No matter the ball of mud Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman chooses to hurl Gov. Phil Scott’s way, nothing sticks. Obviously exasperated, he’s trying to hit the governor where he is strongest, which is in his handling of the pandemic. Using President Trump’s experience with the virus as an example, Mr. Zuckerman says Mr. Scott has excluded him from all Covid-19 meetings, which, he claims, puts Vermont in “dire” straits should the governor become incapacitated or die. As the successor, he would, he says, be clueless.
This claim before the cameras should be remembered as the “Zuckerman stretch,” [which could make for a fabulous t-shirt.]
It’s hard to fault Mr. Zuckerman; nothing he says or does seems to make a difference with the vast majority of Vermonters. Mr. Scott maintains his double-digit lead over the progressive and is probably more popular among moderate Democrats than Mr. Zuckerman is. If he is to come within 10 points of the governor on Nov. 3 he will need to find something, anything that lessens the governor’s appeal.
But whining about not being included in the administration’s Covid-19 response team meetings isn’t it.
Think about it. The governor is a Republican. The lieutenant governor — independently elected — is a Progressive/Democrat. The lieutenant governor wants to oust the governor from office. Why would the governor include the lieutenant governor in meetings knowing he would use any and all information to discredit the governor? Not only is that wrong-headed, it’s as counterproductive an idea as anyone could suggest.
Mr. Zuckerman’s response might be, well, this is different. Covid-19 poses risks unlike anything the state has seen.
Maybe, but it’s an argument that can only be addressed if the state were to change its constitution and, like 26 other states, elect both on the same ticket. In that case it makes perfect sense to include the lieutenant governor in all vital planning processes.
That’s not Vermont’s circumstance.
Mr. Zuckerman’s case also falls to pieces as a matter of basic math. The odds of the governor succumbing to Covid-19 is roughly 1-in-10,793. Vermont has had 58 deaths attributed to the pandemic, which is one person higher than what we lose each year to the flu.
Mr. Zuckerman could make a far better case for being included if he argued that the governor’s love of race car driving was creating the same potential vacancy. The statistics show there is a one in 114 chance of dying in a car accident, one would think the odds might be a little higher racing at high speeds. The National Safety Council says there is also a one in seven chance of dying from heart disease and cancer. Assault by firearm? One in 370. Choking from inhalation and ingestion of food? One in 3,461. Air and space transport incidents? One in 9,821.
Imagine Mr. Zuckerman making the same argument about not being included in the governor’s meetings because he had booked a flight to Washington, D.C.
Finally, if basic math isn’t enough, history is. We’ve been here before. Gov. Richard Snelling, a Republican, died in 1991, a year into his term. Then Lt. Gov. Howard Dean, a Democrat, was sworn in as governor. Mr. Dean was not part of Mr. Snelling’s every day planning effort. He had no understanding of the inner workings of the governor’s office and state government.
Mr. Snelling’s staff did for Mr. Dean what Mr. Scott’s would do for Mr. Zuckerman, which is to give him all the help and guidance he would need to function competently. That’s what we do. That’s what we expect of our public servants.
Understanding this, perhaps Mr. Zuckerman will now rest a little easier.
by Emerson Lynn