Maine Gov. Paul LePage has long taken pride in being a law-and-order hard-liner. No stranger to hyperbole, he once even suggested that the state publicly chop off the heads of drug traffickers.
On Tuesday, he might have outdone himself.
In an interview with a Maine talk radio show, LePage (R) said the United States needed a Donald Trump presidency to exercise “authoritarian power” to pull the United States back from “anarchy” and fix a Constitution that has been “broken” under President Obama.
The extraordinary claim came in a 14-minute segment on the conservative-leaning George Hale and Ric Tyler Show, during which LePage defended the Republican nominee over recently unearthed video that shows him making lewd comments and bragging about forcing himself sexually on women.
“Sometimes I wonder that our Constitution is not only broken, but we need a Donald Trump to show some authoritarian power in our country and bring back the rule of law,” LePage said in the interview. “We’ve had eight years of a president — he’s an autocrat — he just does it on his own, he ignores Congress, and every single day we’re slipping into anarchy.”
In effect, he was calling for new authoritarian power to curb what he considers the current authoritarian power.
The governor also accused Obama of using his health care plan to deliberately harm the country and expressed disbelief that any “red-blooded American” could vote for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“I just think that four more years of a similar mentality is going to destroy this nation,” he said.
LePage’s remarks drew intense criticism from Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett, who told the Portland Press Herald that LePage has a history of refusing to be held accountable for what has become a long list of controversial comments.
“The last thing our country needs is Gov. LePage’s vision on a national scale,” Bartlett said. “His remarks and those of Donald Trump cannot be taken lightly. Absolute rule is not the American way.”
The state’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union also criticized the governor, saying in a statement that he “wants to replace the rule of law with the rule of tyranny.”
The backlash didn’t stop there. Some of LePage’s conservative counterparts took to Twitter to express their disagreement — among them Trump supporter and conservative commentator Laura Ingraham, who called the comments “dumb,” and conservative talk show host Joe Walsh, who tweeted, “We don’t need a dictator.”
In the interview, LePage discussed the 2005 video, revealed Friday by The Washington Post, in which Trump was caught on a hot microphone boasting about how he would kiss women without their consent and “grab them by the p—-.” LePage called the tape “ancient history” and said Bill and Hillary Clinton’s conduct was worse.
“It’s one thing to be in a locker room and talk,” LePage said. “It’s another thing to be in the White House and do it.”
Pressed by the hosts about the Trump tape, LePage stood by the Republican nominee.
“Is he a slimeball?” the governor asked. “I’d be the first one to say, not my ideal of a guy I’d want my daughter going after.”
But, he continued, “Is he going to protect our nation and fight the debt, or is he going to go after interns? That’s the bottom line.”
Reaction was swift on social media.
Since taking office in 2011, LePage has made a national name for himself by saying crass, derogatory and sometimes vulgar things about his opponents, political and otherwise.
Earlier this year, LePage became embroiled in a debate over race and drug crime in Maine when he blamed the state’s opioid epidemic on “guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty,” who come from out of state and “impregnate a young white girl before they leave.” He later claimed to have a binder full of photos of drug dealers, saying “90-plus percent” of them were black or Hispanic. An analysis by the Press Herald in September showed that the vast majority of people arrested in Maine for drug offenses in 2014 were white, while just 14 percent were black.
LePage has also come under fire as governor for leaving a Democratic state legislator a threatening voice mail, telling the NAACP to “kiss my butt,” suggesting Obama “go to hell,” and comparing the IRS to the Gestapo.
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