Fallout from the war

Talking Politics
By AL DIAMON  |  July 12, 2006

I was just reading this distinguished political dissertation in which the Christian Civic League of Maine was described as “a mixture of monstrous chaos and genetic disaster, a phantasmagoric potpourri of crossbred animals, nomadic minerals, virtuous vegetables, aggravating extraterrestrials, and braggart beasts.”

Oops, sorry. That wasn’t a political dissertation. It was a book called “Kaiju Big Battel: A Practical Guide to Giant City-Crushing Monsters,” which is about a group of ersatz-Japanese escapees from Creature Double Feature. No mention of the Christian Civic League.

Still, it wasn’t that far off.

The league, Maine’s bastion of 13th-century morality, appears to be losing credibility faster than the Japan Defense Force lost its first fight with Godzilla. Even some of the group’s staunchest supporters have complained that executive director Michael Heath has only a tenuous grasp on reality.

Heath brushes aside such criticism as coming from wimps fearful of taking strong stands against rampant evils like slot machines and Wiccans, both of which he thinks should be illegal. But even Heath has to have noticed that the league has lost clout since last November, when voters rejected the group’s attempt to overturn the state’s gay rights law. Heath had waged an ugly campaign against the legislation based on the twin pillars of questionable theology and urban legend. In defeat, he graciously refused to accept the results and promised to continue fighting as if nothing had changed in the last 800 years.

In the months since the election, Heath has devoted himself not only to his anti-homosexual tirade, but also to attacking a lingerie shop for using live models in its windows and the Baldacci administration for signing a deal with Venezuela to obtain cheap heating oil for low-income people, both actions being violations of either the Ten Commandments or some similar movie.

He also announced the league would be endorsing a candidate in this year’s Republican gubernatorial primary. Unfortunately for the league, none of the candidates wanted Heath’s seal of approval. They knew being backed for political office by the Christian Civic League was like getting sanctioned for motherhood by Britney Spears.

The situation was particularly tricky for Chandler Woodcock, the eventual primary winner. Woodcock is a charter member of the religious right and agrees with the league on almost every issue. But unlike Heath, Woodcock is a political pragmatist. Given his opponents’ support for abortion rights, he knew the league’s endorsement was his for the taking. He also knew that being perceived as Heath’s hand-picked candidate would hurt him with moderate Republicans in the primary and destroy him in the general election.

So, Woodcock tried to explain reality to Heath. Which is a little like trying to explain staying off tall buildings to King Kong.

Just keep quiet, the candidate said, and you’ll get a governor who’ll support your whole agenda, from slapping every possible restriction on abortion to opposing same-sex marriage to teaching intelligent design in schools. All you need to do to help me win is stay on the sidelines, and let me blather on about taxes, jobs, and the economy.

Stephen Jay Gould once said, “Competent leaders have always understood the difference between public proclamations and private bargains.”

Michael Heath is not a competent leader.

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