Vladimir: What do we do now?
Vladimir: Yes, but while waiting.
Estragon: What about hanging ourselves?
Vladimir: Hmm. It’d give us an erection.
Estragon: (highly excited). An erection!
Vladimir: With all that follows. …
Estragon: Let’s hang ourselves immediately!”
― Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot
I don’t honestly get the political media’s fascination with former Wall Street tycoon Bruce Lisman. Yes, he founded (and funded) a
vanity proj — er, advocacy group, Campaign for Vermont, to peddle his particular brand of biz-frendly pseudo-centrism. Ever since, the media have been Waiting For Lisman, ever anticipating his supposedly inevitable run for Governor.
And here to brighten up your Monday morning comes VPR’s Peter Hirschfeld with another round of “Who Asked For This?”
As Shumlin’s Approval Numbers Fade, Bruce Lisman Finds His Political Voice
By “political voice,” Hirschfeld apparently means “Lisman is finally criticizing Governor Shumlin by name instead of in code.” There is little or no evidence that Lisman has found an authentic political self — an identity that can attract broad support.
Until Shumlin’s near defeat in November, Lisman had mostly refrained from personal attacks on the governor, or no-holds-barred criticism of initiatives undertaken under his watch.
“We really were a high-road, certainly nothing that smacked of political action – more policy action,” Lisman says.
Yuh-huh, stop right there, boss. From day one, Lisman’s Campaign for Vermont has consistently been critical of Gov. Shumlin and legislative Democrats. But he never said “Shumlin” or “Democrat” — instead making reference to “Montpelier.” For which, as a resident of Montpelier, I say “thank you for using my town as an epithet.”
Lately though, Lisman has assumed a more contentious tone. And it comes after a close election that Lisman characterizes as a “rebuke” of the sitting governor.
Take cover, boys! Sheriff Lisman’s coming to town!
Let’s be blunt. Lisman’s only political credentials are his Wall Street fortune and his willingness to spend a small fraction of it on a political group that has, as far as anyone can tell, failed to draw much support outside of the narrow band of elites who believe they have evolved beyond mere politics into a higher plane of enlightened self-interest.
(Example: Lisman, who presumably invests a large share of his fortune, has advocated cuts in capital gains taxes. Self-interested much? And he has issued a Mitt Romney-like call for everyone to have “skin in the game,” i.e. pay income tax. Which is an astoundingly regressive position for a “centrist.”)
Here’s what I said the last time I was forced to consider Lisman’s electoral prospects:
Bruce Lisman will never be Governor of Vermont. He’s not terribly well known, in spite of his travels around the state; he’s a lousy campaigner and public speaker; and most importantly of all, Phil Scott stands squarely in his path. Scott is a much better advocate of pretty much the same policy ideas. He’s far better known, he’s a more effective speaker and a proven fundraiser, and he has a major party structure behind him.
Still true. And here’s another: Bruce Lisman has the political instincts of a concrete block. He has dillied and dallied with the notion of running for governor to the frequent detriment of those who share his worldview. One example: In the spring of 2014, when his fellow CFV-er Heidi Scheuermann was mulling a race for governor, there suddenly came word from Lisman that he might just make a run himself.
I can’t say for sure that his brief and pointless flirtation elbowed Scheuermann aside, but it sure didn’t help. And then, as suddenly as he’d encouraged the speculation, Lisman quelled it, leaving the VTGOP to the tender mercies of Scott Milne. If that’s an example of the political acumen we can expect from Lisman, then I see him stumbling out of the gate. That is, if he ever finally decides to get IN the gate. He seems to have a hard time making that call.
I won’t go through the rest of Hirschfeld’s piece in detail because, frankly, I’d rather gouge out my eyes with a hot poker. But I will point out some examples of Bruce Lisman’s downright squicky faux-humility. On running for governor:
“I don’t give it a lot of thought,” Lisman says. “I guess I’m in the same place I’ve been. I don’t give it a ton of thought. Thank you. It’s nice of you to ask it in that way.”
“And lots of people have post-election said to me, gosh you should have run, or I hope you run next time,” Lisman says. “And that’s nice. I mean it’s a nice thing to hear. It’s very flattering.”
And finally, what could ol’ Bruce do to put a topper on this cavalcade of self-regard? Oh yeah, he could go third-person.
“Do we need a payroll tax? We think not.”
Ugh. Just threw up in my mouth a little.
But after all this, here’s my message for Bruce Lisman: Go ahead. Run for governor. Pull out all the stops. You won’t win, but at least our media will be able to stop camping out on your metaphorical doorstep.
Estragon: I’m going.
[He does not move.]