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The Political Climate 

Fair Game

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I’m not sure which is bigger news: The fact that Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie didn’t believe in global warming, or the fact that he does now.

Last week Dubie revised a published statement to the Vermont League of Conservation Voters to make it clear he believes climate change is caused at least in part by human beings.

Who put Dubie on the hot seat?

According to Todd Bailey, VLCV’s executive director, Dubie’s nonresponse to a written question asking whether he believes in climate change forced one of the group’s eight board members to repeat the query in a one-on-one interview.

The professional pilot responded by calling for better jet fuel that would make airplanes more energy efficient and lessen the impact of greenhouse gas emissions.

Dubie’s campaign manager, Corry Bliss, sat in on the interview. His interpretation? “It was a long analogy, but I understood him to mean that he believed in climate change, and it is human caused,” Bliss told “Fair Game.”

Dubie loves long, sometimes off-topic, analogies. He can talk round and round a point — the verbal equivalent of circling the airport before coming in for a landing.

VLCV’s question, as written, was: “Is climate change real?” Subtle, eh?

Dubie’s response: “On a September evening in 2006, I stood on a rooftop with one of the three commanding generals, overlooking the city of Baghdad. The city was beautiful at night, but it was not peaceful. ‘Brian,’ he said, ‘America has to declare its freedom from an oil that comes from dangerous parts of the world.’”

Dubie said the general’s words inspired him to return home and work toward a greener energy future by engaging students and faculty at the University of Vermont and many of Vermont’s tech-oriented environmental firms. Part of the “Green Valley” initiative Dubie likes to tout.

When the campaign team saw its written answers published online, however, it wasn’t so confident the message had been conveyed.

Bliss explains, “When the survey was published and we were reviewing the answers, we said, ‘Man, that doesn’t do a really good job describing just how Lt. Gov. Dubie feels on the issue.’”

Or, perhaps seeing his reply next to those of the five Democrats running for governor — all of whom unequivocally believe climate change is real — they said, “Uh-oh.”

Within two days, Dubie’s campaign sent a supplemental response to VLCV. That response, and the original, are both posted on the group’s election website.

In his amendment, Dubie bluntly states, “I believe that scientific data clearly show that climate change is real and, as a result of human behavior, the world is getting warmer. Carbon emissions are playing a large role in the warming of our planet.”

You know who else shares this view? Roughly 98 percent of climate scientists, according to a new survey by the blog Climate Progress.

Maybe it’s the company Dubie keeps? Read the conservative blog Vermont Tiger often enough, and you’d think 98 percent of climate scientists believe global warming is a hoax.

The only Democrat to pounce on Dubie’s gaffe — the lite-gov’s first of the campaign — was Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin (D-Windham).

“We need a governor who believes that climate change is real every year, not just in an election year. Governors should be right the first time,” Shumlin said in a statement. “I worked hard to pass what Al Gore called the ‘toughest climate-change bill in the nation,’ only to have the Douglas-Dubie administration veto it.”

Is Shumlin onto something? Perhaps.

The VLCV questionnaire wasn’t the first time Dubie ducked a question on climate change, “Fair Game” has learned.

In the spring of 2008, the lite-gov did an interview with SPIRE, a newsletter published by the University of Vermont College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences.

The interview, posted online, included this question: “Global warming is a hot topic. Can you share your thoughts on it?”

Dubie replied: “In 2006 I was deployed to Iraq as an Air Force Reservist. One night, I stood on a rooftop with one of three commanding generals. He said to me, ‘America has to declare its freedom from oil that comes from dangerous parts of the world.’”

Two more years of environmental degradation, including evidence of rapidly melting polar ice caps and swiftly changing weather patterns right here in Vermont, hasn’t changed Dubie’s tune.

Couldn’t he come up with a better answer? Or at least a different one?

How Green Is Your Valley?

Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie talks about the “Green Valley Initiative” so often that one political observer — editor Mike Townsend over at the Burlington Free Presssuggested Dubie should be dubbed the “Godfather of the Green Valley.”

