Ethan: Aren’t you glad you aren’t Republican Party Chairman Rick Bennett this week?
Phil: How so?
Ethan: Let’s see, on Monday seven Republicans resign their official position with the party, and six changed their voter registration.
Phil: Oh, that little thing.
Ethan: On Tuesday, it comes out that Gov. Paul LePage most likely claimed Obama hates white people.
Phil: “Most likely.” Now that’s a new standard for reporting.
Ethan: And on Wednesday, Democrats united behind their nominee in U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud when Steve Woods stepped aside.
Phil: Steve who?
Ethan: Assuming you were Bennett, how would you have handled this week?
Phil: I would have called Phil Harriman and asked if he’d be willing to switch jobs!
Ethan: Although he does have good TV hair, I’m not sure I would have agreed to that.
Phil: In all seriousness, in terms of the resignations, may I suggest they realized that being a state committee member imposes on you many procedural steps and responsibilities that can be slow and frustrating if you entered the job with a vision of “what I say goes”?
Ethan: You think they left because there were too many meetings? That sure isn’t what their letter said. They said they left because Republicans didn’t sustain the governor’s veto of a tax increase; because House Speaker John Boehner isn’t pushing for needed privacy protections on the National Security Agency; and because LePage killed a bill allowing farmers to sell raw milk!
Phil: As I said, perhaps visions of “what I say goes” met with reality. Their departure will be filled with capable people in large part because Bennett is a highly respected political figure in Maine. He, in my opinion, is the right person to present a rejuvenated leadership that Republicans and independents will find worth supporting.
Ethan: I get that you like him, but you still haven’t answered the question about how he should handle the situation.
Phil: He should say, “Thank you for your service,” and recruit new people, which is exactly what he did. Distraction gone.
Ethan: Speaking of distractions, how should he handle the governor’s comments at the fundraiser?
Phil: My initial comment on TV this week that he should have spoken up was a mistake. Bennett was quoted as saying he would let the governor speak for himself. That was the proper response. Bennett’s job isn’t to act as spokesperson for the governor.
Ethan: The first problem with that answer is that Bennett was standing right behind the governor when the comments were made. On that basis alone, he needs to say what he heard. Second, while not being the spokesman for individual Republicans, he is the spokesman for the party. To that end, he has to call his members out when they behave badly or defend their actions.
Phil: I’ve spoken with several who were at the backyard event who find reasonable doubt that the quote is accurate. So, how can Bennett defend a hypothetical? Why not wait until the facts are known?
Ethan: But Bennett knows the facts. If the governor didn’t say it, then Bennett should defend him. But, of course, Bennett isn’t. That tells me, and was confirmed by two attendees that I spoke with, that the governor did indeed make the comment. In that context, I think Bennett could have made great strides by sitting down with the governor and saying, “Don’t make people lie for you. Don’t make us look silly if a tape ends up coming out. Admit your statement, apologize or explain, and let’s move on.”
Phil: Why can’t you accept that LePage isn’t a racist? Recall, he raised Devon, a Jamaican, as his own. Isn’t it plausible that his “friends” in attendance may have gotten a word or two wrong? And when hyped by his “friends” at the Portland Press Herald, maybe there is validity to the governor’s claim that he didn’t make the alleged statement.
Ethan: Whoa, when did I or anyone call LePage a racist? The issue is that he called Obama a racist by claiming that our president hates an entire group of people based on the color of their skin. That is inaccurate, divisive and exploitative of race. Look, you get outraged when someone divides the country based on class. Why aren’t you outraged when someone divides us on race?
Phil: If he said it, then I am outraged. All I ask is a little benefit of the doubt in regards to whether it was actually said and what the motivations might be of those reporting he said it.
Ethan: Unfortunately, based on past statements, the governor has lost some of that benefit. But I hear you.
Phil: Now, in terms of Woods, his business is just down the street from mine. A great guy. Yet, was he really dedicated to running before Michaud entered the race? Did you see his campaign activities coming to life? Maybe this was his graceful exit.
Ethan: No doubt. But this conversation isn’t about Woods. It is about a week in which Democrats united around their gubernatorial nominee, while Republicans spent the week splintering.
Phil: Don’t get carried away. Next Tuesday, should Republican Paula Benoit win back the District 19 Senate seat under Bennett’s leadership, you may be wondering what all your “unity” did for you.
Ethan: Don’t count Democrat Eloise Vitelli out yet! I have a feeling the donkey might just have two good weeks in a row.