Slap at judge reddens LePage’s face
One bright spot of Gov. LePage’s tenure has been the appointment of good judges to the bench. But mostly his time in office will be remembered like a locker room after a high school hockey tournament – stinky. That odor now clings to his relationship with the judiciary too.
The letter the governor wrote this week to Maine Supreme Court Justice Joseph Jabar, demanding that the judge resign because he reneged on a secret deal, absolutely reeks.
The conceit of LePage broadcasting a failed deal and taking delight casting aspersions on a sitting justice should be embarrassing, but the governor thinks he’s taking the high road by lowering the bar on what’s acceptable conduct. Over and over we hear how street smart he is but what we see is a man lacking basic skills and common decency and too stubborn and proud to recognize it.
He can’t see that he can’t get the job done. His supposed deal with Jabar reminds us of all his other failures – dealing with the opiate crisis, for example, or Riverview or correctional facilities or hungry kids. It is really good news that LePage’s term is about to expire.
Has LePage negotiated a successful deal yet for us? He brags about his business smarts – but show me the money. He accuses Jabar of dishonesty for failing to abide by nonsensical terms, saying in the letter, “you told me you had only one year left to reach 20 years of service, which would have provided you with a lucrative, taxpayer-funded pension. You asked that I allow you to continue until you reached the 20-year mark, at which time you would step aside so I could nominate another justice.”
What’s magic about 20 years for Maine judges’ retirement? Nothing. How do I know this? I looked at the eligibility statute for Maine judges and see it has no readily apparent reference to 20 years whatsoever. Jabar appears to have been eligible for a “lucrative, taxpayer-funded pension” in December 2016 when LePage reappointed him. Maybe Jabar, first appointed in 2001, wants to stay 20 years on the bench and will step down in 2021.
Did LePage add up the numbers incorrectly? Who knows. We only get LePage’s confusing and combative side of the story. He takes every fight to the street even when, as here, the other side is precluded from responding. He doesn’t fight fair and is a sore loser and says he hates the media but clearly loves to weaponize it as he did by publishing the letter. He is too self-centered to appreciate how damaging to the collective community psyche it is to bear witness to his excessive degree of pettiness.
Maybe it’s not as simple as applying the facts about Jabar’s years of service to the the pension law – maybe his years in the Legislature get factored in, or there are other complicating factors; all the more reason not to rely on a wink and a back slap. A meeting of minds is virtually impossible with LePage, who apparently didn’t look at the law, had trouble with the math and ignored advice of his chief legal counsel, who allegedly advised against the so-called deal.
Make no mistake: Getting appointed and reappointed to the bench is political, and in politics, deals are made all the time. A judicial pension is a plum. But even if you assume LePage agreed to a deal before doing the math, against the advice of counsel and now is mad because he thinks he got snookered, again, his public and deeply personal vitriolic attacks on the character and honesty of a judge are cheap and weaken our system of government and democracy. His smut and spittle should be kept behind closed doors; seeing laundry dangling from his clothesline is too much to bear. Why must we be ruled by small men?
The governor is stuck in a troubled, wretched place, and he acts like a mouthy teenager oblivious that his belligerence causes pain. As a state, we suffer. The office of governor has been cheapened and democratic institutions have been weakened
LePage doesn’t see value in good manners because he can’t see a brighter future. In my view this should disqualify him from public service.
Manners exist not to assert superior social class or suppress expression. Good manners make people feel comfortable. Leaders in the free world showcase good manners because bringing comfort to the governed leads people to have faith in government institutions – the cornerstone of our democracy. LePage’s lack of good manners and vision and self-awareness is exceptionally tiresome because there appears no desire on his part to grow. He revels in eternal adolescence.
The letter to Justice Jabar is one more permanent stain on the soiled legacy of Paul LePage and by publishing it he is shoving his failure in our face.
As published in the Portland Press Herald