Tag Archives: Donald Trump

It’s Amazing What You Can Do With a Billion Dollars

In purely political terms, the Covid pandemic is the best thing that’s ever happened to Gov. Phil Scott. He got to be seen as a decisive leader simply by outperforming the likes of Donald Trump. Throughout the 2020 campaign, he enjoyed a twice-weekly platform on live statewide television and radio. He absolutely dominated every news cycle, and walked to victory in something bigger than a landslide.

And now, state government is swimming in federal relief cash — with more likely on the way. Trump’s CARES Act provided the equivalent of 20 percent of Vermont’s GDP. President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act is pumping in even more. And if Biden gets his infrastructure bill through, Vermont will get a third massive infusion in less than two years’ time.

The CARES Act alone floated Vermont through 2020 “in aggregate,” as state economist Jeffrey Carr put it. There was pain aplenty, to be sure. But there were winners as well, and the impact was greatly softened by the federal government’s ability (and willingness) to deficit spend. The governor is dead set against raising revenue or increasing the size of state government, but he’s perfectly happy to take whatever the feds will give him.

On Tuesday, Scott unveiled his billion-dollar plan to use a big chunk of the federal ARPA money. It includes just about everything on everybody’s wish list, and provides a huge boost to state initiatives that Scott insisted we couldn’t afford on our own. And the money will be spent over the next four years, which will make it extremely difficult to run against Scott in the next two cycles.

So, hooray for the pandemic!

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Rank Hypocrisy From Across the Pond

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik and… um…. What’s His Name

The distinguished representative of New York’s North Country has been on a tear lately, issuing tweet after tweet bashing Gov. Andrew Cuomo for making unwanted advances to women and for apparent dishonesty in reporting Covid casualties. A sampling:

Remind me again: Who’s that guy standing next to her in the photo above?

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Bookshelf: “Jesus and John Wayne”

Yes, this is very real and entirely serious.

There’s a lot of talk these days about information bubbles like Fox News, Newsmax, and the sludge pits of Facebook. But the original, biggest, and baddest information bubble of them all surrounds white evangelicalism. For decades, white evangelicals have existed in their own cultural ecosystem, with their own churches and schools and universities and books and movies and music (ever heard Christian rap?) and cartoons. And artists like Stephen Sawyer, who created the above depiction of the Lamb of God as a tattooed he-man. Biker Jesus?

Anyway. This evangelical ecosystem is invisible to the rest of us, but it’s very real. And understanding its worldview is key to understanding why over 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020. Yes, devout Christians voted in droves for a philandering divorcee who paid off a porn star and bragged about grabbing them by the you-know-what and has a long, sordid business career full of bankruptcies and lawsuits. And swears a lot. And clearly doesn’t know beans about the Bible, except that it’s a useful prop.

You’ll get it entirely if you read “Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation” by Kristin Kobes Du Mez, published in 2020. She takes us inside the world of modern white evangelicals, and shows clearly that they didn’t support Donald Trump in spite of who he was — he was the exact kind of leader they were looking for. He fit the role to a T.

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Running Out of Metaphors Here (UPDATED) (UPDATED AGAIN)

Things just keep getting better and better for the Vermont Republican Party.

The latest eruption is in the GOP heartland of Burlington, where three members of the city party committee are calling for the removal of city party chair Kolby LaMarche because he’s insufficiently reverential toward Donald Trump.

Because being a Trumpster is such a great way to win elections in Burlington, I guess?

LaMarche sinned against orthodoxy by writing opinion pieces saying that the VTGOP needed to move away from Trump and return to “the Vermont Republican roots that formed the basis of our state party,” in the words of a written statement he released Friday. He had also called for a change in state party leadership; most of the VTGOP’s top officials are dyed-in-the-wool Trumpsters.

