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Going for the Kill 

Inside Track

It isn't over until the fat lady sings, but reliable sources say the fat lady has entered the building. And by October 1, she just might be singing the praises of our favorite presidential hopeful, Howard Dean.

You see, by October 1 everyone will have the latest third-quarter financials from the Democratic presidential contenders. If Dr. Dean keeps steaming ahead like he has been, he'll blow the opposition out of the water. Game, set and match!

Next, a significant chunk of Democratic Party insiders reading the writing on the wall will hop aboard the Howard Dean train. They'll do so because Dean's grip on the nomination will be irrefutable. And they'll do so because dragging things out by keeping John Kerry and Dick Gephardt afloat will only provoke a needless and bloody civil war within the Democratic Party.

We anticipate Ho-Ho's campaign will be reporting something in the range of $15 to $20 million in contributions since July 1. An extraordinary, unprecedented haul. It will be double, if not triple, what Kerry and Gephardt can muster. Money talks, and Dean has tapped an entirely new vein in American politics — a mother lode of Visa cards belonging to ordinary Americans who've never contributed to a presidential candidate before.

Add to that the "Sleepless Summer" dry run the Dean Campaign pulled off last week. From Seattle to San Antonio to 42nd Street in New York City, tens of thousands of attentive, passionate Americans turned out to cheer on the Vermonter.

Kerry's Grand Finale? — Compared to the crowd's electricity level at a Dean event, Big John Kerry's "official" campaign kickoff Tuesday in front of an aircraft carrier in Charleston, South Carolina, resembled a wake. It had everything but a coffin to carry. His billionaire wife even wore sunglasses, as if she were in mourning. The crowd of Kerry supporters sat on chairs and politely applauded at the appropriate punch lines.

Kerry's rhetoric matched the tepid occasion. Big John was the epitome of Bush-lite, even copying Dubya's recent use of an aircraft carrier as stage prop. As he did Sunday on "Meet the Press," the Senator nuanced his way around the glaring chink in his armor — the fact that he voted for the blank-check Iraq Resolution which President George W. Bush used to drag us into the worst skunk hole we've been down since Vietnam.

Of course, Big John draped himself in his Vietnam past of the 1960s. No question, Kerry beats Dubya and Dean (and everyone else) 3-0 in the Purple Heart Sweepstakes.

But what good is getting shot by the Viet Cong if you don't learn anything from it other than to wear your ribbons on your sleeve?

Last October should have been Vietnam flashback time for John Kerry. A flashback to the ignoble and dishonest 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that handed President Lyndon Johnson a blank check to send 58,000 young Americans to an early grave. For what?

Like Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction that were supposedly ready to fire in 45 minutes, the North Vietnamese gunboats that "attacked" the USS Maddox did not exist!

Then, as now, the president of the United States lied to the American people. Governments lie regardless of political party. Johnson was a Democrat. Bush is a Republican.

Then, as now, the mainstream American media swallowed the White House lies without question. In 1964 we were taught to fear the communists. Today we're taught to fear Muslim terrorists. In either case, we allowed the White House to do more damage to our nation than all the communists and Muslims combined could ever do.

The only question left is, who will be the president that dedicates the Iraq War Memorial, and how large will it have to be to contain the names of our dead?

The nail in John Kerry's presidential coffin was struck by last week's Zogby New Hampshire Poll. It showed Howard Dean bursting into a huge, double-digit lead in the Granite State: 38 percent for Dean, 17 percent and dropping for Kerry.

The end is near, folks. The fat lady is warming up.

P.S. Incidentally, while the presidential preference question in the Zogby Poll got all the ink, another question asked of New Hampshire Democrats drew an even more definitive response.

Noting that, "It is a crime under federal law for seriously ill patients to use marijuana for medical purposes," Zogby asked for an opinion on changing the law "so that people with cancer, AIDS and other serious illnesses can use medical marijuana with the approval of a physician."

The results showed 84 percent of those polled supported legalizing pot for medicinal purposes.


One of these days, Ho-Ho might wake up to the fact that taking back the country includes eradicating reefer madness.

More DeanWatch 2004 — While yours truly was walking around downtown Burlap during Monday's magnificent Bicycle Criterium, the fourth and final stage of the Green Mountain Stage Race, we passed two groups of race watchers discussing something that had nothing to do with bikes.

One involved a local Progressive activist who was explaining to a Canadian visitor that Howard Dean was in no way, shape or form a liberal! The Proggy expressed grudging admiration for Ho-Ho's success in the current primary run-up and declared he'd probably vote for him in the general election. The real story, he suggested, is how so many people in Vermont are shocked by the latest version of Howard Dean as the fiery antiwar orator who's taking on Bush and the right wing.

Indeed, some in the right wing are waking up, too. The other day, National Review columnist Larry Kudlow called on the Bushies to quickly launch an all-out counterattack on the upstart Vermonter before it's too late.

Declaring Dean the almost-assured winner of the Democratic presidential nomination, Kudlow warned, "Howard Dean's left-wing uprising should be squelch-ed before it gains any currency in the public mind. Standing above the fray is no way to do it. Neither are caustic putdowns. The Bushies must dig in now. They've got to pull out some serious policy analysis and some long knives — before this Dean thing gets out of hand."

Before things get out of hand, eh?

The early indications, from both national and local Republican party operatives, is that the Bushies will do their damnedest to label Howard Dean a tax-and-spend ultraliberal left-wing extremist.

Last week, Bush campaign chairman Marc Racicot sent out a fundraising email accusing Dean of comparing Dubya to the Taliban, of calling Mr. Bush "reckless" and "despicable" and of stating Bush might suspend the 2004 election.

Dean spokesman Trish Enright said her boss had never compared Dubya to the Taliban and that all the charges were based on taking Dean's remarks out of context.

