A reading list for Gov. Paul LePage
Give Gov. Paul LePage a break.
Sure, his note to a 16-year-old who is concerned about the future of the internet was insensitive. Absolutely, he was tone deaf. And really, who doesn’t sign a personal note with a third-person job title?
But the advice, despite the deeply flawed delivery, was sound.
As you may recall from last week, LePage responded to an email from Hope Osgood, a sophomore at Camden Hills Regional High School, with an unnecessarily curt note when she wrote to him expressing her concern about net neutrality.
“Hope. Pick up a book and read! Governor.”
So in the spirit of that solid advice, I’d like to offer my own list of books — but not for Hope.
As LePage starts his last year in office, here’s a reading list for him to consider. Maybe, just maybe, it’ll help him on his way out the door and prepare him for whatever comes next in his life and career.
Let’s start with David Cay Johnson’s “Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich — and Cheat Everybody Else.” The book is a little bit dated. After all, the Republicans in Congress and the president took things to a whole new level just a few weeks ago with the terrible tax scam bill, but the book by a well-respected, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter is an introductory course in what’s wrong with the tax policy promoted by politicians like LePage.
Next, let’s flashback to the early days of the LePage administration with a quick read from my friend Mike Tipping: “As Maine Went: Governor Paul LePage and the Tea Party Takeover of Maine.” Sure, LePage lived it. But surely if he read about his multiple meetings with extremists and racists, he might understand how the rest of the world sees him and his comments. Self-awareness is the key to happiness.
As a former businessman and someone who likes to think of themselves as self-made, this business classic by Dale Carnegie might already be on the governor’s nightstand: “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” It’ll help LePage get out of a mental rut and have new thoughts and ambitions, make friends and increase his popularity, according to the promotional materials.
I wonder if there’s a chapter about not writing nasty, personal notes to high school kids concerned about public policy? Maybe in the next edition.
Published in 1964, “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. It’s a book for kids, but the lessons apply even to governors: It’s not all about you. It’s about what you can do for others. (And stop trying to cut down all the trees!)
Finally, the governor should pick up the Bible. The Bible is actually a collection of other books, so I’ll narrow the recommendation lest LePage gets hung up on some of the begets and eye-for-an-eye parts.
Let’s start with Isaiah 10 in the Old Testament: “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar?”
And, please, if LePage reads only one book this year, let it be the Book of Matthew, specifically the retelling of the Sermon on the Mount and The Beatitudes.
“Remember that it is the poor and the meek, those who mourn and those who are merciful, the pure of heart and the peacemakers that will be blessed. Not the rich man, who will struggle like a camel trying to pass through the eye of a needle.”
I considered recommending “Fire and Fury: The Inside Story of the Trump White House,” but in all honesty, I haven’t read it and probably won’t. Besides, when it comes to an administration led by someone rude, crude and in over his head, that’s one story LePage is probably familiar with. He’s lived it for seven years.
And to Hope: I hope that you’ll keep writing letters, keep engaging and keep pushing politicians for answers. Check out “Pearls, Politics and Power: How Women Can Win and Lead” by Madeleine Kunin. Kunin is the former governor of Vermont and with her book she’s looking to recruit a new class of political leaders.
“Women will not have all the answers, but they are sure to inject new talent, ideas, and optimism into a political system desperately in need of all three.”
Sounds like she was talking about Hope.
David Farmer is a public affairs, political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children. He was senior adviser to Democrat Mike Michaud’s 2014 campaign for governor.