Daily Archives: September 15, 2014

Milne Campaign: The Cloud of Doom grows thicker

As I said on Twitter, “Holy stinkin’ crap.”

Two months after Brent Burns signed on to manage Republican Scott Milne’s gubernatorial campaign, he is gone.

“I resigned Friday,” Burns confirmed Monday.

The Freeploid’s Nancy Remsen quotes Burns as saying he “wanted to take a step back” after “working in super high stress jobs” for six years straight.

I have to wonder if a negative financial balance had anything to do with the sudden onset of stress fatigue. The Milne campaign’s most recent finance report showed that it had spent more than it had received in donations. Only a loan from Milne himself had kept the lights on and the checks from bouncing.

Both Burns and Milne say they will have no further comment on the departure, which only adds to the irrespsonsible speculation about rats leaving burning ships and such. But Milne insists his campaign won’t miss a beat — probably true, if not in the way he puts it.

As to being able to operate without a designated campaign manager, Milne said in a telephone interview, “We are a flat organization. Everyone has ownership and responsibilities.”

Yeah, “flat” as in roadkill.

Vermont Pundit Emeritus Eric Davis puts it more eloquently than I:

“My sense of the Milne campaign is it is running on fumes right now and depending on free media,” Davis said.

It’s getting to the point where you don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Dan Feliciano, man of ideas. Well, three ideas.

Saturday’s gubernatorial debate was a big moment for Dan Feliciano, Libertarian candidate for Governor and presumptive usurper of Scott Milne’s mantle as the real conservative challenger to Governor Shumlin.

Dan the Libertarian Man. Photo by VTDigger.

Dan the Libertarian Man. Photo by VTDigger.

So, how’d Dan the Libertarian Man do? About as well as he could have done. Which is, as you might imagine, a two-edged sword.

Feliciano presented himself as the conservative candidate with ideas. And yes, he has ideas. But to judge from his debate performance, he has precisely three of them: Cut taxes and spending, cut regulation, and institute school choice.

That’s it.

He repeated them over and over during the debate because, well, that’s about all he has to say. It was a good performance but, at the same time, it defined his limit as a gubernatorial candidate. His ideas are simply out of the mainstream.

And, worse still, lacking on specifics.

Let’s take, first, his call for lower spending. What’s his big idea on how to cut the cost of state government?

Challenges for Change.

Stop laughing. I’m serious.

Dan Feliciano wants to reintroduce Challenges for Change, the discredited Douglas Administration plan. This… is our Libertarian’s call to arms? A years-old, formerly bipartisan initiative that was abandoned in 2010 because both parties agreed it just wasn’t working?

Until now, I thought that Tom Pelham was the only True Believer left. But no: it’s him and Dan Feliciano. Sheesh.

I suspect that this is one of Feliciano’s attempts to make himself look less scary to mainstream voters. Don’t start with Libertarian ideas for privatizing schools, prisons, police, fire, and snowplowing; start with a mainstream reform plan. A failed plan, but a mainstream one.

On health care reform, he’s dead against single-payer. His “idea,” though, is weak: cut health insurance regulation to foster competition. We’ve already seen how that works: the competition turns into a race to the bottom, with affordable insurance available only to the healthiest, all kinds of exclusions to minimize claims, and a maze of complicated legalese designed to frustrate consumers.

And Feliciano tried to have it both ways when it comes to community rating, Vermont’s rule that prevents price discrimination against the elderly, the sick, and others with high risk factors.  He claimed to support community rating, but he also called for Vermont to scrap its own exchange and adopt the federal one, as New Hampshire has done. Well, Dan, New Hampshire and other states operating in the federal system don’t have community rating. Which is it?

On schools, he wants spending cuts but doesn’t provide any examples. His Big Idea is school choice, which is going to reduce costs in a way he doesn’t explain. I wonder why. Could it be because the savings are based entirely on free-market dogma? Could it be that, in a system already short of students, spreading them around to more institutions will make the situation worse, not better?

