Three for the price of one

THE QUOTE

“I think the guy will be an unbelievable governor.”

WHO SAID IT

Former President Bill Clinton, Sept. 2, 2014. Clinton was speaking of U. S. Rep. Mike Michaud, the Democratic candidate for governor of Maine, at a Portland rally.

THE QUOTE

“The people of Maine know who he is, they trust him, they like him …”

WHO SAID IT

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, endorsing fellow Republican Gov. Paul LePage at an appearance in Portland on May 7.

THE QUOTE

“I’m here today because Eliot Cutler is going to win this election and I want to be on the right side.”

WHO SAID IT

Independent U. S. Sen. Angus King in endorsing Eliot Cutler, the independent candidate opposing Michaud and LePage in governor’s race, at a news conference on Aug. 18.

THE FACTS

It’s election season, and the hyperbole machine is redlining. Endorsements, especially, are the time to lay it on thick and attempt to counter the candidate’s greatest weakness. If a candidate is not known for his brains, the endorser will boast of his brilliance; if the candidate lacks credentials, the endorser will drag out that “school-of-hard-knocks” chestnut. Because in Politicsland, every candidate is like all the children of Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon: “above average.”

BACKGROUND

Let’s analyze each quote:

Michaud will be an “unbelievable” governor. That might better be said of LePage, whose off-color comments would be more believable in a barroom than a governor’s office. But no one – ’til Clinton – has ever thought the bland Mike Michaud is anything but believable.

Much can be said about LePage, but Christie’s claim that the people of Maine – implying all or most of those people – like him, is another example of exaggeration to counter the facts. LePage didn’t come close to even a majority in his first election, and the current polls show him about where he has always been: less than half the people in Maine plan to vote for him, which may be enough to win in a three-way race, but it doesn’t support Gov. Christie’s hype.

There are a lot of things you can say about Cutler and have no argument, even from his opponents: he’s smart, well-spoken, accomplished, etc. But Sen. King’s claim that his fellow independent is “going to win” is good, old-fashioned spin. While the polls may well be wrong – after all, no one has actually voted yet – Cutler has stayed third in the race right along. And that is his greatest weakness – he can only attract a winning percentage if voters who like him also think he can win. Thus, King’s emphasis on claiming not only that Cutler can win, but that he will.

TRANSLATION

If Napoleon were running for public office today, his friends would boast of his “stature” as a statesman; Nixon would be praised for being “as honest as old Abe;” and Coolidge’s pals would say he was a hoot at a party.

Source of quotes: Portland Press Herald.

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The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting specializes in watchdog reporting, but as much as our government’s policies and actions need watching, so does their language. During the Vietnam war, we had “protective air strikes” -- doublespeak for bombing villages. And during the 2004 presidential election, John Kerry gave this twisted explanation of his vote on a military spending bill: "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it."

This new feature of pinetreewatchdog will call attention to fresh cases of the “pure wind” that blows regularly from our public figures: politicians, business people, commentators and others “practiced in the art of deception.”

As usual, we aim to be equal opportunity offenders. Because no party, no ideology, no special interest is immune from spin, obfuscation, weasel words, cant, misdirection, euphemisms, flummery, cheap shots and other forms of BS.

— John Christie, editor-in-chief

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