Mike Michaud and an inconvenient fact

In his long political career, being cautious has been the hallmark of being U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd district. That’s what makes his recent claim about Maine losing jobs so surprising.

He has never been out front on any major political issue while in Congress. Indeed, quite the opposite, as he has melted into the background of obscurity, seeming to be among the last people to weigh in on issues that have already been defined and debated.

Michaud has always claimed to be an independent voice and a principled moderate willing to work to “get things done,” but we’ve never really seen that, have we? In his decade of service in Washington, with both Republican and Democratic majorities, he has not appeared to be in the middle of the debate but rather a spectator of it.

Neither has he seemed comfortable fighting for his beliefs (whatever those beliefs are), standing up for himself, or drawing contrasts with his political opponents. Leadership of a true political movement for change depends on somebody who can fight for that movement and rally people to the cause. That is not Michaud.

It seems he is far more comfortable hanging back and playing the political wallflower, seeing what everyone else wants him to do and then doing it, than boldly standing out on a ledge that may break.

Which makes it so curious to see him so recklessly flaunt his aversion to the truth at the very outset of his campaign for governor.

As so many other politicians before him have done, Michaud came out of the gates complaining about “the tone” in Augusta and claimed to reject the negativity and divisiveness that he says is rampant there. He would then, naturally, go on to make divisive, negative attacks against his opponent.

One of those attacks was the dubious claim that Maine had lost jobs under Paul LePage. In his campaign kick-off video, Michaud claimed that Maine was one of three states that had lost jobs in the previous year.  Though he provided no specifics for his claim, Democrats pointed to a recent Pew study to support it.

If you go look at Michaud’s kick-off video now, however, you’ll find that little attack missing. Why? Well, because it was a fabrication so easy to disprove that it took all of five minutes — and access to Google.

The labor statistics, you see, were actually revised as part of the state’s regular processing of updating economic data, and showed that Maine had in fact gained jobs under LePage.

Indeed, according to the Maine Department of Labor, the actual number of employed workers went from 653,600 in July of 2012, to 660,300 in July of 2013.

In fact, more than 10,000 new jobs have been created during LePage’s tenure in office.

Rather than own up to the lie, and publicly issue a correction (an apology would have been nice, but I’d just settle for, “Hey, so that wasn’t true, and we hereby acknowledge the lack of truth,”) Michaud just silently changed the video and moved along with his day without acknowledging it.

How cynical. He is attempting to wash his hands of lying about Maine’s job numbers without having to pay any consequence for doing it in the first place.

This is what happens when somebody who has spent a career in comfort, firmly perched upon an untouchable tower of Teflon, tries to enter the arena, necessitating he spend time under the hot lights.

Michaud’s style doesn’t match the times we live in or the office he is running for. His aura of warm feeling — his halo if you will — is built entirely upon being inoffensive and nice, non-confrontational and genial.

He has mastered the art of saying nothing and sounding nice when he says it. That works in the universe of Washington, D.C., where being anonymous and fading into the background actually makes you more appealing.

But the governorship is another matter, as the previously popular John Baldacci found out, leaving the Blaine House with an approval rating hovering in the 30-percent range.

Being governor of Maine is something that requires hard choices, priorities, initiative and an ability to fight hard for changes that need to be made for the state.

That is the opposite of Michaud. He doesn’t make hard choices. He is a cookie-cutter liberal politician and has never demonstrated a will to fight for an unpopular but necessary cause.

Those qualities make him the wrong man for the job. And to top it all off, he can’t even hold himself accountable to the truth.

Correction: The column originally said that the Pew study was revised as part of the state’s regular processing of updating economic data. It should have said the labor statistics were revised.

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.