The Milne Transcripts, part 5: I’m not telling you

The latest in my series of posts about Scott Milne’s epically bad July 25 appearance on WDEV’s Mark Johnson Show. Not only is he not ready for prime time, he’s not ready for 9 a.m. on a weekday. 

If the late Fred Tuttle was the Man With A Plan, then Scott Milne, Republican candidate for Governor, seems to be the Man Without A Plan. Time after time during the interview, he refused to take positions on important issues. He deferred until September or even until after the election; he said issues were too complicated for him to immediately answer.

His usual excuse was that he’s only been running for a short time. “I’m new to this game,” he told Johnson at one point, “I should get 30 days.” This is a reference to his campaign strategy: August is for attacking the Shumlin Administration, and September is for unveiling his own policies.

Well, I can sympathize with a candidate who’s just getting started — but whose fault is that? Which inexperienced candidate waited until the last possible moment to launch his campaign?

Er, that would be Scott Milne.

It’s like an actor who agrees on short notice to step into the lead role in a play, but when the curtain rises on Opening Night, he tells the audience he needs more time to learn the part because “I’m new to this game.” You think the audience would walk out?

Sorry, Mr. Milne. You signed up for this. You knew the calendar. The lights are up, the curtain is drawn, and you’re on.

Let’s look at his platform of procrastination, shall we?

— On health care reform, he refused to take a stand on the concept of single-payer (although he also called single-payer “reckless” more than once, so take your pick):

The single-payer is clearly something that we’ll be continuing to look at, and talk to the folks that I’m talking closely with now, and we’ll have some more specific ideas on that before the election.

— He calls Vermont’s economy his top priority. What will he do? “We’ll have a plan for fixing the economy” before Election Day. But he did offer a hint about his plan — albeit a useless one:

Our primary, um, fix that we’re going to offer to Vermont is, uh, a much better tone and friendly tone towards business, and then some specific plans about how to attract business and keep business in Vermont.

Aha. His “primary fix” is a better “tone.” Which makes sense; his primary criticism of Shumlin is the “unfriendly tone” toward business. If we just adopted a better “tone,” our economy would shoot through the roof.

— At one point, a caller asked about the then-extant possibility that Vermont would temporarily house some of the immigrant chlldren who have crossed into the US. He began with some good hemming and hawing:

The, um, situation of, ah, folks coming into, ah, Vermont from Central America is, is a really tough one.

After that inarticulate start, detoured into a standard Republican attack on President Obama, filled with ums, ahs, awkward pauses, and even a “Holy Shamoley,” before Johnson prompted him to answer the actual question.

Uh, I don’t know yet. I mean, I’m not going to jump up and down and say no. … I think it’s a complicated decision that deserves a lot of thought.

And then he patted himself on the back for having no opinion on the issue — because taking a stand would be the easy thing to do. Uh-huh. Also the leaderly thing to do.

— On the vexing subject of reforming public-school funding and organization, Milne plans an even bigger dose of delay:

I don’t think we’re going to have a specific plan before the election. What I’ve promised is, there’ll be a plan from the Milne Administration in the House and Senate in the first half of the biennium.

I can understand why he doesn’t want to stake a position during the campaign; the issue’s a toughie, and he’d be alienating some voters no matter what he said. But again, not exactly Leadership in Action.

All this deferral makes Scott Milne look weak. It’s even worse when he sounds weak as well: his voice hesitant, his sentences often incomplete and littered with “ums” and “ahs.”

Scott Milne posits his procrastination as The Big Plan: the “August Strategy” of attacking, the “September Strategy” of revealing his own ideas. I would argue that this is completely ass-backward: Now is the time when Scott Milne has the stage to himself, because Governor Shumlin won’t formally start the campaign until after Labor Day. Milne should be rolling out his proposals this month, and engage the Governor in September and October, when the two men will be sharing the stage.

Of course, the September Strategy is a convenient rationale for a candidate who’s just getting his feet wet and hasn’t worked his way through the issues. He said so himself, frequently referring to “the people I’m talking to” as he formulates his own views.

Not a good look for a man claiming to offer “leadership.”

Best get crackin’, Mr. Milne. You’re on stage, you’re fumbling it, and you’re losing the audience.

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