In defense of Paul LePage, for once

Gov. Paul LePage addresses the audience during a town hall meeting Sept. 29 at Bucksport Middle School. (Ashley L. Conti | BDN)

Gov. Paul LePage addresses the audience during a town hall meeting Sept. 29 at Bucksport Middle School. (Ashley L. Conti | BDN)

Oh gawd. I am finding myself feeling like I have to speak up on behalf of Governor LePage, and the idea of it makes me a little queasy. I have, on occasion, found myself agreeing with LePage. These few areas of agreement are policy- rather than behavior-related.

Even when I agree on principle, I have to qualify my opinion with a statement asserting that I disagree with how he conducts himself. As far as his behavior goes, at this point I could produce an entire post of hyperlinks criticizing LePage’s conduct accrued during only 12 months of blogging. So feeling like I have to speak up on his behalf is disturbing.

It’s about the dog thing. LePage kicked up quite a hullaballoo by adopting a shelter dog, and naming him Veto. The hullaballoo grew when the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society acknowledged that it broke its own policy by letting LePage adopt the dog before it was cleared for adoption. This acknowledgement came in the wake of a Lewiston woman disclosing that she had called the same shelter the day before LePage visited to find out when the dog would be available.

She was told the dog would be available when the shelter opened the morning after LePage ended up adopting the dog, and she had planned to be there. Here’s the deal. I just don’t think the governor intended to take the dog away from someone, as more than one headline suggests. I’m not saying LePage should be nominated for any chivalry awards or anything, but intentionally taking a dog from someone who disclosed that she is a sexual violence survivor seems extreme, even for him.

Call me a cynical softie, but I find it hard to believe that, if LePage knew a trauma survivor was interested in the dog for therapeutic purposes, he would have proceeded with the adoption. I know that’s a stretch considering LePage the same guy who apparently made up a story about a local high school to add to his list of controversies, but that’s just my gut reaction. And I hate admitting that.

I suppose I could have spent time trying to get a comment from the governor’s office, but I doubted staff there would jump at the chance to respond to a blogger who has hounded the governor so relentlessly in her posts. Somehow I didn’t think staff would have believed me if I said that I was interested in writing in support of the governor on this one! Go figure.

Of course, it would be easier if I was wrong, and I could just pile “entitled dog thief” onto all the other appalling things he’s said and done. But I can’t, and honestly, I don’t know why, except for that gut reaction thing. I even Googled the words, LePage Dog Veto, hoping to find one other voice out there taking my stance, to no avail.

Instead I found the national media was all too ready to glom it onto all the other stuff that has kept our state under a very uncomfortable national and international spotlight. Seriously, I found links to coverage in the Tuscaloosa News,  New York Daily News, Mother Jones, a news outlet in in New Mexico, and on Yahoo News. And that was without clicking on the “More News about LePage Dog Veto” link.

A site called the Wonkette just put up a post yesterday about the matter, and the first two paragraphs read:

Looks like Maine Governor Paul LePage decided to take a day off from hoping heroin addicts die of overdoses and setting up camp deep inside Donald Trump’s butt, to do a thing much less terrible than usual — adopt a shelter dog!
Except that, because he is Paul LePage, he even adopted a shelter dog in a jerky way, by breaking the very rules of the shelter itself and basically stealing a lady’s dog, kind of. TO THE TORCHES!

The rush to judgment shows the weakness inherent in a bombastic leadership style. Like a parallel to the moral of the Aesop’s fable about “The Boy Who Cried Wolf:” if you repeatedly conduct yourself in ways people perceive as “jerky,” people start to assume you are always being a jerk, even when you might not be in jerk mode at a given moment.

It just may be that a guy, who happens to be a controversial governor, was grieving the loss of a cherished pet and stopped by a shelter to check in on one that was the same breed. It may just be that the administrator made a decision to breach policy, whether well-intended or not, whether right or wrong. And it may just be that the other person wanting to adopt the dog lost out completely, which does seem pretty wrong.

Even as I defend him while gagging, though, I do have to admit the bit about LePage taking a break from “setting up camp deep inside Donald Trump’s butt” is kind of funny! It’s hard to gag and laugh at the same time.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.