Seeing how low we can go

In a call-and-response with his party’s presidential nominee, Gov. Paul LePage is doubling down on his approach to public life. That would be the approach in which you make your own rules, treat other people like expendable commodities and jail your enemies.

Last week, we were schooled by the governor as to some recent gubernatorial pronouncements. When our governor said, “I believe President of the United States Barack Obama is a dictator,” he meant it. But when he said that we “need a Donald Trump to show some authoritarian power in our country,” not so much. He had intended to use the word “authoritative.”

The clarifications came in a press conference during which he also made it clear that his ban on speaking to the media is still on. Apparently, the media had narrowly missed its chance. “I would speak to you,” he said when speaking to them at a press conference, “if you guys, wouldn’t have made so much of a big deal about a missed word.”

No press conferences for you!

Alas, the sordid saga of the presidential election and its dueling accusations of infidelity have been brought to our doorstep. LePage is an equal opportunity vilifier. He has never been accused of using his position as chief executive to take advantage of women, but he has recently shown he is not above trying to make political hay out of the hapless relationships of some national candidates, albeit clumsily.

At the press conference, lined up in front of the podium was a set of nesting dolls portraying Bill and Hillary Clinton and some of the women with whom our former president was alleged to have been intimate. Hillary, the governor pointed out, was the smallest.

The governor also criticized Arizona Sen. John McCain, who “spent his time in Vietnam, he had a lovely wife here, when he got released, he dumped her.”

LePage made no mention of his own first wife, a Canadian, who was “dumped” (divorced) in 1980, though he did acknowledge we all have “skeletons in [the] closet.”

Pity the poor Republicans – at least those who are so busy on the airwaves just now. They never seem to get the woman thing right. Willing to overlook Trump’s comments about Mexicans, veterans, the disabled and the pope, they drew the line when The Donald gave voice to his prowess with the ladies. Up with that they will not put.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, in his response to Trump’s claim of irresistibility due to his celebrity, rushed to the defense of the fair sex, saying women are to be “championed and revered.”

Oh dear. That makes us sound a bit on the incapable side, though also kind of adorable.

Lest men feel they must add championing and revering to their interactions with women, fear not. Revere us if you must, but we can champion ourselves, thank you very much.

There is an exchange in the movie “The Lion in Winter” when Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine are contemplating their futures. Gazing at his wife, now his prisoner, Henry asks, “How did we get here?” Her response: “Step by step.”

And so, step by step, have we sunk into depths of political degradation that would have been unthinkable even four years ago. Despite Jerry Springer, the Kardashians and Miley Cyrus, we did not see this coming. Not in politics. Dirty politics was always about good, old-fashioned dirt, like bribes, vote-trading and election fraud.

There may have been a subtext of innuendo regarding a candidate’s sexual propensities or practices, but never, ever, did we think we would see a presidential candidate attempting to seat his foe’s husband’s sexual accusers in the aforementioned candidate’s family box at a debate.

In a 2013 article entitled “America and the Culture of Vulgarity – No End in Sight,” author Albert Mohler said, “There is almost no remote corner of this culture that is not marked by the toleration of vulgarity, or the outright celebration of depravity.” Strike the “almost.” In a prescient statement, Mohler said, “The living room has become a locker room.”

Mohler is an evangelical Christian who walks the walk. About the election, he said, “I’m afraid people are going to remember evangelicals in this election for supporting the unsupportable and defending the absolutely indefensible.”

Yes, we will remember this election for that and many other reasons, all of them disturbing. What is it with Republicans who denounce their candidate but will not withdraw their endorsements? Would they do the same for their kids’ teachers? Their pastors? Their employees?

Sen. Susan Collins has made it clear she will neither support nor vote for Trump. But she is declining to vote for the only other candidate who can win.

Congressional candidate Bruce Poliquin is still dancing around the edge, condemning Trump’s statements but refusing to withdraw his support for the candidate.

Republicans made this bed, and they must lie in it. We need a healthy conservative party in this state and in this country, but the current GOP isn’t it.

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait worked for 25 years as a registered nurse at Mount Desert Island Hospital. She has served as a Bar Harbor town councilor and as an independent state senator from Hancock County.

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