Portsmouth Herald Editorial: Bettencourt disgrace foreshadows speaker's fall, 5/29/12

posted May 29, 2012, 4:25 AM by Bill Duncan

DNHPE Comment: Education bills in this Legislature have been misrepresented by leadership and their allies in just the way described so forcefully in this editorial.  Emphasis added.

May 29, 2012 2:00 AM

The first thing that struck the Portsmouth Herald editorial board last week when disgraced House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt came in with Speaker Bill O'Brien for a meeting was his youth.

At 28, he was the youngest House majority leader in the state's history and he looks his age. The most memorable comment he made was that he was graduating from the University of New Hampshire School of Law with $140,000 in debt.

Our overall impression was that he and Speaker O'Brien told the Herald editorial board a lot of half truths and that both simply refused to take responsibility for leading the House's turn to the ideological right wing of the GOP.

Given his combination of youth, debt and an inability to tell the truth, it is not surprising that Bettencourt has fallen hard after just a short time in power. And we expect that O'Brien will be tumbling after him following this November's general election. People who exercise dictatorial authority can quickly rise to power, but their falls are as inevitable as they are spectacular.

For those of you who might have been camping and unplugged from the news over Memorial Day weekend, Bettencourt announced Sunday that he will resign from the House immediately, after falsifying academic records submitted to the UNH School of Law.

Bettencourt had approached a fellow Republican lawmaker, Brandon Giuda, and told him he didn't have enough credits to graduate and needed an internship. Giuda gave him that internship but Betterncourt proved a no show, then lied about it to UNH. "I will never cover for a dishonest person," Giuda said.

Speaker O'Brien is trying his best to control the damage.

In an e-mail to the Republican Caucus sent at 10:57 p.m. Sunday, O'Brien wrote: "Now we are left with the consequences of this event. There will be those that say that D.J.'s failure and his resignation characterize our current majority. Others will say it characterizes the leadership of our caucus. Neither is true."

Actually, both are true.

They've lied about why they really cut the cigarette tax and lied about the $10 million financial hit the state has taken.

They lied about New Hampshire needing Right-To-Work legislation to improve the state's business climate even though no one in the state has asked for it. At the same time, they've had the audacity to take credit for the state's near-national best employment rate.

They lied about bullying State Rep. Susan Emerson and lied about the eyewitnesses who saw them do it.

They lied about legislative efforts to gut public education by taking tax dollars from the public schools and giving them as vouchers — which they deceptively call scholarships — to families sending students to private and parochial schools.

They lied about some particularly loony Republican representatives threatening and intimidating Assistant Attorney General Matthew Mavrogeorge at a "birther" Ballot Law Commission hearing in November 2011.

They lied about needing to cut funding to the University System of New Hampshire system by 50 percent because, they claim, university leaders refuse to collaborate with them on real ways to have the university run more efficiently. We know this is not true.

They refused to tell the truth about their hands-on leadership of efforts to take away a woman's legal right to an abortion.

They lied about emptying the House gallery of pro-union forces during the state budget debate, stating they were concerned for representatives' safety, then passed a law allowing anyone to carry a handgun into the gallery. Some concerns about safety!

They lied about working collaboratively with the governor and Democrats on important issues such as the education funding constitutional amendment. Frankly, we'll take Gov. John Lynch's word on this over O'Brien's any day of the week.

They've lied and they've lied and they've lied, and now Bettencourt has fallen. Because when you tell enough lies, inevitably, you get caught.