LePage tries to explain why Obama is a dictator and he’s not

Good morning from Gardiner. We heard so much from Gov. Paul LePage at his Wednesday news conference that it was hard to put it all in one story.

He called it to say that he meant to call Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump “authoritative” instead of “authoritarian” in a Tuesday radio interview. But he then called President Barack Obama “a dictator,” said the U.S. is so weak it may not survive and criticized Republican U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and John McCain.

But there was more in LePage’s first press conference in 42 days since swearing off talking to the media amid another controversy, and it showed us a lot about his political worldview, especially when it relates to Obama.

The Republican governor has a long history with Obama, going back to the 2010 campaign, when he said as governor, people would see a lot of him on front pages telling the president to “go to hell.” He reportedly told Republicans in 2013 that Obama “hates white people,” but he denied it.

On Wednesday, it was Obama’s executive actions that were drawing LePage’s ire. The governor said Obama is “ignoring” Congress in favor of his “legacy,” zeroing in on the “insane” Clean Power Plan, a set of rules aimed to reduce power plant emissions that Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, a Democrat, is helping defend in a court challenge from Republicans.

Conservatives have hammered Obama on his use of executive power in a time when Congress is controlled by Republicans. On a yearly average, Obama has issued executive orders less than any president since the 1800s, but he has aggressively promoted progressive causes, including LGBT rights and immigration reform that was blocked this year in a U.S. Supreme Court tie.

And this year, Obama established the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument under the Antiquities Act, a move that LePage fought and denounced as “unilateral action against the will of the people.”

But LePage has been criticized for wielding his executive authority in ways that other governors haven’t. He has vetoed record numbers of bills and held up voter-approved bonds, including $15 million for senior housing approved by 69 percent of Maine voters in 2015.

When questioned on that, LePage asked, “Did the people know what they were voting on?” and said he hasn’t violated the process under the law. That’s true: Governors have five years to issue bonds, and he’s pushing the Legislature to change the approved package.

On Wednesday, House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, a proponent of the housing bond, said in a statement that LePage should respect voters’ will and “stop playing games with the well-being of seniors.”

But LePage drew a contrast between himself and the president he calls heavy-handed.

“I guess the difference between Barack Obama and myself is when I use the executive privilege, we spend a lot of time making sure it’s going to help the Maine people,” he said. “Barack Obama, when he does an executive order, he spends very little time helping the American people and a whole lot of time helping his legacy.” — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits

  • Democratic 2nd Congressional District hopeful Emily Cain had a record-setting fundraising quarter, according to the Sun JournalCain’s campaign said she raised $1.1 million between July and September, more than $400,000 more than any other House candidate in Maine history for a campaign-long total of $2.9 million, while Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s campaign hasn’t disclosed his figures, but says he’ll retain the fundraising lead he’s had all along. This puts candidate fundraising at more than $2 million over Cain and Poliquin’s race in 2014. Outside spending is exploding at $4.7 million already compared to $4 million in 2014, with 60 percent of that against Poliquin.
  • Poliquin is not happy that reporters keep asking him about Trump. Since Trump clinched the nomination, the congressman has refused to say if he supports Trump. So, naturally, reporters who are paid to get answers to questions keep asking him. On Tuesday, those questions came from Maine Public’s Mal Leary and the Morning Sentinel’s Rachel Ohm at Poliquin’s stop at New Balance in Skowhegan. He responded to their Trump questions with answer about New Balance and ended up walking away. Yesterday, he took to Facebook blasting them for “trying to pit conservatives against each other.”
  • Help us test ranked-choice voting’s impact on LePage’s two elections. We at the Bangor Daily News are running a neat interactive project where we’re re-running the 2010 and 2014 gubernatorial elections as ranked-choice races, in light of the proposal in Question 5 on this year’s ballot. You must sign up ahead of time and voting will take place Oct. 17 through Oct. 20, to be followed by analysis and stories on how it worked out.
  • Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is sending her daughter, Chelsea, to Orono this morning. She’ll be appearing with former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell at the University of Maine’s Wells Conference Center at 10:45 a.m. — Michael Shepherd

Reading list

You can own LePage’s Russian nesting dolls for less than $45

One of the most striking parts of LePage’s Wednesday press conference was his visual prop: The set of Russian nesting dolls focused on Bill Clinton sex scandals, depicting Monica Lewinsky, Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones and Hillary Clinton.

LePage said he got them on a trip to Russia in 2008 and used them to make a point that the U.S. isn’t respected by many around the world.

We found them on eBay for the low price of $44.49 with free shipping. The seller told me there was no marking indicating where they were made, but a Twitter user tells me they’re likely from Russia, with similar items often found in tourist shops.

I contemplated buying them for our State House office, but didn’t pull the trigger because I didn’t think the expense report would go through. Here’s your soundtrack— Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.