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Inside Track

Look, having lived through the historic, save-the-nation impeachment of Richard Nixon in the early 1970s and the salacious and ludicrous impeachment of Bill Clinton in the late 1990s, yours truly has no problem with lawmakers publicly discussing the absolute appropriateness of impeachment in the case of the current crew steering America's course: President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney.

But why are Vermont Democrats, especially state party leaders in Montpeculiar, having such an awkward time dealing with it? This is Vermont, fer chrissakes. They should be hitting this one over the fence!

Democratic House Speaker Gaye Symington of Jericho may be showing her Republican, Tuxedo Park, New York boarding-school roots with her absolute rejection of the notion the Democrat-heavy Vermont House has a moment to spare on J.R.H.15, a resolution calling for the impeachment of the most crooked president in American history.


The grassroots of your current party have had it, Madame Speaker, with the past six years of corrupt, dishonest, one-party rule in the good ol' USA. And the grassroots in Vermont is overwhelmingly opposed to the Bush war in Iraq. They want out, Madame Speaker, and they want those responsible held responsible.

Is that asking too much? Is life really too short?

As Vermont's senior U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy put it to a national audience and Bob Schieffer Sunday morning on CBS News' "Face the Nation": "Our founders devised this system of checks and balances. This administration has been used to going unchecked. The balance kicked in last November, and they're going to have to deal with that reality."

Reality also is that Symington of Tuxedo Park, like Howard Dean of Park Avenue, became a Democrat later in life. She may want to duck impeachment talk in her House chamber, but Senate President pro tempore Peter Shumlin, the Democrat who would run for governor in 2008, cannot ignore it.

In fact, the Vermont Democratic Party's state chairman, Ian Carleton of Burlington, noted that on Saturday at the Randolph state committee meeting, Sen. Shumlin had "come out on his 51st birthday to talk to the state committee about the impeachment issue."

Shummy the Birthday Boy says he's for it, "but says he's been advised the resolution must start in the House," said Carleton. Inciden- tally, that's Sen. Shumlin (see photo), in the Statehouse lobby with Burlington developer Ernie Pomerleau prior to their recent Montpelier lunch date.

According to notes of the state committee meeting provided by Democratic Party officials, Shumlin was questioned on the matter by committee rank-and-file and told the gathering:

The President deserves to have impeachment hearings. He lied about war, lied about why he was going there, lied about 9/11 and Iraq's involvement, lied at every level. He made America the laughing stock of the world. When I think about the sacrifice my dad made in WWII . . .

This president has bred and created more young terrorists who will threaten America...

If one can have impeachment hearings for an indiscretion, then one should be able to have impeachment hearings for a war that killed many Vermonters, Americans, Iraqis, and others.

I sympathize with the Speaker of House: I've never seen a legislature have to manage, lead and implement. We've got so many things to do [long list]. We're a citizen legislature and want to be out in May, it's tough to do it all. I personally would like us to do it, but I am out of the loop with others on that.

Yes, you are, Pedro.

"Vermont Legislature Calls for Bush Impeachment" would make a nice headline around the country, now, wouldn't it?

Speaker Symington says she doesn't have time to discuss impeachment, and many Democratic leaders in Washington say the same. Thank God. That way we'll all have plenty of time to listen to all the presidential candidates. More Hillary! More Barack! More Whatshisname?

State Party Chairman Carleton told "Inside Track" this week he does support the impeachment resolution, "so I do hope they take it up and pass it," he said, in reference to action being taken by the heavily Democrat-controlled legislature.

Asked why he, the party chairman, couldn't guarantee it, the Burlington lawyer replied, "They've got a full plate this year and I don't know if they'll be able to get to it."

Whatever you say, Mr. Chairman, but that kind of talk, according to notes from the Randolph meeting, did not sit well with all Democrats in attendance. Said one:

We keep hearing that the legislature has "no time." But every year we see photos of legislators playing cards, reading books, waiting for the big bills to come out. There's no reason that time cannot be used to debate this resolution.

What is the harm? I see no harm in asking our legislators. It may not go anywhere, but how can we look ourselves in the mirror and see ourselves as people who did not do every single thing possible to stop this administration. I don't want to be a "Good German."

Good German?

If the shoe fits, eh?

P.S. Sen. Shumlin called us back Tuesday afternoon and reiterated the impeachment sentiments he delivered at Saturday's Vermont Democratic Party state committee conclave. He's fully behind the impeachment of President Bush, but "sympathetic to the Speaker's view that we have our hands full."

