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The GOP's 2008 Strategy? 

Inside Track

Maybe it's a sign of just how seriously worried Republicans are about November 2008?

Let's face it, thanks to the accomplishments of President George "WMD" Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, GOP candidates down the ticket, at the state and local level, will surely feel some extra pain.

Maybe that explains some of the recent out-of-character defensive behavior of Vermont's popular Republican governor? And it might also explain why Gov. Douglas has started the 2008 race early with a "campaign" swing around the state to tout his "affordability agenda."

Certainly the gloomy GOP outlook has to be considered a factor behind the personal, below-the-belt attack delivered last week by the state's leading GOP online scribe. His target? The Democrat most likely to be Jim Douglas' big worry in 2008. That would be Democratic State Sen. Peter Shumlin, the president pro tem.

In the latest edition of the Dwinell Political Report, publisher/editor James Dwinell, a former executive director of the Vermont Republican Party and candidate for state auditor, delivers the following:


Shumlin was deemed "a pathological liar" by AP reporter Ross Sneyd. This was confirmed by former WCAX reporter Anson Tebetts (sic). Sneyd went on to say that in previous lives, the media passed on Shumlin's lying, but "not this time."

It has also been reported to DPR that Shumlin's wandering eye keeps wandering. He left politics in 2002 in part to do some marriage maintenance. Many folks have been watching Shumlin's return to see if old dogs can learn new tricks. The jury vote today is a definite no. The young lovelies of Montpelier have been reporting multiple unwanted hits by none other than the Snate pro tem.

Amazing stuff, eh? Reads like a TV sitcom, as it should. After all, the current edition of

Of course you do, John. And what could stimulate you more than some dirt on Peter Shumlin's sex life?

However, despite McClaughry's endorsement of the Dwinell Report, the sources Dwinell cites in his smear of Shumlin tell "Inside Track" that GOP James is making it all up!

Veteran Vermont radio/TV reporter Anson Tebbetts, who recently departed WCAX-TV for a deputy secretary's desk over at the Agency of Agriculture, told "Inside Track" this week that what Dwinell published is simply not true.

"I did not confirm anything," said Sec. Tebbetts via email. "I can't remember the last time I talked with Mr. Dwinell. Doesn't really sound like Ross, either."

Dittos from Associated Press Senior Reporter Ross Sneyd. Shortly after bringing the matter to Sneyd's attention, the veteran statehouse journalist forwarded us an email he'd sent Dwinell:

Subject: Correcting the record

Mr. Dwinell:

You inaccurately attribute two partial quotes to me in your newsletter. I did not say either of the things you allege. I look forward to a correction.

Ross Sneyd

Yours truly also contacted Dwinell, one of our favorite Republicans over the years. James - not Jim - was the GOP candidate for state auditor in 1998, getting creamed by Democrat Ed Flanagan. He started showing up at Gov. Howard Dean's pressers in 2000 when he began his online political reporting, filling a vacuum on the Vermont right. And when Ho-Ho finally went a little nutso over Jimmy GOP's partisan interrogatories, who do you think was the only journalist at the table to publicly stick up for Dwinell's right to be there?

Yes, indeed, yours truly. Free press. God bless America.

Dwinell also sent this "apology" to Sneyd:

To: Sneyd, Ross

Subject: Re: Correcting the record

that was so stupid of me, to quote you without checking with you first. i am very sorry and i apologize.

there is no excuse. i had your "quote" from different people in my notes who said that they were in the room and that is what you said. and i had this fleeting thought that the "quote" seemed very unlike you. yet instead of then asking you directly, i just plowed on. really stupid of me. i am filled with regret.

more so, as i respect your well deserved status as dean of the press corps practiced with skill, intelligence and civility.

i will of course print and acknowledge your correction.

i am so sorry.

Sure he is.

At his weekly presser last Thursday, Gov. Scissorhands was asked if he had any comment on Dwinell's latest Shumlin smear. Though he said he reads it "sometimes," Gov. Douglas told the press corps he had not read the latest Dwinell Political Report. Asked if he thought going into someone's sex life wasn't crossing the line, Gov. Jimbo replied, "Well, I certainly wouldn't do it."

Well, we hope not, Governor. If you did, a brain scan would be necessary.

Turns out a few more days went by before anything changed on Dwinell's website. Then, on Monday, we noticed the first of his two slanderous paragraphs had been removed. The second remained.

No apology was printed, no acknowledgment that both Sneyd and Tebbetts had been outrageously quoted as saying things they had not said.

Also this week, we contacted Gov. Douglas' office to see if, perhaps by now, he had read the item and had a comment.

Spokesman Jason Gibbs sent us this staement:

"The Governor hopes that every columnist and journalist would make every effort to abide by the highest journalistic and ethical standards. When a mistake is made, for any reason, the record should be corrected immediately."

Cute, eh?

And what about Shumlin? As this story was breaking late last week, yours truly was unable to reach Putney Pete. "Inside Track" learned the Vermont Senate leader was spending the legislative week off on the Caribbean isle of Dominica with a rather attractive woman named Deb. We've learned from reliable sources that "Deb" is the woman Peter Shumlin's been married to for the past 18 years.

Reached this week at the Statehouse, Sen. Shumlin was at first reluctant to discuss Dwinell's Republican smear.

"I'm not going to dignify his trash with a response," he told us.

But we suggested the story was going to come out, regardless, and besides, it was no secret inside the Statehouse and political circles that Shumlin had had marital problems several years ago, and that he and Deb had separated. The GOP was certainly going to make certain the story got out there in 2008, assuming, of course, that he's the Democratic Party's candidate for governor.

