So many lies, so little time

The results of a national poll conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News, released earlier this week, show Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in a “virtual dead heat” in the race for the presidency. Of course, a lot can change between now and Election Day, but we must now seriously consider and prepare for the possibility a racist demagogue prone to inciting violence and spewing lies and contradictory nonsense will hold the highest office in our land.

Trump’s endless parade of lies, half-truths and slander put the media in an awkward position. Writing in The New Yorker this week, Adam Gopnik observed that “Trump’s lies arrive with such rapidity that before one can be refuted a new one comes to take its place. … The media eventually moves on, shrugging helplessly, to the next lie. … If the lies are bizarre enough and frequent enough, they provoke little more than a nervous giggle and a cry of ‘Well, guess he’s changed the rules!’”

We’re already used to this in Maine, where Gov. Paul LePage rewrote the rules of political discourse years ago. The steady stream of outrageous statements and behavior emanating from the Blaine House have effectively numbed the populace into a torpor of cynical indifference. The Maine media dutifully tries to cover every shocking and ridiculous statement LePage makes, but there are simply too many to catch up. So we get the shrugs and nervous giggles Gopnik alluded to.

Case in point: LePage’s appearance last Monday on the MPBN call-in show “Maine Calling.” Host Jennifer Rooks let at least half a dozen whoppers and astonishing assertions slide by with nary a comment. Granted, it’s only an hour-long program, and MPBN did follow up on LePage’s convoluted and factually fraught “explanation” for his refusal to expand MaineCare. The Portland Press Herald followed up to further debunk LePage’s slanderous lie regarding an alleged series of drug overdoses at Deering High School. But that still leaves a host of crazy statements just hanging in the air.

Gov. Paul LePage. Micky Bedell | BDN

Gov. Paul LePage. Micky Bedell | BDN

Like LePage’s claim that he intends to campaign on behalf of some Democrats in this year’s state legislative contests. Really? Like who?

Who knows? Rooks didn’t ask. I guess we’re just supposed to assume the leader of our state is simply lying. Again. And then there’s the mysterious unanswered “question” that LePage claims is at the heart of his conflicts with Democrats in the Legislature. For the “past two years I’ve been waiting for the answer [to the question] that I asked [Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves] back in January of 2013 about, uh, you know, I asked him a question and his comments have always been, ‘I’ll get back to you,’” LePage said. “Well, I’m still waiting for the first question I asked him back in January of 2013, I’m still waiting for an answer, so this is what I’m talkin’ about.”

Wait, what is LePage talking about? We have no idea. Rooks let that one fly by too.

Rooks did catch LePage’s remark that he planned to retire when his term ends in 2018, pointing out that he’d earlier expressed interest in either serving in President Trump’s administration or running for the U.S. Senate. “Well, that is true, yes,” LePage conceded, “But’s that’s a different issue.” He then spoke of serving in the Senate for the sole purpose of getting a “golden parachute” — a euphemism used in the business world to refer to the lucrative severance packages given to executives forced from their jobs as a result of mergers or gross incompetence. That’s quite an admission for a politician to make — that they’d only serve their country for the cash — one that Rooks followed with a giggly question about LePage’s new dog. How is he doing?

Again, to her credit, Rooks later followed up on LePage’s assertion that he planned to ask U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to investigate whether Maine schools are failing to disclose drug overdoses that occur on school property. But LePage’s non-answer, “It’s a law-enforcement issue, it’s not bein’ transparent,” went unchallenged.

Other highlights: LePage laughs when a caller suggests a previous caller who’d made critical comments is “lucky I’m not here because I have my chainsaw.” LePage suggests refugees fleeing war-torn countries should first get student visas or “visiting visas” from whatever despotic regime is presently destroying their homeland, so they can legally apply for asylum here. And, at the end of the program, LePage’s suggestion that Maine schools, which are “a disaster,” could be saved by technology that enables one teacher appearing on a video screen to teach “thousands of kids throughout a state” with the help of “ed techs” inside the actual classrooms.

For the record, LePage’s dog is “absolutely wonderful. … He is incredible,” the governor assured Rooks. That dog’s not the only one devoid of credibility.

Chris Busby

About Chris Busby

Chris Busby is editor and publisher of The Bollard, a monthly magazine about Portland. He writes a weekly column for the BDN.