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Editorially Speaking 

Sanders expecting to cruise to victory in November. His opponent is transgendered candidate Karen Kerin.

Just when you think the editorial page of Vermont’s largest daily newspaper can’t sink any lower, you open Burlap’s morning newspaper and realize that, unfortunately, you were wrong.

Of late, the editorial page of The Burlington Free Press has crusaded against what it considers the great evils of our urban society, like litter and graffiti, while being less than clear, concise and understandable on the most contentious public policy debate of the day — Vermont’s new civil-unions law. (More on that later.)

They say pictures speak louder than words. If so, the fact that this week the Freeps reran their photo of a bigoted, despicable and vulgar anti-gay sign posted in a private driveway in Huntington makes one wonder about who’s sending what message.

Running an inflammatory photo like that once is a questionable “news” decision. Twice sends out a message from the people in charge.

This Tuesday, the photo that dubs Vermont Gov. Howard Dean an “anus” and slurs gay and lesbian Vermonters as “queers” ran at the top of the page in the editorial section of our distinguished, “award-winning,” Gannett-chain newspaper.

One wonders if The Burlington Free Press’ newfound affection for the medical term identifying the orifice most associated with human waste reflects a fixation on the paper’s distinguished editorial board. Could be. Regular readers of the paper’s editorials would not be surprised.

Now the question is: Will The Burlington Free Press continue this new trend of promoting hate-mongers and hate speech? Can readers expect to soon see photos that depict hateful and vulgar slurs against other minorities, such as blacks or Jews or disabled people? Maybe some graffiti trashing Bosnian refugees? Does anyone think our local daily would publish a photo slur that substituted “niggers” or “kikes” or “gimps” for “queers”? And then republish the same incendiary photo 10 days later for those who might have missed it the first time?

Now the cat’s out of the bag. For years we suspected it, but now it’s confirmed — The Burlington Free Press is a proud pro-anus newspaper!

Great.

Editorial Page Editor Stephen Kiernan told Seven Days Tuesday that his paper has in the past “run photos of swastikas and hateful stuff directed towards minorities.” Mr. Kiernan said he knows some would find the photo offensive, but “It’s not a newspaper’s job to never be offensive.”

Maybe they will go for a third time?

And the Charlotte resident and Middlebury grad noted his paper has in fact taken an editorial stand on civil unions, contrary to earlier reports here.

“We support civil unions, not same-sex marriage,” said Kiernan. He emphasized, however, he was merely “paraphrasing” the paper’s published — and we’d suggest somewhat obscure — position. He said we should be sure to note that. So noted.

Recently, in a brief mention in a legislative wrap-up editorial, the Freeps stated that the legislature had “responded honorably” and “preserved marriage.”

No sense wasting a lot of words on it.

Big Wigs Wary of Congressional Candidate

The Vermont Republican Party is filling out its November dance card this week. On Monday, a political unknown, Brian Dubie of Essex Junction, declared for lieutenant governor. Informed of Dubie’s pending announcement Monday morning before the Vergennes parade, Lt. Gov. Doug Racine inquired, “Does he have a brother?”

No, Douglas, he’s not one of those Doobies. This one is an American Airlines pilot.

And coming up Saturday in South Royalton is the entry of Republican Karen Kerin into the congressional race. Kerin, a UVM and Vermont Law School grad, is also a new face on the statewide political stage. But we’re not hearing much enthusiasm from GOP State Chairman Patrick Garahan or Skip Vallee, the national committeeman.

“I don’t know very much about her right now,” said Gasoline Vallee Tuesday. Hmmm. Funny, coming from an insider.

Chairman Patsy acknowledged Kerin “is a relative unknown.” Bernie Sanders is not. Ol’ Bernardo’s crushed the last two eager challengers the Republicans sent out against him (Mark Candon and Susan Sweetser).

“Any challenger to Bernie is going to have a difficult time,” said Garahan. But this one’s a little different. You see, this time, it’s looking like the GOP leadership is feeling decidedly less than enthusiastic about their congressional hopeful.

