“So, (Mike) Michaud is… much Michaud is.. umm he’s not the… he’s good, he’s good, he’s strong; high average, but he’s not a brain guy… Appears I would have probably if it were Michaud and (Eliot) Cutler, I probably would have probably voted for Cutler, because I think he’s probably more measured and brighter.”

Geoff Gratwick, a Democratic senator from Bangor, gave this assessment of his party’s nominee for governor, while chatting with a constituent early in the month. The constituent recorded his words and sent them along to a Republican who posted them on the Internet. Michaud’s official spokesweasel denounced the recording as “out of context.” Gratwick sent word that they were “out of context.” Democratic Party chairman Ben Grant dismissed the quote as “out of context.” The press mostly seems to agree.

No one claims that Gratwick’s assessment is untrue. Michaud’s supporters mostly avoid evaluating Mike’s intellectual equipment and resort to the no-context defense. This political maneuver is so well known that “civilian” partisans in both parties pick it up about as quickly as the professionals when confronted with evidence (such as recordings) they don’t wish to hear or discuss. Politicians aggrieved about seeing their words taken out of context can supply some context if they wished to, but they rarely do.

Bill Nemitz, the Portland Press Herald’s star columnist who acts as though he’s an unofficial Democratic Party spokesweasel, is not a context junky. He’s bothered because Republicans are meanies who use the Democrats’ words to attack Democrats. He would never do something like that and neither should they. Bill is downright outraged by secret recordings. Democratic politicians should be recorded only when they are given opportunities for denial and evasions.

When I decided to run against Rep. Mike Michaud in 2008, I already had noticed that he never said any thing new, original or interesting in public. Check his handouts and you will see what I mean. Standard political bilge doesn’t tell us much about a candidate’s intelligence. It tells us what a candidate, or his advisers, thinks about the intelligence of a majority of the voters.

So I asked around among politicians who knew the man during his service in Augusta. What I heard was the unanimous opinion that Mike was a nice guy and easy to get along with, but about as sharp as a sausage. Some people went so far as to say he was “getting better.” Some, like Wilton’s Sen. Tom Saviello, were mightily impressed by the enormous energy and dedication Mike brought to the business of running around and showing up with a bright smile and a warm handshake.

In her Sept. 10 Bangor Daily News blog post, “Michaud’s brains experience and ideas,” Amy Fried does a few steps in the Context Dance but gets right down to the thankless job of defending Mike’s intelligence. She assures us that “he’s not a brain guy” doesn’t mean Michaud is in any way lacking in intellectual stature. Sure, and any parent would be reassured if Cindy-Sue introduces, “Billy Bob, he’s not a brain guy, but he’s had a lot of experience turning screwdrivers. Both ways.”

Fried’s labored defense of Michaud digs some bits of history to make her case but she misses a bit of recent history that would make her case. Michaud claimed that he read all 1,900 pages of the Affordable Care Act before voting on it. If you believe that you have to accept that Mike is almost certainly the smartest member of the U.S. Congress in history. If you don’t believe it, you can’t help but suspect that Mike is an unusually clumsy and audacious liar.

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].