Here’s something David Sunderland could cut from his busy schedule

… Writing those tiresome press releases denouncing Governor Shumlin for taking a goddamn vacation. Please stop.

Sunderland… says Shumlin is more interested in “jetsetting around the nation raising millions of dollars so he and other politicians can keep their jobs or setting sail to the Caribbean island where he owns property.”

I get it, I get it. Shumlin is a rich lazy traveling salesman, ignoring the plight of hardworking Vermonters as he gallivants around the country and beyond. Good God, this stuff is so tiresome and repetitive that I suspect the VTGOP has a “Shumlin vacation press release” template: just add the location and the local problem he’s ignoring, and ship it out.

Also, too: It never works, and it’s complete hypocrisy coming from the mouth of any Republican. Aside from all that, yeah, it’s a political masterstroke.



Let’s start with the hypocrisy. Well, it’s hypocrisy unless David Sunderland spent equal amounts of time criticizing the two Modern Masters Of Political Vacationing: Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

Veteran CBS correspondent Mark Knoller has compiled all kinds of presidential data, including vacation days. As of mid-August 2013, President Obama — who gets slammed by Republicans every time he takes a few days off — had taken 96 vacation days. At the same point in their respective presidencies, Reagan had taken 180 days… and George W. Bush had taken a whopping 349.

Three hundred and forty-nine. That’s almost one out of every four days. And yet I don’t remember the Republicans begging their President to please, once in a while, put in a full week’s work.

(Pet peeve: Bush’s favorite vacation activity was theatrically “clearing brush” on his Texas ranch in full cowboy regalia. By the end of his Presidency, was there a single tree or shrub left anywhere on his 1,583-acre spread? Hadn’t it been reduced to stumps and wasteland?)

Okay, let’s talk about Governor Shumlin’s travel on behalf of the Democratic Governors Association. Maybe you’d prefer a single-minded focus on his home state; but the VTGOP eagerly welcomed an out-of-state political fundraising trip by Shumlin’s Republican counterpart, Chris Christie. I don’t recall Mr. Sunderland canceling the event and pleading with Christie to stay home and attend to the continuing Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts or the looming Bridgegate scandal. No, he took full advantage of Christie’s pre-Bridgegate star power to replenish the VTGOP’s empty coffers.

I also don’t remember any Republican howls of outrage in 2009-10, when Governor Jim Douglas became chair of the Republican Governors Association. Did the VTGOP tell him to step down and stay home, as they apparently want Peter Shumlin to do?

Late addendum: Apparently the link to the Mark Knoller story about Presidential vacations doesn’t work. I’ve tried it, and indeed it doesn’t. I tried re-entering the link, and it still doesn’t work. However, you can find the story by Googling “Reagan vacation days.” The Knoller info, as reported on Yahoo! News, is the first match.

Reminder to Mr. Sunderland: each major party has a Governors Association. One sitting Governor acts as chairman, and takes on broad responsiblity for fundraising, party-building, and candidate recruitment on a national level. It’s actually a badge of honor for the chosen Governor and even his/her home state.

Now let’s turn to “This never works.” Has there ever been any outcry in Vermont — except from VTGOP headquarters — when Governor Shumlin goes out of town? Has it dented his popularity in any measurable way? Did President Bush’s constant — and well-publicized — vacationing ever change the mind of a single voter? Not so’s you could tell. It just made us liberals grind our teeth a little harder.

It also never works to point out a politician’s wealth. And look, I hate it as much as anybody that politics has become a rich man’s game (yes, still predominantly “men”). But it doesn’t matter to the vast majority of voters. If they see a wealthy candidate who seems to connect with them, or who espouses policies that help all Americans, then they’re happy to ignore the candidate’s bank account. Just look at all them Kennedys.  

Of course, if a wealthy candidate seems out of touch, a la Jack McMullen or Mitt Romney, then the voters turn away. But it’s not because of their wealth, it’s because of their policies or perceived lack of empathy.  

Oh, and one more thing for Sunderland to ponder. Why does he hate the rich?

I mean, look at Peter Shumlin. In the language of Republicans, he overcame a learning disability and turned himself into a wealthy, successful entrepreneur. It’s an inspiring story, illuminating what Republicans like to think of as America The Land Of Opportunity where anyone who works hard can get ahead.

Well, that’s their mythology anyway. So why don’t they applaud Governor Shumlin for having the means to afford vacation properties in two other countries? As any Republican would say about any One-Percenter not named “Peter Shumlin,” he’s earned his wealth and shouldn’t be criticized for enjoying the fruits of his labor.

All right, I’ve emptied my elephant gun killing a fly. But please, Mr. Sunderland: the next time Governor Shumlin goes on vacation or hobnobs with the rich and powerful on behalf of his party, Don’t Press Send. Your complaints are doing you no good, and they just make you look like a hypocrite.  

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