Here’s a man who thinks he can govern

Howard Coffin is an eminent historian, a learned scholar, and a real Vermont treasure.

And he said something really stupid.

The subject was Peter Galbraith’s bid for governor. Coffin was commenting on Galbraith’s, shall we say, checkered record as a state senator.  (Everybody hated him, to put it briefly.)

“I’m not sure that he was put on earth to be a legislator,” Coffin says. “I think he was put on earth to be a leader.”

Yyyyyyyeah. Just like Marco Rubio can’t stand being a U.S. Senator, so let’s make him President.

Here’s the thing. Being a “leader” involves a hell of a lot of negotiating, compromising, dealing with other folks — and particularly trying to make friends and influence people in the frickin’ Legislature.

Peter Galbraith was a heavy-handed, arrogant lawmaker who offended a lot of people and frequently roadblocked the Senate for the sake of some principle detectable only to himself. Those traits are going to be just as unfortunate in a governor — but they’ll be even more impactful. And not in a good way.

Now, if you’re talking about “being a leader” in the Donald Trump sense, then Coffin is dead on.  Otherwise, no.

Enough about that. Let’s move on to Galbraith’s candidacy itself.

I welcome Peter Galbraith’s participation in the electoral process. Just because he’d be a terrible governor doesn’t mean he can’t run. He’ll make things a lot more entertaining for the likes of me. And I don’t think he’ll come anywhere near actually winning the Democratic nomination. In fact, my money’s on a distant third place finish.

He does have a puncher’s chance. Matt Dunne and Sue Minter could split the “mainstream” Democratic vote and give Galbraith an opening on the left. But I doubt it. If there’s any splitting in a three-way race, I think it’ll be to Minter’s advantage as the only female candidate.

Galbraith will definitely get little or no help from the Democratic Party or its officeholders, so he’ll have to build a campaign infrastructure and attract substantial support outside the mainstream. Vermont Pundit Laureate Eric Davis put forward an overly kind comparison to the Bernie Sanders campaign — that Galbraith might be able to ignite the same kind of grassroots movement.


Couple of problems there. For one, Bernie worked the grassroots for decades — as a member of Congress and a weekly guest on Thom Hartmann’s radio show. Galbraith is starting from scratch.

For another, Galbraith can’t match Bernie’s dynamism as a campaigner or his very unique brand of charm. If anything, Galbraith is a lecturer who talks down to people. He has a lot of trouble concealing the fact that he believes he’s the smartest man in the room.

He’s also virtually untested on the campaign trail. He won election to the Senate by pouring $50,000 of his own money into his effort — far, far more than anyone else could raise. Once in office, he was re-elected thanks to Vermonters’ high regard for incumbency. He has never had to work hard to earn votes. It’s a skillset that takes time and experience to master. He hasn’t.

He will have the fervent support of one swath of the electorate: the anti-renewables. He wants to ban ridgeline wind, and he wants local authorities to have veto power over solar installations. Of course, while those stances will win him some votes, he will also lose a lot of liberals who favor Vermont’s efforts to combat climate change.

Indeed, his candidacy will provide a real test for the so-called Vermont Energy Rebellion. The rebels claim to be speaking for a large and growing segment of Vermonters; if Galbraith can’t earn much support, it might not only sink his political future — it might substantially reduce the political clout of the hard-core antis.

It’ll also be instructive to see who donates to his campaign. Nonprofit advocacy groups like Energize Vermont and Vermonters for a Clean Environment don’t have to disclose funding sources, so we don’t know where they get their money from. Galbraith will have to report and disclose donors. We’ll see who shows up on his list.



He does have some good policy positions. He wants a higher minimum wage, universal health care, and an end to the Enterprise Fund and other corporate giveaways. He wants to make Vermont’s tax system more progressive.

But whatever you think of the message, the messenger is fatally flawed. He would not be a good governor. He might do more harm than good for the causes he supports.


Personally, I’m hoping for an all-out crash and burn. Come on, single digits!

