On Thursday, a few, very few, members of the Maine House brought an order to begin an impeachment process against Governor Paul LePage. The measure failed as the body voted to indefinitely postpone the action by an overwhelming margin.
While we all need to move on, I am going to make a couple of quick observations about this episode.
I hope the very few members of the Maine House who thought the order to begin the impeachment process will hear their own words and apply their “principled” stand to members of their own party and their conduct as an elected official, not just a member of the opposing party who they failed to defeat twice at the ballot box. Many who spoke on Thursday during the debate of the issue invoked many storied names in Maine history as a standard by which the current body of members should be measured. They extolled their virtues and principles.
Virtue and principle are not partisan issues. They are timeless concepts that pre-date the existence of the Maine House.
They are also not concepts that wither under real and valid disagreement over public policy ideas, or matters of style.
People of principle are capable of agreeing to disagree on matters of importance. People of principle are capable of not jumping to the worst conclusion about someone they disagree with simply to score political points for their next election.
The people we revere the most from the history of our nation’s origins are people who had some rather difficult traits, but they were also men of principle, committed to the common good. Their methods may not have always been the most desirable, but their results were, giving us a nation whose foundation is born in the idea that all men (and women) are created equal before God and are endowed with the unalienable right to pursue their life as they see fit.
While our nation may not have always lived up to those lofty principles, we have been on a never-ending quest to achieve them.
The point is, objecting to a matter of style is not a principle by which to govern and certainly not a matter to begin an impeachment process.
The Attorney General of the State of Maine declined to pursue a criminal prosecution of Governor Paul LePage with regard to the “Mark Eves’ affair” because she did not find his actions warranted criminal charges. The same decision was made by the District Attorney in that region.
While you can debate the merits of his intervention at Good Will Hinckley with regard to the hiring of Mark Eves (and that is fair game) you should not allow your personal animosity toward the Governor and his ideas to override your duties as an elected official.
I jokingly said on Twitter yesterday that I hoped the Governor, the Maine House and the Maine Senate could now return to their regular level of disdain for each other. Truth is, I am hopeful that Thursday’s conclusion to this saga can become a launching pad for a refocus on the real issues our state faces.
Our Governor’s first language is French. He still thinks in French, translates to English and then speaks. Sometimes the words coming out of his mouth are not the words his mind intended to be spoken. Instead of jumping on every word and attempting to examine its meaning or his intent, I want the Maine Legislature to extend to the Governor the same courtesy and patience with the language that they would extend to our immigrants whose first language is not English.
I dare say that those in the political class who attack the Governor for his lack of eloquence and clarity of thought expressed, would never think to do such a thing to our Somali or Syrian neighbors who may also struggle with English as a first language.
Lastly, I am offering high praise to House Democrat leader Jeff McCabe in his role as Speaker Pro-Tem during the order of impeachment debate. I am often a critic of McCabe and how he rattles cages in Augusta, often admonishing the Governor for his conduct and then engaging in similar conduct himself.
If I am going to be critical when he is wrong, I also need to praise him when he is right. McCabe demonstrated great leadership during the House debate. At a time when the atmosphere might have allowed the members to fully break decorum and the discussion could have devolved into chaos, McCabe showed great leadership.
He offered the right mix of letting members speak while not allowing they to go too far down the path of outright vitriol. It was a very delicate balance to strike and I am certain that many members of his party were not happy when he cut off their ability to continue speaking and moved on to another colleague.
Thursday’s debate could have created a lasting rift in the House that may not have been repairable. Thanks to the leadership of House Democrat Leader Jeff McCabe, that outcome did not occur.