Shumlin thought about it for a second and decided to open up.

"Yes, we were separated for a year," he told "Inside Track." "But we looked one another in the eye and realized there was a lot of love there," said Shummy. "And we said, 'Let's try to work this out.'"

The Shumlins confronted their personal problems and sought counseling.

"The real story is, we did the hard work and repaired our marriage," said the man who could be Vermont's next governor. "And we're happier than we've ever been."


Lady in Waiting? - Were anything to happen to Peter Shumlin's political star, House Speaker Gaye Symington, a first-generation Democrat with a notable Republican bloodline, is next in line among Vermont Democrats to move up the leadership ladder and seek statewide office.

It was interesting to catch Symington's comments in the Valley News about how she voted on the hottest Town Meeting Day items - impeachment and the endless war in Iraq. Gaye's ancestral blood shone through. The Democratic Speaker voted like a Republican, voting "no" on an impeachment resolution that passed easily in her hometown of Jericho.

"I want us out of Iraq in an orderly way," she told Valley News reporter John Gregg. "That's where I think the focus needs to be . . . I think that starting us in on impeachment proceedings distracts the work of the [U.S.] House and Senate from getting us out of Iraq" and working on other priorities, such as raising the minimum wage.

Madame Speaker also told Gregg she voted against a Town Meeting resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of Vermont troops, saying it was not as well-worded as was an antiwar resolution she supported in Montpelier.

"I don't know foreign policy well, but I've heard enough to believe that perhaps it makes sense for us to have a presence in Kurdistan, where we are welcomed, appreciated and, I think it's a part of the world where we might have a monitoring presence in terms of a threat of terrorism - not an aggressive presence," she said.

Whatever you say, Madame Speaker. How about a presidential horse?

Ol' Gaye told the Valley News she's "really comfortable" with Barack Obama.

"Really comfortable?" What the hell does that mean?

"I find him exciting. I'm halfway through his book, if I ever have time to read anything, and I think there is a lot to be attracted to," she said. "And I'm also excited by Hillary Clinton, and I'm also excited by John Edwards. I don't know much about Gov. [Bill] Richardson" of New Mexico.

Trust us, Madame Speaker, he's "exciting."


Happy St. Paddy's Day - Regular readers are aware of yours truly's Irish roots. On April 11, 1921, Uncle Peter was an 18-year-old noncommissioned officer in E Company, 2nd Battalion, Dublin Brigade when he unfortunately got his head blown off during an Irish Republican Army attack on the Officer's HQ of the British Black & Tans.

Dear old dad, his 20-year-old big brother, who led that raid, was captured six weeks later during the burning of the Dublin Customs House. He got a death sentence and a tiny cell to share with a dying comrade at Kilmainham Gaol. Peace negotiations put his execution on hold, and the December Treaty establishing the Irish Free State freed him.

Seven years later he emigrated to New York City, and about 20 years later yours truly arrived.

Certainly, we always knew we were Irish. Irish Catholics, too. Our explanation for never covering the education beat is 16 years during the 1950s and 1960s in classrooms with nuns, brothers and priests. Enough is enough, eh?

And the brothers, the Irish Christian Brothers, would do jail time today for the corporal punishment they dished out daily back then. It was a different world in more ways than one. Back in the 1960s, "Bend over!" meant bend over to get smacked on the butt with a 2-by-4. "Getting shots," we called it.

Some of the brothers preferred leather belts that could be applied to the palm of the student's hand. It was considered "good discipline." Certainly motivated some of us to learn our Latin vocabulary.

Yes, indeed, the good old days.

A lot has changed, including in Ireland.

The Ireland we first saw in

the pre-jet age of 1957, when

propeller airliners had to stop to refuel at Gander in Newfound- land, was little changed from the turn of the century. People remained the Emerald Isle's number-one export. A nation of poor farmers stayed behind, including our Uncle Tom, the youngest of the eight Freyne kids of Kilcullen, Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny, and the only one who neither died young nor emigrated to Great Britain or America.

Electricity, central heating and telephone service remained foreign to most Irish citizens, including Uncle Tom. The 20th century had yet to arrive. Perhaps that's why yours truly fell in love with it all.

Fast-forward. We've come a long, long way from The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem making the rounds in the 1960s with Aran sweaters and rebel ballads, to U2's Bono today. Since the boom hit in the 1990s, Ireland's emigration has slowed. High-tech manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies have descended on the Emerald Isle. The land once known for exporting priests now makes the pills that handle most of the world's erectile dysfunction problems.

And success has not come without pain. Everyone owns a car in today's Ireland, and the highways haven't caught up with the crush. Road fatalities have soared to almost 400 annually.

Still, tourism is booming in Ireland, and the millions who visit are mostly the descendants of Irish emigrants who come for the "Irish experience." But that's harder to find as more and more low-paying jobs in the tourism sector are being filled by immigrants from Eastern Europe and Africa.

This week Dublin's Irish Independent reports Tourism Minister John O'Donoghue "has revealed his concerns that the friendly atmosphere of Irish hotels may be lost forever because of the huge influx of a diverse immigrant workforce."

He said that Irish hotel and guesthouse owners must take steps to preserve traditional aspects of Irish hospitality.

"Our immigrant workforce provides a great level of service and has brought a new cosmopolitan dynamic to Irish tourism," O'Donoghue said. "But there is that intangible Irish 'thing' - wit, or craic, or the potential to be surprised by humorous insights or exchanges - that legend almost demands should be part of the Irish experience.

"That is hard to manufacture, and right now, we are in a transition period and have to carefully manage the process."

Kind of like Vermont dairy farmers having to hire immigrants from Mexico, 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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