10 thoughts on “Here’s a man who thinks he can govern

  1. H. Brooke Paige

    Arrogance has a Charm all its Own !

    Surely Peter will be able to count on the haughty and snooty segments of the Democratic electorate, and here of late they has seemed to be a significant voting bloc. Weren’t they the ones who gave us the third act of the Putney Pete (Shumlin) Show?

    Does Vermont need another pompous Pete in the State House (actually in the penthouse suite of the Pavilion Building) ? I don’t think so.

  2. newzjunqie

    Just had a shocker. Made an incendiary comment about Trump to two of the men I admire most & was met with stunned silence. As they looked at each other I felt my heart stop beating & truly almost passed out. I said oh no, not you too…just wow. As they “explained”, found it difficult to hide the horror. Feel like I’m living in a nightmarish Kafkesque 1939 Deutchland, faith in good triumphing is taking a huge beating.

    That said, comment referenced shows how truly flawed anyone can be and why we should use our own judgement and not defer trust to so-called respected scholars & “experts” when making decisions. Many of our elected leaders, following years of observed antics, display distinct personality disorder at very least- not merely just the jerks we once thought they were. I am truly mystified at the popularity of the likes of Palin and Trump who are clearly crazy. And tired of apologists trying to ridicule anyone who sees Hitler emerging in Donald Trump as alarmist, even the ones who opt for the softer-sounding ‘Mussolini’.

    While politics seems to invite brashly arrogant sharp-elbows such as Shummy, inherent dishonesty & pathological lying do not take long to emerge. Leaders tend to surround themselves with others like themselves. The more visible the person the more clear behavior becomes. We cannot afford another misstep. Damage to our state due to the failure of this governor including legacy difficult to quantify, but I see it as huge & could take a decade to recover. Problem is- world-wide economic slowdown is either here or on the horizon which is why there isn’t going to be anymore cash to keep the statehouse bonfire burning.

    Never ceases to amaze that he’s a diplomat. Maneuverings & machinations re tenure at statehouse now legendary. Anyone who manages to alienate *everyone* around them should raise red flags. We need to avoid the personality-disordered narcissistic nutjobs such as the Shumlins, Galbraithes & Trumps of this world. Anyone who has had to deal with such ppl for any length of time recognizes the utter chaos they bring when & wherever they arrive, clearly indicitive of a disordered mind and unfit for leadership esp public office imho.

  3. H. Brooke Paige

    newzjunqie – They are not “crazy” (i.e. insane), they are surely as sane as you and me. The problem is they ARE self-absorbed, self-serving, egotistical narcissists with a misaligned moral compass. They believe that they know better than anyone else what is wrong with the nation (or the state) and know how to best correct the problems (and will readily tell anyone willing to listen that “it’s my way or the highway, buddy!”). Lord help us if they can convince a majority of the folks who wander into a voting booth on Election Day that they are the next “ONE !”

    1. newzjunqie

      Narcissism is or was listed as an illness in the DSM-4 as it is delusion and includes a personality disorder component which also is considered abnormal. See psychological triangulation.

      Personally don’t consider “crazy” necessarily an illness- it eclipses both normalcy and abnormalcy. I see crazy at worst as displayinging low-level of delusional incoherence or less so- odd or nutty behavior, some mood disorders which do not adversely affect the person or those around them on an ongoing basis and does not affect ability to function & care for oneself.

      Anyone who has been in a cult recognizes delusion if they ever make it out & then retrace their steps, and learn that all or most lies ride on the back of truth. The fundamemntals of absolutism & authoritarianism are heavy lifters which carry or pave the way for deception. Accepting a worldview based upon conditioning, groupthink via association of a particular organization- both may be deluded but not delusional as in religion or political extremes. See Westboro Baptist Church, KKK.

      When making personal judgements, gauge the level of malevolence, deviousness, destructiveness and if it forms a pattern. There are plenty of dishonest, a-holes & jerks but not exactly “ill”. All psychosis includes a break with reality on some level for a period of time or permanently and is pernicious. Sociopaths are psychopaths able to operate normally within society and are embedded in all levels of social strata and walfs of life.

