The Man Who Would Be Governor Of All Vermonters had his first chance to display some authentic leadership, and he blew it big-time.
In the wake of the Orlando tragedy, which struck at the hearts of thousands of Vermonters, Phil Scott did the absolute minimum. He issued a paragraph of generic condolences and kept to his schedule of content-free glad-handing.
While somewhere between 1,000 (Burlington Free Press) and 2,000 (VTDigger, so let’s call it 2,000) people gathered for a vigil in Burlington, including numerous political leaders, Phil Scott was… um…
Meet & greet in Manchester tonight. Great to see so many familiar faces and new ones! pic.twitter.com/79EDWZ7cpg
— Phil Scott (@PhilScott4VT) June 13, 2016
… which followed earlier appearances at the Equinox Valley Nursery, Wilcox Ice Cream, and Miles Lumber and Fuels. Because as far as his campaign was concerned, it was just another Monday in Vermont and there was no reason to postpone a single feel-good photo opportunity.
Bruce Lisman did no better, of course. But he remains a long-odds hopeful who’s running as a nuts-and-bolts Republican. Phil Scott is the front-runner, and claims the mantle of a listener who cares and understands Vermonters. And in this case, he just didn’t get it.
Here is the entirety of his public response to Orlando. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it.
“It’s difficult to find the words to express our collective national shock and grief over this senseless act of violence. While we wait for federal and Florida officials to gather all of the facts, I will continue to monitor the situation closely. I have already received briefings from Vermont public safety officials and will remain in contact with them as the situation warrants. Together, as we process the scope of this tragedy and await the facts, let’s keep the victims and their loved ones in the forefront of our thoughts, honor their memories, and remember that compassion and respect will always triumph over hate.”
I’ve got two big problems with this. First, it’s completely generic. It could have been issued (and maybe it has) after any violent attack of any kind on an;y group of people anywhere.
And second, his quick pivot from “shock and grief” to self-promotion is, well, more than a tad distasteful. Not to mention misleading.
The Lieutenant Governor, whoever it happens to be, has no role in protecting our citizenry aside from attending briefings and issuing statements of concern.
It’s hard to expect more than this from an ambitious politician. But Phil Scott claims to be a different kind of politico, a “leader who listens.” And if he becomes governor and, God forbid, another such event takes place, he should take a prominent role in the next vigil. In the meantime, if he wants to convince us that he’s a true leader of all Vermonters, then he needs to step up his game.
Some will see this as overly harsh. I don’t. Phil Scott has set the bar high for himself. He has claimed to be more than an average politician. Now he has to live up to his words.