When asked about problems in the Agency for Human Services, he said “We need a wholistic approach to families and children.” Without explaining what in the world he means by that. And when asked about supporting agriculture, his one idea was — you guessed it — cutting EPA regulations.

In spite of rampant pollution in Lake Champlain, to which agriculture is the single biggest contributor.

This is Feliciano’s unique position, and his glass ceiling. He is a man of ideas, certainly. But it’s a small handful of endlessly repeated dogmatic ideas that don’t work in the real world. Much as he tries to water it down, he is stuck with Libertarian dogma. It gives him a clear outline, unlike the endlessly foggy Mahatma Milne. But it also consigns him to fringe status in any race with a credible Republican candidate.

If Milne keeps on soiling the sheets, Dan Feliciano might get into the double digits on November 4. But he’ll never be anything more than that. And whenever the Republicans run a viable candidate, he’ll be back down to Emily Peyton territory.

Jim Douglas accuses Governor Shumlin of public corruption

The most dramatic moment of Saturday’s gubernatorial debate had nothing to do with the 2014 campaign or the positions of the four candidates. Instead, it came at about the 36-minute mark, when moderator Mark Johnson asked Governor Shumlin about a passage from former Governor Jim Douglas’ memoir, “The Vermont Way.”

Here is the direct quotation from Douglas’ book, as read by Johnson:

“The Senate leader, who succeeded me in the governorship, was a strong proponent of gay marriage. Since he was nominated by a scant 200 votes in the Democratic primary, their support may well have provided the margin of victory. He later reciprocated by appointing one of the leading lobbyists of the movement to the Vermont Supreme Court.”

Am I the only one who is shocked by that?

Jim Douglas is accusing Peter Shumlin of public corruption at the highest level — of giving away a seat on our state’s highest court as part of a political deal. By doing so, he implies that the recipient of Shumlin’s putative largesse, Beth Robinson, is unqualified to be on the Court.

Jim Douglas has said repeatedly that he isn’t in the business of criticizing his successor. He sure has a funny way of showing it.

Not only did Douglas think this, not only did he say it — he committed it to writing in his own official account of his years in office. (His editor/publisher, Democratic State Senator Chris Bray, allowed it to stand. What was he thinking?)

This is despicable, and Douglas deserves full criticism for it. And it is certainly not, in the words of his self-aggrandizing title, “The Vermont Way.”

Funny thing, though: Every media outlet in the state produced stories about the Douglas memoir. As far as I know, not a single one mentioned this passage, in which Jim Douglas accuses Peter Shumlin of public corruption. A crime.

Mark Johnson was the first, and only, media person to report this.

Most of the media accounts of the Douglas memoir (aside from Paul Heintz’ hard-hitting review in Seven Days) were softball affairs. They sorta mentioned Douglas’ long-held grudges against the media, but otherwise downplayed anything that might be controversial or reflect badly on Douglas. That is a remarkable failure by our watchdogs of the Fourth Estate.

By the way, the other three candidates for Governor recognized a white-hot potato when they saw it. None expressed the tiniest bit of criticism for Shumlin or Robinson. They all, including Republican Scott Milne, backed away from the question as fast as they could. None even mentioned the name “Jim Douglas.” A wise choice.

The Four-Ring Circus: First thoughts on the gubernatorial debate

Still to come: longer takes on Scott Milne and Dan Feliciano. (As Milne would say, “Stay tuned!”) For now, overall grades plus miscellaneous notes:

The first gubernatorial debate of the campaign, broadcast live on WDEV Saturday at 11 a.m. (from the Tunbridge World’s Fair) was a spirited affair, kept lively by moderator Mark Johnson who, IMO, should be Vermont’s Moderator Laureate, the #1 option for all our debate needs. All four candidates — Governor Shumlin, Scott Milne, Dan Feliciano, and Emily Peyton — gave good representations of themselves. In the case of one candidate, that was a good thing.

(Audio of debate available via Mark Johnson’s podcast. Video courtesy of CCTV.