“The transsexuality issue,” noted Garahan, “may overwhelm other matters and issues.” He’s concerned about how the press will play one of the many interesting aspects of Candidate Kerin — the fact that “she” was a “he” until eight years ago. For a GOP chairman who’s been trying to get the party on record against same-sex anything, embracing a transsexual Republican congressional candidate won’t come easily. According to Mr. Garahan, “There are a few other Republicans looking at this race.”

Yeah, sure. Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck?

Gasoline Vallee’s another story. After all, anybody who’d go on TV to brag about his clean mini-mart bathrooms can handle all comers. “We have a very, very, very big tent,” said Skip.

Check out Ms. Kerin’s Web site at kerin2000.org.

Zero Tolerance

That’s the word from Ruth Dwyer’s campaign this week. And it’s got nothing to do with drugs. You see, this is one of those years in Vermont politics. The juices are flowing and so’s the name-calling. A couple months ago, when Dwyer charged Gov. Dean was “bribing” lawmakers to get their vote on civil unions, Ho-Ho shotback quickly. He called Ruthless Ruthie “an extremist.”

Then, last week, the local branch of the National Abortion Rights Action League staged the earliest campaign endorsement event in memory. They support Dean. Vermont chair, Leslie Black, said they’re starting early because of the great fear of Ruth Dwyer getting elected. Black said Mrs. Dwyer is “a dangerous extremist.”

Excuse me? Aren’t we coming on a tad strong here? Dangerous extremist? Like bombing airliners and poisoning the water supply?

Asked to give evidence to support the charge, she pointed to Dwyer’s pro-life position. Ms. Black said she considered anyone who held a pro-life, anti-reproductive freedom viewpoint to be an extremist. Even the Bingo Bishop.

The Guy quickly disputed Black’s claim. He does not consider pro-lifers to be extremists, he said. Dean, the self-described “passionate centrist,” noted many pro-lifers vote for him — at least the ones who aren’t single-issue voters.

Backing up Ms. Black at the media event were Rep. Mary Sullivan, former Rep. Sandra Baird and the Boy Wonder himself, Steve Howard.

Dwyer campaign manager Kathie Summers, a Providence College graduate from just outside Worcester, Mass., tells Seven Days Ruth is not going to reply in kind.

“We are enacting a zero-tolerance policy,” said Summers. “We will have no tolerance for any group that engages in uncivil activities or intolerant behavior or name-calling on any side — on our side or on their side. We simply don’t think it has a place in this year’s election.”

Besides, said Summers, back in Massachusetts, “Ruth would be considered a conservative Democrat.”

It’s Marching Season

In an election year, Memorial Day weekend marks the kickoff of Vermont’s marching season and, as usual, we were on hand to review the performances at Monday’s Vergennes parade. The envelope, please!

Bernie Sanders — What a pro! His 11th consecutive Vergennes march. Ol’ Bernardo strolls the route with his wife, Jane Sanders, in casual attire. As congressman, Sanders has shed all of the awkwardness that at times marked his mayoral career. He was relaxed and in good spirits. Had the time of his life and “loves” his job. Waved with both hands and flashed a winning smile. Marched without sign or banner. Everybody knows him. A+

Doug Racine — Like Bernie, Dougie had to work through the stiffness. He’s scored poorly in past march reviews because of it. This year we witnessed signs of remarkable improvement. Racine projects that clean-cut, boy-next-door image. He wore a long-sleeved dress shirt and tie. This year, taking past criticism to heart, he actually rolled up his sleeves two turns. His smile was more ebullient this year and he’s really improved his left hand-waving skills. Even looked like he was actually enjoying himself. Wonders never cease. B+

Bill Sorrell — Vermont’s top law enforcement official maintained his FBI-director look. White shirt, red tie, blue blazer. Combine that with the emerging strands of gray and you have a rather distinguished looking attorney general with possibilities of higher office — who knows? General Sorrell had his two kids on duty, carrying a Sorrell banner, and his wife, Mary Alice McKenzie, marched with him. Familyvalues to the hilt. And he told us he’s been working out with wrist weights to improve his wave and avoid carpal-tunnel syndrome. A-

