The Paranoid, Thin Skinned, Insecure King Campaign

Angus King and his roundtable are none too fond of being questioned or criticized, it seems.

Obviously, no one in public life likes being the target of opposition. It can be hard, even as a lowly column writer in the public eye, to hear people insult your genuinely held opinions, question your motives, and argue against your perspective. For those who haven’t experienced it, being called “evil” repeatedly, while being personally insulted isn’t pleasant, I can assure you.

It does go with the territory, though.

Leaders ask voters to bestow upon them enormous power and responsibility.  It is the public’s right to examine the record and history of a candidate, as well as his stated policy goals, and consider how those things would impact his time in power.

And it is the candidate’s right to respond.  He can accuse those vetting him of lying or misleading.  He can counter with “the truth” as he sees it.  He can even use the supposed mudslinging against his opponents.

But trying to shut down dissent because you don’t like being questioned?  Such behavior tends to make the criticisms grow louder and more aggressive.

Angus King, though, has never really been held to that level of account.  In his first election for governor, he was an enigma wrapped in a riddle; an optimistic mystery.  No one knew all that much about what he believed beyond what he told us, and he had no record to examine.

His re-election campaign in 1998 was remarkable for the fact that it wasn’t really a campaign at all.  The national economy, and by extension Maine’s, was clicking on all cylinders, and the two parties nominated what can only be referred to as token opposition.

King managed to cruise through his entire career while not being significantly challenged.  He managed to surround himself in the warm embrace of moderation and centrism without any legitimate claim to either, and no one had the money or audience to call him on it.

Ten years away from the game, however, and the game has changed.  He’s being called on it now, and he doesn’t like that much.

Enter, the King campaign’s pathetic threat to sue if ads critical of him aren’t taken off the air.  The ads, for anyone who hasn’t seen them, are two from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and feature such outrageously blistering criticism as, “we all need to get used to seeing wind turbines where we used to see ridges, is what Angus King told us” and “I just don’t like the idea of him being our Senator.”

There’s more, of course.

On Tuesday, the Portland Press Herald caught the King campaign editing an article of theirs which appeared on his website.  The revised article retained the pleasant commentary, while removing criticism of the candidate, giving a false impression of the content of the article.

One of the things removed?  A quote from Paul Carrier, who said King “could be thin-skinned and controlling behind the scenes.”

You don’t say?

My first encounter with King’s thin-skinned intolerance of being questioned was in June.  I had been doing weekly two-minute segments on Maine politics for a local TV news station, and after hearing King’s ridiculous answers to the fair and important question of who he would caucus with, I mentioned on the air that I don’t particularly respect politicians that engage in such obfuscation.

The station got a phone call, and an earful.

I had done these segments in the 2010 cycle as well, and in contrast to the gentle prodding I had given King, I had comparatively lit Libby Mitchell, Eliot Cutler and even Paul LePage on fire.  Each and every one of them had the maturity to take it in stride and move on.  But not King.

The list goes on.  There’s the paranoid reaction to campaign trackers, a fact of life in modern campaigns.  There’s the defensive and pious press releases sent out by the campaign.  There’s the hypocritical pontifications from King, attacking others for doing things he is seemingly allowed to do himself.

There is, it seems, a never ending supply of material that confirms Mr. Carrier’s scrubbed assessment of King.

Being a United States Senator is one of the most powerful positions in the entire world, and it is without question that the voters deserve to see all candidates who may assume that power fully examined.

The people of Maine should be wary of anyone so offended by that examination that he tries to shut it down.

Matthew Gagnon

About Matthew Gagnon

Matthew Gagnon, of Yarmouth, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. Prior to Maine Heritage, he served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C. Originally from Hampden, he has been involved with Maine politics for more than a decade.