In my previous post, I noted a report of some uncharacteristically aggressive remarks by Lt. Gov. Phil Scott. As it happens, Mr. Nice Guy did a brief radio interview this morning on WCVR, “Real Country 1320 AM” in Randolph,”playing all your favorites from yesterday and today!”
Well, maybe not my favorites. I doubt their playlist includes King Crimson or Talking Heads (yesterday) or Arcade Fire or Cold Specks or Godspeed! You Black Emperor (today), but I know what they mean.
Morning deejay Ray Kimball took a few minutes from spinnin’ the tunes to talk with Our Lieutenant Governor. And thanks to Real Country’s livestream, I could listen from my snowed-in central Vermont hilltop redoubt.
I must say, Phil Scott was on his game, combining his customary aw-shucks charm with some well-crafted jabs at the (unnamed) Democrats.
It wasn’t much of an interview, maybe five minutes. And as an interviewer, Ray Kimball is a darn fine deejay. But it gave me a sense that Mr. Nice Guy will be a very dangerous candidate in 2016 if he wants to be. And, for the first time in his career, he’s showing signs that he does indeed want to be. I guess we shouldn’t have doubted the competitive fire of a man whose third profession is auto racing.
Ol’ Ray started by mentioning the expected presence of Fox News, which is apparently nosing around the Statehouse looking for fuel for its festive Jonathan Gruber stake-burning. Initially, Scott didn’t take the bait, instead pivoting to Governor Shumlin’s overdue rollout of a single-payer health care plan. And, in his customarily genial tones, he delivered a fist-in-a-velvet glove shot at Gov. Shumlin.
I’m looking forward to the Governor presenting his plan as he was supposed to do quite some time ago, as was named in the law itself. He’s missed a couple of deadlines. I don’t want there to be any excuses, I want to hear what this financing plan is, what this single-payer looks like, so we can make a decision as to whether it works for Vermont or it doesn’t. And if it doesn’t, I want to move on. The uncertainty it’s created in Vermont just having this discussion, I think has had a negative effect on our economy. So I want to get this over and done, and then move on from there.
Nicely done, sir. Slam the Governor for missing deadlines, assert that the “uncertainty” has hurt Vermont’s economy*, but leave the door open, barely, for consideration of single-payer.
*Please stop with the uncertainty bullshit. Truth is, life itself is uncertain. Businesspeople face far bigger and more pressing uncertainties every damn day. Single-payer, if it happens, is three years away. How much other uncertainty will be packed into those years?
Ray-Ray then asked a garbled follow-up, and that’s when Scott pivoted back to Jonathan Gruber’s videotaped comments, delivering a skillful punch in his unthreatening way.
His comments were made about Obamacare, but it does bring to light some, ah, you know, you might question some of the tactics and some of the things he’s said, in terms of trying to manipulate the public and perception, so I think some of his, ah, some of his data might be questionable.
Aha. Laying the groundwork for disbelieving the Governor’s plan while maintaining the facade of open-mindedness. He didn’t even call for Gruber’s head on a plate; he just undermined Gruber’s work.
Then Kimball asked about the budget. Scott took that ball and ran with it.
I know we can’t continue to look back, but I look back a few years as, uh, as to when Governor Douglas vetoed the budget…
Let’s stop for a moment and note the contradiction there: we can’t look back, but I’m looking back. Okay, Phil, continue.
… when Governor Douglas vetoed the budget, said it was unsustainable in the future, and it turns out he was right. We, uh, the Legislature overrode his veto and put that into place, and I think that’s where it started. And I think we’re living, ah, beyond our means. We’re spending, we, ah, we’re spending more money than we’re receiving. Revenues are down. So we’ve had to make corrections, and we’re going to have to tighten our belts, and it’s going to take all of us to determine how we’re going to do that, because we can’t spend more than we’re taking in.
Well played! Referring to the halcyon days of Jim Douglas, blaming the Democrats and Gov. Shumlin without naming them, couching harsh criticism in kitchen-table terms, and even calling for bipartisanship while, at the same time, trumpeting Republican orthodoxy. Ingenious.
There have been persistent doubts that Phil Scott has the fire in the belly, that he’d most likely stay within his comfort zone as Mr. Nice Guy, Lieutenant Governor For Life. It’s very early, but I suspect we can lay those doubts to rest.
Phil Scott exits 2014 with over $100,000 in campaign cash, and he’s proven he can be a big-time fundraiser within the humble boundaries of Vermont. If he can mount a credible campaign, and I think it’s clear he can, he’ll start drawing some outside money as well. He is developing a solid message, combining Jim Douglas-style plausible moderation with skillfully coded shout-outs to the True Believers.
If he wants the 2016 gubernatorial nomination, he’ll have it. And he will be the most formidable Republican candidate since Jim Douglas left the scene.
Hell, at this rate, he might turn out to be better than Jim Douglas.
Postscript. This was a brief interview, but a couple of items were notable by their absence. The name “Scott Milne” was not mentioned. And there was no talk of repealing Vermont Health Connect which, if I recall correctly, was the Republicans’ clarion call less than two weeks ago.