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It’s Time for Maine Media to Dump Schmidt as an “Expert” Analyst

Over at the Beacon — the official “Pravda” of the controversial socialist group Maine People’s Alliance (MPA) — today we are treated to an op-ed that presents too much of a target-rich environment to ignore.

First, some background. The author is Professor Ron Schmidt, who teaches political science at the University of Southern Maine (USM). Prof. Schmidt is a real, live example of the maxim, “those who can’t do, teach,” having worked only one job in politics in his life — as a newspaper clipper for the Clinton-Gore ’92 campaign. Doubtless some of his students have more political experience than he.

But what Schmidt lacks in experience he made up for in degrees from Berkeley. Not only is he tasked by USM with bestowing expert-level knowledge of electoral and policy-making politics upon his students, he is trusted by Portland ABC affiliate WMTW-8 and the Portland Press Herald (the unofficial “Pravda” of the MPA) to provide objective, expert political commentary on the stories of the day. He has also provided commentary to MPBN, WGME-13, WCSH-6, NECN and more.

Schmidt is also a frequent contributor to the MPA’s “Beacon.” Back in January, for example, he used the Beacon to compare Gov. Paul LePage to the Ku Klux Klan.

Now, to Schmidt’s op-ed, where he simultaneously praises Senator Susan Collins for denouncing Donald Trump and blasts her for not denouncing Maine Republicans more often. He refers to “lame” and “half-assed” apologies by Republicans’ for controversial public statements. He pronounces that “Paul LePage’s entire governing style is premised on refusing to treat other people with respect.” Prof. Schmidt repeats the Democrats’ legally-erroneous use of the term “blackmailing” to describe the Good-Will Hinckley saga.

The supposedly objective political analyst goes on to refer to Governor LePage’s proposed tax cuts and reductions in the state workforce as “a pledge to make life harder for the majority of Mainers.” He finally calls on Senator Collins to address the lack of “respect” exhibited by Republicans in Maine.

Was Prof. Schmidt penning opinion pieces calling on Democrats to condemn the former Biddeford mayor and state senate candidate Joanne Twomey for throwing a jar of Vaseline at Governor LePage — a borderline physical assault? How about when Democratic State Rep. and “moderate caucus” chairman Chuck Kruger opined that then-Vice President Dick Cheney should be hanged just like Saddam Hussein (a story only covered by Maine’s media when Kruger allegedly received threats)?

How about the respect and civility shown by the Maine People’s Alliance extremists behind the very blog Prof. Schmidt writes for? The irony is palpable. Here is a sampling of the MPA’s record when it comes to civility and respect.

The MPA has even been hit from the left for their tactics and hypocrisy.

Furthermore, Prof. Schmidt’s commentary in the mainstream media is pretty bush-league. In 2014, for example, when the Maine GOP released audio of Democratic State Senator Geoff Gratwick telling a constituent that his party’s gubernatorial candidate, Mike Michaud, is “not a brain guy,” Schmidt warned that the move would backfire and benefit Michaud by causing voters to be turned off by “sneaky political operatives.”

This analysis is absurd on its face to any experienced political professional. Getting a high profile member of the opposition party on tape reinforcing your attempts to brand their top-of-ticket candidate in a particular way is as much of a messaging win as one can hope for in politics. Schmidt’s statement is therefore either tinged by his liberal bias or is just a sign that he really doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Either way, it should cause media outlets to question his value as an expert analyst.

Surely there are people who agree with Prof. Schmidt that Republicans are terrible and so are tax cuts. Certainly they all shouldn’t expect to be criticized for sharing that opinion on a socialist blog. However, when a media outlet chooses a contributor from academia to provide expert commentary, they do so with the expectation that the expert will be fair and objective — or at least the viewers expect that of their local news outlets.

Notorious liberal activist Professor Amy Fried of UMaine Orono, for example, is not invited by media outlets to provide expert analysis on political stories, presumably because she cannot be regarded as an objective academic source. She instead has an opinion column and a prolific Twitter account. All well and good.

By contrast, UMaine Farmington Prof. James Melcher is not so strident in his personal political beliefs and is therefore trusted by media outlets to provide credible and fair commentary to viewers, listeners and readers.

It’s time Maine’s media outlets place Prof. Schmidt in the same category as Fried and not Melcher.