First off, overall grades.

Peter Shumlin: A. Did what he had to do. Spoke forcefully and clearly, presented his point of view, and defined the race to his advantage. Because of the four-candidate format, Shumlin wasn’t fully tested on responding to attacks, particularly over health care reform. I’m really hoping there’s at least one face-to-face debate between Shumlin and Milne. That would be a real service to Vermont voters, more so than paying lip service to “fairness.” Fairness is nice, but in truth, the vast majority of voters are only going to consider two of these folks, and they deserve to see how Milne and Shumlin measure up in a direct encounter.

Dan Feliciano: B-. He did give a solid accounting of his candidacy. He did present some actual ideas, unlike Mahatma over there. Strictly grading on quality of presentation, he came across as a credible candidate. The biggest problem: his views are not shared by the vast majority of voters. To the extent that they got a clear view of Feliciano, they almost certainly decided that he’s not their man. Credit to his advance team for planting some shills in the audience, though.

Scott Milne: C. The top headline from this debate, in truth, was “Scott Milne Doesn’t Poop Himself.” Sounded a lot more coherent than in previous interviews, such as his notorious Mark Johnson disaster. He was fully programmed with talking points, attacks on Shumlin, and even pre-planned “ad libs” meant to play to the crowd. However, there were three huge drawbacks:

— He was handicapped by the four-person format. He had a hard time engaging Shumlin directly, which is what he has to do.

— He often sounded pre-programmed. His delivery was rushed, even frantic at times, as though he was trying to get through his talking points before time ran out.

— He still hasn’t defined his campaign positively. He had to fall back on his standard “Stay Tuned” promise when asked for specifics. His lack of clarity allows Shumiln an easy, and accurate, attack line: Milne has no ideas.

Emily Peyton: No grade. Who cares. Go away.

Really, I mean it. Her presence added nothing to the debate. She could have provided a service by giving voice to the leftist critique of Shumlin on taxes, campaign finance, and human services, plus his endangerment of single-payer health care because of the inept rollout of Vermont Health Connect. But her views are too quirky for that. She’s a unique combination of progressive, libertarian, and classic Vermont weirdo. She has no business being allowed in the gubernatorial debates.

Bonus demerits for turning her closing statement into an infomercial for hemp. Shameless. And pointless.

During the debate, she complained over a perceived slight from Johnson, and asserted that she’d nearly been shut out of the debate. For which she blamed sexism. I certainly believe that we need more female candidates and officeholders, and one of the only knocks against the Democratic Party is its failure to promote women to top offices. But that doesn’t mean you let an unqualified nutjob onto the stage simply because she has the requisite gender characteristics. No more Peyton. Please.

Thank you for calling the Scott Milne campaign. Your call is important to us. Please hold for the next available operator.

Note: Apologies for my absence the last couple of days. Real life intervened, as it is wont to do. More stuff on the gubernatorial debates coming shortly.  

Apparently, the Mahatma has yet to emerge from his mountaintop retreat, where he’s been seeking political clarity in silent meditation. At the first gubernatorial debate on Saturday, Scott Milne’s 25% of the four-way colloquy was full of promises that actual positions would be coming soon. “Stay tuned,” he implored listeners, again and again.

But here’s something even more egregious. This morning, VTDigger taoiseach Anne Galloway was on WDEV’s Mark Johnson Show to talk about the campaign and Saturday’s debate. And she revealed that VTDigger’s editorial staff was scheduled to meet with Milne this week — but he’d asked for a postponement until he can get his policy positions in order.

Whaaa? 

Hey, Mahatma. I realize that Time Is Nothingness to you and other Sages Of The East, but c’mon now. It’s September 15th, and you’re not ready yet?

Shameful. And fatally damaging to his already wafer-thin hopes of being competitive in this race. I bet Dan Feliciano holds at least a couple of news conferences this week, and I bet he once again steals the spotlight from the unprepared Republican candidate for Governor.