Gov. shouldn't confuse notions with realities

It stands to reason that people, including politicians, are much more likely to respond to a crisis than a mere problem.

A whiff of smoke in the kitchen won't cause anyone to run screaming from the house, but a wall full of flames almost certainly will.

Our political system seems unable to respond to problems unless they can be portrayed in house-on-fire terms.

Witness the postal crisis, the national debt crisis and the student loan crisis — once avoidable problems ultimately turned crises.

Which likely explains Gov. Paul LePage's regular forays into exaggeration and hyperbole.

Most recently the governor said Maine students are looked down upon across the country because they are poorly educated.

"I don't care where you go in this country. If you come from Maine you're looked down upon," the governor said during a July 25 press conference during which he outlined several educational initiatives.

"Twenty years ago, if you came from Maine, they couldn't wait to get you into their school," the governor said. Now, at least according to the governor, the opposite is true.

All of which must have struck people who travel as odd, having perhaps never heard anything like that from a single person "from away."

Pressed the next day on how he knew that to be fact, the governor's spokesperson, Adrienne Bennett, explained that the governor did not have research on the subject but was drawing on his own experience.

"He is a businessman. It's from his life experience," Bennett told the Bangor Daily News. "While it's anecdotal, he believes it."

While a career in business may have left the governor with many important experiences, regular contact with college admission directors in other states is probably not among them.

To emphasize his point, the governor added that Maine students need to take a special test to be admitted to the College of William and Mary, an excellent school that is part of the public university system in Virginia.

A simple telephone call found that statement to be untrue; the school has no special test for Maine students. The governor was merely repeating something he had heard.

Bennett, ever resourceful in explaining the governor's gaffes, was forced to resort to his good intentions. "It's clear that the governor's intentions are in the students' best interest," she said.

The governor was fired up on the day of the press conference by a recent Harvard study ranking Maine 40th among 41 states for its rate of improvement on standardized tests.

That's a serious problem, and we agreed with the governor in an editorial July 19 that the state's investment in educational improvement was paying "pathetic" returns.

But the governor also failed to note that the test scores of Maine students are still high compared to most states.

The governor's most egregious exaggeration came in December when he said a member of Forbes magazine's staff had told him the state could improve its business climate by cutting its welfare programs.

Contacted by the Sun Journal, the Forbes magazine writer acknowledged he had talked to someone in the LePage administration but had told them nothing of the sort.

At the time, the governor was in the middle of a controversial attempt to cut welfare expenses. Democrats made some credible complaints that his administration was even withholding financial information to heighten the crisis.

The governor may find exaggeration a useful political tool, but it is neither ethical nor responsible for making sound public policy or informing the public.

Bad things, in fact, can happen when manufactured evidence is used to stampede politicians into making quick-fire decisions. Consider the way groundless and exaggerated evidence was used to create the sense of immediate crisis that led to the war in Iraq.

Bad information is always a poor basis for sound policy. Anecdotes and impressions may be interesting, but they are too often dead wrong.

rrhoades@sunjournal.com

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.

What do you think of this story?

Login to post comments

In order to make comments, you must create a subscription.

In order to comment on SunJournal.com, you must hold a valid subscription allowing access to this website. You must use your real name and include the town in which you live in your SunJournal.com profile. To subscribe or link your existing subscription click here.

Login or create an account here.

Our policy prohibits comments that are:

  • Defamatory, abusive, obscene, racist, or otherwise hateful
  • Excessively foul and/or vulgar
  • Inappropriately sexual
  • Baseless personal attacks or otherwise threatening
  • Contain illegal material, or material that infringes on the rights of others
  • Commercial postings attempting to sell a product/item
If you violate this policy, your comment will be removed and your account may be banned from posting comments.

Advertisement

Comments

Betty Davies's picture

It's very kind to call it "exaggeration"

A more accurate term for Mr. LePage's statements would be "lies."

DONALD FERLAND's picture

Making cuts to programs and

Making cuts to programs and services is all well and good when the cuts are made based on TRUTH and not ASSumptions and exaggerations. When the Governor talks he is like the little boy that cried wolf....he offers so many exaggerations that when there is a REAL emergency no one will believe him. He needs to get over himself and start being FACTUAL and TRUTHFUL to the people of Maine. His way is not the ONLY way to fix things. Other people have ideas as well and maybe if he were to listen to everyone and then take ALL the good ideas and combine them he might be able to actually work with people to make Maine a better place to live.

Amedeo Lauria's picture

Different? Neither right or wrong....???