Locally, Vermont's Republican National Committeeman Skip Vallee told Seven Days this week that, "Howard Dean is clearly from the left end of the spectrum. He was quite a liberal governor," insisted Mr. Vallee.

Asked for examples that prove Gov. Dean was a left-winger, Gasoline Vallee was able to come up with just two.

One was Dean's signing of the civil-unions bill in 2000 that extended the rights and benefits of marriage to same-sex couples. Apparently supporting equal rights for all citizens, including gay Democrats and gay Republicans, defines one as a left-winger. That means Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter will be voting for Ho-Ho, right, Skip?

Veteran VPR newsman Bob Kinzel gave a prescient prediction on last weekend's "Vermont This Week" on Vermont Public Television. Mr. Kinzel forecast a pro-Bush campaign commercial next year that will show two men kissing, with a tag line that reads something like, "Is this what you want for America?"

The Skipster's second example of Ho-Ho's left-wingedness was what he called Dean's attempt to "drive every private insurance carrier out of Vermont."

Actually, Dr. Dean was proud to kick sleazy health-insurance companies out of Vermont. They were the cherry pickers who only insure the young and healthy. The ones that cancel your policy should you ever have the misfortune of actually using it. Good riddance to them!

Contrary to the Republican spin, the myth of Dean's liberal leanings was thoroughly debunk-ed in an August 29 article in Counterpunch (, a genuine left-wing publication.

"Howard Dean: the Progressive Anti-war Candidate?" was written by three left-wing Burlingtonians: Donna Bister, Marc Estrin and Ron Jacobs. They're the "editorial collective" of the Old North End Rag.

The trio debunked Ho-Ho's liberal reputation from every possible angle, even including an old quote from this column in which we highlighted Ho-Ho's liberal views on funding the public-defender program: "Remember, Dean's the guy who once said 95 percent of people charged with crimes are guilty anyway, so why should the state spend money on providing them with lawyers?"

Yep. That's the old Howard Dean we all knew so well. The new Howard Dean has evidently progressed a bit, eh?

The fact is that, contrary to the spin from Marc Racicot and Gasoline Vallee (who just opened his newest Maplefields Mobil mini-mart in Colchester), Howard Dean was not in any way, shape or form a liberal governor. But just like Saddam's weapons of mass destruction surrounding Baghdad and North Vietnam's attacking gunboats in the Tonkin Gulf, lies have legs.

Governor's Race — As everybody, including Gov. Jim Douglas, knows, his reelection in 2004 is not a given. That's because of recent overtures between members of the Vermont Democrat Party and members of the Vermont Progressive Party. Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle has led the way, as he happily bears the endorsements of both political parties. He's also pointed towards a showdown with Jimmy D.

"I don't think," said Skip Vallee, "that in the end the Democrats will cede control of their party to Clavelle and the Progressives."

Mr. Vallee also dismisses the suggestion that having Howard Dean on the presidential ticket will bring every breathing Democratic voter out of the woodwork.

"I think Vermonters are wonderful ticket-splitters," said Gasoline. "If Howard's on the ticket it will be relatively unimportant in terms of how voters look at the governor's race."

Informed of Vallee's remarks, Mayor Moonie told Seven Days that he found it "very interesting" that Skip was "emerging as a strategist for the Democratic Party."

"Many Democrats and Progressives," said Clavelle, "are searching for common ground. I understand it makes the Republicans very nervous. Obviously, Skip will do his very best to needle the Democrats."

P.S. Unfortunately, yours truly missed last week's Republican Party fundraiser at Vermont National Golf Club in South Burlington. Former Bush mouthpiece Ari Fleischer was the headliner. Gasoline Vallee of the RNC reports all went smoothly. He says the GOP scooped up $100,000 in cash at $1500 a pop, and he expects to "chase down" another $25,000 before reporting the final tally.

And, Skip told us, two-time gubernatorial loser-turned-TV- reporter Ruth Dwyer attended, not as a reporter but as a contributor and respected Vermont Republican Party leader.

Incidentally, though Ruth hasn't done one of her "Hard Look" specials on WVNY-TV in almost four months, her mug is still on the station's Web site. Ruthless Ruth's reporting style mirrored that of Fox News: unfair and unbalanced.

No one will ever be able to take away the Dwyer's claim to political fame — Ruth got beat by Howard Dean, not once but twice. Not even George W. Bush will ever be able to say that!

More Skip!!! — I'm telling you, the dude with the mini-mart chain is one heck of a talker. Don't think for a second that Vermont's leading Republican fundraiser/operative isn't having a ball. Take the issue of judges.

Speculation abounds on who the White House will nominate to fill the seat of dear departed Judge Fred Parker. Fred had occupied the traditional Vermont seat on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. Fred was a Republican, a Jim Jeffords Republican, which meant he had an independent streak.

Normally, the president would turn to the state's senior congress-person of his party for guidance in filling the vacancy. But as everyone knows, the Vermont congressional delegation does not include a member of Dubya's party. Our trifecta is composed of Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy and Inde-pendents Jim Jeffords and Bernie Sanders.

According to Mr. Vallee, due to the lack of a Republican congressperson from Vermont, President Bush will seek counsel from Republican Gov. Jim Douglas and the three RNC members from Vermont — Vallee, Sara Boyd Gear and state party chair Jim Barnett.

That appears to leave St. Patrick, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee and an accomplished judge of judges, completely out in the cold.

Leahy spokesman Luke Albee tells Seven Days the senator is "reaching out" to the Douglas administration. Cool Hand Luke says he's hoping there will be a "tripartisan process to ensure that a qualified Vermonter is chosen" by the Bush White House.

Fat chance of that, eh?

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About The Author

Peter Freyne

Peter Freyne

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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