The Stupidest Scandal

The latest twist in the story of Brandon del Pozo’s Twitter trolling has got to be one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen in politics. Not the most impactful, not the most scandalous, not the most significant — just the stupidest.

For those just joining us, del Pozo resignedas Burlington’s police chief last December after it was revealed that he used a burner Twitter account to criticize pesky police critic Charles WInkleman. At the time, Mayor Miro Weinberger denied all knowledge of del Pozo’s astoundingly petty tweets.

And now, Seven Days has discovered that, well, actually, Weinberger did know about the account after all.

Sheesh. And if you read the entire article, you’ll realize that this isn’t the first time Weinberger has kicked this particular ball into his own goal. Quite the contrary; he’s had, to put it charitably, a tangential relationship with the truth.

It’s just sooooooo stupid. And it might just end Weinberger’s political career.

It’s not that this disqualifies him to be mayor, as the progressive Twitterverse (population approx. 8) would insist. I doubt that this “scandal” will penetrate to the Burlington electorate writ large. But it should add fuel to the Prog/prog base. If they needed any more motivation to turn out on Town Meeting Day, they’ve got it now.

By itself, this brouhaha doesn’t make Weinberger a bad mayor. It does make him a bad politician, though. Clearly, he forgot one of the most basic rules of the game: It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.

According to Seven Days, del Pozo floated the idea of a burner account to Weinberger before he actually created it. Weinberger should have realized immediately that it was a bad idea. When @WinkleWatchers started tweeting shortly thereafter, he might have sussed out the connection or asked the chief about it. And he certainly should have revealed absolutely everything when it was revealed last December that del Pozo was behind the account.

Instead, here we are in the middle of campaign season and his political opponents are getting a generous helping of raw meat.

During Peter Shumlin’s last term as governor, when he’d narrowly avoided defeat at the hands of Scott Milne, I’ve advocated for a staff position entitled Shitkicker-in-Chief — someone who could call bullshit on the boss. Such a person might have prevented Shumlin from engaging in that iffy land deal that stained his reputation for the rest of his time in office. Or pointed out that Vermont Health Connect was headed toward a cliff. Or that the EB-5 Ariel Quiros/Bill Stenger development proposals didn’t really make financial sense.

Now, you don’t necessarily need someone with that precise job title. But every political leader needs to have someone who is empowered to say “No.” Weinberger obviously doesn’t have such a person, so his tone-deaf actions went unchallenged.

This kerfuffle doesn’t doom Weinberger’s chances for re-election. But it does diminish his chances to some, probably fairly minor, extent. It will mainly resonate with those already determined to vote against him. But the mayor has long been thought of as a future contender for statewide office. His handling of l’affaire del Pozo reveals the real holes in his political game. I think his chances of climbing the ladder are dead.

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