Of course, everyone in Vermont knows that former Gov. Howard Dean is not a woman. Nor is he an African-American. Nor is he 6'4" in height, blind in one eye or gay. And our favorite presidential hopeful has never, ever been called a bloody liberal before.
But reading the national press coverage of Howard Dean lately is like a journey into a land of make-believe. Black is white and red is gray. Political pundits like George Will, Bob Novak, Tucker Carlson and the toe-sucking Dick Morris are living on the Planet Ignoramus!
The fact is, in the last 20 years there has not been a single Vermont newspaper story that had the words "liberal" and "Howard Dean" in the same sentence.
Vermont history will record the fact that during the 1990s Gov. Howard Dean was the #1 foe of "liberal Democrats." Of course, back in the early 1990s they were called "tax and spend" liberals. Howard Dean changed all that.
As former liberal Democratic State Sen. Dick McCormack tells it, it was Howard Dean who laid down the law to the liberals. And it was a lecture McCormack will never forget.
Then-Lt. Gov. Dean told the liberal Senate Dems, "You will never achieve your lofty goals of social and economic justice because people do not trust Democrats with their money." And until they do, prophesied the future presidential contender, the well-intentioned liberals would be failures!
You see, Ho-Ho's bottom line has always been the bottom line. For his first six years on the Fifth Floor, Dean annually battled the liberals nose-to-nose on the state budget and the income tax. The liberals wanted to spend like drunken sailors and tax the rich at a higher rate to get the cash.
Dean would have none of it. They called him names. Accused him of neglecting the aged, blind and disabled. They even called him a "Republican in sheep's clothing." Meanwhile, Ho-Ho drove the liberals positively mad by squirreling away tens of millions of dollars in rainy-day funds and paying down the state's bonded indebtedness.
Someone please tell the national stars of punditry that Ho-Ho won his first three gubernatorial elections with whopping landslide support because he carried the Democratic and the Republican vote.
And after six years of Dean's reign, the liberals finally got the message. They even started inserting the phrase "fiscal conservative" into their own campaign literature. The transformation was simply miraculous. Up until that point, only Republicans had used the "fiscal conservative" label.
If ever Ho-Ho is up for sainthood in Rome, the Vatican should take a close look at how he turned former Sens. Cheryl Rivers and Elizabeth Ready into devout fiscal conservatives. That, folks, was a miracle!
Howard Dean left the governor's office with Vermont's rainy-day funds flush and government spending under control. He also left Vermont with a AA bond rating, the highest in New England. Today the unheralded crisis in America is that most states are drowning in a bloodbath of red ink brought on by Dubya's voodoo economics. But Vermont continues to have a revenue surplus.
Let's not forget that back before Dubya's fixation with Iraq's Saddam Hussein dragged the country into an endless war, candidate Dean's #1 issue on the campaign trail was the economy. His message was but an echo of the one he delivered in Montpelier, Vermont, 14 years ago: "If you care about your tax dollars, you better elect a Democrat, because Republicans can't be trusted to manage money."
But then came Dubya's determined march to war. Dean opposed it from the get-go. He took the minority position, the conservative position, while his Democratic rivals chickened out. Dean demanded proof from the White House. Instead, we're learning, all we got were lies. For that the big-shot pundits call him a liberal?
The fact is, the invasion of Iraq wasn't about liberal vs. conservative. It had nothing to do with abortion rights, gay marriage or medical marijuana. It was about honest vs. dishonest. About smart vs. dumb.
Unfortunately for our country, dumb and dishonest carried the day. Fortunately for our country, there'll be an election in November 2004.
P.S. Talk about separated at birth! Recently Newsweek columnist Howard Fineman has written several excellent Howard Dean pieces. Early on, Fineman sensed Ho-Ho was to be taken seriously. Turns out they have one thing in common.
Seven Days has learned the two Howards share the same birthday -- November 17, 1948. Dean was born in New York. Fineman was born in Pittsburgh. Small world, eh?
Supreme Court Update -- Last week the Judicial Nominating Board reconvened at the Statehouse to begin its quest to fatten the original list of approved Supreme Court candidates it will ship to the Fifth Floor for the gubernatorial imprimatur. We're told Rep. Peg Flory (R-Pittsford), the chairman of the JNB, laid down the law to board members to clam up!
Princess Peg decreed that there shall be no leaks to the press in this round -- like there were in the first round when, back on June 11, Seven Days and the Rutland Herald published the names on the "qualified" list that went to Gov. Jim Douglas.
"I reminded them of the importance of confidentiality," Princess Peg told yours truly this week.
Seven Days has also learned that the JNB made a couple of key decisions at that meeting. One was the board's unanimous vote to send the names of the original six qualified candidates back to the governor. The other was the decision to exclude from the next list any applicants who were rejected in the first round.
So much for speculation last week that State Sen. John Bloomer (R-Rutland) had the "supreme" inside track. Bloomer didn't make the cut in the first go-round. Now he and about two dozen other rejects, sitting judges among them, head for the judicial showers.
Chairman Flory said it would be fine if Seven Days put out the word that any and all new aspiring Supreme Court candidates can contact her for an application. The number to call at her Rutland law firm is 775-3229.
