Tag Archives: Syrian refugees

Falafel Waffle: Compassion without substance

Unfortunately for Phil Scott, Wednesday night’s gubernatorial debate in Rutland happened a mere few hours after federal officials had approved the settlement of Syrian refugees in that city.

I say “unfortunately” because that brought the refugee question front and center, and Scott did nothing to distinguish himself as a leader. In fact, he did quite the opposite: he took both sides on the question. In the process, he gave substantial deference to the opponents of the plan while undercutting its advocates. Many a dog whistle was blown.

His non-answer has been widely reported in the media, but I went back to the video and transcribed the whole thing. It’s worse than I thought.

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Weenie Exceptionalism

Ah, Vermont. Hewn of granite and marble. Majestic mountains, vast forests. A stout and hearty people, hardworking and honest. A land of enduring values.

Or…

An incredibly fragile place that could be knocked out of kilter by the gentlest breeze. A state whose very future might be imperiled by the slightest misstep, no matter where or when.

Myself, I live in the first state. A lot of us seem to have taken up permanent residence in the nightmarish second, at least to judge by their Chicken Little rhetoric.

I see it from all parts of the political spectrum. Conservatives and liberals, business types, environmental activists, townies, country folk, etc., etc.

Let’s take Rutland, a city that’s had its share of hard knocks. The manufacturing boom times, the long steady decline, the scourge of drug addiction. It’s lived through all that, and retained a sense of identity and pride.

But add 100 Syrian refugees, and the whole place will go kerblooey. So say the fearmongers and nativists at Rutland First, anyway. City Treasurer Wendy Wilton claims she’d be fine with 25 Syrians — but 100 is simply too many. Others say the Syrians would be doomed to unemployment or underemployment because there aren’t enough jobs to go around.

Oh ye Rutlanders of little faith.
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Some world-class political cowardice down Rutland way

It wasn’t the most treacherous act in the history of politics. It wasn’t Brutus knifing Caesar in the back. It wasn’t Vidkun Quisling selling out Norway to the Nazis. But a majority of Rutland City aldermen gained a high place on that inglorious list with their non-decision on the proposed settlement of Syrian refugees in their fair city.

What did they do? Well, they weaseled their way around the issue from every available direction.

First, they voted narrowly not to hold a nonbinding referendum on the plan.

Then, they sent a letter to the state — a nonbinding letter with no legal force — refusing to support the settlement.

… we do not feel we are currently in a position to be able to provide a letter of support for the proposal to establish a new reception and placement program in Rutland.

Please note: they didn’t state their opposition. They withheld their support.

Good God in heaven, what a pack of schmoes.
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How to reverse course without changing position

… The Phil Scott Way.

Congratulations to our Lieutenant Governor for arriving at the right answer on Syrian refugees. It only took him eight days to do it, which is kind of unseemly for a guy who wants to be our take-charge, New-Direction chief executive. A bit more clarity and alacrity would seem to be minimal qualifications for the corner office. But congratulations anyway: he may have taken the scenic route (unusual for a veteran race car driver), but he did manage to arrive at the right destination.

Scott now says it’s okay for Vermont to accept Syrian refugees. Also, he dubiously claims that his position hasn’t changed.

Which, hahaha. Let’s look at the record.

On November 17, Scott said the following to VPR’s Steve Zind:

“I think it’s incumbent upon us to [bar Syrian refugees] until such time as the federal government can prove it’s meeting its national security obligations,” said Scott.

Need I point out that “can prove” is an awfully high bar? Can the government absolutely prove it’s meeting its obligations? Especially without, say, revealing information best kept on the down-low?

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Accepting refugees: a moral imperative

So I just took a driving trip through Canada. And of course I was exposed to a bunch of subversive ideas.

After all, we’re talking about a country that just handed a spectacular defeat to a Prime Minister who aggressively demagogued the refugee issue while his challenger, Justin Trudeau, campaigned on a promise to accept another 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of this year.

Wait, the voters picked the pro-refugee guy?

Yup, Canada’s a funny place. And while traveling through the True North Strong and Free, I read a brilliant essay in the right-of-center National Post. It was by political commentator Michael den Tandt, and it argued that welcoming refugees — even Muslims — ought to be a Conservative cause.

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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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Bruce Lisman sees an opening on the right

This week has seen Republican front-runner Phil Scott having a bit of trouble articulating a clear policy on America’s refugee program. Of course, he’s not terribly experienced at the job; one of the main perks of being Lieutenant Governor is that you don’t have to articulate clear policy stances. You can just kind of fuzzle around.

Meanwhile, his opponent Bruce Lisman has been shading his positions in the other direction. You may recall that, at first, the two seemed to be saying the same thing. But while Scott has shifted in a more welcoming direction, Lisman has sharpened his attacks on the security of the refugee program and on Governor Shumlin and President Obama.

Sigh. I fondly recall the good old days of Campaign for Vermont, when Lisman insisted he was nonpartisan and, in fact, had been a Democrat for most of his life. Well, now he’s declaring that he has no faith in the President’s ability to maintain security.

It looks like he has realized his only shot at the Republican nomination is to run to Phil Scott’s right. His opening gambit: a chorus of dog whistles aimed at stirring up anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment.

Good God, I hope he goes down in flames. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

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