Maine Governor LePage's New TV Show: A Review
Governor LePage has a new television show, airing on Time Warner Cable across the state and available online. For a governor distrustful of the media (LePage recently said that “buying a Maine daily newspaper is like paying someone to lie to you”) it’s a way to get his message out in a scripted, edited and favorable way.
I’m trying a bit of a different format with this post. What follows is a somewhat stream-of-consciousness live blog and some annotation as I watch the show’s first episode, which airs this week.
The opening credits are well-produced and include a reading of the first few lines of the Constitution. I’m a bit surprised they’d use a federal document rather than something Maine-specific or more related to the office of governor, but it’s obviously a nod to LePage’s pledge to hew closely to the Constitution on certain issues.
The intro fades to show the phrase “People Before Politics,” the governor’s campaign slogan. I have a feeling this show is going to be a bit one-sided.
The title also reminds one of another LePage-centric new venture, the astroturf group Maine People Before Politics, that launched last week using funds left over from the LePage transition account (money that seems to have come mostly from corporate donors) and will apparently offer an outside messaging and activism arm for the LePage administration separate from the Republican party.
Next up, we meet the hosts: Kim Lindlof, President of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, and Steve Wallace, President of the Southern Midcoast Chamber of Commerce. Hmmm. The union representatives and environmentalists must have got lost on the way to the studio. Lindlof and Wallace discuss how much they’re looking forward to watching the show they’re on right now.
The first commercial break is a public service announcement for the Foundation for a Better Life. In fact, all the commercials right now are either FBL PSAs or promos for the show itself. I guess they don’t have any advertisers for the first episode.
This raises an interesting point. Advertisers on the show will be paying money directly to help the governor get his message out. It’s one more place to look for corporations looking to spend some money to influence his policies.
Next, Lindlof interviews LePage. The questions she asks are the softest of softballs, along the lines of “won't the income tax rate cut you’re proposing have a big effect on job creation?”
LePage takes the opportunity to talk about a number of subjects, and this part of the show is interesting. Yes, it’s propaganda, but it offers a view into how LePage thinks about some of his own policies.
LePage discusses LD1, his plans to go after welfare and health care programs, his proposed income tax cut, and ideas for cutting taxes further to attract the movie industry to Maine.
He spends a good deal of time talking about his environmental rollback agenda, mostly trying to downplay its effects. The governor even goes so far as to say that “we haven't proposed one thing to the legislature that would damage the environment.”
LePage ends with the surprisingly honest admission that his administration hasn’t yet done much to keep its promise to increase government transparency. He does note, however, that he’s working to be as accessible as possible to the public by scheduling weekly constituent hours every Saturday.
I wonder if that time could accomodate a meeting with the NAACP. The organization has reportedly had a great deal of trouble setting up a meeting with LePage after his impolitic comments about the group in January.
Next up in the show is a segment narrated by LePage press secretary Adrienne Bennett about LePage’s town hall event in Westbrook. Bennett is a former TV reporter at WABI in Bangor and the piece’s tone and format could easily pass for a local news report. This content seems to indicate that LePage’s staffers have a pretty direct hand in the editing of at least parts of the show.
Hey, that’s me!
Footage from the forum actually shows my wife and I writing our questions for LePage. More on my experience at the forum here.
The piece wraps up and Lindlof returns to interview LePage’s senior economic advisor, John Butera. Their conversation is a lot of the same softballs and talking points, mostly on the same issues.
Then, we’re treated to a full-on shot of LePage behind his desk, as he once again invites us to come visit him at his office.
The show ends with the hosts promising a more interactive format in the future, including segments where the governor will respond to questions asked by random Mainers they interview on the street.
Fade to end credits.
Overall, the show is an excellent piece of propaganda, and probably a smart move by the LePage administration. The strict, controlled format provides for maximum message dissemination without the risk of opposing views. Gone is the potential for even the small amounts of chaos that former Governor Angus King’s call-in show allowed.
One thing that was missing from Inside the Blaine House, however, was the Blaine House itself. The show was apparently filmed in the Governor’s offices.