Phil Scott dials back the demagoguery

Man, I can’t tell you how nice it is to live in a state where xenophobia isn’t a sound political strategy.

It hasn’t been 48 hours since our two Republican gubernatorial hopefuls cracked open a jug of Doctor GOP’s Universal Snake Oil Cure-All, and not only have they not made a dent in Governor Shumlin’s forthright support for allowing Syrian refugees into Vermont, but they have found it necessary to ‘splain themselves. Even worse, a Democratic candidate is firing back with both barrels.

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott went so far as to fire off an opinion piece which (a) blamed the media for distorting his views, natch, and (b) set forth a new position that’s either carefully nuanced or tortuous, depending on how you look at it. His basic point: he wants a brief “pause” in the refugee program so all Americans can be fully informed, and become fully confident, in its absolute integrity. Which is bullshit, because no amount of information will convince, for instance, the roughly 30% of Americans who still believe President Obama is a Muslim. There is no reasoning with those people.

So if we wait for the “information” to convince every American, then we will never, ever, ever admit another refugee. Ever.

But let’s hear more from Phil “I Am Not A Xenophobe” Scott:

I believe the first responsibility of any government is to keep its citizens safe. Many Americans fear, in the wake of the attacks in Paris, that our national security is at risk.

“Many Americans fear” because they are uninformed, and it’s the job of responsible officials (like, I hope, Phil Scott) to educate them instead of preying on their ignorance. The refugee program is, in fact, the worst way for potential terrorists to gain entree to America. It’s much easier to get a student or tourist visa.

Plus, didja know that citizens of 38 countries can enter the US without a visa or background check or vetting of any sort? Those countries include France and Belgium. Yep, the guys who carried out the Paris attacks could have waltzed right over here undetected.

Twenty million people traveled to the US last year under the Visa Waiver program. If we ended it, our security might improve but tourism would take a huge hit. Concentrating on the refugee program is, as I wrote yesterday, like losing a quarter in an alley and searching in the street because the light’s better.

… verifying the integrity of the security process of the American refugee program — and explaining it to Americans — is a reasonable course of action. Simply dismissing concerns by saying the program is “rigorous” without explaining precisely how it is structured and how it works to ensure security only adds to concerns and adds fuel to the political fire.

Oh, Phil. Do you really want all the details of our screening process to become public? Won’t that help potential terrorists game the system, hmm?

I believe security has to come first. Whether you agree with that or not is up to you.

Yeah, go ahead, tough guy. Punch that straw man!

Everyone believes we should be secure. The difference is whether you believe the refugee program is (a) problematic, which it’s not, and (b) the biggest problem with our security, which it definitely is not.

He continues with some truly noble words about the importance of immigration in our nation’s history and culture and its foundational place in our core values. And:

Through all of this, we mustn’t forget that terrorism is intended to frighten us and incite anger that divides us. Judging by the media coverage and the tone of the political dialogue on social media, it’s working. We cannot allow this. We cannot allow them to scare us into denying help to peaceful, law-abiding people in need. And we cannot let them define our values.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. The problem is, Phil Scott’s Republican Party is up to its eyeballs in inciting fear and anger, which is precisely what the terrorists want. Phil Scott wants to share a ticket with a Presidential candidate who is now spending every waking hour trying to demagogue the issue.

I suppose I can’t really expect Phil Scott to castigate the Republican Presidential field. But by keeping silent on his own party’s rhetoric, he is rendering meaningless his own lofty words.

There was more on this issue in a post by Seven Days’ Paul Heintz today. He has the other Republican candidate, Bruce Lisman, rather churlishly amending his position to emphasize that any pause in the refugee program should be to allow Americans “to understand better the vetting process and get comfort from those people in positions to know.”

When Heintz pointed out that the Obama Administration did just that, by holding a briefing for 34 governors this week, Lisman got a bit testy:

When Seven Days mentioned Tuesday’s White House briefing, the candidate said, “Cut that out. Don’t be facetious … Listen, I wasn’t on that call. I didn’t read news reports about it.”

“Facetious” what? It was a simple and direct question. Too bad Lisman didn’t have a good answer. Why the hell should Lisman be “on that call”?

I guess the Wall Street panjandrum isn’t used to being called on his bullshit. If so, it’s gonna be a long campaign for ol’ Bruce.

Heintz also reported remarks from the two Democratic candidates for governor, who took different tacks. Matt Dunne blasted Republicans for “playing to our worst fears” and said he was “extremely disappointed” in Scott’s initial stance.

Sue Minter, on the other hand, was cautious — refusing to criticize Scott and Lisman, acknowledging that “Vermonters are concerned and are ambivalent,” but supporting the refugee program.

Advantage, Mr. Dunne.

It’s surprising that Minter, a former Shumlin administration cabinet officer, is being more timid than the Governor on the refugee issue. Plus, her own family has played host to a refugee family in the past. This would seem like an issue she could jump on.

Maybe she’s still finding her voice as a gubernatorial candidate. She’s got plenty of time to do so. But she’ll have to sharpen her rhetoric and get a little more courageous, or she’ll be outshone by the man from Google.

1 thought on “Phil Scott dials back the demagoguery

  1. Dave Katz

    To: Sue Minter
    From: Erstwhile Supporters
    re: Triangulating With Nitwits
    You’re scaring us. Is the next thing going to be “bending the curve” and “Vermonters are the most heavily taxed …”or “out-of-control government spending”?
    Our junior senator is showing all of us that there’s some gold in standing up for your principles of fairness and justice. His political revolution may leave the finger-in-the-wind contingent behind. Just sayin’.


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