Tag Archives: Barack Obama

Well, that didn’t take long

In recent weeks, I’ve tried my damnedest not to comment on the Democratic presidential race. After shooting my keyboard off a few times earlier on, I began to realize that I was overreacting to the latest development instead of focusing on the bigger picture.

Political coverage encourages this kind of short-term thinking. The media have an interest in hyping up the news, to keep you tuned in or reading or clicking or However You Are Accessing Our Content. But in the long run, most of this stuff washes out.

If you needed any proof, just look at a roughly 48-hour period in the middle of this week. On Tuesday, there was a good chance of continuing deep division sparking a battle-marred convention that could have paved the way for a Trump presidency.

And then, not necessarily in this order, we got:

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About that Shumlin approval poll

Bit of a surprise came to us late last week, with news of a survey showing Governor Shumlin had suddenly enjoyed a surge in popularity.

The results were released by Morning Consult, a national polling agency that gave Shumlin a 55 percent approval rating after collecting data online between January and May. Shumlin jumped nearly 10 points from the last time Morning Consult polled Vermonters, in November, when 46 percent of respondents gave him a thumbs up.

"What should I do now, Scotty?" "Ya got me, boss." (Photo from VPR)

“What should I do now, Scotty?” “Ya got me, boss.” (Photo from VPR)

The results are also at odds with a February poll from the Castleton Polling Institute that put the Governor at 37 percent approval, and the previous two Castleton surveys: in September 2015, Shumlin was at 40 percent; in March 2015, it was 41 percent. That’s awfully darn consistent.

The Democratic Party was quick to promote the Morning Consult number. Understandable; it would be the best possible news for the party and its gubernatorial candidate. It would prove broad support for the Democratic agenda, and it would mean the candidate wouldn’t have to create distance between her- or himself and Shumlin.

As for me, well, color me skeptical. After all, what has happened since February — or November — to bolster Shumlin’s popularity? He didn’t score any high-profile victories in the Legislature. And he’s taken quite a hit from the EB-5 imbroglio, since he’d associated himself so prominently with the scandal-plagued developers.

Is there some other counterbalancing factor — some political “dark matter” exerting a positive gravitational pull on Shumlin’s numbers? Or is it just an outlier?

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One more thing about the “adult in the room”

After his Town Hall meeting in Colchester, Ohio Gov. John Kasich gave a few minutes to the assembled media. A helpful portion thereof was posted online by the Burlington Free Press. Helpful, because it’s one more piece of evidence that Kasich’s “reasonable” “moderate” act is just so much Foxy Grandpa malarkey.

He was asked about whether President Obama should, you know, do his Constitutional duty by nominating someone to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. And Kasich’s answer was a disasterpiece of Republican passive-aggressiveness.

He blamed it all on, you guessed it, Obama.

We’ve had a situation in Washington where nobody’s going to get confirmed. You know, the President passed Obamacare, he rammed through stuff with his executive actions, and it’s just polarized everybody.

So, look, he’s going to send somebody, they’re not going to be confirmed. And what I like is the idea that the American public’s going to have a two-fer. And what do I mean by that?

We’re going to elect a president, and we’re going to determine the direction of the Court by the presidential election. And I think that could serve as a sort of a healing in our country without all these fights goin’ back and forth.

Yeah, that’s the ticket. If Obama hadn’t been such a hardass, ramming stuff down America’s throat for seven years, then we could let him appoint someone to the Supreme Court. As it is, he shouldn’t do it because it will further divide the country. In fact, for the good of the nation, he should voluntarily give up one of his presidential powers.

Yuh-huh. The Republicans and the conservative media, according to John Kasich, have absolutely nothing to do with the polarization of our politics. It’s all Obama’s fault!

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Hey, remember when the world ended?

It wasn’t that long ago.

Our nation’s media went on high alert. Republicans fell all over themselves trying to spread politically-harvestable panic and blaming President Obama for endangering our nation. In Vermont, all eyes turned to the curious story of a homeless guy who called himself a doctor. Yup, remember Peter Italia?

It was the fall of 2014, and the cause of the imminent apocalypse was the Ebola virus.

Well, we’re still here. And look at this notice from the Vermont Department of Health:

In a Health Advisory on October 31, 2014, the Health Department issued Ebola preparedness guidance for health care settings. The guidance included an Ebola-specific patient advisory sign that could be used to help identify patients with Ebola virus disease. Use of this sign may now be discontinued. 

Widespread transmission of Ebola in West Africa has been controlled, although additional cases may continue to occur sporadically. The CDC has changed its country classification for Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea to “countries with former widespread transmission and current, established control measures.” As a result, the Health Department has discontinued active monitoring for individuals who have returned from travel to these countries.

(Bold type used by the Health Department.) How about that. Quite impressive, really. I remember when it was thought impossible to control a new virus in a place as dark, untamed, and backward as the stereotype of Africa we have in our minds. The best we could do was to wall ourselves off.

Of course, we moved on from that apocalypse long ago, so you might be forgiven for not remembering the brief Ebola Panic that infected far more people than the Ebola virus itself ever did. Fortunately, the only health effects of Ebola Panic are transitory elevations in blood pressure and a compulsion to watch cable news.

