Tag Archives: Jim Douglas

The Jim Douglas Memorial Panic Room

Flash them pearlies, Jimbo!

Just as he and Gov. Phil Scott did in 2016, Scott Milne has taken his ballot and run and hid in the Jim Douglas Panic Room. “I’m voting for Jim Douglas,” Milne said in a Monday appearance on WDEV’s Dave Gram Show. “As of today, my plan is to vote for Jim Douglas, but I’m going to vote on Election Day.”

Nice. He resorts to the write-in, but leaves himself an escape hatch in the Panic Room.

Both Mine and the governor have repeatedly indicated their distaste for President Trump. And in 2016, both opted to write in The Beau Ideal of the VTGOP. (The Gov has yet to declare how he will vote this year.)

I suppose Milne would explain his vote as an endorsement of moderate Republicanism and a wish that more Republicans acted like Jim Douglas. By which he means working with all parties, not the other stuff — the employment of attack-dog Jim Barnett in his campaigns and his opposition to marriage equality and his often contentious relationship with the Democratic Legislature.

But even if you ignore the flaws in Douglas’ good-guy image, there’s a less flattering way to look at Milne’s presidential choice.

Seems to me that what he’s saying is he’d rather toss his ballot in the dumpster than ever, ever, ever vote for a Democrat. Even Joe Biden, who has a reputation very much like Douglas’ for getting along with everybody.

So what kind of bipartisanship is that, anyway? If you dislike Trump so much, why not cast your vote in the most effective way possible — for Joe Biden?

Because voting for a Democrat is a bridge too far for these guys, even when their own party’s leader is a racist crypto-fascist kleptocrat.

That’s quite a statement.

Digger Gov Debate: Cromulent Son

At least they flipped the room and got decent lighting.

It seemed remarkably civilized after Donald Trump’s attempt to run roughshod over debate protocol (and the foundations of our Republic), but the second major media faceoff between Gov. Phil Scott and Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman was a lively affair that managed to provide some light in addition to heat.

As in the first debate, Zuckerman put on a clinic on how to confront Scott, while the governor often seemed overly defensive, even a bit surly. And as in round 1, it’s unlikely to make any difference in the election outcome.

I’ve noticed an increasing tendency in Scott to bristle in the face of close questioning. He frequently interrupted Zuckerman and misrepresented the Lite-Gov’s record. Has he gotten soft after months of nearly universal praise? Or is he starting to harbor a sense of entitlement after three years in office?

Whatever, it was a rare slip of the mask for Mr. Nice Guy.

Y’know, if Vermont was half as progressive as its Bernie-fueled image, Zuckerman would have a decent chance at becoming the next governor. Unfortunately for him, the electorate leans more center-left than left. Sanders’ coattails are much shorter than you’d think. And Vermont voters like to think of themselves as balanced, and our political system as exceptionally civil. That’s why we quickly embrace people like Scott and Jim Douglas who put a pleasant face on traditional Republicanism. (And it’s why Scott Milne is eagerly grasping for the same electable image.)

If Vermont’s “progressive” electorate was serious about progressive policies, they’d reject a guy who is nearing the all-time record for vetoes. In three years, Scott has racked up 19 — and counting; during the debate he hinted at a veto on the cannabis tax-and-regulate bill.

The record holder is Howard Dean with 20. And it took Dean eight years to rack up 20 vetoes; it’s taken Scott less than three years to equal Dean’s total. Also, most of Dean’s vetoes were on relatively small-bore legislation — a bill to legalize the sale of sparklers, a change in members of the Fire Service Training Council, a measure aimed at quicker removal of abandoned motor vehicles.

Scott, on the other hand, aims his fire at the biggest targets. He has vetoed three separate budget bills, which is unprecedented in Vermont history. He has vetoed many of the Legislature’s top priorities; this year’s vetoes included minimum wage, paid family leave and the Global Warming Solutions Act. And might yet include cannabis. His veto record is quantum orders beyond Dean’s or Douglas’. Or any other governor in state history.

In short, Phil Scott is a huge obstacle to the Democratic/Progressive agenda. Yet the voters seem intent on giving him a third term, even as they return lopsided Dem/Prog majorities to the House and Senate. If you think voters decide based on the issues, think again.

But enough about that. On to the debate.

