This week has seen Republican front-runner Phil Scott having a bit of trouble articulating a clear policy on America’s refugee program. Of course, he’s not terribly experienced at the job; one of the main perks of being Lieutenant Governor is that you don’t have to articulate clear policy stances. You can just kind of fuzzle around.
Meanwhile, his opponent Bruce Lisman has been shading his positions in the other direction. You may recall that, at first, the two seemed to be saying the same thing. But while Scott has shifted in a more welcoming direction, Lisman has sharpened his attacks on the security of the refugee program and on Governor Shumlin and President Obama.
Sigh. I fondly recall the good old days of Campaign for Vermont, when Lisman insisted he was nonpartisan and, in fact, had been a Democrat for most of his life. Well, now he’s declaring that he has no faith in the President’s ability to maintain security.
It looks like he has realized his only shot at the Republican nomination is to run to Phil Scott’s right. His opening gambit: a chorus of dog whistles aimed at stirring up anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment.
Good God, I hope he goes down in flames. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
In a carefully-worded essay posted on his campaign website, Lisman begins by putting the question conveniently, in terms of how “we can remain safe and enjoy our abundant freedoms.”
Ah, the first dog whistle. When he uses “we”, he is bifurcating the world into “we” and “they.” “We” are the people already American, who have an automatic claim to our freedoms and our security. “They” are the people who haven’t had the opportunity to become “we.” Like those would-be immigrants, for instance.
Lisman then pivots to attack Governor Shumlin for “exploiting the tragedy” and “bullying his opponents.”
The “bullying” has become a common refrain among those pushing for a “pause” in refugee settlement. See, THEY are the ones being bullied. The real victims aren’t the refugees; they’re the Good Americans like Bruce Lisman. You know, citizens. Yeah, poor, poor Brucie.
Lisman also accuses Shumlin of “ignoring the facts,” even though Shumlin is far more knowledgeable about the refugee issue than Lisman. Shumlin and his fellow governors got a briefing from top federal officials this week, while Lisman told Seven Days, “I wasn’t on that call. I didn’t read news reports about it.”
Good idea, Bruce. If you read the news, you’d be responsible to the truth. Keep yourself in the dark and you can blow your dog whistle with plausible deniability.
Lisman then presents a carefully cherry-picked selection of “facts” that support his case. The first of which, hilariously enough, concerns an attempt by five Syrians to gain entry into the U.S. The five were, as Lisman admits, arrested in Honduras.
Which means, hey presto — THE SYSTEM WORKED.
Hey, Bruce. A failed attempt doesn’t support your case — it undercuts you.
I could go through the rest of his weak-ass arguments, but it’s not really necessary. Because, as I pointed out previously, the refugee program is the worst possible way for potential terrorists to enter the country. It’s much easier to enter as tourists or students. Indeed, European nationals can get into the US without a visa. European nationals like, say, most of the Paris terrorists.
Or ISIS could try to do what they successfully did in France and Belgium: convert American citizens to their cause, and use them as their foot soldiers. Why sneak terrorists into the country when all you need to do is convince a handful of gullible youths?
There are flaws in our security system, but the refugee program is way, way, waaaaaaaaaay down the list.
But it’s the political hot button of the moment, and that’s why Lisman is persistently pushing it. If he were authentically concerned about terrorism, there are lots of bigger threats than refugees who’ve been cleared through a two-year-long process.
This isn’t about terrorism. It’s about naked political opportunism, and the willingness to encourage hate and fear if it might provide an advantage.
Lisman doesn’t overtly foment hatred and fear; he’s too sophisticated for that. But he is blowing that dog whistle as hard as he can. He’s got to do something to try to catch up with Phil Scott, and catering to the conservative base would appear to be his chosen strategy.
Which makes it extra odious. Because this isn’t a man who’s deeply conservative by nature; this is a political opportunist. What else will he be willing to say?