Deb Markowitz — Talk about family values. Vermont’s little secretary of state pulled a little red wagon accompanied by her husband and two little sprouts. Excellent smile. Good imagery — pulling the wagon. Shows stamina, even if she is giving up one hand as far as waving purposes go. Gets bonus points for originality. A+

Ed Flanagan — Something about a parade brings out a side of our state auditor we don’t usually see. With loosened tie and rolled-up sleeves, the former all-Ivy defensive end at Penn turns into an outgoing scat back during marching season. His wave remains a little weak, but nobody works the crowd for handshakes like Mr. Flanagan. It’s as if his political survival (he’s running for the U.S. Senate this year) depends on shaking the hand of every present and future Vermont voter lining the route. Frequently, he fell behind his entourage and had to sprint like a rabbit to catch up. The guy is fast. Very fast. That’s why we call him Fast Eddie. A

Jan Backus — Attired in her traditional colors of red and black, Jan of Arc is, as always, understated yet distinguished looking. With her hubbie, former State Sen. Steve Blodgett, at her side, Backus projects a casual but strong look. She’s calm and confident. Has all the basics as far as wave skills go. Wonderful smile. However, we are getting a little tired of the outfit. Time for a change? B-

Elizabeth Ready — Now that the senior senator from Addison County is in her first statewide race, she’s turned into a marching maniac. Chainsaw Liz’s outgoing personality and award-winning smile are perfect for the task. Like they say, if you’ve got it, flaunt it, and she does. However, this year she apparently flaunted it a little too much. Earlier Monday morning during the Middlebury parade, Sen. Ready “stepped in a hole,” as she said, and went down in a heap. Fortunately, parades attract a high concentration of EMTs, so she didn’t have to go far for medical attention. By the time she got to Vergennes her ankle had been taped and campaign stickers applied. However, despite her best intentions, Chainsaw opted for a ride on the back of some souped-up little red rig. Showed a lot of leg, as they say. A lot of ankle, anyway. A+

Anthony Pollina — The Progressive Party candidate for governor had his kids lugging a pretty snazzy Pollina for Governor banner. Also, he had one of the larger contingents in the march. But Pollyanna’s new to this marching stuff and it showed. For one thing, he only waved with his right hand — a common rookie mistake. You’d expect a Progressive to be good with the left, too, but, no. Also the clothes sucked. A long-sleeved, powder blue shirt over a T-shirt. That might work for an incumbent, but it looked a bit scruffy for a challenger. C-

No-shows for the biggest Memorial Day Parade in Vermont this year were Howard Dean, Ruth Dwyer, Bill Meub and Jim Jeffords.

Dwyer’s campaign manager, Kathie Summers, told Seven Days the candidate “has a problem with politicians running for office marching in Memorial Day parades. She thinks it’s a day for the veterans. It’s one thing if you’re an incumbent,” said Summers.

We respect Mrs. Dwyer’s opinion. But we consider politics a noble profession in a democracy. Politicians are vital to the process. And parade season gives voters the opportunity to personally meet and engage those who would lead them. Next up on the marching agenda — this weekend’s Dairy Festival in Enosburg.

P.S. Along the route, we didn’t hear one word mentioned about the hot topic in media circles — the new civil-unions law — until one parade watcher complained to us that the Ch. 3 reporter on the scene had asked him about it. Indeed, Reporter Caroline Allen was making inquiries along the route, taking the public pulse on the issue. Of the nine interviews aired that evening, seven people either strongly supported civil unions or were neutral. Just two people had concerns. “Believe it or not,” said Marty Resnik of Shelburne, “there are more important issues.”

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About The Author

Peter Freyne

Peter Freyne

Bio:
Peter Freyne, 1949-2009, wrote the weekly political column "Inside Track," which originated in the Vanguard Press in the mid 1980s; he brought it to Seven Days in 1995. He retired it shortly before his death in January, 2009. We all miss him.

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