Sometimes, the best arguments end in agreement

Ethan: If you can believe it, this officially marks our second anniversary writing this column. Sadly, it also marks our last at the Bangor Daily News as we embark upon another stage of our commentary.

Phil: We’ve done more than 350 columns, posts and video blogs. It’s been a tremendous two years that I am sad to see come to an end.

Ethan: Interacting with our readers has been the best part. Equal parts education, frustration and inspiration.

Phil: For sure, although some of those “interactions” do get heated. Lord knows, you bring out the fire in people some weeks.

Ethan: As they say, the worst reaction is none at all.

Phil: In looking back, do you have any columns that stand out as most meaningful?

Ethan: For me, some of our best columns were when we could come together and agree. Especially calling on the governor to apologize for any number of knuckleheaded comments about the Gestapo, the NAACP or Vaseline.

Phil: Yes, the governor’s less than diplomatic use of the English language did give us ample opportunity for joining forces. But we also joined forces on issues like gay marriage, keeping gun permits public, and dumb name calling and partisanship. Both of us were willing to call out our parties, and that’s important.

Ethan: You mean like when you called out Republicans for claiming they were fiscally responsible, while supporting gimmicky budgets.

Phil: Yes. Thankfully, Gov. Paul LePage has been there to save them from themselves.

Ethan: More like he’s been there to show the weakness of their convictions. More than 50 times, Republicans voted for a bill before flip-flopping to kill it at the governor’s demand.

Phil: And I always enjoyed it when you called out Democrats for supporting the LePage tax cuts with one side of their mouth and then attacking Republicans for the same vote out of the other side.

Ethan: While I didn’t mind the politics of attacking R’s for those tax cuts, you are certainly right that I sure did mind Democrats supporting them in the first place. Those cuts did more damage to our long-term budget, and will perpetuate income inequality at a greater pace, than anything else Republicans introduced over their two-year reign. And way too many Democrats joined the parade.

Phil: And then they simply jacked up the sales tax when they got the majority, taking back all the progress made in helping Maine people keep more of their money.

Ethan: As you know, the columns I always enjoy most are our predictions. But that’s because I have kicked your butt for the past two cycles.

Phil: Kicked my butt? I predicted Rep. Mike Michaud would win re-election in 2012, gay marriage would pass, and Rep. Chellie Pingree would win by double digits. And don’t forget, I predicted LePage would win the Republican primary and Republicans would win the legislature in 2010.

Ethan: Yeah, but you also predicted that Willard Mitt Romney would be our president, and Republicans would retain control of the Legislature.

Phil: If Maine and America had listened to me, imagine how much better our country would be…

Ethan: Did I just wake up from a nightmare?

Phil: Any columns you regret? For instance, you wrote many times that raising taxes on those who create wealth was a good idea; having government run our health care system was the path to universal coverage; and Obama should “stimulate” our economy by borrowing from China. Do you look back now and cringe when you re-read those statements?

Ethan: Let’s see. We went from losing 700,000 jobs a month when Obama took office to creating a quarter million last month, and more than 10 million people now have health insurance who didn’t have it before. Yeah, I’m OK with those columns. How about you? Any you regret?

Phil: No regrets. That said, I do wish I could have gotten the governor to heed some of my cautions around his style. I offered him the advice in private many times, but when it goes unheard, I then feel I have to speak about it publicly. I don’t like doing it, but I believe he would be a shoo-in for re-election if he could find a way to be more diplomatic.

Ethan: I know that feeling. Although it was before our time here at the BDN, I remember banging my head against the wall on TV and radio watching Democrats squander their majorities in 2010.

Phil: In the end, I think my favorite columns were when you and I debated the core role of government, trying to find the place where our ideologies cross. When is government needed, and when is it too much?

Ethan: Yes, ideologies in politics are too much “all or nothing” these days. “Government bad!” “Government good!” You and I may never agree on where that line should ultimately meet, but we both understand both statements are true. I believe most Maine people agree.

Phil: For this, our final column, on that point we agree to agree.