Remember, just one month ago, when Sen. Olympia Snowe announced she was retiring from the U.S. Senate because the political rancor in Washington had become unbearable, unworkable and unacceptable?
There was immediate nodding of heads all around Maine, among Democrats, Republicans and independents. We marveled at the gross level of contention in Washington and praised ourselves for our own ability to keep state politics more cordial and less fractured.
In the past several weeks, the political discourse in Maine has careened toward the unbearable, unworkable and unacceptable.
Last month, when Democrats learned that Gov. Paul LePage would be traveling with his family to Jamaica, the Maine Democratic Party issued a press release critical of the family trip and pointing out that being governor is a full-time job.
"LePage's frequent vacations strengthen the claims that he and his GOP allies are out of touch with the needs of regular Maine people working two to three jobs just to get by."
It's strangely courageous for the Democrats to take this stand, given that the presidency is also considered a full-time job and the Obamas travel extensively on exquisite and expensive trips, including annual family vacations to Hawaii.
Vacations are OK for a Democratic president but not for a Republican governor?
Talk about rhetoric. Or is that zealotry?
And, on Wednesday, Rep. Jon Hinck, D-Portland, issued a press release solely to criticize Republican Attorney General Bill Schneider's trip to Washington, D.C., to attend oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.
Hinck and Schneider are each seeking election to Snowe's vacated Senate seat and are on opposing sides of so-called Obamacare, and Hinck wanted constituents to be aware of his position that "Schneider's trip involves no legal work and should not be paid with public dollars."
It's worth noting that state Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Androscoggin, Hinck's campaign manager and state Rep. Sharon Treat, D-Hallowell, also traveled to D.C. to witness the Supreme Court arguments.
They did not use public dollars, but the trip certainly involved "no legal work" nor offered any "benefit to the people of Maine" while they were out of state and not at work, the very political crimes Hinck accused Schneider of committing.
So, it's OK for Democrats to witness health care debate before the Supreme Court but not for a Republican?
Hinck made a good point about travel on the public dime, although Schneider pointed out only part of the travel funds came his office's "settlement account," money won by the AG's Office through litigation and not raised through taxes, and he paid the balance from his personal funds, even though his involvement with this case is through his official capacity as Maine's chief law officer.
Treat's connection to the suit is through her joining the Progressive States Network amicus brief, and some of her expenses were paid by that entity.
Hinck defended legislators' travel as a "political statement" as health care advocates, but called Schneider's travel "merely symbolic."
Since Schneider — on behalf of Maine citizens — and Craven and Treat had all signed on to amicus briefs in opposition and support of the Affordable Care Act, respectively, it seems reasonable to think they each have the same right to hear arguments in court.
In recent months, Maine's rhetoric king has been GOP Chairman Charlie Webster, whose press releases might have the world believe that there is no decency among anyone in the Democratic Party.
In fact, on Tuesday he called the Democrats the party of "hypocrisy" and "media stunts," the very accusations leveled at Webster by Democrats and by some among his own conservative ranks in the past year.
Webster's colleague, GOP Executive Director Mike Quatrano, also blasted Dems on Tuesday for what he called a "witch hunt targeting Mary Mayhew" as continued computer problems and questionable expenditures at the Department of Health and Human Services have come to light.
Remember, it was the GOP that has spent the past several months kicking and clawing at MaineHousing, but the Dems aren't permitted to do the same at DHHS?
Is that a double standard?
So, it's not just politics in Washington that have devolved. In Maine, the political message traded between parties is now simplicity itself: For Republicans, it's "We are good. Democrats are bad." For Democrats, it's "We are good, Republicans are bad."
Throw in a bunch of name-calling and that's the very definition of rancor, and a pretty strong indicator that — as we head toward Election Day — Maine's political machines are more interested in posturing for our votes than getting problems solved.
On this April Fools' Day, the joke appears to be on citizens.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.