades the Capitol. He can fend off the insurgents with nothing more than his bare hands and maybe a gently used urinal cake.

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