Shumlin said he is having legislative counsel research whether the impeachment resolution must first pass the House. But even if it could pass Shummy's Senate first, the Windham County "Nose that Knows" said he wouldn't take it up because he wants to be nice to Speaker Gaye and "not taunt the House."

No wonder Jim Douglas is in charge, eh?


President Wright? - Monday night was Democrat Ian Carleton's last meeting as president of the Burlington City Counsil. Busy guy. The 36-year-old attorney and father of two is also chairman of the state Democratic Party - see above. Future something-or-other. He told "Inside Track" that right now he needs to practice law and make some money for the growing family.

"Inside Track" has learned that if the election for Carleton's successor were held today, the city council of the People's Republic of Burlington, Vermont, would elect a Republican president. That's right, a Republican!

"I haven't been elected yet," said Republican City Councilor and State Rep. Kurt Wright (Ward-4), "but if the vote was held today, I have the votes to get elected."

But the Republicans, the party of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, only hold three of the 14 Burlington City Council seats.

Plus, this is not only hometown to Independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, but also to the national chairman of the Democratic Party himself, Howard Dean! How could city Democrats despise city Progressives so much that they'd let a Republican take over the steering wheel at their own hometown council?

Ah, but the old political divisions simply do not die in Burlington, do they? The animosity between the progressive left wing that follows in the footsteps of former Mayor Bernie Sanders and the old-guard-style Democratic Party of John F. Kennedy and Gordon Paquette lives on.

Here's how the numbers break down. On the 14-member Burlington City Council, there are five Democrats, four Progressives, three Republicans and two Independents. It takes eight votes to win the council presidency.

Wright said if the vote were held today, he'd have "more than enough" votes, with support from Independents, too. In fact, said Ol' Kwik Stop Kurt, unsuccessful GOP candidate for mayor in 1999, he'd be nominated by an Independent, whom he declined at this time to name.

Progressive Councilor Tim Ashe (Ward 3) also indicated he expects to put his name in the race for council prez. The 30-year-old affordable-housing developer at Cathedral Square Corp. represents the next generation. We first met him when he was a young aide on Congressman Bernie Sanders' staff. He tells "Inside Track" he'd bring "proactive leadership" to the city council. "I want it to be interesting again," said Ashe.

Good point. In fact, it's become so uninteresting that there was no Burlington Free Press or Ch. 3 rep in attendance at Monday night's city council meeting.

Maybe Ashe should run for mayor?

At the moment, it doesn't look like he's got a chance at the council presidency.

Republican Wright told us that the day after Democratic Council President Carleton announced he'd be stepping down, Wright received a call from a Democrat he declined to name. Said he was asked a few questions - "general questions about how I'd run things" - and the next day the same Democrat called back and told him the Dems could support him.


With a Republican governor and what looks to be a new Republican city council president in our state's largest city, George W. Bush might consider moving to Vermont when his White House days are done?

Dairy Secret? - How many dairy farms are there in Vermont?

Bet you didn't know it was a secret, eh?

But that's what we learned when we asked Secretary of Agriculture Roger Albee that question the other day. Could we get a list of all the dairy farms in Vermont, please?

Albee said he "would give out the dairy farm list if dairy farms were licensed, like morticians or electrical suppliers." But Vermont dairy farms, said the Ag Secretary, are "inspected, not licensed and under state law," and that list "is not allowed to be given out."

But it's a public document, isn't it?

"No," replied Albee. "It's not a public document. [Dairy farms] are inspected by the state, but they're not licensed by the state."

Now, who would want to keep that list out of the public's hands?

How many dairy farms in Vermont?


Cancer 101 - It's breaking out all over, eh?


John Edward's wife Elizabeth was with him Sunday on "60 Minutes." Her breast cancer is back. He's staying in the race for president. She's not going to let cancer run their life.

Hear, hear!

CBS Interviewer Katie Couric, who lost her husband to cancer a few years back, grilled them about hyping the cancer diagnosis as some kind of campaign tactic. Going for the sympathy vote or something?

The following day, we learn that Bush White House Press Secretary Tony Snow has been diagnosed as having a recurrence of his colon cancer. He'll fight it. Drugs are much better today than 10 or 15 years ago.

Yours truly, in fact, has been on some of them. Our third round of chemo at Fletcher Allen Health Care went down smooth and nice last week. No problemo. They let the hot stuff in slower this time. Took about six hours to get it all - five different chemical compounds that perform specific functions - into the old vein. Modern medicine has made a few strides, eh?

Small world, too. Old friend from the Statehouse popped in unannounced for her first chemo treatment for breast cancer.

Life's little surprises. We're all in it together, aren't we?

Just passing through. Appreciate the cards and emails, folks.



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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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