This is where conservatives and left diverge. There is a right and a wrong...

It is WRONG for able bodied men and women to refuse to work, yet ask for society to support them and overlook their repeated horrible life choices.

It is WRONG to spend thousands of dollars on education, but see minor improvement, if any, for the major investment.

It is RIGHT not to spend money you don't have. To the tune of TRILLIONS!

It is RIGHT to fire public servants both appointed or elected who steal from the public till and to incarcerate them. No "executive sessions" their misdeeds should be on the front of every newspaper in Maine!

It is RIGHT to demand transparency in government.

The Governor isn't anti-education, he's not anti-Maine, he's not against helping those truly in need. He knows what the job creators are looking for when they want to make a capital investment. What he is for is personal accountability from the individual all the way to the state house. I agree with him and will vote for him again, when he runs.

JOANNE MOORE's picture

Great article.

Watching LePage strike out randomly at those he disagrees with, making up his own "facts" as he goes along is like watching Fux Gnus - We lie, you decide.

LePage is a bully. In his own world he is used to getting his own way, no questions asked. When questions are asked, bullies lie.

AL PELLETIER's picture

Hum?

I wonder if Lepage should consult with his spokesperson before he makes a public statement? Poor Adrienne must stay up all night wondering what dumb statement she will have to explain next.
Humm? I wonder if we pay Adrienne more then we pay his daughter?
Just wondering.
PS. Marden's is doing just fine without him.

Amedeo Lauria's picture

Tells it like it is...

I just find it truly amazing the constant vitriol against our Governor. He is asking the questions and trying to find solutions to REAL Maine issues. You can't begin to fix things until you acknowledge that they are broken or can be improved. He also knows that throwing money at a problem is not always the right thing to do. I think one of the things that put Governor LePage in the Blain House was the report from Forbes on Maine's business ranking; the lowest in the nation at that time. It was in stark contrast to the smoke and mirrors of the previous administrations. The left is mad because they didn't tackle these issues and they are low hanging fruit, i.e. corruption at the MTA, alledged mismanagement at Maine Housing Authority...etc...etc...etc. Our Governor and his administration know the value of education, and he knows the value of various pathways to success college, vocational, apprenticeships. He also knows how to look someone in the eye and fire them when they are not doing their job; not moving them around like deck chairs on the Titanic. You go Governor, we know you have the best interest of Maine in your heart, otherwise you could not put up with the daily vitrol from the leftist political pundits and the media.

JOANNE MOORE's picture

Really?

"Tells it like it is." ?? Really? This whole article is about his lies. How is that telling it like it is? Explain, please.

Jason Theriault's picture

No he isn't

You find it "truly amazing" the "constant vitriol" directed at LePage?

Well, maybe if he was asking questions instead of assuming he knows what he talking about, there would be less vitriol.

I have no issues with making cuts to programs. We are facing tight economic times, and must tighten our belts. However, this isn't about that. This isn't about that. It's also not about department's spending too much money on lavish perks, or about corruption. Because I have no issue with throwing the book at those people as well.

Nope, this is about honesty. He isn't being honest. There is no special test for Maine students. Forbes didn't say we needed to cut welfare. There is no wiggle room, these are things LePage said happened that did not. He sees liberals as the enemy, and has no issue with lying to them to try and get his way. This is exactly what is wrong with the GOP right now. This isn't a war. Neither Conservatives nor Liberals are right. They have different opinions about the role of government, but neither is right or wrong, just different

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Should lead by example....

Listening,and watching Paul LePage, is entertaining to say the least. I'm almost to the point that I look forward to tomorrows news, to see or hear his latest testament to stupidity.
If LePage considers the public school system so dysfunctional, he should realize something. Everyone sees him as a result of the system, I couldn't think of a better poster child for his own misguided views on reality...........

Jeff Kelley's picture

the gov

This guy is so full of himself worst gov the state has ever had he should go back to mardens

Steve  Dosh's picture

Gov. shouldn't confuse notions with realities

Rex , Sat 18:45 hst
Great editorial • " The governor may find exaggeration a useful political tool, but it is neither ethical nor responsible for making sound public policy or informing the public. "
True
It seems your Hon. Governor produces , exists , and operates in his own reality distortion field . Does he posses selective memory and limited recall , too ? We shall see . Many do
That's we got rid of our Republican Governor
/s , Dr. Dosh , Hawai'i

Advertisement

Stay informed — Get the news delivered for free in your inbox.

I'm interested in ...