Poliquin's silence

You’ll have to guess where 2nd District U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin stands on the future of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. If he has an opinion, he’s not sharing it.

We know where Gov. LePage stands — he’s begging President Trump to act outside his legal authority to undo the monument designation and put the 87,500 acres back into private hands.

We know where Sen. Angus King stands — he’s said that reversing the designation would be a setback to progress in a region that desperately needs it.

We know where Sen. Susan Collins stands — she opposed the designation but now considers it to be a done deal and has said it should be allowed to move forward.

We even know where 1st District Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree stands — as an enthusiastic supporter of what could become a major attraction for the state’s tourism economy.

But the member of Congress whose district encompasses the entire parcel and whose constituents would be most affected by any change to its status has nothing he wants to add.

“My No. 1 priority in Congress is creating and protecting jobs in Maine,” the Republican congressman said in a statement to Portland Press Herald — as if the gift of a large parcel of land to serve as a federally managed park in the heart of his district would not have an impact on jobs.

“I will be reviewing next steps in helping elevate economic growth in the Katahdin region and look forward to working with all groups and parties to ensure that the priorities and best interests of the local communities are put first, always.”

But what about this “next step,” congressman? What if the president accepts the governor’s invitation and puts the future of the monument in limbo? What would that do to the economic growth of the Katahdin region? How would that affect the creation and preservation of jobs in Maine?

But, Poliquin is not talking.

If this feels familiar, it should. When Trump issued what was found to be an illegal executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority nations, Poliquin again had nothing to say. “The congressman will not be voting on these executive orders,” explained spokesman Brendan Conley, as if a federal government action that threatened to break up families was of no concern to a member of Congress.

You also may remember Poliquin’s stand in the recent presidential election, which was no stand at all. The closest thing to taking a stand happened during a visit to Robbins Lumber in Searsmont, when Poliquin gave a thumbs-up to a Trump sign. He later told a Journal reporter his action was a thumbs-up for free speech, not an indication of support for the Republican candidate for president.

In contrast, Collins, also a Republican, made headlines by saying that she could not vote for Trump, even though he was her party’s nominee. King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, came out forcefully for Hillary Clinton.

But Poliquin claimed that it was not his job “to tell people how to vote.”

Has there ever been a public official in Maine who gets so much attention for saying so little?

Poliquin has been characteristically busy in recent months, sending out frequent news releases about his activities. He’s posted photographs of his name plate on his Veterans Affairs Committee room desk, and he’s announced the winners of the 2nd District high school art contest. He recently submitted a column, through Conley, to the Journal outlining his pride in representing Maine's second district.

What he hasn’t done is conduct unstructured meetings with constituents in town hall settings in his district, and he hasn’t commented on the biggest issues facing the nation and his district in the first few weeks of this administration. The last public event posted on his website was in August, and no future events are scheduled.

No doubt he doesn’t want to upset critics of the new administration or his hard-core conservative supporters. So, he chooses to stand on the sidelines.

But why people in this district let him get away with it is a mystery. In these polarized times, it’s hard to see how anybody could be satisfied with a congressman who tries to straddle every issue.

Until constituents force him to change, however, expect Poliquin to keep everybody guessing where he stands.

EDITOR'S NOTE: A portion of this editorial was published in Portland Press Herald. It has been edited and partially rewritten by staff of The Republican Journal.