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TJ, We Hardly Knew Ye

Return with me now to the halcyon days of 2012, when Peter Shumlin was still popular and a fresh-faced young prosecutor from up Burlington way took on the seemingly impossible task of challenging Vermont’s Eternal General Bill Sorrell in the Democratic primary. Sorrell had held the office of attorney general since 1997 and had been repeatedly re-elected, as is our general custom with statewide officeholders other than governor. Many believed that by 2012, ol’ Billy was long past his sell-by date. Others thought he wasn’t particularly qualified in the first place, but those people are obvious malcontents. (Like, for instance, the late Peter Freyne.)

Ultimately, thanks to a last-ditch infusion of cash on Sorrell’s behalf from the Democratic Attorneys General Association, TJ Donovan’s bid to unseat the incumbent came up just a little bit short. Sorrell won the primary by a puny 714 votes out of more than 41,000 cast.

But Donovan was widely hailed for his chutzpah and, more to the point, for very nearly pulling it off.

So let me ask you this. Whatever happened to that brave, headstrong young man with a limitless political future?

I mean, there’s A Guy named TJ Donovan around. In fact, he became AG in the 2016 election, after Sorrell retired. He looks a lot like the ambitious young pol of 2012, but as time goes by, he’s acting more and more like his predecessor.

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A tale of two parties

For the third weekend in a row, Vermont’s top Democrats are touring the state, rallying their voters and presenting a unified front behind Sue Minter. Pat Leahy, Peter Welch, David Zuckerman, TJ Donovan, Doug Hoffer, Beth Pearce, and Jim Condos have done more than their share to help carry Minter across the finish line.

And most crucially, Bernie Sanders, who not only spent two weekends on the stump with Minter*, he gave her a tremendous infusion of campaign cash thanks to his millions of supporters across the country. It really has been a great display of unity — far beyond anything I’d hoped for when I advocated a one-weekend Bus Tour. It’s also an impressive show of the Democrats’ political star power, the depth of their talent and the breadth of their appeal.

*This weekend, he’s campaigning for Hillary Clinton in other states. 

Meanwhile, on the other side, we’ve got Phil Scott. And, um…

Phil Scott.

Bravely soldiering on, pretty much carrying the entire VTGOP on his broad, manly shoulders. Or trying to.

Really, who else is there? What other Vermont Republican might hope to draw a crowd or inspire the voters?

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Phil Scott would like a more convenient governorship

“Leadership” is a touchstone of the Phil Scott campaign, repeated ad nauseam as if the more often you say it, the more true it becomes. And from what I can tell of his plans for the governor’s office, his version of “leadership” involves tipping the balance of power in his favor.

Whether that’s a good thing or not, I can’t say; but I doubt he’s going to openly campaign on the idea that the governor needs more power.

Here’s what I’m talking about.

First, his proposal for a 90-day limit on legislative sessions. Assuming he means 90 calendar days rather than business days, the legislature would adjourn in early April. Unless they continue to recess for Town Meeting Week, in which case either (1) it’s not really 90 days, or (b) recess wouldn’t come until mid-April, which isn’t all that different from the current session length.

But let’s say that his intent is to have legislative sessions largely (or entirely) confined to January through March. In which case, lawmakers have significantly less time to finish their business. That means fewer bills passed and less legislative oversight of the executive branch.

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So, Shap.

The all-but-certain became reality yesterday. Outgoing House Speaker Shap Smith announced he will run for lieutenant governor. Thus making him a political rarity: a person who launches a campaign for one office, abandons it, and resets a candidacy for a different office. (He had killed his bid for governor last fall due to his wife’s illness.)

I’m not surprised. In fact, I’ve been promoting the idea since I first reported it way back on February 8.

At this point, it would be awfully difficult to re-enter the gubernatorial race. …But lieutenant governor? That wouldn’t be so hard.

… Also — and this is crucial for Smith’s personal situation — the job isn’t all that tough. He bangs the gavel in the Senate, he does some soft appearances around the state. He can pretty much set his own schedule.

He’d have a high-profile role at the center of state government. And it’s a great way to build name recognition for a future run at the top job — something Smith would still like to do.

Hey, I was right! You know what they say about blind squirrels and acorns.

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Brian Dubie, serial propagandist

Our former Lieutenant Governor is continuing his all-out campaign against wind farms with his usual mix of overheated rhetoric and outright lies. As is customary with anti-wind activists, it’s a game of Whack-A-Mole: answer one argument, they quickly switch to another, and another, and another. No single argument survives scrutiny; they have to move the target and hope nobody notices. Dubie’s only been playing this game for a few months, but he’s already mastered the basics.

