Last November Phil Scott was reported to support the growing call for stopping planned Syrian refugee immigration. Shortly thereafter he had to clarify his position to say that he had meant “pause.” Scott’s awkward swing at the anti-immigration issue didn’t look too good for a first-time gubernatorial candidate.
Not that he was the only state executive to weigh in. In the panic and unease following the early-winter terrorist attack in Paris, amid reports and rumors of a connection to the Syrian conflict, the Republican governors of Maine and Massachusetts and others said they would halt efforts to relocate Syrian refugees to their states.
Phil Scott and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Lisman both expressed a similar desire to hold off allowing Syrian resettlement in Vermont. Both were rebuked by supporters of allowing vetted war refugee immigrants to come to Vermont. Among the critics was Governor Shumlin, Democratic gubernatorial candidates Sue Minter and Matt Dunne, who said Scott and Lisman were “playing to our worst fears.”
Scott responded, saying in part “[…] I probably should have gone a little further to explain that I don’t understand the situation and I certainly don’t feel like we can pause or stop the refugee program in its entirety,” and from there proceeded to backtrack.
In very short order, Scott also suggested his position had been “misinterpreted” (VPR published the transcript of the interview), and found himself clarifying that he didn’t understand the refugee vetting process, was worried about security and wanted a “pause” not a “ stop.” He even helpfully added that “pause” meant “to stop, take a breath, explain the process and then resume.”
Belatedly he arranged for Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn to “get a couple of people together to explain it [security vetting process] to me.”
I say he backtracked, but looking back to last November it appears more like he just squiggled around awkwardly after sticking his neck out a bit and luckily for him finessed the issue –down the memory hole — away in a few news cycles.
So what might cause the normally cautious Lt. Governor to uncharacteristically
speak out against I mean, come out in favor of a “pause” on war refugee immigration to Vermont? In this particular bit of clumsy international-state policy pronouncement, he may have spent down a little of the Phil-Scott-is-a-great-guy credit he accumulated with Democratic crossover voters.
It should now be obvious that while Phil Scott and Donald J. Trump are very different politicians, they both belong to the same Republican Party.
In a survey conducted in January, Pew found that 65 percent of Republicans or those who lean Republican want to hear blunt talk about Islam, even if it includes blanket statements about the faith, while 29 percent prefer that politicians be careful not to criticize the faith as a whole.
Only 22 percent of Democrats and those who lean Democratic want politicians to use sweeping statements to criticize Islam, while 70 percent prefer more nuanced approaches.
So Donald J. can go around the country yowling “I think Islam hates us.” and find himself soaring in the polls. Vermonter Phil Scott hasn’t done that, but given Trump’s primary victory here, you can make the case that even in Vermont Scott is now swimming in the same fetid pool of GOP voters. And to win the governorship he must appeal to those Trump voters.