A bird’s-eye view of the LePage administration shows that, by and large, anger has been the propellant for his initiatives and indignations. From the confiscating of the Department of Labor mural, to the evicting of people from the welfare rolls, to his rants about blacks and Hispanics being the conduits for Maine’s drug trade, the governor gives the impression of an unloved, hot-tempered relative who is tolerated because he’s family.

And then there was his vengeful prohibition against any highway signage directing Maine residents and visitors to the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

Gov. Paul LePage’s angry opposition to the monument is odd. Why would the governor — himself a product of a hardscrabble childhood that knew its share of tragedy — spite an economically challenged region of Maine he has famously claimed to champion? I had thought that, according to the governor, all the devils were in Portland. But it seems he has extended the geographical range of his ire. The devils, in the governor’s view, are now infesting the north woods, a region with which he seems to have only hearsay familiarity.

There was a time when an angry outburst from a politician could torpedo his ambitions, or at least earn him collegial or voter disapproval. Reference, during the run-up to the 1988 presidential election, Bob Dole´s harsh rebuke to the first President Bush to “stop lying about my record” — a growl largely credited with shipwrecking his campaign. And then there was South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson’s eruption during President Barack Obama’s 2009 State of the Union address — “You lie!” — which made him the first representative in 20 years to earn an official scolding by House colleagues.

Such incidences now strike us as quaint. In the ensuing decade a politician’s lack of control has gone from a scarlet letter of shame to a de rigueur badge of honor. This behavior has now reached its apogee in President Donald Trump, whose hair-trigger angry tweets — recently demanding a government shutdown as a means of leveraging his budget — have become his trademark.

The governor, then, either unwittingly or by design, has tapped into the electorate’s newfound appetite for the crude analogy, the vulgar outburst, the anger-fueled diatribe. From a remark aimed at Obama to go to hell, to his directive to the NAACP to “kiss my butt,” to an expletive-laden voice message left on Rep. Drew Gattine’s answering device (to which LePage appended a perverse “Thank you”), the governor has gotten away with murder. In an earlier (but still recent) age, he would have either resigned in disgrace or been voted out of office. Instead, he has discovered that his supporters have a taste for invective, and he is delighted to indulge it.

Which brings us back to the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. The public hearings in East Millinocket and Orono showed widespread support for the effort. There was certainly adequate opportunity for public input. If, as the governor indicated, the area is little more than “cut-over” forest, and a “mosquito area,” what other plans does he have for what he views as a lackluster wasteland? At this juncture I should mention that any “plans” the governor might have are irrelevant, as the land was privately owned and, presumably, if it were de-established as a national monument, would revert to the donor, Roxanne Quimby, who would be within her rights to declare it a “No Trespassing” area.

In sum, there is a difference between disapproving of something and working to insure its failure. If the monument is, as the governor said, a clear-cut expanse of nothingness, then perhaps it is time to give it a rest, in which case it will grow more beautiful by the year, increasing its own chances of success. Further, just as Maine has (repeatedly) given LePage opportunities to succeed, and in the process excused his tantrums, supporters of the monument deserve a chance to see their hopes for the region realized.

But first the governor must make it easier for people to get there from here.

Robert Klose teaches at University of Maine at Augusta in Bangor. He is a frequent contributor of essays to The Christian Science Monitor and a four-time winner of the Maine Press Association award for opinion writing. His recent novel, “Long Live Grover Cleveland,” won a Ben Franklin Literary Award and USA BookNews award.


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