An epic battle, with a mostly impartial referee

When I saw the TV listing for today's "You Can Quote Me" on WCAX, I just knew I had to tune in. Kirstin Carlson's guests: VTGOP chair Jack Lindley and VT Dem chair Jake Perkinson.

Yes, you've heard of the Duel in the Desert... the Thrilla in Manila... the Rumble in the Jungle... well, now we have the Scuffle in the Studio. The Desktop Dustup. Or maybe the Melee on Teevee.

Actually, it was a reasonably civil affair. The guys stuck to their talking points, but tried to frame them in ways that seemed nonpartisan. They actually agreed on a couple of things, most notably the malign influence of Super PACs on politics. (Although Jack Lindley's prescription, to lift limits on individual donations to political parties, is certainly odd and self-serving: "We can end the toxic effect of big money by letting Lenore Broughton give her millions directly to me!")

I saw plenty of signs that Jake is a regular reader of GMD. Or maybe it's just that great minds think alike. Because when he was talking about Vermonters First and Lenore Broughton, it was almost like he was reading straight from GMD. Whatever; I'm just glad to have him spreading the word about Broughton's effort to buy the election.

After the jump: Civility in politics, Carlson's one misstep, and a new Republican conspiracy theory.
The two chairs agreed that there's a lack of civility in politics, but they disagreed (natch) on the causes. Jake put it at the feet of the Super PACs, while Angry Jack blamed the arrogance of the Democrats due to their dominance of state politics. Jake, when asked whether one-party rule is good for Vermont, played another card from the GMD deck: Vermonters have elected a lot of Dems because the Dems have better values and candidates. He also cited the national and state GOP's swing to the right as a factor in alienating voters, and added that in Vermont, "the conservative messaging is attributable to one person, Lenore Broughton."

Which, in terms of financing campaign messages, is certainly true and needs to be said. Angry Jack's response: He called Jake's answer "not very helpful" and claimed that the VTGOP was a big-tent party*, not controlled by any one person. True, it's not controlled; but in financial terms, it's been completely overshadowed by Broughton's self-funded Super PAC.

*"Hey, there's plenty of room for all kinds of folks, from Paul LePage to Allen West!"

And here we get to the one time when I thought Kristin Carlson strayed from her role as impartial questioner and put her thumb on the Republican side of the scale. She asked Jake about Broughton by asserting that Broughton's activities are legal, that she's within her rights, but what about protests outside her home? Is that really fair?

Well, first, there was only one protest. And second, by focusing on that single event, Carlson is ignoring the corrosive effect of Broughton's money avalanche. Does she think Broughton's unprecedented spending, her complete lack of transparency, and her obvious attempt to buy an election, are outweighed by one protest? Apparently so.

Jake's response: The Democratic Party had nothing to do with the protest, which represented a frustration over the influence of big money in politics.

Carlson then played the old false-equivalency game by rejoining that Bernie Sanders has seven million dollars while his challenger has almost nothing. Yeah, both sides do it! Jake's response: Bernie raised his money from thousands of very small donors. Carlson responded, Yeah, mostly out of staters.

But otherwise, she did play it down the middle, asking reasonable questions on both sides.

I'll point out one other item, perhaps the oddest thing Jack Lindley said. Carlson asked why the Republicans have so few officeholders, and had trouble putting together a full ticket this year. Lindley said that it's hard to participate because the legislative sessions have gotten longer (have they really? Since when?) and that makes it difficult for businesspeople to hold office. "Hardworking Republicans have to make a bigger sacrifice to participate," he actually said.

As opposed to lazy, shiftless, do-nothing Democrats? Dirty trust-fund hippies who have plenty of time to lounge around Montpelier, smoking pot and thinking up new laws and taxes?

Then he got extra-weird, by blaming the lack of Republicans in office on the burdens placed by Democrats on businesses. Taxes and health care reform make businesspeople's lives harder, and that prevents them from running for office. So says Angry Jack.

Aha! A new conspiracy theory! Democratic policy is not meant to make people's lives better, or soften the jagged edges of a free-market society; they're designed to keep businesspeople so busy filling out paperwork and dealing with bureaucracy and regulation that they can't assume their proper role as our political leaders.

Sheesh.

Well, I think I've spent enough time beating this dead horse (or injured ox, as the case may be). As of this writing, the video hasn't yet been posted on the WCAX website. But when it is, you can find it here. And you can quote them.  

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