Politics & Other Mistakes: If the shoe fits

advertisementSmiley face

What Maine Senate President Troy Jackson needs is a copy of “A Kiddie’s Guide to the U.S. Constitution: Simple Explanations of Our Country’s Fundamental Document Using Only Very Small Words and Lotsa Big Colorful Pictures.”

After perusing this book, Jackson might be less inclined to keep introducing bills that are clearly unconstitutional or so close to it that they’ll end up costing the state serious money in legal fees to defend them. At the very least, the pretty illustrations might distract him long enough for his fellow legislators to kill off the measures he’s already backing.

Jackson, a populist windbag Democrat from Allagash, has a long history of dreaming up proposals that range from unrealistic to illegal to whatever this is from an op-ed he wrote for the Bangor Daily News last year:

“Back in June, I replaced my worn-out dress shoes. When I went to pack my bags for swearing-in last week, I finally took my shoes out of the box and realized I bought two right shoes. I had to laugh. Shoes for two right feet are useless. You need a right and a left, otherwise you’ll be walking in circles.”

Given Jackson’s political propensities, it seems as if two left shoes would be a better fit.

Jackson’s legislative agenda isn’t quite as humorous as his advice on footwear. Although, much of it is the sartorial equivalent of putting both feet in the same trouser leg.

For instance, Jackson wants to regulate what he describes as “fake news” sites that support or attack political candidates, but don’t disclose who funds them or who wrote their articles. He’d require them to reveal that stuff, even though the “Kiddie’s Guide” says “Naughty, naughty. The Constitution doesn’t allow the big, bad government to mess with the news media.”

Or as Sigmund Schutz, a lawyer who represents several Maine newspapers, told the Bangor paper, “It’s hard to see if any such effort to regulate ‘fake news’ could pass First Amendment scrutiny.”

That comment came last October, but in spite of that legal warning, Jackson persisted, claiming during a legislative hearing last month that all his bill requires is a little fine tuning. Or maybe that Constitution thingie could use a touch-up.

The anonymous people who run phony websites promoting or attacking candidates are scum. But even scum have the right to free speech. They’re really no worse than idiots, and as you may have noticed, no one has yet succeeded in stopping Jackson from blathering on.

The mention of scum always calls to mind Big Pharma. Jackson has introduced a bill to slap hefty fines on drug companies that charge “excessive prices” for generic medications.

Unfortunately, as the “Kiddie’s Guide” makes clear, the Constitution’s commerce clause says only Congress can regulate business transactions between states or foreign countries. But Jackson seems to have been napping when that page got turned.

One state attorney told lawmakers there was no better than a 50/50 chance such a law would withstand a legal challenge, which caused a majority of a legislative committee to vote against Jackson’s measure. That resulted in the Senate prez removing his foot from one of the right shoes he was wearing and sticking it in his mouth.

“If we can’t as a Legislature go forward with something to help our constituents, then I don’t want to be in this Legislature,” Jackson fumed. “I don’t see any reason to be here and look other people in the face out there who are struggling every day with the price of medications while I am getting government-sponsored medication and we are all getting government-sponsored medication.”

Here, Mr. President, is one reason: That nasty old Constitution says it’s up to Congress to deal with price-gouging drug companies.

But let’s give the poor guy the benefit of the doubt. Jackson’s intentions may be good, but the path to unconstitutional, dictatorial government is paved with you know what.

Of course, it’s easier to stumble onto that path if you’re wearing two right shoes.

Don’t be a heel. Figuratively flap your tongue by emailing me at [email protected].

Smiley face