      When we get right down to it- how many of us would be excluded from DSM-4 by a mental health worker, and those who can be- very likely tangent it. And, not to leave anyone out- mental illness was expanded in celebration of Obamacare by including ever more “behavioral” quirks.

      I place Palin in the nutty realm as evidenced by behavior. Airheads are not insane or I’d be on the list myself.

      So, are mass-murderous leaders such as Stalin & Hitler crazy or the Kim-Jongers, who starve concentration campees while forcing them into hard labor under extreme conditions knowing they will die, while perhaps skirting crimes-against-humanity status by not shooting and bulldozing them into trenches but instead installing on-site crematories at said camps.

      And since Donald Trump, a devotee of Hitlers’ teachings according to ex Ivana; in 1990 Vanity Fair interview kept a cabinet of his speeches next to their bed to read, and who purposefully mirrors Hitlers’ behavior on a routine basis including cold-hearted cruelty- is it a huge stretch to note the similarities and trajectory his idol followed? If so, call me crazy.

  4. Faith King

    “He does have some good policy positions” but “everybody hates him”. Sigh. Sorry, but that’s just kind of dumb. Tiger-Beat meets the bathroom wall in the high school…… (‘He’s a jerk. Whisper. Whisper. Pass it on’) Not sure I’ll vote for him but also couldn’t care less if he offended ‘everybody who’s anybody’ in the Statehouse. Vermonters are fairly easy to offend. Raise your eyebrows, raise your voice, come off as brash and the sensitive, self-regarding Village in the State house will shun you. (The Jehovah Witnesses are big into shunning, too… ) Given that it’s not unusual for leaders to have prickly, difficult personalities – I suspect the careerists and political-strivers in the Statehouse will fall in line. After all, their great strength is that they are good at being pleasant and not troubling each other too, too much…

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      It matters a lot if you’ve got to convince, cajole, and negotiate, as a governor has to do in order to be successful. Peter Galbraith has a long history of Not Playing Well With Others. I’ve seen his act in person. It’s not a matter of going along, getting along; it’s a matter of being politically effective.

      1. Dave Katz

        Perhaps enough voters–y’know, not the insider baseball team–might actually like what Galbraith says he wants to do, to lob him into the corner office. If not, then his Not-Quite-Our-Kind Quotient won’t really matter, then, will it?

      2. John S. Walters Post author

        As if I’m a member of anybody’s in crowd. Look it’s not that Galbraith failed to cozy up to the Dick Mazzas of the world; if he tried to build a more progressive Senate, I’d applaud him for it. In fact, he made himself enemies all over the place, and his seeming inability to positively influence people would definitely impact his effectiveness as governor.

  5. newzjunqie

    Forgot- at about 14:18 Galbaith really jumps the track and heads off the rails- which is why the the likes of Coffin and others who extoll his brilliance need to perhaps examine all of PG record.

    Antiwind stance unsurprising as wealth comes from oil wealth partly b/c of ambassadorship. I do not believe he’s a Dem either or campaign manager Allbee. Dad JK also an arrogant jerk- it’s in the blood.

    “I know there’s a stubborn streak in him, but I’ll tell you something: A lot of that is based on the fact that he is absolutely brilliant,” Coffin said. “I have known some very intelligent men. This is the smartest person I’ve ever met. His mind moves so fast that he becomes impatient easy.”

    “Stubborn streak, Impatient easy” — sycophant much? How kind. Perhaps fan club should remove blinders. OMG clearly a pompous ass. Narcissists and other assorted egomaniacs can only hear the sound of their own voice and are always restless & impatient- doesn’t mean the’re brilliant or even smart. A coke-addict or meth-heads’ mind moves pretty fast too along with any sugared-out kid bouncing off the walls. Career crims and serial whatevers also have the same persona with addition of ever-calculating business, prisons are full of them also.

    Anyone who has had a hyperactive child knows ADD & ADHD also produce the same behavior and often continues into adulthood in some form. Can’t for the life of me figure out how these obvious traits can be missed.


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