Gov. Paul LePage takes pride in not being a polished politician. He has joked about keeping a roll of duct tape on his desk as a reminder to keep his mouth shut.

His list of insulting and offensive comments is long. His method of governing is to issue threats and ultimatums. He recently said he would spend the rest of his days “going after” lawmakers who didn’t support his tax reform proposal.

Such coarseness, coupled with the absence of true leadership and good-faith governing have become too common in state houses and the U.S. Capitol.

Take Rep. Kenneth Fredette, the Republican leader in the Maine House, who this year has eschewed common-sense policymaking in favor of doing the bidding of LePage and, now, denigrating those who don’t follow along. This is especially damaging when the policy debate calls out for more rational voices.

On Tuesday, Fredette attacked one of those rational voices from within his own party because the voice was challenging the behavior of Maine’s re-elected Republican governor.

Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, is proposing legislation to limit the governor’s ability to prevent the issuance of bonds voters have already approved. The legislation and related debate, of course, wouldn’t be necessary if LePage was a good-faith partner invested in good governance, honoring the will of the voters and keeping his end of a deal. But he’s not. So voices of reason in the Republican Party are trying to address what Katz on Tuesday appropriately called an “artificially created crisis.”

But Fredette is all too ready to defend a governor who “bargains” in such a ridiculous fashion that he holds land conservation funding hostage until he gets increased timber harvesting on public lands and holds transportation and other types of funding hostage for the repayment of hospital debt.

“Sen. Katz needs to learn to be a team player if he wants to get things done instead of always criticizing conservative Republicans who simply want to move Maine forward,” Fredette said in a prepared statement.

To Fredette, apparently, public service is being “a team player” even when doing so is not in constituents’ best interests and even when it involves thwarting the repeatedly expressed preferences of voters.

Fredette, who represents the Newport area, is serving his third term in the House and his second term as House Republican leader. Two years ago, one of his most significant legislative accomplishments was his role in negotiating a comprehensive energy bill that passed with bipartisan support. The deal grants the state some authority to use ratepayer money to contribute to a natural gas pipeline expansion — a priority for a number of Republicans. The bill also directed substantially more funding to energy efficiency investments — a priority for many Democrats.

The bill had many pieces, and it wasn’t perfect. But it represented the essence of productive policymaking in a divided government: All stakeholders got something they wanted packaged in a bill they could accept.

In March, LePage-appointed public utilities commissioners used a typo in the bill — a missing “and” — to justify cutting the bill’s increased energy efficiency budget by more than half. The obvious solution? Insert the missing “and” into state law and stick to the original deal. Fredette’s solution? Rework energy efficiency program oversight, create a new cabinet-level energy agency — both of which the governor has long wanted — and insert the missing “and.”

When personal attacks and a lack of good-faith governance become commonplace, it is not surprising that some cross the lines of decency. At an event Tuesday night in Scarborough, Westbrook Town Councilor Paul Emery said if LePage died, “it wouldn’t hurt my feelings one bit,” according to the Portland Press Herald. He later apologized, but not before denying he made the comments and trying to take a reporter’s cellphone.

At an earlier forum, former Democratic state lawmaker Joanne Twomey tossed a jar of Vaseline on the stage where LePage was discussing his tax plan — an allusion to LePage’s headline-making, June 2013 remark that former Democratic Sen. Troy Jackson “claims to be for the people, but he’s the first one to give it to the people without providing Vaseline.”

All of these incidents are inappropriate and deserve condemnation.

Lawmakers can, will and should disagree. The measure of true leadership is working through disagreements to productive ends.

Avatar photo

The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Editorial Page Editor Susan Young, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked...