Mike: Cynthia, drugs are bad, ‘mkay? I remember that line from Mr. Mackey on South Park growing up, and now it seems to be the one tenet on which Janet Mills and Paul LePage agree. Is drug enforcement ripe for bipartisan cooperation?
Cynthia: Enforcing the law is not bipartisan cooperation. It’s the constitutional duty of both the governor and the attorney general.
Everyone agrees we need a new approach to this epidemic that’s ripping apart families and communities, but the governor’s exclusion of legislators in the conversation (he didn’t invite lawmakers to his drug summit held on Wednesday) and blaming Democrats for the problem is a new low for his administration.
Where’s rock bottom, Mike? Can Gov. LePage muster the strength during this crisis to put aside petty political bickering and lead Maine on a road to recovery, or will we continue to be compared to an adult animated sitcom known for scatological humor?
Mike: The show is also known for attacking the hypocrisy of political leaders and the self-important self-righteous, as well as North Korean tyrants and Scientologists. They offend everybody.
But to answer you, “leading” is exactly what Gov. LePage is doing. Lawmakers make laws; they don’t need to be at every meeting determining how they are administered. Plus, more lawmaking will not solve this problem; it requires the execution of a plan to interdict and treat.
That’s why the governor pulled together a group charged with enforcing the law, and it’s why he included two Democratic officials in Sheriff Joel Merry and AG Janet Mills. It is not a “blame Democrats” thing, it is a “do something” thing. ‘Mkay?
Cynthia: Interdiction and treatment cost money, and guess who passes the budget that appropriates money? The Legislature. The third branch of government can’t be written out of the script or erased from the scene like a cartoon character.
The creators of South Park also wrote the Book of Mormon, a brilliant spoof on religion. We should pitch The Letters of LePage — a not-so-brilliant spoof on governing.
That’s unless Sen. King scoops us first, like he did Gov. LePage with a drug summit.
Mike: I’m with you — satire is always fun, and it would do the state well to laugh. Also, I’d love to see Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s take on Angus “Scoop” King. Did you know Joshua Chamberlain also had a mustache?
But while we had competing summits, there is a direct action resulting from the governor’s. Refocusing resources to better share information among enforcement agencies makes complete sense. And those who scoffed when he first brought up using the National Guard? Our servicemen and women are a force multiplier for civilian authority all over the world — it’s an eminently reasonable approach.
Cynthia: Drugs are bad, sharing is good and mustaches are sort of gross. ‘Mkay?
And I’m willing to bet that recovering addicts and family members of those addicted are not praying for a military intervention. They need and deserve recognition, support, treatment — along with the enforcement of laws.
Drug addiction is a scourge, but has the potential to bring people together to fight against it. There’s no bright line or political party separating addicts from non-addicts. Every leader in every community must be summoned to take note and take charge.
Do you believe addicts on the street corners of Portland or Bangor have a right to beg for money to support their habit?
Mike: I don’t believe there is an unfettered right to solicit people in public areas for personal gain, whether you are selling sandwiches or supporting habits. But panhandling is a topic for another day.
But if we are enlisting every leader, how do our comedic leaders assist in finding solutions? Tobacco usage declined after states sued suppliers, worked on treatment and, most importantly, social norms changed and stopped many from ever using in the first place. Can Eric Cartman save the day, stopping hippies and drugs alike?
Cynthia: There’s nothing funny about addiction, but there’s plenty of comic material in the government’s response to it.
Mike: Addiction is never funny, but when drug use is a natural punchline to a South Park sketch or a John Oliver rant, we’ve moved it further away from social acceptance. We’ve already made headway with prescription drug abuse, which in part led to this increase in heroin use. Preventing abuse before it begins remains the most effective course of action.
And if 2018 is LePage v. King, do Democrats run a candidate? And who might it be?
Cynthia: Gov. LePage fiercely defends his right to speak (about Mark Eves, for instance) and his rights to bear arms. Health care and access to medical treatment are as important or more so.
If he is serious about responding to the heroin epidemic, LePage will expand treatment options and stop demonizing people with whom he disagrees. Pretending the Legislature doesn’t exist because it wants to expand Medicaid to treat addicts, and make naloxone more accessible is as sophomoric as South Park.
As for a Democrat challenging Angus King in 2018? Ha! Good one.
Mike: I didn’t expect the question to be a punchline.