Media Notes -- Seven Days has learned that The Burlington Free Press has dropped syndicated editorial cartoonist Jeff Danziger. Besides being brilliant, Danziger has deep Vermont roots. He taught for many years at U-32 High School in East Montpelier. And lately this Vietnam Vet has penned several powerful anti-Iraq war editorial cartoons, like the one that portrayed a calendar for the month of July with the days marked by the bodies of dead American soldiers.
Check it out at www.danziger cartoons.com. And don't miss the hysterical one showing a young Howard Dean doing "chores" outside his childhood home on Park Avenue.
Speaking of the Freeps -- We had a good laugh Tuesday morning reading City Hall reporter John Briggs' report on Monday night's City Council meeting. The headline was misleading: "City Council discusses revised transit center plan." Actually, there was no significant discussion about a "revised" plan.
As Mr. Briggs reported, Mayor Peter Clavelle canceled the multi-modal transit center project last week in the face of "growing council and public opposition." But Mr. Briggs, a charming older fellow like yours truly, neglected to mention that the opposition was fueled by an unprecedented five -- now six -- Free Press editorials in the last three weeks! The editorial crusade, we've learned, was the brainchild of the paper's rookie editorial writer who recently moved here from Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
As we reported last week, Susan Reid, formerly with the Toronto Star, apparently carries a big chip on her shoulder over the lack of public access and amenities available on the downtown Toronto waterfront.
Instead of seeking professional counseling, Susie vented on the Burlington waterfront. The multi-modal transit facility had been thoroughly reviewed and backed by the design review board, the Burlington Planning Commission and the city council over the last five years. Then suddenly last month, Ms. Reid's Toronto flashback kicked in.
Not surprisingly, Briggs' article left out the criticism expressed at the council meeting of his paper's shameful non-coverage of the project until just last month. Several officials noted the inaccuracies and distortions in Ms. Reid's editorial series. In Reid's view, the transit center would take over pristine virgin lakefront where birds chirp and young lovers gather to watch spectacular sunsets.
In reality, the site is occupied by an old, rundown auto-parts store currently occupied by a video rental store and a pottery outlet. No mention that it's located at one of the busiest intersections in Vermont. No mention about the six-story office building across the street that already blocks Ms. Reid's sunsets.
And as for all the references in the Freeps to "smelly" buses, CCTA general manager Chris Cole insisted Monday night the buses "are not smelly!"
Buses in Toronto may be smelly, but, according to Mr. Cole, all the new CCTA buses have state-of-the-art pollution control. You could hold a white hankie over the exhaust pipe of a CCTA bus and it would still be white as white could be, he said.
"Transportation planning," said Cole, "is not about what you need today, it's about what you'll need tomorrow." The new multi-modal transit center, he said, would significantly "improve bus travel" for passengers and "improve the efficiency" of the CCTA route system.
But people just love fighting city hall, don't they? The self-righteousness has been knee-deep. Rookie City Councilors Joan Shannon (D-Ward 5) and Carina Driscoll (P-Ward 3) have raised their visibility by buying the Freeps' Toronto-based argument hook, line and sinker.
And former Republican city councilor and current State Rep. Kurt Wright eagerly jumped on the anti-transit-center bandwagon. Kwik Stop added his two cents during the public forum Monday evening, then left.
Unfortunately, Kurt wasn't around later in the evening when Mayor Peter Clavelle recounted the series of votes the city council has taken since 1998 -- unreported by the local daily -- that approved the transit center along each step of the process. In fact, noted Clavelle, when Mr. Wright served on the city council back in 1998, he voted for it, too.
Asked by Seven Days if that was true, Wright replied, "I don't recall."
Early Alzheimer's, Kurt?
The most sobering remarks at Monday's meeting were delivered by City Councilor Jane Knodell (P-Ward 2). Dr. Jane pointed out that the project had gone through all the hoops required by law to win approval. Everything had been out in the open. It wasn't the city's fault, she said, that the local Gannett newspaper ignored it all these years and now was distorting the facts.
The cancellation at the last minute, warned Knodell, will be seen as "a failure of our government system." Caving to the tide of public opposition, she suggested, will be seen as a failure of city councilors "to assume our responsibility and our leadership role."
Knodell told Seven Days, "I felt we really abdicated" on the transit-center project.
No guts, no glory.
It's not too late, folks.
Speaking of Canada -- Stowe native and former UVM men's hockey star Graham Mink is cooling his heels this month at the Southeast State Correctional Facility in Windsor. Mink, a rising star in the pro hockey ranks with the Portland Pirates, is serving 30 days for his role in a late-night Buell Street brawl in 2001 that ended his amateur career.
The Mink case dragged on for what seemed like forever. His attorney, R. Jeffrey Behm, used all the delaying tactics in his repertoire, but, in the end, Mink had to pay the piper.
You may recall that Mink originally rejected a plea agreement that would have reduced the felony to a misdemeanor and given him 45 days at the St. Johnsbury work camp. Most defendants would have taken the deal, but most defendants aren't pro hockey players.
"The way it works here in Canada," said Susan Scarlett of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration in Ottawa, "is that someone who has committed a violent crime is inadmissible in Canada. There's no question about that."
Since Mink is on the verge of moving up from the Portland Pirates of the AHL to the Wash-ington Capitals of the NHL, such a ban would keep him off the ice in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. Not good.
Shawn Simpson, director of hockey operations for the Capitals, told the Portland Press-Herald, "If he's got to explain to an NHL team he can't play in Canada, it's obviously going to hurt his career."
Now we know why Mink fought the aggravated assault charge to the bitter end.