Daily Archives: July 31, 2014

The Milne Transcripts, part 2: The accusation

Early on in Scott Milne’s epic appearance on WDEV’s Mark Johnson Show last Friday, the Republican gubernatorial candidate unleashed a tough accusation against Governor Shumlin’s team — basically accusing them of bringing political pressure to bear against Republican donors.

Johnson had asked Milne about fundraising, and specifically about his relatively paltry take of $20,000 so far. Milne asserted that things were going according to plan, and said “I’m not all that actively pursuing money yet.” Johnson was surprised by this, and asked “You’re not actively pursuing money?” And Milne responded:

We’ve got a strategy for fundraising. I’ve got a fundraiser on board and she knows what she’s doing. But I’m not going to spend eight hours a day on the phone begging for money, and I’m clearly not going to call people up who donate to my opponent and ask them why, which is a widely known fact about this administration. 

Emphasis mine. Johnson was a bit incredulous, and followed up: “They do that? To people who contribute to you?” Milne’s response:

No, not me. But in the past. Get people on the show and ask them. But that’s clearly part of the Shumlin agenda.

Milne didn’t directly present this as a case of political blackmail, but that was the clear intent. A pretty damning accusation, presented completely without evidence. Yeah, “get people on the show and ask them.” As if victims of political pressure would freely own up to it on the radio.

Well, I ran this by Erika Wolffling, Shumlin campaign staffer this year and in 2012, which would seem to be the year Milne is hinting at. (A pressure play would have been ineffective in 2010, when Shumlin wasn’t even Governor yet.) Her very concise response:

That’s a bizarre statement, and it’s absolutely false.

So there. Ball’s in your court, Mr. Milne. If you have people willing to substantiate your accusation — on or off the record — I would be happy to speak with them. If you’ve read my stuff for very long, you know that I’m a liberal but an honest broker, willing to criticize members of any party if they’re in the wrong. And if there’s evidence that this accusation isn’t “absolutely false,” I’d consider it newsworthy and I would report it in this space. You know where to find me.

The Milne Transcripts series will continue very soon. 

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VPR gives Peter Welch a big fat sloppy wet kiss

Well, that’s four and a half minutes of my life I’ll never get back again.

This morning, VPR’s Bob Kinzel delivered himself of a lengthy (by modern public radio standards) piece devoted to a subject that was already in the realm of clear, obvious, unquestioned fact: Congressman Peter Welch likes to work cooperatively with people from both parties.

Everybody knows that. It’s an occasional source of irritation to Vermont liberals, who’d like to see a bit more fire and brimstone from the guy. So why did we need a news story exploring a settled question?

The host’s intro to the piece was all you needed to hear:

Congressman Peter Welch has one of the most liberal voting records in Washington. At the same time, he’s one of the few Democrats to work closely with some of the most conservative Republicans in the House. VPR’s Bob Kinzel has the story.

What followed was four minutes and thirty-eight seconds that added nothing to the above statement. It was one person after another complimenting Welch on his bipartisan spirit and willingness to work with even the most conservative tea-party nutbars in the Republican caucus.

This piece took a great deal of effort on Kinzel’s part. He got quotes from former Governor Jim Douglas, two very conservative Republican members of Congress, and a Congressional correspondent for the beltway publication Roll Call, plus some file tape of Welch at a committee hearing. You don’t often hear that many different people in a single public radio piece.

And for what? To re-establish a universally known fact?

Who came up with this story idea anyway? And how did it get through VPR’s notoriously painstaking editorial process? There was no “news hook” — no current event that shines a spotlight on Welch’s collaborative proclivities.

Plus, it seems inappropriate to send an unvarnished love letter to a person who’s currently running for re-election, for God’s sake. If I were Mark Donka, I’d be complaining vociferously to VPR for broadcasting what amounted to a lengthy advertisement for Peter Welch’s political virtue.

But most of all, it was a complete waste of time for a skilled reporter, VPR editors, and me, the listener.

The Milne Transcripts, part 1: An inauspicious beginning

On Friday July 25, Scott Milne sat down for his first extensive media interview since launching his Republican candidacy for Governor. He was a guest on The Mark Johnson Show on WDEV Radio; Mark has archived the interview as a podcast. 

It’s a rich vein of material, and I’ll be rolling it out in sections over the next couple of days. I’ve transcribed the first 15 minutes so far, working my way through dense overgrowths of verbiage and sudden shifts of topic, delivered in a quick, stumbly, nervous monotone.

Let me pause here and say that I have a lot of respect for Scott Milne the businessman, and I appreciate his courage in taking on the thankless task of challenging Governor Shumlin. And just as he doesn’t mean to “vilify” Shumlin by referring to him as brazen, bullying, headstrong, radical, and ultra-progressive, I don’t mean to vilify Milne when I say that his performance was so inept as to be almost unlistenable, or that his campaign is off to a terrible, horrible, really bad start, or that any chance he had of mounting a serious challenge to the Governor has already evaporated like the mist of a midsummer morning. Nor when I call him the political equivalent to the 1962 Mets.

Nope, no vilification here.

He came across as a — well, here’s a choice quote:

I’m more interested in the campaign, making sure I’m out meeting Vermonters and reconfirming the reason I got into the race, which is a real fear of the direction the Shumlin Administration is taking the state, and the need for a, hopefully what the people will judge me as an articulate voice of opposition to that. 

Emphasis mine. “Articulate voice of opposition,” my Aunt Fanny.

Milne is a novice to the big political stage, and it may seem unfair to criticize his first sally. But good grief, he put himself in this position by jumping into the race at the last minute. He has no time for missteps, and he surely has no time for on-the-job training. He needed to hit the ground running with a coherent, convincing narrative. Instead, he’s hit the ground face first.

Want more? Oh Lord, there’s more.

There are some real problems with the economy in Vermont, there’s some real lack of leadership from the Shumlin Administration over the last four, or I would argue six years, ’cause he spent his last two years as President Pro Tem of the Senate really running for Governor. So he’s got six years into this, he still can’t even tell us too much about how he’s going to pay for VHC, to say nothing about taking accountability for the total mismanagement of it.

“Six years.”

Peter Shumlin’s been Governor since January 2011. Three and a half years. I don’t know what Milne is hoping to pull off with this six-year bit — which he also hammered home in a media scrum after his campaign launch. It’s transparently phony and unconvincing.

Milne then pivoted to another talking point, delivered with the same skill and grace.

Secondly, we’ve got this big problem with the school system, and we’ve got a Governor who, between vacations in Bimini or wherever his Caribbean vacation home is, and flyin’ all over the country to raise money from special interest groups, he found all kinds of time to do that during the Legislative session, but didn’t find the time or the need to roll up his shirtsleeves, walk across from the Pavilion fifth floor to the Capitol, sit down with House and Senate leaders and get something on the table that’s going to restructure property taxes so that, you know, you’re talking about my announcement in Barre, I stopped at Central Market, which has been there for at least two generations, I stopped in there for a coffee on my way over to my announcement on Wednesday at the Aldrich Public Library, ran into three people all of whom supported me emotionally, all of whom live in Florida and don’t live in Vermont anymore.

You can practically smell the smoke when he shifts mental gears from one talking point to another. He sounds like he’s been stuffed full of briefing notes and hasn’t had time to digest them. They just come spewing out in raggedy chunks whenever he opens his mouth.

Again, I am not vilifying Scott Milne, whom I respect as a person and businessman.

That’s enough for part 1. Coming up in the second installment: Milne makes a striking accusation against Governor Shumlin, the man he is not at all vilifying. And he provides not a speck of evidence.

Stay tuned, and getcha popcorn ready.