AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage held a rare news conference on Wednesday to say that he meant to call Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump “authoritative” instead of “authoritarian” in a radio interview the previous day.

It became much more than a one-word clarification: He called President Barack Obama “a dictator,” said the U.S. is so weak that he’s not sure it will survive, and hammered Republican U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and John McCain in a remarkable half-hour.

LePage, who endorsed Trump in February, said in an Tuesday interview on WVOM that “we need a Donald Trump to show some authoritarian power” to “bring back the rule of law,” calling Obama an “autocrat” and criticizing him for executive actions. He went further on Wednesday.

“I believe the president of the United States of America, Barack Obama, is a dictator,” he said.

In front of LePage’s lectern at the Maine State House was a set of Russian nesting dolls depicting Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

They were alongside other dolls depicting former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, whose affair with Bill Clinton led to his impeachment, and two other women — Gennifer Flowers, who alleged an affair with him, and Paula Jones, who accused him of sexual misconduct.

It’s a theme that Trump has hammered the Clintons on since Friday, when a 2005 tape was released in which Trump, a former reality TV star, said “when you’re a star,” you can “do anything” to women, including grabbing them by the genitals.

LePage displayed the dolls as a prop, saying he got them on a 2008 trip to Russia, although they’re being sold on eBay for less than $45.

He pointed to them as an example that other countries have a low opinion of the U.S., also calling Hillary Clinton “a proven liar” in apparent references to revelations around the Clinton Foundation and her email practices as secretary of state.

He painted a dark picture of the country’s future, saying the national debt could reach “a tipping point” and that the size of the federal government has the U.S. “evolving into a massive dictatorship and I don’t think we’re going to be able to survive it.”

But when questioned on how Trump would address those issues, he said, “I’m just campaigning right now” and “I don’t know enough about his policies.”

“All I’m saying is I’ve got two choices, and I believe Donald Trump … is a better risk than Hillary Clinton, who takes money from anyone for anything, and that’s bad for America,” he said.

In the Tuesday interview, LePage also hit Collins, the moderate Republican who wrote an August op-ed in The Washington Post announcing that she wouldn’t support Trump. He expanded on that on Wednesday, saying Republicans “don’t get where they are without us voting” and “we, the people” backed Trump in the primary.

He described himself as a fiscal conservative with libertarian leanings who chose the Republican Party as the best political vehicle for his effort to improve economic conditions in Maine.

LePage dismissed the Trump tape as being more than a decade old and said McCain, the Arizona senator whom Trump criticized in 2015 for being held as a prisoner of war in Vietnam but who eventually endorsed Trump before rescinding support this month, “has skeletons in his closet,” too, because he came home from the war and “dumped” his wife.

McCain actually got divorced seven years after his return from Vietnam, though he did admit to affairs and called the marriage’s end his “greatest moral failure” while running for president in 2008.

“I’m not perfect. I don’t claim to perfect. I don’t want to be perfect,” LePage said, “because guess what? The only person that’s ever been perfect in the history of mankind was crucified by the government.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: