In recent days, a wave of dishonesty has washed over Maine Democrats, all over the state. It’s affected a number of races, from the top-tier contests to local legislative races, and has even engulfed their auxiliary groups. Though, to be fair, it shouldn’t really be called a wave: that would imply it was something new. Unfortunately, there’s nothing new about dishonesty as a political tactic for Democrats. The only thing that’s new about recent events is that they’ve been caught.
So let’s not call it a wave. Let’s call it a slowly rising tide. That would be a more honest description.
Early this week, the Maine Republican Party released a recording of local state Sen. Geoff Gratwick telling a constituent what he thought of his party’s gubernatorial nominee, Mike Michaud. Unfortunately for Gratwick, apparently what he actually thought of Michaud wasn’t so flattering, as he said Michaud isn’t “a brain guy” and that if the choice were between Michaud and independent Eliot Cutler, he’d pick Cutler.
As far as disparaging comments go, these weren’t so bad. After all, he didn’t say he’d support Cutler in the current environment, just in a hypothetical two-way contest. Moreover, his words were hardly shocking: many Democrats across the state have undoubtedly had similar thoughts. They were bad enough, though, that Gratwick immediately backtracked, apologized, and said that he fully supported Michaud. This leads one to the inescapable conclusion that either he was just criticizing Michaud to seem independent or that he was only supporting Michaud out of party loyalty. Either way, it reflects poor decision-making on his part in what is a hugely important election for the state.
Of course, since Michaud himself had been dishonest with the voters, it’s hard to have much sympathy for him. In a recent television ad, he affixed a fake newspaper masthead to the headline of a press release from his office, making it appear as if it was an unbiased article from a legitimate newspaper. The problem was that the newspaper that supposedly printed this fabulous article — State News Services — doesn’t actually exist. The campaign merely repackaged one of Michaud’s own press releases in an attempt to deceive voters.
One wonders why the campaign felt it needed to bother. After all, it’s not as if Michaud’s made-in-the-USA efforts have generated much negative press. The campaign could have easily picked from any number of real headlines from actual articles in newspapers that aren’t fictional. A headline from the Bangor Daily News or the Sun Journal, even if it wasn’t quite as effusive as the one they made up, surely would have carried more weight for the ad. This was simple laziness on the part of some staffer somewhere that forced the campaign into a corner.
However, another Democrat managed to outdo Michaud on the amateur hour scale. At a Sept. 2 rally with Bill Clinton in Portland, U.S. Senate candidate Shenna Bellows told the crowd, speaking about Susan Collins, that “We cannot afford a senator who talks about fiscal responsibility and then votes for the Paul Ryan budget.” This was even less true than Michaud’s fake newspaper headline, since Collins voted against the Ryan budget every time it was up. When she was called on it, Bellows did not apologize directly to Collins, as she should have. Instead, through a spokesman, she said it was a mistake and blamed her staff.
Maine doesn’t need this kind of dishonesty in our leadership. We need leaders we can trust, who will be direct with us and who take responsibility for their own mistakes. If we don’t get that kind of leadership, we have only ourselves to blame. Let’s make sure that the Democrats’ tide of dishonesty, rather than lifting all of their boats, engulfs them come November.