Interesting words from Shap Smith, Speaker of the Vermont House and political operator of great renown.
They came in a piece by Paul “The Huntsman” Heintz, tanned and rested from a midwinter vacation*, about the pending failure of a bill to mandate paid sick leave for Vermont workers. I say “pending failure” because, although the measure seemed to have broad legislative support, the air has suddenly gone out of its balloon.
*Location unknown, although scurrilous unfounded rumors suggest Dick Cheney’s favorite quail ranch.
The final pinprick was delivered by Mr. Speaker himself:
“I don’t think the landscape right at the moment is conducive to passing the legislation,” the speaker says.
Methinks Paul omitted a verb between “landscape” and “right,” but never mind. The passage I wanted to highlight has to do with Mr. Speaker’s reputation as a master strategist.
As for Smith, he says there’s a reason he rarely suffers defeats on the House floor.
“I do not think the idea of putting a bill on the floor to see whether it can swim to shore is a good idea if you don’t think it has the strength to swim to shore,” he says. “One of the reasons that I’m known as somebody who can get stuff done is that I don’t put things on the floor that fail.”
Mmmm. Oh. I see. So the reason you have a winning record is you never take up fights you might lose. I call that Profiles in Courage, for sure.
It’s as if Big Papi begged out of a series against the Tigers by saying “One of the reasons that I’m known as a good hitter is that I try to avoid facing guys like Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer.”
Or Evel Knievel attempting a daring motorcycle jump over, not the Snake River Canyon, but Christy Canyon, because “One of the reasons I’m known as a successful daredevil is that I try to avoid jumping over things I might not be able to clear.”
Or Diana Nyad foregoing the Cuba-to-Florida swim in favor of a Lake Champlain crossing along the route of the Fort Ti Ferry because “One of the reasons I’m known as a distance swimmer is that I only attempt crossings I know I can finish.”
I don’t really think Shap Smith was trying to undermine his own reputation. What I do think is he’s grasping for rationalizations, and in an effort to avoid the truth (Democratic leadership caving to the business community, part no. 4,266,148), he stumbled upon the “Aw, shucks” ploy.
But just for the record, people become “known as somebody who can get stuff done,” not by ducking the tough battles, but by actually getting the difficult stuff done.