Politics: White House

Carney Says Obama Was Not Distracted by Weinergate

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June 16, 2011, 9:54 a.m.

Wa­terville May­or Paul LePage (R) said 10/7 in a for­um “sponsored by” the South­ern ME Chapter “of the Na­tion­al As­so­ci­ation of In­sur­ance and Fin­an­cial Ad­visers” that ME should “sue the fed­er­al” gov’t “over health care re­form.” LePage: “I fear the fed­er­al pro­gram. It’s ra­tioned care. It scares me.” LePage also said “he be­lieves the fed­er­al law vi­ol­ates the con­sti­tu­tion.”

Want More On This Race? Check out the Hot­line Dash­board for a com­pre­hens­ive run­down of this race, in­clud­ing stor­ies, polls, ads, FEC num­bers, and more!

LePage: “We can join the oth­er 20 states to chal­lenge Obama­care be­cause, quite frankly, I be­lieve it to be un­con­sti­tu­tion­al.”

‘84 SEN nom­in­ee/‘90 ME-01 can­did­ate/state Sen­ate Pres./ex-state House Speak­er Libby Mitchell (D) “said ex­changes called for in the fed­er­al law will al­low people to buy in­sur­ance if they can’t af­ford it on the in­di­vidu­al mar­ket.” Mitchell: “The ex­changes for the first time will give us an op­por­tun­ity to have a great big pool. That’s my goal: to make sure no one in Maine goes without prop­er ac­cess to health care at an af­ford­able rate.”

Atty/ex-OMB As­soc. Dir. for Nat­ur­al Re­sources, En­ergy and Sci­ence/Jimmy Carter ex-aide Eli­ot Cut­ler (I), on the re­form: “Our ob­ject­ive in the state of Maine is to cre­ate a healthy work force and a healthy pop­u­la­tion. We need to provide ac­cess to health care ser­vices to every­one in the state” (Cov­er, Cent­ral Maine Morn­ing Sen­tinel, 10/8).

He’ll Take The Money

GOP state law­makers “staged a news con­fer­ence 10/7 “to re­but claims that” LePage “would re­fuse fed­er­al edu­ca­tion dol­lars if elec­ted,” a charge “made by” Mitchell “in re­cent” TV spots.”

State Sen. Car­ol We­st­on (R): “Paul will make sure our teach­ers, kids and classrooms will have the re­sources they need for suc­cess. For four dec­ades, Libby Mitchell and the uni­ons have been the face of edu­ca­tion. Paul LePage will fi­nally make our kids, our stu­dents, the face of edu­ca­tion in Maine” (Met­z­ler, Cent­ral Maine Morn­ing Sen­tinel, 10/8).

There Goes The All-Im­port­ant Bowdoin Vote

The ME Col­lege Dems took LePage “to task” 10/7 over “com­ments he made about stu­dent vot­ing” in ‘05. ME Col­lege Dems pres./UMaine stu­dent Bed Good­man: “In a 2005 de­bate, May­or LePage said es­sen­tially that he didn’t be­lieve that col­lege stu­dents should par­ti­cip­ate in loc­al elec­tions, should go out and vote, un­less they did two things: They should pay prop­erty taxes in town or they should re­gister their car. … But Paul LePage doesn’t re­gister his car, he drives a com­pany car; and he doesn’t pay prop­erty taxes. … Stu­dents have a con­sti­tu­tion­al right to go out and vote in elec­tions”

LePage spokes­per­son Dan De­meritt: “His point is, maybe draw a line between the loc­al races and the state and na­tion­al races. Be­fore stu­dents come in and swamp the (elec­tion) res­ults for people who are go­ing to be liv­ing and pay­ing taxes in the com­munity — long after the col­lege stu­dents have gradu­ated — those kids maybe need to have more stake in the com­munity be­fore they can vote in just those loc­al elec­tions” (Met­z­ler, Cent­ral Maine Morn­ing Sen­tinel, 10/8).

“There’s noth­ing in the middle of the road but yel­low stripes and dead ar­ma­dillos.”

Jim Hightower, a com­mit­ted lib­er­al and former Texas Ag­ri­cul­ture Com­mis­sion­er, liked to say this so much that he fi­nally used it as a title for a book.

I was re­minded of this tart as­sess­ment this week as I watched two skilled politi­cians at­tempt to ne­go­ti­ate a grow­ing chasm open­ing un­der their feet. One of them, GOP Sen. Richard Lugar of In­di­ana, slipped and fell. The oth­er, Pres­id­ent Obama, ap­peared to leap nimbly to the oth­er side of the sink­hole just be­fore it swal­lowed him up.

Right up un­til the morn­ing of the day when Obama stopped evolving and de­clared his sup­port for same-sex mar­riage, there was still a vig­or­ous de­bate un­der way over wheth­er the polit­ic­al down­side was worth the risk.

