When a career politician takes multiple positions on the same issue, is it more confusing because of the head-spinning inconsistency or hurtful because they think we’re too stupid to notice?
On the debate stage where she faced off against retired Navy SEAL Ed Thelander, Rep. Chellie Pingree (ME-CD1) played a convincing role as the hawk when it comes to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. She did such a good job that she made her opponent, who has repeatedly seen combat throughout his distinguished military career, sound like the moderate on the stage.
But she left out one important detail:
Together with such well-known progressives as “Squad” members Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, Pingree signed a letter dated October 24th to President Joe Biden urging the United States to use “proactive diplomacy” to pressure Ukraine to negotiate for peace with its aggressor, Russia. While the progressives rescinded the letter once it became public, its intent was a far cry from the hawkish position she assured Maine television audiences she holds on the issue.
After seven terms in Congress, Pingree has adapted almost too well to that peculiar institution where speaking out of both sides of one’s mouth is not only normal, but actively encouraged. When I lived on Capitol Hill, I used to walk my dog in the Congressional Cemetery where the remains of politicians who’d spent so much time in Congress nobody wanted them back home were buried. Incumbency, it seems, can be both a blessing and a curse.
As Mainers delay the inevitable and try not to turn up our thermostats even as temperatures drop because the prices of Heating Oil #2 and K1 are rising, the lack of energy independence hits us closer to home than a faraway war. Here again, Pingree tries to have it both ways. Two weeks ago, she told Maine Calling “we need to speed up our timing on energy independence.”
Her own website; however, details her efforts in recent years to restrict or prohibit exploration and production of oil and natural gas in the United States. Achieving the goal that she most recently claimed to share – American self-reliance when it comes to energy sources – requires doing things that don’t square with Pingree’s climate agenda.
Perhaps she, like the folk band Peter, Paul & Mary that was popular in her youth, believes “the answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.” That would explain the about face in her position on testing the impacts of wind energy in the Gulf of Maine. In 2018, Pingree ridiculed then Gov. Paul LePage for “wasting taxpayer money” on such studies which, four years later, she championed.
Mindful of how concerned Maine fishermen are about the development of off-shore wind turbines that could have negative impacts on the fishery and the ecosystem, Pingree has been careful how she talks about the aggressive embrace of wind power that the Biden Administration is pushing. At the same time, she celebrates a 96% lifetime score and accepts financial support from such boosters of wind power as the League of Conservations Voters.
Last but certainly not least, there is the fate of the Maine lobsterman, now threatened by ever more stringent regulations on the fishery by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Again on the debate stage, Pingree lashed out at her Republican opponent Thelander for suggesting she’s done nothing to push back against NOAA.
But a Maine Wire analysis of the congressional delegation’s support of robust funding increases for NOAA proves Thelander’s point. After several months of writing on the lobster issue, I’ve yet to encounter a single lobsterman who’s told me Pingree has his back. As Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver once put it “you have to either be part of the solution, or you’re part of the problem.”
The problem with Pingree tracks neatly with the problem most Americans have with Washington today: constantly changing the tune depending on who the audience at the moment happens to be.
Was the real Chellie the one who banded together with the progressives to urge Biden to force Ukraine’s hand, or the one who took taxpayer-funded trips to Ukraine’s border to declare solidarity with an embattled friend? Does she really support energy independence if it means more drilling? And is she on the side of Maine’s lobster fishery or the radical environmentalists who seek to shut it down?
With the election now just over a week away, we’re running out of time to find out.