[Note: LePage has been nearly as big an embarrassment as Trump. This proves it … again.]
Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) on Thursday defended President Trump’s claim that “both sides” were responsible for the violence that erupted at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend, comparing Confederate memorials to those put up to honor the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
In an interview on WGAN radio in Portland, LePage accused counterdemonstrators of “trying to erase history” by calling for the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
“I think what they are standing for is equally as bad. They are trying to erase history,” said LePage, a Republican and staunch Trump ally who has garnered a reputation for making controversial and inflammatory statements. “How can future generations learn if we’re going to erase history? That’s disgusting.
“Listen, whether we like it or not, this is what our history is,” he added. “And to me, it’s just like going to New York City right now and taking down the monument of those who perished in 9/11. It will come to that.”
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Maine’s governor, Paul LePage, isn’t known for holding his tongue. It’s deeply troubling, then, that while other elected officials made a point of speaking up, it took LePage nearly three days to make a mealy-mouthed comment on the racist violence that killed a woman in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend.
The violence erupted Saturday afternoon when alt-righter James Alex Fields Jr. drove his car into a crowd of people gathered as a counterprotest to a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville. Heather Heyer was killed and 19 others injured in the attack; Fields has been charged with homicide and is being held without bail.
The condemnation from most of the nation’s governors was timely and bipartisan. By Monday afternoon, 39 governors – including every governor in New England – had commented on the tragedy, according to Maine Public Radio.
But Maine’s chief executive didn’t say anything until Tuesday morning, when he told Bangor-based WVOM: “My heart goes out to the families of the injured. I feel it’s a horrific act. It’s an issue that happened in Virginia and I think Virginia authorities should be dealing with it. I just hope it never happens in Maine again because it happened here in 1922.”
We appreciate the nod to Maine’s shameful history (the Ku Klux Klan was a political and cultural force here in the 1920s and helped elected a governor in 1924), but for LePage to say that Saturday’s attack is of limited concern outside Virginia is highly shortsighted. While Maine hasn’t seen deadly violence of the kind that unfolded in Charlottesville, vile, racially charged remarks of the kind that embolden violent people are a regular occurrence here. One of the chief offenders: Gov. LePage.
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If this feels different, it’s because it is.
Never in modern American history has a president so elevated the forces of hate, or so bastardized and mangled the country’s past. Never has a president looked at a display as malevolent and disgusting as the torch-fueled march Friday night in Charlottesville and refused to condemn it, saying “there are two sides to a story.”
In a week in which the leader of the free world gave comfort to people shouting “Jews won’t replace us,” we have to ask, what kind of country are we?
At a news conference Tuesday, one day after reading off a teleprompter a canned and insincere refutation of white nationalism, President Trump showed us what he really thinks.
Speaking extemporaneously, Trump more strongly repeated his initial claim that blame for the violence in Charlottesville was “on both sides,” as if who is in the right – the Nazis calling for a racially pure country, or those who oppose them in the name of true American values – is up for discussion.
Trump didn’t come out and say that white nationalists have a friend in the White House, but he didn’t have to. After decades in which any association with Nazis was a ticket out of public life, having the president mimic their talking points was more than they could have ever hoped for.
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