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Maine Politics

Being There
By John Frary
Sep 9, 2010 - 4:49:12 PM

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Congress.org compiles an annual "Power Ranking" which calculates how much influence each of the 435 Representatives has in making laws and bringing the bacon home to their districts. In the last Congress Mike Michaud ranked above five freshman Democrats, and one veteran incumbent now taking a sabbatical in federal prison. He ranked below the other 229 Democrats who made up the majority.

Looked at one way, this is low ranking speaks well for Mike. It shows that he has very little responsibility for the mess Congress has been making. At worst, he is merely a guilty bystander in the process of wrecking the American economy and piling up huge deficits. At best he is simply a befuddled spectator of a process he doesn't understand. Either way, his conscience is clear.

This may be one reason the East Millinocket Mastermind is confident of re-election. Think about it. Public approval of Congress is at historic lows, just below Big Banks and slightly above the burglary profession. Pollsters, pundits and analysts foresee the Democrats losing fifty, sixty, even eighty seats in November. Yet none of the national handicappers have placed Mike on the truly endangered list. The special interests are pouring hundreds of thousands into his campaign chest, confident that this will assure them of access to a useable incumbent in the next Congress.

In a year when incumbency is widely viewed as the equivalent of a criminal record, Mike the perpetual incumbent is favored over Jason Levesque, who never ran for office before. His opponent has a wife and two children. Mike has no family unless you count John Martin. Mike may sit of the Veteran's Affairs committee, but he never served a day in military service. Jason spent eight years in uniform. Jason was raised in a double-wide. Mike was raised in a house. Jason created a prosperous business where no business has existed before. The only job Mike ever created is the one he holds. Jason Levesque knows how to run a business. Mike Michaud knows how to run a fork-lift.

In the normal course of politics, these basic facts should give Jason Levesque an advantage. So why is he struggling up a vertical incline? The solution to this mystery must lie in Rep. Michaud's membership in what Rollcall.com calls the Obscure Caucus, a select group of perpetual incumbents never heard of and rarely listened to. This site is non-partisan, listing Republicans and Democrats alike. Its judgment on Mike: "....he's about as anonymous as the massive rural district he represents."

You see how it works? Show up with a warm hand-shake and a winsome smile; do nothing worth noticing, and you can be a congressman-for-life.

Am I being unfair? Consider. All campaigns hand out tens of thousands of "palm cards" designed to tell the voters about themselves. An incumbent has only so much space, say four inches by ten inches, to boast of his achievements. In 2008 Mike's palm card informed a dazzled public that he had "authored a constitutional amendment" to freeze the social security system in its present state for ever and ever.

A few months ago I "authored" Amendment XXVIII, in front of a dazzled audience of Republicans at a gubernatorial debate in Dover-Foxcroft. Bruce Poliquin timed me. It took fifteen seconds to write "The Powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited to it by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively or to the people -- and this time we really mean it!" No congressional committee has debated it. No state legislature has considered it. None ever will. Nevertheless, I "authored" a constitutional amendment and so can you. All it takes is a piece of paper and pen. A pencil will do as well.

Go ahead. It will have exactly as much effect as mine, or Mike's. Three terms in office and that's the one "achievement" he thought fit to trumpet to the world. I rest my case.


Professor John Frary of Farmington, Maine is a former US Congressional candidate and retired history professor, a Board Member of Maine Taxpayers United and an associate editor of the International Military Encyclopedia, and can be reached at: jfrary8070@aol.com

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