Dope slapping his own forehead and groaning “D’oh!” have made Homer Simpson a symbol for our time. His “Do’h!” seems to sum up “What was I thinking?”

Lots of people in public life should be dope slapping themselves and groaning, “What was I thinking?” It’s a natural when a person goes tone deaf. Consider these four cases.

Nick Isgro channels Paul LePage, one of his predecessors as mayor of Waterville, in getting away with stupid talk. His forehead should be bright red from self-slapping. Isgro came to the attention of most of us when he tweeted foul epithets at a survivor of the Parkland High School murders in Florida. A “grownup” hurling insults at a kid. I know someone who was a classmate of the Parkland murderer, and the idea of insulting those young people in pain turns my stomach.

More recently, Isgro, who is vice-chair of the Maine Republican Party, a party to which I belonged until 2016, joined with Demi Kouzounas, the state party chair, to form an organization called Restore Maine’s Future. They would have us ignore the oxymoron:  How can you restore something that hasn’t yet happened?

One of their stated missions is to increase “rural participation.” These people who would speak for those of us who live in rural Maine live in Waterville, population 16,374, and Saco, population 18,877. Waterville is the 11th largest city in Maine, Saco the ninth. That’s just where we should look for rural leadership. If they want to grow “rural participation,” maybe they should find real rural people to lead the effort.

There are two ways to get from zero to two (unless you’re a theoretical mathematician or a Fox “News” host).  Add one and one or add zero and two. So why can’t the rocket scientists in NASA do it? On March 29, astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch were on the space shuttle, set for the first all-female spacewalk. But Koch didn’t walk.


What happened?  These guys who are smart enough to shoot rockets to the moon and way beyond didn’t put onto the space shuttle a spacewalk suit that fits Koch. Only one spacewalk suit of the proper size was on board. They needed a plus one.

Atul Gawande, a surgeon and writer, has proposed that surgeons follow checklists in the operating room. Time and again, he has shown how a checklist might have helped a surgeon remember to take the implements out of a patient’s body cavity before closing. Or station each surgical team member in the right spot. Surgeons mostly ignore him.

During World War II, my late uncle earned a degree in cartography from Clark University in Worcester. He entered the Army, where one might expect mapmakers to be in high demand as the Allies stormed across Europe to give the Nazis what we thought at the time was their death blow. Nope, the Army sent Uncle Harold to the Quartermaster Corps, where he handed out uniforms to recruits. What were they thinking?

Come on, NASA. The spacewalk needed two suits of the proper size. That’s not one plus none. It’s one plus one or two plus none. I’ll bet Uncle Harold would have got the right suits onto the space shuttle. He knew the quartermaster’s work.

When Maine forced CMP to sell its generating capacity and become a distribution-only company, a common response was: “CMP was a bunch of bastards, but at least they were our bastards.” Today CMP is owned by a Spanish corporation.

CMP’s plan to string new power lines from Quebec to carry electricity to Massachusetts has met growing opposition. Janet Mills, who in 2018 was elected governor, opposed the plan during the campaign, albeit not wholeheartedly. As controversy arose, opposition  spread beyond the NimBYs who, like me, live along the corridor.


So why did Mills flip — “cave” is the word I hear most — on Feb. 21 and come out for the so-called New England Clean Energy Connect plan? Someone must have got her ear, someone prob’ly not from ’round hyeah. Has she heard arguments the rest of us haven’t heard? Has she listened to a few instead of the many?

As if to wave a red flag in front of her, voters in her hometown of Farmington voted 262-102 against the NECEC. More humiliating, Mills spoke during the meeting to oppose the town’s reversing its support for the transmission line. (As a rule, Farmington town meetings don’t draw large crowds. I have attended when fewer than 100 were there. But last month, 364 showed up and voted.) In Wilton, where Mills had lived for several years, the vote, 162-1.

She apparently didn’t hear them.  Tone deaf.

The fourth case is President Trump saying a) that the Supreme Court will nullify the Affordable Care Act, clearing the way for Republicans to become “the party of ‘Great Health Care,'” and b) complaining that he had “given” John McCain, a hero eight months in the grave, “the funeral he wanted, and I didn’t get a ‘thank you,’” Oh, Waaaaah.

Trump has already fudged on health care, perhaps because even his toadies in Congress said “not gonna happen” — Toady-in-Chief Mitch McConnell said he wouldn’t let such a bill onto the Senate floor — and perhaps because in Trump’s “It’s about me all the time” mind, Democrats didn’t gain a historic 40 seats in the House of Representatives five months ago, running on various planks of improving and expanding health care coverage.

Even some of Trump’s most ardent sycophants, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have criticized him for belittling the hero McCain. But Trump, of course, seldom listens to anyone but himself. His forehead should be bright red, too.

Lyndon Johnson famously said, “You dance with the one what brought you.” Bob Neal wonders why so many public officials seem to change partners during the dance.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. 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: