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No Way, José 

Sanders rails against IBM, while the Burlington City Council approves naming North Beach after Bernie.

With each day it becomes clearer that the greatest threat to America post 9/11 is not Osama bin Laden. No, the greatest threat to America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, is President George W. Bush.

Does anyone seriously doubt that if Al Gore were President, Republicans would be crawling over one another to be the first to call for his impeachment for dereliction of duty and cowardice under fire?

We know that immediately after the strikes on September 11, Dubya’s first response was to run and hide. We know that Dubya’s chief political advisor, Karl Rove, planted false stories in the press that Bush was on the run that day because of intelligence reports indicating Air Force One was a target.

Not true. To this day, Dubya has never explained his race to an underground bunker in Nebraska while Mayor Rudi Giuliani raced to Ground Zero.

We know now that President Bush had received an intelligence briefing on August 5 indicating Osama’s al Qaeda was currently targeting the American homeland — it had already bombed our embassies and a Navy warship.

We know that the next day Dubya went home to Texas for a monthlong vacation.

But most disturbing are the events of the past week. Events that indicate Karl Rove is calling the shots, and Wag the Dog is the script he’s following.

Wag the Dog is the brilliant film David Mamet wrote about a President caught in an emerging sex scandal with an underage Firefly Girl. He turns to a political fixer played by Robert De Niro. The fixer’s solution is to divert the media’s attention away from the sex scandal by feeding them a better story to cover: a war. Instead of the dog wagging the tail, the tail wags the dog.

Last Thursday, as FBI agent Coleen Rowley testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about how higher-ups at headquarters ignored vital intelligence from the Minnesota field office, the tail started wagging again.

President Bush suddenly declared support for something that he’d previously firmly opposed. Thursday he announced a proposal to form a Department of Homeland Security. This White House rearranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic stole a big chunk of Agent Rowley’s spotlight.

Wag, wag, wag.

And then on Monday morning, the tail wagged again.

Attorney General John Ashcroft vetoed increasing the anti-terrorism budget on September 10. His focus was on medical marijuana clubs and Oregon’s death-with-dignity law. Now he’ll stop at nothing — not even the Bill of Rights — to fight terrorism.

Ashcroft grabbed the national news spotlight Monday morning, announcing that an al Qaeda operative named Abdullah Al Mujahir had been captured in Chicago. He said the man was planning to hit Washington, D.C. with a radioactivity-spewing “dirty bomb.”

Wag, wag, wag.

There’s nothing like the fear of death to get the attention of the citizenry. And fear, you see, is the only thing that will keep Bush’s favorability rating over 70 percent. This week Mr. Rove decided to upgrade the weekly general terrorist alerts with a Wag the Dog special designed to get everyone’s attention.

It worked.

One of the first Bush cheerleaders to jump on CNN Monday morning said Abdullah’s capture proves how our border security is so lax. That foreigners too easily slip into America. That we need to be more vigilant even if it means sacrificing our civil liberties.

Wag, wag, wag.

Later we learned that Abdullah, the potential killer of millions, was born Jose Padilla in Brooklyn, New York. That he was raised on Chicago’s West Side, where he was known as “Pudgy” Padilla. That he was a teen-age punk who got into trouble and went to jail, where he became a Muslim.

Wag, wag, wag.

But Abdullah, er, Jose is an American citizen. He was born here. And Mr. Padilla is today an American citizen who has had his constitutional rights stripped away by order of George W. Bush.

The fact is, Jose has been in custody since getting off a plane from Pakistan a month ago. And after all that time, Mr. Ashcroft didn’t even have enough evidence to charge Jose with a misdemeanor. Instead, this American citizen is magically redefined into an “enemy soldier” and held incommunicado.

Wag, wag, wag.

Folks, if Dubya can do it to Jose, he can do it to you. The truth is, no amount of presidential tail-wagging can erase the fact that since 9/11 this President has taken no action that would have stopped Mohammed Atta and his 18 colleagues from accomplishing their grisly goal.

Fingerprinting every Muslim in America won’t do it. Suspending the Bill of Rights won’t do it, either. What’s next — make every Arab-American wear a scarlet “A”?

President Bush has clearly chosen to play the Wag the Dog card, and for good reason. Dubya surely realizes the only way to divert attention from his administration’s abject failure to protect the American people from al Qaeda is to keep the American people terrified.

Wag, wag, wag.

Yours truly suggests that the real terror in America today is the Bush adminstration’s attack on America’s foundation — individual freedom and liberty. If Dubya wins and the foundation cracks, we all lose.

Blame Game — Political spinning is intense after last week’s job cuts at IBM. Republicans smell blood and are looking for liberals to blame. It’ll be a continuous theme in the letters to the editor from now until November. And one of the focal points is the controversial Circumferential Highway. Is it the road to prosperity, or is it the road to sprawl?

In his TV spots, gubernatorial hopeful Jim Douglas promises to build the highway.

And Democrat Doug Racine has undergone what the Douglas camp calls a “transportation transformation.” The Quiet Man of Richmond has quietly switched from a Circ opponent to a Circ supporter. Anything to coddle IBM, right Mr. Racine? Especially in an election year.

Congressman Bernie Sanders, however, isn’t so ready to roll over. Sanders told reporters this week the Circ’s almost $200 million price tag has to be considered in light of cutbacks in federal funding for things like Medicare and Medicaid. And, said Bernie, it has to be considered in the “broad perspective of Vermont’s other transportation needs.”

And he accurately noted that IBM has made no commitment whatsoever to protect and grow its work force even if the Circ is built.

Mr. Sanders is also the target of critics who blame the recent IBM job cuts on his strident support for IBM workers who were getting screwed out of their rightful pensions in the infamous switch to a so-called “cash-balance” pension plan.

“When working people ask me to work with them against illegal actions which rob them of the pensions to which they are legally entitled,” said Sanders, “let me tell you, I will always be there.”

No ifs, ands or buts.

Bernie Beach — Talk about pounding sand! Over the petty, partisan complaints of Republicans and Democrats, the Burlington City Council Monday renamed North Beach after former Mayor Bernie Sanders. Why?

Because Bernie Sanders, elected in 1981, turned Burlington around for the better. His was an administration that never forgot the little guy. And to do it he stepped on the toes of many a Democrat and Republican.

Monday night’s debate showed that, unfortunately, the “sore loser” mentality remains. You would have thought North Beach had been named after Ollie North the way Republican Kevin Curley acted. Good grief.

After all, many would suggest the whole town be officially renamed “Bernietown.”

Has a ring to it, eh?

Vermont’s Beatle Link — Congratulations to Paul McCartney upon his marriage to Heather Mills. The pair wed Tuesday at Castle Leslie, a thousand-acre estate in County Monaghan, Ireland. The history of Castle Leslie goes back to the 1600s. And Seven Days has learned there is a Vermont connection. It’s a romantic connection to one of the black sheep of the Leslie family.

According to the Castle Leslie Web site —

“Sir Shane Leslie 3rd Baronet, Irish Speaker, author, poet and ardent nationalist, became a Catholic and stood as Nationalist candidate for Derry in the 1910 election… He then decided to leave the sinful world and retreat into a monastery, none of which went down very well with his Protestant family, who were delighted when he met and married an American beauty, Marjorie Ide of Vermont, and forgot all about the priesthood.”

They wed in 1912. Marjorie’s father was Henry Clay Ide, who was then U.S. ambassador to Spain.

Couldn’t be a relation of Caledonia County State Sen. Rob Ide, could it?

“Oh, my God, all the family secrets!” replied Sen. Ide.

He told Seven Days that Henry Clay Ide and his great-grandfather, Elmore T. Ide, were brothers. A third brother was a Civil War officer, Horace Knights Ide. E.T. and H.K. formed a business partnership in the feed and grain business. Younger brother Henry, a Dart-mouth graduate, enjoyed a combined legal and political career.

Henry, Rob said, even served two terms in the Vermont Senate before being chosen by President Teddy Roosevelt to serve in a number of capacities.

Marjorie Ide, the Vermonter who stole a baronet from the monastery and became a baroness, was Sen. Ide’s grandfather’s first cousin. Baroness Leslie passed away in 1951 at 70 years of age.

“And I think,” the senator told yours truly, “she would be my first cousin, twice removed.”

Marjorie’s granddaughter, Samantha, runs the Castle Leslie today.

And this week Paul McCartney was married in her house. Small world, eh?

As Goes Vermont? — Time marches on. The 2002 Vermont general election campaign is off and running, and it appears the prime issue of Election 2000 will get nary a whisper.

Two years ago, the election was dominated by sex. This time, it looks like jobs and Vermont’s future will take center stage.

Two years ago, the gay-bashing Take Vermont Backwards crowd was all the rage. We were warned again and again by church leaders of many faiths — including Roman Catholic Bishop Ken Angell, shepherd of Vermont’s largest religious flock, Roman Catholics — that civil unions were against God’s law.

And even when the civil-unions bill passed, Gov. Howard Dean was so nervous he decided against holding the standard public bill-signing ceremony. Not even a photo op for history was permitted.

Two years later, Ho-Ho is traveling the nation, happily receiving applause from gay audiences for signing a law that, at the time, he thought was his presidential death warrant. Times do indeed change.

Two years later, the Bingo Bishop is up to his eyeballs in pedophile priests. So much for “safe celibacy.” Angell’s church, its priests and the hierarchy that covered up crimes against children are hardly in a position to preach God’s law to anyone at the moment.

History, we expect, will be generous to Vermont. It will record that at the dawning of the 21st century, Vermont led the United States along freedom’s trail. That a brave little state, in the best tradition of Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, advanced the cause of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all citizens.

Last Friday, north of the border, Quebec became the second province in Canada to pass civil-unions legislation for gay and lesbian couples. (Nova Scotia was the first.)

Canada’s most Catholic province took its own historic step forward in the name of freedom and justice for all Quebecers.

“I am very proud,” said Quebec Attorney General Paul Begin, “because there are not that many societies that have reached this level of understanding and acceptance of the equality of all, whatever is the (sexual) orientation.”

It doesn’t happen overnight.

This Saturday members of the local gay community, and members of the straight community who support freedom, will march proudly through downtown Burlington in the 20th annual Gay Pride March.

Gov. Dean, the current heavyweight champion of gay rights, will for the 10th straight year not be in attendance. This year his excuse is that he’s scheduled to be in El Paso, Texas, speaking to the Lone Star State’s Democratic Convention.

Remember, Texas has 32 electoral votes. Vermont’s got just 3.

Enough said, 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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