The three who want LaMarche removed are Ericka Redic, spectacularly unsuccessful candidate for state Senate in 2020; Gus Klein, a weapons tester at General Dynamics who’s best known as the guy whose Trump flag was vandalized by two teenagers back in 2018; and his wife AnnMarie Klein.

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VTGOP Chair Fires a Shot Across the Bow of Moderate Republicans

I don’t think Deb Billado is planning to resign anytime soon.

The Vermont Republican Party chair made that clear when she devoted her most recent weekly newsletter to a very fringey speech made by the very fringey South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. It was a shot across the bow of Republican lawmakers who recently called for her resignation — and a slap in the face to Gov. Phil Scott.

You see, Scott and Noem are polar opposites on Covid-19 policy. Scott has proceeded with great caution, erring (mainly) on the side of public safety. Noem has kept her state wide open — including the granddaddy of all superspreaders, the Sturgis motorcycle rally.

The result: Vermont has a death rate of 27 per 100,000 residents, the second lowest among the states. South Dakota has lost 189 out of every 100,000, the seventh worst death rate in the nation. In total Covid-19 cases, Vermont is the best in the nation at 1,654 per 100K, while South Dakota is second-worst at 11,958 per 100K. How about testing? Vermont has conducted 133,174 tests per 100K — more than one test per resident. South Dakota? Way near the bottom, at 44,827 tests per 100K.

So, Vermont is doing far better at tracking the virus, keeping people healthy, and keeping them alive. I can’t say that Billado endorses South Dakota’s Covid “strategy,” but she went out of her way to highlight Noem’s views in a message to all Vermont Republicans. Now, maybe Billado didn’t intend it as direct criticism of Vermont’s govenror, but I bet you dollars to donuts that Team Scott sees it that way.

Beyond that, there’s the issue of Billado calling a collection of QAnon-adjacent nutbaggery a “thoughtful speech.” We’ll run it down after the jump.

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Tears of a Clown

After four years of radio silence, never once speaking to her home-state press, Darcie Johnston emerged from the dank underbelly of the Trump Administration to give a three-minute interview with WCAX’s Darren Perron. During which a tear or three ran down her copious cheek.

(Trigger Warning: This post is going to be kind of mean. All I can say is, she deserves every bit of it.)

Johnston has just concluded an undistinguished four years as a Trump administration political appointee. She was fairly high up in the Department of Health and Human services. And she was deeply involved in the administration’s disastrous handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Perron caught her at a vulnerable time, a few hours after she witnessed Trump’s farewell at Andrews Air Force Base. Yep, she was one of the lucky few hundred at the thinly-attended soiree.

Since her chat with Perron was such a rare event, here’s an annotated transcript of her remarks about her tenure in Washington.

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Act Like Nothing’s Wrong

@VTGOP, Exactly As Illustrated

You have to feel a little bit sorry for Deb Billado, chair of the Vermont Republican Party. She’s been working hard for three years now, trying to build a functioning machine out of spare parts and duct tape. But her Trumpian worldview makes her an ineffective advocate for the kind of fiscally conservative, socially moderate organization the VTGOP needs to be.

Now it’s all coming apart, thanks to the January 6 insurrection triggered by President Trump. While Republican Gov. Phil Scott came right out with a call for Trump’s removal from office, Billado issued a statement condemning the violence without mentioning the President at all.

On Tuesday, Billado issued another statement, this one urging people not to take part in a January 17 Statehouse rally in support of Trump. She began, oddly, with this:

It has come to my attention through various vague media reports that there is a rumor of some kind of protest planned at the capitol building in Montpelier this weekend.

Exsqueeze me?

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Gov Tells Steve From the Kingdom, “Talk to the Hand”

The governor reacts to Guy Page as if he’d just bitten into a lemon.

One of the features/bugs of Gov. Phil Scott’s twice-weekly Covid-19 briefings is that a lot of reporters beyond The Usual Suspects get to participate. Sometimes this is a good thing; scribes from Vermont’s many local weeklies often ask solid questions.

