Lying is as intrinsic to politics as malt is to beer. Only a fool would attempt to change either one.
Unfortunately, major American breweries regularly turn out beer-like products with so little malt that they can legally be sold as bottled water flavored with what tastes like a faint hint of deer urine.
On a more positive note, this country's politicians keep insisting they're telling the truth. Which is almost always a lie. So, we're good there.
Among those who deserve credit for maintaining the traditional recipe for campaign rhetoric — slightly less fact in every statement than vermouth in a dry martini — is Republican US Senate candidate Charlie Summers. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column about Summers's rapidly shifting positions on abortion. For most of his two-plus decades in politics, he's been pro-choice. That's the stand he took when he launched his first unsuccessful bid for Congress in 1994. And his second failed attempt in 2004. And that's what he still claimed during his third losing effort in 2008. But in running for the Senate this year, Summers has regularly made comments that could be interpreted as pro-life. For instance, he told the Bangor Daily News, "I support a woman's right to an abortion in the case of rape, incest and life of the mother."
I was confused by that change, so I called Summers's campaign for clarification. I got no response. But after the column came out, I received an angry email from his campaign manager, Lance Dutson.
"Summers is pro choice," Dutson wrote, "always has been."
Now, I was really confused. Not about whether Summers was lying about where he stood on abortion, because it was obvious he was. But I wasn't sure which of his contrary positions was the falsehood. I emailed Dutson back, asking him to explain, but he's a busy guy and hasn't gotten around to replying yet.
While I'm waiting for that to happen, I'll try to sort out truth from fiction in the sordid saga of soon-to-be ex-Democratic state Representative Alexander Cornell du Houx of Brunswick. Cornell du Houx was one of the bright young lights of Maine politics until his ex-girlfriend, Democratic state Representative Erin Herbig of Belfast, accused him of stalking and harassing her, including breaking into her apartment and taking photos of her while she was asleep. Cornell du Houx denied everything, telling anyone who would listen that he had never even been interviewed by the Maine State Police officer investigating Herbig's complaint. The case was settled when the two signed a confidential agreement that remained secret for about eight seconds before being leaked to the news media.
Here's what Cornell du Houx — still claiming to be totally innocent — agreed to:
He would stay out of Belfast for the next 10 years.
He would provide Capitol Police with 48 hours' notice if he intended to visit the State House in Augusta.
He would turn over to Herbig's lawyers any computer hard drives or other devices with photos of Herbig or other sleeping women on them.
He would pay Herbig's legal bills, which amounted to $9000.
And he would not run for re-election.
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking those are just the sort of incredibly restrictive and punitive requirements to which any innocent guy would consent.