Phil Scott’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Pity our poor Lieutenant Governor. He had to sit directly behind Governor Shumlin during the State of the State address, and try to figure out what he should do with his face. Most of the time, he looked pouty and miserable. And then tonight, he’d scheduled a major speech of his own to react to Shumlin’s address — only to be bigfooted by Donald Trump.

I’m sure he’ll still draw a crowd of the Republican faithful, but he’s not gonna get much media attention. It’ll be lots of Trump and a goodly helping of Shumlin, with Scott hoping for a few crumbs off the table.

Phil Scott Trying Not To Be Seen during Shumlin's climate remarks. Screengrab from WCAX-TV.

Phil Scott Trying Not To Be Seen during Shumlin’s climate remarks. Screengrab from WCAX-TV.

To be fair, he was put in a difficult position today. He couldn’t afford to appear enthusiastic for fear of alienating the Republican base; but he didn’t want to seem like an ingrate either. The result looked more like dyspepsia than a firm stance. He rarely looked directly at the Governor; his eyes wandered around the room; he looked down at the floor for long stretches of time. (Especially when Shumlin talked about climate change, when he seemed to be willing himself invisible.)

During his address, the Governor introduced a whole bunch of invited guests to highlight his talking points. Those were just about the only times that Scott put his hands together. Although even then, his face usually bore a pained expression.

The only exception to Scott’s applause for the everyday Vermonters? He abstained from the ovation for climate activist Bill McKibben.

Fascinating. Either Scott dared not show the slightest indication of interest in climate change, or he just doesn’t have any. He is, after all, in a fossil fuel-based business, and he’s a longtime leader in the interest group advocating for his profession’s interests. On this particular issue, maybe he’s not so moderate as he’d like to appear. His virtual disappearance during Shumlin’s climate presentation didn’t bode well for the likely environmental stewardship of a Scott administration.

Phil Scott’s been in politics for quite a while. But because of his tenure as Vermont’s Least Impactful Officeholder, he has rarely (if ever) found himself in uncomfortable situations. Maybe that explains his visible discomfort during the State of the State.

He’s likely to find himself in more tight spots as the campaign rolls along — and a whole lot more if he becomes Governor. We’ll soon find out if he is up to the challenge.

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