The Universal Notebook: The last of the compassionate conservatives

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Remember back during the 2000 presidential campaign, when George W. Bush described himself as a “compassionate conservative” to differentiate himself from the majority of conservatives who are not by nature kind, caring and compassionate?

Well, that breed of conservative is rapidly becoming extinct, replaced by the reincarnate dinosaurs of the right.

We now have a president who is a bully, a governor who is a thug and a congressman who is a two-faced weasel. Good people all over the country and Maine are constantly embarrassed by the pettiness and hypocrisy of Donald Trump, Paul LePage and Bruce Poliquin, men who will never be described as compassionate. As a result, the majority of Americans are losing faith in America.

Trump, LePage and Poliquin all have favorability ratings that are consistently in the 40 percent range, meaning most of us do not support their agendas. Back on the Fourth of July, a Gallup poll found that for the first time since it started the poll 18 years ago, fewer than half of all Americans (47 percent) described themselves as “extremely proud” to be Americans.

If you wonder why that is, take a look at the boorish behavior of the terrible trio just last week.

Trump disrespected the late Sen. John McCain by refusing to call him a hero and by waffling on whether to lower the White House flag to half-staff to mark the senator’s passing.

LePage signed on to a lawsuit brought by conservative bigots seeking to establish that LGBTQ citizens can be fired for their sexual orientation.

And Poliquin, who has never served anyone other than himself, released a TV ad attacking his Democratic opponent, calling combat veteran Jared Golden “too radical.”

Let’s dispose of Poliquin first, since that’s so easy a third-grader could do it. The Bruce falsely claimed Golden would “end Medicare as we know it.” This from a Wall Street millionaire who himself voted to make Medicare a voucher system. Bye-bye, Brucie.

Now about Trump trashing McCain. Yes, you can question McCain’s judgment (Sarah Palin?), but for a man like the Donald, who is being investigated as a possible traitor, to question the heroic nature of McCain’s service to this country is shameless. But then Trump has consistently disrespected veterans, especially POWs and MIAs. (“I like people who weren’t captured.”) That Republicans accept this from a playboy who got a deferment for sore feet is hard to fathom.

There is a prevalent notion among Trump supporters that all of his sins, including his whoring, hush money and fraternizing with the enemy, can be forgiven because the U.S. economy is chugging right along. Well, that’s just nonsense. This is the same economy that Trump’s benighted followers thought was in ruins when a black man with a funny name was president. Now that a white man with a funny name is president, he deserves no credit for presiding over the status quo.

The fact that the economy is doing well is part of a long-term upward trend and has little or nothing to do with Trump’s presidency. The economic moves he has made have actually hurt the economy. Both the national debt and the trade deficit are increasing, and those Trump tariffs designed to reward coal miners and steelworkers have already hurt fishermen and farmers, and will soon hit American consumers in the wallet.

As for Boss LePage, he seems to be auditioning for a job in the Trump administration by beating up on the LGBTQ community. A spokesman for the governor tried to explain LePage’s interest in the lawsuit by saying LePage was concerned about “activist judges” expanding coverage of the Civil Rights Act.

Hey, Guv, would those be the same activist judges who decided that corporations, which are not even mentioned in the Constitution, have the same constitutional rights as individuals? The ones who, in the service of moneyed interests, decided that money is the same thing as free speech, so the more money you have the more speech you are entitled to? And would those be the activist judges who decided that religious freedom now means the boss can discriminate against an employee if he says it’s for religious reasons?

Cruel conservatives like Trump, LePage and Poliquin almost make one nostalgic for a compassionate conservative like George W. With the death of John McCain, a true American hero, the ranks of such thoughtful, reasonable Republicans have now been reduced to a mere handful.

The dinosaurs have taken over the Republican Party, but that doesn’t mean we have to let them rule the country.

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.