I Am Not From Maine, But If I Were...

... I would be out this weekend stumping for Eliot Cutler, in his bid to become governor as an Independent. (Maine is one of the states where that is a plausible ambition. Two of the past five governors have been Independents.)

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The Atlantic's "stay out of politics" standards indicate that we should avoid direct political involvement -- which is a good rule -- but with an exception for family members, close friends, or others about whom no one would expect us to be "objective." I've used that chit a few times in the past -- for instance, in saying that I thought that my friends Jim Webb and Tom Geoghegan were very good candidates for office.

Eliot Cutler is in this category too. I have known him since we both worked as young policy-underlings in the Carter White House. His daughter, before she decided to go to medical school, was for several years a very popular and valuable member of the Atlantic staff; he and his wife were close friends of my wife's and mine when we were all living in China. Eliot was then running the Beijing office of a US law firm, and his wife Melanie was working as a doctor.

He is serious (but also funny), well experienced in politics and with a politician's natural affability, and extremely ambitious for his home state. Maine has all the natural endowments that tourists and residents of the rest of the country know about -- but also some very deep problems with its school systems, its economic base, and the general preparedness of its year-round population for modern global competition. I heard Eliot Cutler talk about this a lot while we were in China. Whatever new factory I'd visited or research project he'd learned about became the prelude for a discussion of what Maine would need to do to keep up. If you're not from Maine, a little of this can go a long way -- but for people of the state it's a good kind of obsession for a public figure to have.

I can't pretend to know anything about the internal politics of Maine right now. I do notice that Eliot Cutler has picked up the endorsements of the state's biggest newspapers as the best-prepared candidate, with the most carefully thought-out proposals and the greatest "vision" for office. And I have known him long enough to be sure that he is temperamentally and intellectually well suited to such a role. People of Maine, over to you.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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