I see from Paul Heintz’ “Fair Game” column that one feature of every electoral season is in high gear: the debate over debates.
Apparent front-runner Phil Scott is doing what front-runners do: insisting on conditions that minimize his exposure. To wit, he wants beloved nutcase Bill “Spaceman” Lee to take part in all debates.
So, this week’s one-on-one with Sue Minter might turn out to be a one-off.
Which would be a shame, and a disservice to the electorate. The real contest is between Scott and Minter. There should be a thorough exploration of their ideas, and they need to be put to the test in direct confrontation without any moonbats cluttering up the stage and hogging one-third of the available time.
Scott insists he’s not being chicken, but let’s keep it a hundy. He is.
And now, let us consider two media outlets who have responded very differently to Scott’s ultimatum. Let’s see if you can guess which is which.
One is a veteran journalist who represents a powerful and well-regarded news organization. The other is a former politico turned media figure who works for a relatively small outfit.
One caved in to Scott’s demand and will invite the Spaceman. The other is standing firm and vowing to cancel his debate if it’s not a Scott/Minter affair.
The first, in both paragraphs, is John Dillon of VPR.
The second — the principled one — is Mike Smith of WDEV.
Smith took about ten minutes of airtime yesterday to explain why the traditional WDEV debate at the Tunbridge Fair might not take place. He slammed both major-party candidates; Minter for not responding at all*, and Scott for insisting on Bill Lee.
Bold words from Smith, a lifelong Republican who’s presumably voting for Scott and is probably in line for an appointment in a Scott administration if he wants it.
Meanwhile, VPR — the respected, influential paragon of journalism –couldn’t handle the staredown with Scott, and blinked first.
Profiles in Courage.
*I emailed Minter campaign manager Molly Ritner about the Tunbridge invite, and her answer was generic boilerplate:
We are responding to debate requests one by one. As she did in the primary, Sue will be talking to Vermonters about her plan’s to create jobs and get Vermont’s economy moving again. It’s a message that Sue will deliver across the state, in coffee shops, town halls, forums and at fairs – with or without Phil Scott.
I have tried to get her by phone to seek a direct answer, but so far we haven’t managed to connect.
UPDATE: The Minter camp has accepted Mike Smith’s invitation to the Tunbridge debate. Email from Minter campaign manager Molly Ritner to Smith, cc’d to me:
Hi Mike –
Sue is happy to participate in the Open Mike debate at the Tunbridge fair. I trust you will let your listeners know that we have agreed to the debate.
Looking forward to working with you on the format.
Ball’s in your court, Mr. Leadership.