As it usually is, the Vermont Legislature was not exactly a wellspring of humor. Especially in the tense, action-packed closing days. But adjournment brought a couple of classics, albeit of the unintentional variety, from two of Vermont’s finest unintentional funnymen: John Campbell and Peter Galbraith.
First up, Mr. Pro Tem told VTDigger:
“Sometimes it’s tough to be a leader and a statesman.”
To which my immediate thought was, “How the hell would YOU know?”
My second was that good ol’ country song:
Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble
When I’m perfect in every way
I can’t wait to look in the mirror
‘Cause I get better looking each day.
I tell ya, for an accomplished politician, Campbell has the worst case of foot-in-mouth disease I’ve ever seen. The over/under on Erika Wolffing facepalms during this session must have been somewhere in the three dozen range.
Next up, the formerly Slummin’ Solon, Peter Galbraith. It was almost exactly a year ago that The Most Hated Man in the Senate announced he would not run for re-election, and instead devote himself to a vaguely-described Middle Eastern peace venture.
He may well be doing so, but he seems to find plenty of time to unleash Words of Wisdom about Vermont politics.
I found this gem in the comments section of a VTDigger article on the end of the legislative session:
Much more might be accomplished with shorter sessions. As it is, legislative committees spend hours hearing repetitive testimony from the same lobbyists and devote inordinate amounts of time to minor bills. Meanwhile the critical issues–the budget, taxes and energy–are rushed through with only the briefest consideration. It would be better to spend two months focussed on a few important issues rather than four months mostly spent on things that will affect only one or two people.
To start with, the first line is pure ironic comedy gold coming from the man who did more to delay, obstruct, and extend Senate debates than any of his colleagues.
As for his larger point about minor bills and last-minute rushes, Mr. Ex-Senator appears to have learned little about how the institution operates in his four years under the Dome. He saw little discussion of budget and taxes because Senate leadership was smart enough to keep him away from the Finance and Appropriations Committees, where there are endless discussions of budget and taxes. If those committees are doing their jobs, they settle the big questions before they ever reach the Senate floor.
As for energy, well, he was on the Natural Resources Committee, which did hold lengthy hearings on energy policy. His problem is that, as a stubborn opponent of renewables, he was on the short end of the debates. I’m sure he believes that his eloquence would have carried the day if only he’d had more time.
The point is, when you’re a lawmaker, you are immersed in your own committee’s work. You are only dimly aware of what’s going on elsewhere in the building. By the time a bill reaches the Senate or House floor (if, again, the committee did its job), its passage or failure is a foregone conclusion.
Galbraith has this image, perhaps absorbed from “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” of large-scale sweeping debates involving an entire legislative body. And, of course, a single heroic figure changing the course of the debate, e.g. himself. If our Legislature actually worked like that, it wouldn’t be in session for four months; it’d be a full-time, year-round affair. Full floor debates are the single biggest time sink because they involve everybody, and it’s not even close.
I can understand his bitching about repetitive testimony; every time I attended a committee hearing, there were moments when I wondered why in hell I was there. But again, that’s how the process works. You can’t NOT allow people to have a say. Galbraith’s real problem is that he is temperamentally unfit to be a lawmaker, because he can’t stand listening to the sound of any voice but his.
He is good at bringing the funny, though.