Mike Michaud used to get a lot of traction from his seat on the House Veterans Affairs Committee. In this, he followed a method for self-advancement known to politicians of both parties. Recognizing that Maine’s 2nd Congressional District has the densest concentration of veterans in the United States, he saw the advantage of getting the VA committee assignment.

Most of the Veterans Affairs’ funds are distributed according to existing statutes without reference to sitting committee members. The veterans are magnets for the money in accordance with laws already in existence. Sitting committee members have relatively little to do with the process. The basic decisions were made years before they showed up.

They are, however, free to foster the impression that they are the source of every cent received by their constituents. No lying necessary. Just appear on the spot when a new facility opens, make sure you announce a desirable benefit whether or not you had anything to do with it, and express your love for veterans at regular intervals. Your political job is done.

Few people will have any idea what, if anything, you did. Maine’s editorialists will always give you credit for your “work with the veterans” without inquiring too closely about what that “work” actually may have been.

Now, with new Veterans Affairs scandals blowing up at regular intervals, Maine Republicans are closing in on Michaud, holding him responsible for the committee’s oversight failures. This is plainly unfair.

Republican majorities controlled the committee and a Republican chaired it during most the time that Michaud sat on it. He has very little responsibility for failures of oversight. The demand that he should be held primarily responsible for the VA failures is as bogus as his pretense of being the veterans’ special friend and protector.

This is just one example of the fogginess of Michaud’s presence in Maine’s political scene. When he was first elected from a “French-Canadian” district, he was a solid supporter of the Catholic Church’s position on the sanctity of human life. As a congressional candidate for the larger, less Catholic, electoral base, his stance grew foggy, without actually abandoning the pro-life stand. During my MPBN debate with him in 2008, Jennifer Rooks tried and tried to get a clear and unambiguous declaration on the issue. She failed.

Now, running for governor and needing the pro-choice votes in the 1st Congressional District, Michaud has a new best friend, Nicole Clegg, chairwoman of Planned Parenthood’s Maine Action Fund PAC.

Clegg assures her members that, “Over the past 10 years, Mike Michaud has demonstrated the ability to grow and develop a deeper understanding and respect for women’s health issues. That takes real courage that is noticeably lacking in politics these days. Mike has come to share our values, and is now among our most trusted allies, casting vote after vote in support of women’s health and reproductive rights.”

An Aug. 9 Morning Sentinel headline: “Giffords to support Michaud: ‘Conservative Democrat’ on defensive with gun control advocate’s help” provides another example of Michaud’s ability to grow. Gabrielle Giffords, a Democratic former congresswoman from Arizona who was shot in the head by a man later diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, have created a new organization, Americans for Responsible Solutions, to “encourage elected officials to stand up for solutions to prevent gun violence and protect responsible gun ownership by communicating directly with the constituents that elect them.” In a recent column in USA Today, Giffords and her husband have said they hope to raise $20 million to help politicians like Michaud stand up for what’s right, i.e., to stand up to the “gun lobby.”

Since the National Rifle Association is regularly identified as the gun lobby, it’s worthwhile to note how the NRA rated Michaud when he did not have to pay much attention to opinion in Portland. Beginning in 1998, when the NRA Political Victory Fund PAC gave him an A++ for his positions on gun rights, the NRA and its PAC consistently have given Michaud grades of A and favorable scores of 92 percent.

I have an unkind question for Mike: How much money and how many votes does it take to fertilize growth and change in a politician’s views?

John Frary of Farmington is a former congressional candidate and retired history professor, a board member of Maine Taxpayers United and publisher of www.fraryhomecompanion.com. Email to [email protected].

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