Tag Archives: Aldrich Public Library

The Milne Transcripts, part 1: An inauspicious beginning

On Friday July 25, Scott Milne sat down for his first extensive media interview since launching his Republican candidacy for Governor. He was a guest on The Mark Johnson Show on WDEV Radio; Mark has archived the interview as a podcast. 

It’s a rich vein of material, and I’ll be rolling it out in sections over the next couple of days. I’ve transcribed the first 15 minutes so far, working my way through dense overgrowths of verbiage and sudden shifts of topic, delivered in a quick, stumbly, nervous monotone.

Let me pause here and say that I have a lot of respect for Scott Milne the businessman, and I appreciate his courage in taking on the thankless task of challenging Governor Shumlin. And just as he doesn’t mean to “vilify” Shumlin by referring to him as brazen, bullying, headstrong, radical, and ultra-progressive, I don’t mean to vilify Milne when I say that his performance was so inept as to be almost unlistenable, or that his campaign is off to a terrible, horrible, really bad start, or that any chance he had of mounting a serious challenge to the Governor has already evaporated like the mist of a midsummer morning. Nor when I call him the political equivalent to the 1962 Mets.

Nope, no vilification here.

He came across as a — well, here’s a choice quote:

I’m more interested in the campaign, making sure I’m out meeting Vermonters and reconfirming the reason I got into the race, which is a real fear of the direction the Shumlin Administration is taking the state, and the need for a, hopefully what the people will judge me as an articulate voice of opposition to that. 

Emphasis mine. “Articulate voice of opposition,” my Aunt Fanny.

Milne is a novice to the big political stage, and it may seem unfair to criticize his first sally. But good grief, he put himself in this position by jumping into the race at the last minute. He has no time for missteps, and he surely has no time for on-the-job training. He needed to hit the ground running with a coherent, convincing narrative. Instead, he’s hit the ground face first.

Want more? Oh Lord, there’s more.

There are some real problems with the economy in Vermont, there’s some real lack of leadership from the Shumlin Administration over the last four, or I would argue six years, ’cause he spent his last two years as President Pro Tem of the Senate really running for Governor. So he’s got six years into this, he still can’t even tell us too much about how he’s going to pay for VHC, to say nothing about taking accountability for the total mismanagement of it.

“Six years.”

Peter Shumlin’s been Governor since January 2011. Three and a half years. I don’t know what Milne is hoping to pull off with this six-year bit — which he also hammered home in a media scrum after his campaign launch. It’s transparently phony and unconvincing.

Milne then pivoted to another talking point, delivered with the same skill and grace.

Secondly, we’ve got this big problem with the school system, and we’ve got a Governor who, between vacations in Bimini or wherever his Caribbean vacation home is, and flyin’ all over the country to raise money from special interest groups, he found all kinds of time to do that during the Legislative session, but didn’t find the time or the need to roll up his shirtsleeves, walk across from the Pavilion fifth floor to the Capitol, sit down with House and Senate leaders and get something on the table that’s going to restructure property taxes so that, you know, you’re talking about my announcement in Barre, I stopped at Central Market, which has been there for at least two generations, I stopped in there for a coffee on my way over to my announcement on Wednesday at the Aldrich Public Library, ran into three people all of whom supported me emotionally, all of whom live in Florida and don’t live in Vermont anymore.

You can practically smell the smoke when he shifts mental gears from one talking point to another. He sounds like he’s been stuffed full of briefing notes and hasn’t had time to digest them. They just come spewing out in raggedy chunks whenever he opens his mouth.

Again, I am not vilifying Scott Milne, whom I respect as a person and businessman.

That’s enough for part 1. Coming up in the second installment: Milne makes a striking accusation against Governor Shumlin, the man he is not at all vilifying. And he provides not a speck of evidence.

Stay tuned, and getcha popcorn ready.

Milne: I will not vilify Shumlin, but he’s a brazen, bullying, radical ultra-progressive

Warm day in downtown Barre. Small crowd, mainly retirement age (Yr. Obdt. Svt. included) gathering on the front lawn of the Aldrich Public Library. The occasion? Scott Milne’s long-awaited launch of his gubernatorial candidacy.

Phil Scott was there. Jim Douglas was there. My frenemy Senator Joe Benning was there.

Who wasn’t there? Well, as far as I could tell, Barre’s Republican Mayor Thom Lauzon wasn’t there. And he usually manages to make himself conspicuous wherever the cameras gather. Interesting. I seem to recall Paul “The Huntsman” Heintz reporting that Lauzon and his wife donated $2,000 to the Governor’s campaign.

Checking… yes, yes he did.

Still, the front section of the library, comfortably air-conned, was full of Milne supporters and the legions of media desperately looking for a sure-fire story during the summer slump.

Milne was introduced by Douglas, who gave Mr. Bunny a hearty endorsement after delivering what sounded very much like a statement for his own candidacy. (Must’ve made a few hearts flutter in the Republican audience and wish for What Might Have Been; Douglas is their Beau Ideal.)

Douglas lauded Milne’s experience in “the real world” of business and commerce, a person “outside the bubble, unaffected by the stale air of the State House.” That’s rich, coming from a guy who spent virtually his entire adult life in that very bubble.

And then the Man of the Hour stepped to the plate, promising “a campaign of ideas” and said that he would “not be vilifying the Governor.”

In the following few minutes, Milne used these words in direct or indirect reference to the incumbent: doubting that Shumlin’s course is “responsible and realistic,” calling the Governor’s agenda “ultra-progressive,” referring to Shumlin as “headstrong about the need for exuberance and rapid, radical change,” characterizing his Administration as one of “unbridled experimentation,” and decried the use of “bullying tactics” and “brazen displays of power.”

But he won’t be “vilifying” the brazen, bullying, headstrong, radical, ultra-progressive Governor. Bwahahaha.

By contrast, Milne depicted himself as moderate, “cautious,” “responsible,” and reluctant to make any wholesale changes. He said “cautious” a bunch of times.

The strategy, thus, becomes clear: in order to capture the center, Milne will go all-out to portray Shumlin as a fire-breathing radical. Without, of course, vilifying him in any way.

It’s hard to see this working. Shumlin has too many centrist positions, spends far too much time courting the center, and caters to the business community far too often to be convincingly marginalized as an “ultra-progressive.” (When he said that, I could almost hear the guffaws exploding from Prog Central: “Shumlin a progressive? You must be joking!”)

Scrum!

Scrum!

After his speech, his crew made their way to the Elks Club next door for a hamburger lunch. It took Milne a while to get there; he first had to submit himself to his inaugural media scrum. The key point for me was the inevitable exchange about Act 250, given his frustration and anger over the regulatory troubles facing his dream project, the mixed-use Quechee Highlands development. It’s run afoul of the regional Act 250 board and the town of Hartford.

Milne claimed that he is “very supportive of the concept of Act 250,” but then accused Shumlin of “hijacking something into a political ideology rather than a practical program that needs to be applied more pragmatically.”

Not exactly grammatical, but you get his drift. But when asked for specifics on how the Administration had hijacked the process, Milne came up short of the mark:

“I think if you look between the poor management at the Agency of Commerce over the last four years, very poor management at the Agency of Natural Resources, there’s very evidential answers right there.”

Not much meat on those bones, is there? He charges the Administration with “hijacking” the process — an aggressive power grab — and all he can offer as proof is a nonspecific charge of “poor management.”

Hey, a travel agent ought to know that it takes positive, organized action to hijack anything. You don’t do it by accident.

All in all, it was a happy event for the true believers. But if this is the tack Milne plans on taking, he’s gonna get shellacked by the Governor.