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Look who the VTGOP is honoring tonight

The Vermont Republican Party is holding a fundraiser tonight at the Barre Elks Club. They’ll have speeches by candidates, a silent auction, and generally fun, food and frolic as only the Republicans can do.  (Think disco-era David Bowie with a whole lot of American flags.)

And oh yeah, they’re continuing their tokenistic Salute to Our Vets with a round of applause and a few parting gifts for three Actual Veterans!

(As usual, the proceeds of the event aren’t going to vets’ causes, or even a small portion thereof. It’s all going into @VTGOP’s coffers.)

And one of the three vets rang a faint bell in my mind: Paul E. Gibbs, Jr., of Springfield. After a bit of Googling, I discovered that Mr. Gibbs is a spectacularly unsuccessful two-time candidate for the legislature. He ran as a Republican for the House in 2010, and for the Senate in 2012. Got thoroughly trounced both times.

Sheesh. Not only are the Republicans using our brave veterans as window-dressing for a political fundraiser, they’re recycling old candidates from their Fail Pile and presenting them as randomly selected stand-ins for the defenders of our freedom.

That’d be shameful enough. But then I put on my Wellies and took a stroll through the muck and mire of Mr. Gibbs’ Facebook page, which is full of rabid archconservative propaganda.

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Terms and conditions

Phil Scott and Bruce Lisman have spent this week trying to define their positions on admitting Syrian refugees. The issue is a sure-fire hit in Republican constituencies across the country, but here in Vermont the blowback seems to outweigh the benefit.

The topline for both men is pretty much identical — a “pause” in the refugee program until we can be reassured about security safeguards. But the devil, don’tcha know, is in the details. And if you take them both at face value, they want to put the program on the shelf for a long time.

Scott makes happy noises about “a nation of immigrants” and our values and the Statue of Liberty. But look closely at his terms and conditions he presented in his essay on the subject:

…my goal is to ensure the federal program moves forward with security protocols Vermonters, and all Americans, can have confidence in.

And there’s the deal-breaker. If Scott means what he wrote, he wants the refugee program shelved until every American is satisfied. That will never happen. How can you possibly convince people who think Obama is a Kenyan and see Islam as a religion of hate?

Lisman’s position is essentially the same, but his rhetoric is angrier and his conditions are more overtly unreachable.

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Peter Shumlin, Tough Guy

One of my least favorite things about our incumbent Governor* is his tendency to adopt Republican talking points, thus giving them a validation they don’t deserve. It’s sometimes called “kicking the hippies” — talking tough about Them Damn Liberals, in an attempt to self-position as a reasonable centrist.

*Same is true of many Democratic politicians, including Barack Obama and the Clintons, which is why Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren can seem so refreshing.

"If one more person says 'G'day, Mate' to me, I swear, they're gonna get such a punch."

“If one more person says ‘G’day, Mate’ to me, I swear I’m gonna ball ’em up.”

So here he comes, by way of Administration Secretary and Hatchet Man WIth An Adorable Accent Justin Johnson, doing a little light sparring with the public-sector union punching bag.

Secretary of Administration Justin Johnson issued an edict to agency and department heads Tuesday that all new hires within the executive branch must be approved by his office.

The move, according to a memo Johnson sent to agency and department heads, is the result of signals from the Vermont State Employees Association that it is not willing to work with the administration on finding $5 million in personnel savings called for in Gov. Peter Shumlin’s budget proposal.

Yeah, really. How dare the VSEA react exactly how you’d expect them to react?

100 times out of 100, a union is going to balk at reopening a signed contract and acceding to personnel cuts. That’s What They Do. It’s the first round in the dance: management takes hard line, union takes hard line, they get together and work things out.

Johnson knows this. But he very publicly reacted to VSEA’s predictable “Fight Back” petition with a summary judgment: “The petition indicated that the union will not deal with the administration on labor savings.”

The petition indicates no such thing. VSEA is simply staking out a strong opening position for the inevitable deal-making. The administration did the very same thing by incorporating cuts in pay and staffing into its budget.

So why is Johnson going straight from the opening salvo to the dreaded Declaration Of Impasse? Because it makes the administration look serious about cutting spending.

Most of the conversation around the Statehouse these days is about tax and fee increases. Shumlin’s budget called for a mix of new revenue and spending cuts. The last thing he wants is for the public debate to center on the former and ignore the latter. So he sent out his H.M.W.A.A.A.* to stomp on the other end of the seesaw.

*pronounced “HIM-wah.”

He could just as easily, and more productively, said something like “We understand the VSEA’s interest in protecting its members. We do not welcome making cuts, but we believe that Vermont’s budget situation requires it. We look forward to working with the union to find ways to save money while preserving a strong, vibrant state workforce.”

But that wouldn’t have accomplished the mission, which was to make the administration look tough.

This would be nothing more than a harmless bit of political theater, except that it provides tacit support for a Republican talking point: that public sector unions are the enemy of the taxpayer. Shumlin does the same thing when he insists that Vermonters are Taxed Enough Already, or when he tries to cut social service programs, or when he frames health care reform not as a social justice issue, but as an economic growth initiative.

In doing so, he cedes the rhetorical ground to the Republicans. It gets him a bit of short-term shine as a Tough Guy and an Unconventional Democrat, but it hurts the liberal cause in the long run.

Plus, it makes me grind my teeth, and my dentist says I should stop that.

Postscript. Just in case there’s any confusion, I made up the quote under Mr. Johnson’s picture.