Vermont’s number-one walking, talking conflict of interest, Mike Smith, has a bee in his bonnet.
Smith, for anyone living in a spider hole, is host of Not The Mark Johnson Show on WDEV, political columnist for the Times Argus and Rutland Herald, and political analyst for WCAX-TV and for the Charlie & Ernie Show on WVMT Radio. Man, that’s enough hats to gag a milliner.
Anyway, Smith is using his multiple platforms to capitalize on a recent tragedy: the death of state trooper Kyle Young during a training exercise. On his radio show and in his column, he is raising questions about possible wrongdoing by state officials. He is also, I hear, using his connections to prod WCAX into covering the “story.”
What caused Trooper Young’s core body temperature to rise to such a dangerous level? Was the training regime too arduous for the temperature conditions? Or was there some other medical reason that went undiscovered by State Police supervisors and medical staff until it was too late?
Well, of course questions need to be answered. But there is absolutely no indication that anyone did anything wrong. This was a standard, if rigorous, training; the weather was warm, but not unusually so. And yet, Smith is calling for an independent investigation, and is avidly sowing the seeds of doubt about the state’s handling of the case.
In addition to the above paragraph of speculation, Smith offers baseless conjecture about the “medical safety protocols” in place — without, apparently, seeking information about said protocols from the Department of Public Safety. He floats the notion that a DPS investigation could be a cover-up. He implies that troopers might be reluctant to acknowledge illness or injury, for fear of losing a professional opportunity. (If I didn’t know better, I’d think he was a wussy liberal. Does he think our troopers need to be babied?)
And, after all that, he offers a contrast with his political hero Jim Douglas, who “required an independent review… of the Department of Corrections following multiple suicides in Vermont’s prisons.” As if that case was, in any meaningful way, similar to Kyle Young’s. Multiple deaths of people under state custody and control, versus a single death during a rigorous but voluntary training exercise. Nope, not the same.
Smith raises his questions in a plausibly neutral voice. But knowing what we know of his political background — lifelong Republican, Douglas administration functionary — it’s hard not to think that he’s trying to drum up a partisan issue to use against the Shumlin administration and the Democratic gubernatorial field.
Smith should tread very carefully, lest he be accused of trying to politicize a tragedy. Does he have any evidence, any indications, that there was anything funny about Young’s demise? If so, he should come forward. If not, maybe he should stop with the smarmy inferences.
And even if his questions are completely innocent (which, hahaha), his antics exemplify the danger in his multiplatform media presence. If he’s raising political issues in his column, stirring the pot on his radio show, and peddling the same story to his buddies in the media, then he is abusing his various positions for the benefit of his Republican allies.
But hey, as long as we’re indulging in pure speculation, how likely is it that Mike Smith will get a plum assignment in a future Phil Scott administration?