How bad have things gotten for Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R)? We've apparently reached the point at which headlines like this one
from the Bangor Daily News
are necessary: "LePage denies he discussed 'executing' Maine Democratic leaders."
In two calls Monday evening to the Bangor Daily News, Gov. Paul LePage vehemently disputed assertions made by a liberal blogger in a forthcoming book that LePage made references in 2013 to executing Maine's speaker of the House and Senate president. "I was never in the room where 'execute' was used," the governor said in a phone call to the BDN managing editor. "It never happened," he said later in the call. "We did not discuss execution, arrest or hanging."
Of course, the fact that the governor feels the need to deny discussions about executions of Democratic lawmakers is itself a rather remarkable turn of events.
To briefly recap yesterday's discussion
, progressive activist Mike Tipping has a new book coming out which purports Maine's far-right governor met repeatedly with members of the Sovereign Citizens movement, which among other things, rejects the legitimacy of the United States and has been tied to a series of violent incidents.
By some accounts, the extremists in Maine believe the state's Democratic legislative leaders are guilty of "treason."
LePage is not denying that he attended meetings with local members of the Sovereign Citizens movement. Rather, he insisted yesterday that his conversations with the radicals did not include discussions about killing anyone.
That's nice, though it doesn't address the underlying point.
To be sure, there are a variety of interesting angles to this story. For example, Tipping points to a radio show in which two Sovereign Citizens activists boasted about talking with LePage about punishing Democratic lawmakers with hangings.
Then again, Sovereign Citizens activists say all kinds of things. We can't say with certainty whether such a conversation took place, and LePage yesterday denied the topic of conversation.
The core issue, however, is the fact that the sitting Republican governor chose to host meetings
with these extremists in the first place.
"I listened and listened and listened," LePage said. "Some points they were making were reasonable and some were off-the-wall." The governor mentioned that he meets with many constituents and groups, from a variety of backgrounds.
That's no doubt true. It's practically in elected policymakers' job description to meet with all kinds of people, some of whom officials will disagree with.
But LePage is missing the point of the controversy. He says he wasn't present at conversations about executions, which is good to hear, but the next step should be coming clean about some basic questions:
1. How many times did LePage meet with members of the Sovereign Citizens movement? Tipping's reporting suggests there were eight separate meetings. Is that the correct number?
2. Why did LePage meet several times with members of the Sovereign Citizens movement?
3. What did they talk about? And what were these "reasonable" points LePage thought Maine's Constitutional Coalition were making?