The night be­fore, North Car­o­lina voters be­came the 39th state to make gay mar­riage il­leg­al. Time and again, the people who tell poll­sters they in­creas­ingly sup­port gay mar­riage have been out­numbered at the bal­lot box.

Plus, the pres­id­ent’s base was split. Gay Demo­crats wanted his sup­port, while many older, re­li­gious Afric­an-Amer­ic­ans did not want him to pub­licly af­firm sup­port for gay mar­riage. There was an ar­gu­ment to be made for leav­ing the whole thing up to the states and tak­ing no po­s­i­tion on the is­sue un­til after the fall elec­tion.

This ap­peared to be the settled course un­til Vice Pres­id­ent Joe Biden cleared his throat.

“I am ab­so­lutely com­fort­able with the fact that men mar­ry­ing men, wo­men mar­ry­ing wo­men, and het­ero­sexu­al men and wo­men mar­ry­ing an­oth­er are en­titled to the same ex­act rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liber­ties,” he de­clared on NBC’s Meet the Press. “And quite frankly, I don’t see much of a dis­tinc­tion bey­ond that.”

By fram­ing his sup­port in the con­text of mar­riage rather than civil uni­ons, the vice pres­id­ent “got out a little bit over his skis,” as the pres­id­ent later de­scribed it. Since it’s really hard to ski back­wards, the spot­light turned back to the White House.

With­in hours of Biden’s com­ments, both gay-mar­riage sup­port­ers and op­pon­ents began to char­ac­ter­ize the pres­id­ent’s con­tin­ued evol­u­tion­ary reti­cence as hy­po­crit­ic­al. Both sides be­lieved the pres­id­ent was cloak­ing his true views for polit­ic­al reas­ons.

So when the pres­id­ent did weigh in — in­vit­ing ABC’s Robin Roberts to come to town for a chat — he de­cided to en­dorse gay mar­riage — with the caveat that it re­mains a states’ rights is­sue.

He at­trib­uted his de­cision to friends, staff, neigh­bors, sol­diers, fire­fight­ers, and even to his daugh­ters — who, judging by his fre­quent ref­er­ences to them these days — are the most in­flu­en­tial off­spring since Amy Carter.

“The winds of change are hap­pen­ing,” the pres­id­ent said. “They’re not blow­ing with the same force in every state. But I think that what you’re go­ing to see is states com­ing to the real­iz­a­tion that if a sol­dier can fight for us, if a po­lice of­ficer can pro­tect our neigh­bor­hoods, if a fire­fight­er is ex­pec­ted to go in­to a burn­ing build­ing to save our pos­ses­sions or our kids, the no­tion that after they were done with that, that we’d say to them, “˜Oh, but by the way, we’re go­ing to treat you dif­fer­ently.’ As more and more folks think about it, they’re go­ing to say, you know, ‘That’s not who we are.’ “

Richard Lugar was not so for­tu­nate at man­euv­er­ing his way out of a sticky polit­ic­al situ­ation. Nearly four dec­ades in Wash­ing­ton caught up with him.

Greg Fet­tig, the tea party act­iv­ist who cofoun­ded Hoo­siers for a Con­ser­vat­ive Sen­ate, worked around the clock to de­feat Lugar, set­tling on even­tu­al win­ner Richard Mour­dock as his weapon of polit­ic­al de­struc­tion.

Fet­tig told me on Wed­nes­day’s PBS News­Hour that “what you saw last night was really a pur­ity pur­ging” of what he called es­tab­lish­ment mod­er­ates.

Lugar was clearly un­equipped for such a fight, and he was bit­ter after his thump­ing, 20-point de­feat. He even skipped the tra­di­tion­al unity news con­fer­ence held the next day.

“Par­tis­an groups, in­clud­ing out­side groups that spent mil­lions against me in this race “¦ have worked to make it as dif­fi­cult as pos­sible for a le­gis­lat­or of either party to hold in­de­pend­ent views or en­gage in con­struct­ive com­prom­ise,” he said in a sting­ing elec­tion-night memo. “If that at­ti­tude pre­vails in Amer­ic­an polit­ics, our gov­ern­ment will re­main mired in the dys­func­tion we have wit­nessed dur­ing the last sev­er­al years. And I be­lieve that if this at­ti­tude ex­pands in the Re­pub­lic­an Party, we will be re­leg­ated to minor­ity status. Parties don’t suc­ceed for long if they stop ap­peal­ing to voters who may dis­agree with them on some is­sues.”

Lugar may be right, but his point of view is in­creas­ingly be­ing ushered to the side­lines as oth­er mod­er­ates like Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, leave Con­gress.

Barack Obama may have proved Jim Hightower wrong this week, ne­go­ti­at­ing the double yel­low line with fin­esse. But Lugar was the dead ar­ma­dillo.

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