UFOTurbineHis latest foray was especially duplicitous: a claim that a proposed wind farm would be a hazard to aviation. Originally, he brandished a document from the Federal Aviation Administration that seemed to backstop his argument.  Turns out he was misrepresenting a routine FAA notice of interest in the project. The FAA has since ruled that the wind farm poses no risk to aviation.

That hasn’t stopped Dubie from pushing this discredited talking point, brandishing his “expertise” as a longtime airline pilot — which, I guess, makes him more of an expert than the Federal Aviation Administration.  Heh.

In a recent opinion piece, Dubie places the origin of his professional concern about wind turbines to an unspecified time during his tenure as Lieutenant Governor. Which looks like an attempt to rewrite history, since Dubie was a prominent advocate of wind energy — a position that put him at odds with Governor Jim Douglas, a wind-power skeptic. Dubie highlighted the need for more wind power as recently as January 2009, when he was being sworn in to his fourth term as Lite-Gov.

So when was his wind-power conversion? Apparently not during his government service. Indeed, he never raised a peep of concern about wind energy until last year, when he realized there was a plan to build a wind farm near his home.

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Dubie discredited

There’s quite the journalistic one-two punch on VTDigger today. It’s a story that exposes former Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie’s anti-wind activism for the empty rhetorical shell that it is; it also raises serious ethical questions about a top state official. Or it would, if the state had any serious ethical standards to enforce.

For those just joining us, Dubie emerged from his long political hibernation earlier this year to take up the fight against a proposed seven-turbine wind farm near his home in Swanton. Dubie insisted this wasn’t a case of NIMBYism which, don’t they all. But his political profile lent a bit of suit-and-tie gravitas to the cause.

In addition to the usual discredited arguments about environmental impact, Dubie attacked the Swanton plan as a menace to aviation. And since the guy is a pilot with American Airlines, his words carried some weight. Except it was all bullshit.

This fall, Dubie has been trumpeting a statement from the Federal Aviation Administration to support his stance. But it turns out that the FAA was merely claiming an interest in reviewing the plan. And now it has completed its review, and determined that there is no impact on aviation. None.

In other words, he wasn’t an expert with unique insight. He was just another zealot pushing whatever scraps of “information” he could find.

But what’s worse is that he had a willing accomplice at the highest level of state government: Guy Rouelle, aviation program administrator for the Agency of Transportation.

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Bizarro Dave

I’m writing an awful lot about David Sunderland lately, but then he’s been doing a lot of dumb stuff lately. And this tidbit is the cherry on his hacktastic sundae.

The Vermont Press Bureau’s Josh O’Gorman did a writeup of the VTGOP chair’s latest stunt — the anti-carbon tax website, which seeks to blame Democrats for something that’s not going to happen.

And deep within the article, I discovered the source of Sunderland’s difficulty with facts.

David Sunderland (not exactly as illustrated)

David Sunderland (not exactly as illustrated)

He appears to live in an alternate dimension, with a parallel but very different set of events. Look:

Sunderland said he believes a carbon tax could be in the cards come January.

“It’s possible this will happen,” Sunderland said. “If you look to the past, nobody in million years would have ever thought we would enact state-run, single-payer health care, but it happened.”

Whaaaaaat?

Vermont has a state-run, single-payer health care system?

How did I miss that?

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Sorrell versus the record, part 1: the MTBE deal

Earlier this week, former Mark Johnson Show host Mark Johnson produced his first podcast for his new employer, VTDigger. It was a 50-plus-minute interview with Attorney General Bill Sorrell, headlined by Our Eternal General’s stout denials of any wrongdoing. (It was also an excellent example of Johnson’s interviewing skills. His departure from WDEV was a big loss for our public discourse, and I look forward to his Digger podcasts.) Sorrell is, of course, the subject of an independent investigation for campaign finance-related activities.

SorrellCriminalThe interview reveals Sorrell in all his self-centered, fumblemouthed glory. He is, as always, the innocent target of politically motivated attack and quasi-journalistic hit pieces. But it’s worth taking a close look at how he explains himself, and comparing that to what’s on the record so far. (The independent investigator, Tom Little, is famously tight-lipped about his work, so we have no clue what he may have discovered.)

I’m breaking this up into parts because otherwise, it’d be horrifically long. This installment, Sorrell’s explanation of the MTBE lawsuit, is itself pretty damn long. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, the bottom line is: Sorrell’s interpretations and recollections are self-serving, and often at odds with the facts. In my judgment, it’s unclear whether Sorrell violated the law; but his behavior and his insidery relationships with key players are disturbing at the very least. There is an appearance of wrongdoing, whether there was actual wrongdoing or not.

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