From carpenter to king

LePage has been surprisingly polite
By AL DIAMON  |  December 8, 2010

In the wake of last month's election, I expected Republican governor-elect Paul LePage to provide me with an inexhaustible supply of column material. But LePage, who acted like a buffoon during the campaign, has somehow been transformed by victory into a shining example of decorum. No swearing. No jokes about punching reporters. No contradictory statements about taxes, civil unions, or where his wife lives.

LePage has been so proper and dull, you'd think Democrat Libby Mitchell won the race.

This has created a problem. Not for me. I've still got plenty to write about, what with the GOP deciding to commit political suicide by choosing state Representative Robert (I stiffed Medicaid to the tune of $1.2 million) Nutting for speaker of the House. Then there's Bruce (Didn't the voters just get through saying they hated me?) Poliquin, the Republicans' choice for state treasurer. And I can probably squeeze a few thousand words out of the decision by moderate Republican US senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to undergo extreme makeovers in desperate attempts to look like Tea Party conservatives.

Shed no tears for me. Save your sympathy for somebody who really needs it: Liberals.

In the wake of LePage's win, left-wingers were convinced he'd spew forth a plethora of stupid statements they could turn into wedge issues for the 2012 campaign. When that didn't happen, the progressives weren't just disappointed, they were frantic. If this guy started acting statesmanlike, it would make it all but impossible to portray him as a threat to such societal norms as welfare, school consolidation, and government subsidies for ridiculously expensive alternative-energy projects.

Unable to attack LePage directly, the secular humanists and unrepentant Roosevelt supporters searched frantically for an alternative target. It wasn't long before they found one.

On November 23, the governor-elect named nearly three dozen members to his transition team. These volunteers are supposed to help sort through job applications (weed out the nuts) and develop policy positions (never to be heard from again). Most of them seem well-suited for these thankless tasks, having spent their careers in such frustrating positions as mayor of Augusta, promoting economic development in eastern Maine, and distilling overpriced vodka. With one exception: Pete Harring.

If you're a normal person, you've probably never heard of Harring. Even if you're a certified whackjob, he may not have shown up on your radar. In fact, the only two groups with whom he'd have a recognition factor higher than your average Internet radio DJ are hardcore Tea Partiers and liberals.

Harring, known as "Pete the Carpenter" at Tea Party rallies, is the proprietor of an apparently defunct Web site called MaineRefounders.org. Before the site disappeared, it contained the usual blather about how awful the government is, how leftists are trying to take away our freedoms, and how the country has to be returned to constitutional principles of an unspecified nature. It was no more incendiary than this column, unless you consider assaults on English grammar as evidence of treason.

Nevertheless, the libs seized on Harring's miniscule role in the new administration as proof LePage intends to turn Maine into a fascist dictatorship.

Harring resides on "the extreme fringe of political discourse," according to a blog posting by Maine People's Alliance spokesman Mike Tipping. In a public radio interview, Tipping called the appointment "horrifying."

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