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HO-HO'S RISING STAR 

He's having more fun than a kid in an amusement park. Mention his out-of-state travels and he jokes about the electoral votes his destinations offer. And put him on CNN's "Crossfire" up against Patrick Buchanan and Oliver North and he takes no prisoners.

Gov. Howard Dean jumped into the "Crossfire" breach Monday evening because, as Buchanan said, they couldn't find a Republican to come on the program and defend Bill Weld. Weld, as you know, is the Massachusetts brahmin who earlier Monday withdrew from the recent Mexican standoff with Sen. Jesse Helms over the ambassadorship south of the Rio Grande.

Ho-Ho was marvelous. He can certainly tangle with the best of them and come out on top. Buchanan treated him like a potential running mate in 2000, while Oliver North, the former White House aide and gun runner to the Contras, got demoted from lieutenant colonel of sleaze to private before a national audience. What a dummy!

Ollie, the grandstander, whipped out a copy of the U.S. Constitution (at least he didn't wrap himself in the stars and stripes), to argue that Weld was dissed by Jesse the Dinosaur, according to the rules. "The Senate shall have the sole I power..." read North, but Dean cut him off at the knees. Ho-Ho forcefully pointed out, "It doesn't say the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman shall have the sole power. It says the Senate, and the Senate never got to this and they should have."

Fifteen-love.

But Ollie North boasted that his talk-show callers respect Helms for sticking to his guns.

"That's like saying the schoolhouse bully has the right to do what he's going to do, punch you in the nose, and then should be admired for upholding his convictions," replied Dean with gusto.

Thirty-love.

When North suggested that Bill Clinton should have nominated someone from a state that borders Mexico, Dean hit the bull's-eye. "How about Governor Bush?" suggested Dean, referring to the Republican governor of Texas and son of the former President.

"I'd be in favor of that," quipped Buchanan with a belly laugh. (After all, Buchanan will probably be in the running once again himself.)

Forty-love.

Truth be told, Oliver North was no match for Howard Dean. Ho-Ho demonstrated his savvy political instincts and insight before a national audience. He called Weld's defeat a victory "for the conservatives inside the Republican Party, and it's going to cost them [the presidency]. You're going to continue to nominate right-wing people," said Ho-Ho to the Lt. Col. of Sleaze, "and drive people like Bill Weld out of the Republican Party, and you're never going to hold the presidency as long as you continue to do that. You really don't get it."

He was right. Oliver North does not get it.

Game, set and match.

Still Missing — Chittenden County's controversial assistant judge, Althea Kroger, remains among the missing. You'll recall she took a powder break last March 3 pending the Supreme Court's decision on her conviction by the Judicial Conduct Board. The Supremes eventually whacked her with a one-year suspension from judicial service, but she remains a Chittenden County official with co-responsibility for the county budget, along with fellow assistant judge, Elizabeth Gretkowski. Sources say Althea went back to her hometown of Chicago for a breather; she's been sighted around town of late, but not anywhere near the courthouse. A call to her Burlington home to inquire of her status was not returned.

If Althea doesn't want to go back to work for the citizens who elected her, then it would be appropriate for her to resign. "It would give another person a chance," said Gretkowski, "and help me going into the last year of the term." Judge Gretkowski says the governor would appoint Kroger's replacement. (Former state senator Tom Crowley's been mentioned as a possibility.) It's time to move forward," said Gretkowski. "The county deserves two assistant judges and we are being cheated out of that."

Cop Contract? — It's been almost a year and a half since Burlington cops had a contract with City Hall, but Cpl. Tim Green, president of the Burlington Police Officers Association, told Inside Track this week, "things are going pretty good at this stage." Green declined to discuss any issues that may be prolonging the contract settlement between the Clavelle administration and the men and women in blue. Must be a secret?

Media Notes — WPTZ reporter Jenui DiPrizio recently wrapped up her Vermont news career to head back to Michigan, only this time to a much bigger market. Jeni's gone to WJRT, the ABC-owned station in Flint. News Director Stewart Ledbetter says he's got 100 applicants who want to replace her.

One of them in the running has to be hometown girl Carolyn Roy, who parted company with WVNY a couple weeks ago. Roy got her start at WCAX. Carolyn told Inside Track this week, "I will pop up again in this market." Replacing her on the newsbeat at the local ABC affiliate is Rachel Smith. Originally from Albany, Rachel's a May graduate of Syracuse University's Newhouse School of Public Communications.

And the Big Kahuna of News, a.k.a. Marselis Parsons, is back on duty at WCAX-TV. Marselis missed six weeks due to a detached retina. Serious stuff. Two surgeries and six laser treatments later, he tells Inside Track he hopes to be back anchoring Vermont's nightly newscast of record sometime this week.

Yahoo, Sununu! — The former New Hampshire governor and White House chief of staff, John Sununu, gave a speech at the Sheraton Tuesday on behalf of Key Bank. All the suits were there. However, Sununu declined to disclose the fee he's collecting from Key Bank for his talk series.

"It's always less than I deserve," he said with a smile.

The sometime "Crossfire" co-host touted Mr. Potatoe ... sorry, Potato Head himself — Dan Quayle — as his choice for the GOP presidential nomination. "I think he's the smartest of the bunch," said Sununu. Say no more.

But he did. And he had some surprisingly kind words for Vermont's socialist congressman. Bernie Sanders, said Sununu, "likes being the one in 435 that he is by not being a member of the Republican Party or the Democratic Party. I think he's defined a very special role for himself," he said, "and he does it well. We don't agree philosophically, but that doesn't mean I don't admire how successful he's been politically. He certainly has marched to his own drummer, and anybody who can do that successfully deserves everybody's respect."

OK. Then how come Ol' Bernardo hasn't been invited to come on "Crossfire"?

"He's welcome to come on any time he wants," replied Sununu.

Oh, really? We shall see.

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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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