And then there’s Steve Merrill aka “Steve from the Kingdom” and Guy Page, two hard-core right-wingers known for asking irrelevant questions that go nowhere.

Well, today they outdid themselves. Page brought a QAnon-inspired question to the party, and Merrill tried to provoke an argument with Scott. (Page and Merrill appeared back-to-back near the end of the briefing; Page begins around the 1 hour, 46 minute mark of the video, viewable at the above link.)

For those unfamiliar with the weedier patches of the Vermont media ecosystem, Page is a longtime fixture around the Statehouse and a genuinely nice guy. He used to lobby for nuclear power; now he’s kind of a one-man band of right-wing partisan journalism. He operates a couple of websites and, during legislative sessions, he produces an occasional newsletter.

Merrill is the volunteer host of a little-known and seldom-viewed talk show on NEK-TV, the Kingdom’s community access service. Which is enough to get them on the briefing list.

What follows is their “contribution” to today’s briefing.

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Down the Rabbit Hole With Our Lady of the CovidCruiser

Meet Ellie Martin, dedicated Trumper, devout pro-lifer, resident of Underhill, organizer of the CovidCruiser bus that carried 51 Vermonters to the Trump-inspired riot of January 6. Has a passing acquaintance with grammar and spelling. She posted the above message on her Facebook page the day after the Capitol riot.

I’m sure Ellie is a nice person in non-political life. I’ve known people like her, and they’d greet you warmly, be sincerely interested in your problems, bake you a casserole or sincerely offer to pray for you.

But in politics, she’s a nutball inflamed by Trump and far-right media — and by whatever totalitarian impulse lies hidden in many a Christian heart. And if you think “totalitarian” is a stretch, how about this:

That’s the stuff! You think we’re exaggerating the motives of the Capitol storm troopers? You think VTDigger was a little permissive with its article referring to “a friendly mob” and freely quoting from CovidCruiser participants without much of a pushback?

Look, there are always a few crazies willing to believe anything and prepare for The Final Battle. What’s really dangerous is when the “nice people” like Ellie Martin start believing trash like this.

That’s right. Donald Trump, habitual liar, racist, thrice-married cheater, con man, is God’s representative on Earth. Because Jesus just couldn’t cut it with all that “love they neighbor” and “blessed are the poor” weaksauce.

After the jump: More goodies from Ms. Martin’s Facebook page.

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House Republicans Choose Sides, and Most Have Chosen Wisely

Lovely architecture provides an outstanding backdrop. Loses a couple points for lighting. 8/10

A resolution condemning the Capitol riot of January 6 and calling for President Trump’s resignation or removal passed the Vermont House today on a one-sided vote. Seven Days reported the tally as 130 to 6. VTDigger reported 130 to 16. But it was a voice vote, so I’m not sure where the numbers come from. All the “No” votes were cast by Republicans, but represent a small percentage of the GOP caucus.

There was apparently no floor debate. But there was some discussion of the resolution earlier in the day, at a House Republican caucus meeting captured on video. A total of eight lawmakers spoke in opposition, which again calls into question the 130 to 6 tally. Those eight do not include Rutland Rep. Tom Terenzini, who didn’t speak in caucus but opposed the measure as well. I count at least nine “No” votes.

So who are they? Reps. Lisa Hango, Patrick Brennan, Carl Rosenquist, Brian Smith, Lynn Batchelor, Vicky Strong, Mark Higley, Rodney Graham and Terenzini. (Two members, Reps. Bob Helm and Art Peterson, made remarks that did not disclose how they would vote.) We’ll get to their statements after the jump.

Several Republicans voiced strong support for the measure, most notably Reps. Felisha Leffler, Scott Beck, Lynn Dickinson and Scheuermann. Referring to the rioters, Scheuermann said, “What they were doing was appalling. I was ashamed. I thought it critical for us to do this as a body.”

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