Catchy slogan, but it’s not accurate.

Peter Murray of Geotech Environmental Equipment in Winooski coined the “Green Valley” term, according to the Vermont Environmental Consortium. Murray helped found VEC and served as its first president.

VEC was created in 2001, two years after Gov. Howard Dean led a trade mission to Taiwan. The trip gave local business owners an idea: If they banded together, they might stand a better chance of bidding on large, overseas environmental projects.

VEC’s website defines the term “Green Valley” as a way to describe an economy based on a “thriving environmental enterprise sector.” In fact, it says the term “has been widely used to summarize this vision by leaders of all three political parties in Vermont.”

But Dubie has been the term’s biggest booster.

A $5000 grant from the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund launched the VEC.

Ironically, Gov. Jim Douglas tried to eliminate VSJF this year in a proposed overhaul of state economic programs to save a different kind of green.

Lucky Seven

More than 18 months after the first Democrat announced his candidacy for governor, all five Dems submitted their petitions to the Secretary of State’s office.

Other gubernatorial hopefuls got their names on the ballot, too, which means there will be a minimum of seven options come election day.

To recap: The August 24 primary will winnow the quintet of Democrats — Sen. Susan Bartlett (D-Lamoille), Google exec and former Sen. Matt Dunne, Secretary of State Deb Markowitz, Sen. Doug Racine (D-Chittenden) and Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin — to a solo performer.

Progressive gubernatorial candidate Martha Abbott has said she will withdraw after the primary to allow the party a chance to support the Democratic nominee. Some party stalwarts want her to remain in the race regardless of which Dem wins.

There are also two minor-party candidates in the governor’s race: Ben Mitchell of the Liberty Union Party and Ben Johnson of the Working Families Party.

Like Abbott, Johnson isn’t expected to stay on the ballot in the general election. The Working Families Party is interested in endorsing other candidates, not running their own people.

This year’s changes to state election law require that parties run a statewide slate in the primary even if they withdraw those names for the general election and endorse other candidates.

Along with Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, there are four other known candidates on the November ballot: Independents Dennis Steele, Em Peyton, Dan Feliciano and Cris Ericson. Ericson is running under the “United States Marijuana” banner. Sounds like a party, right? It’s not. State election rules allow independents to have three words printed after their name on the ballot to clue voters in to their politics.

Better Late

Incumbent Sen. Harold Giard (D-Addison) was apparently so busy at his day job that he forgot to collect petition signatures before the filing deadline. Now he’ll have to run as a write-in candidate in the primary. If he’s successful, he can defend his seat on the November ballot.

Rep. Frank Geier (D-South Burlington) circulated and signed petitions to run as an independent for state senate in Chittenden County, but then scratched out the word “independent” and wrote in “Democrat.”

Secretary of State Deb Markowitz is giving Geier a second chance.

That means Geier will be the seventh Democrat on the primary ballot, forcing a contest between himself, incumbent Sens. Tim Ashe, Ginny Lyons, Hinda Miller and University of Vermont professor Philip Baruth, former Burlington City Councilor Andy Montroll and former State Rep. Sally Fox.

Just what we need: more primaries!

Tom Foolery

First, Auditor Tom Salmon charged me with being a charter member of the “Gang of Four” looking for a candidate to run against him. Now, secessionist Tom Naylor has dubbed me one of Vermont’s “well-known liberals” in the pockets of the world’s Jews. No doubt Naylor buys the popular “liberal Jewish media conspiracy” theory.

In a screed posted to the left-wing blog “Counterpunch” (run by muckrakers Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair), Naylor said “well-known liberals” such as Ben Cohen, Bill McKibben, Anthony Pollina, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and myself are exhibiting a “stony silence” for not condemning Israel’s ruthless attack on the humanitarian flotilla headed to Gaza.

In case you wondered, I do condemn Israel’s actions, and have said as much to anyone who asked. Plus, a Vermont political columnist doesn’t hold much sway when it comes to international issues. Where does Vermont’s congressional delegation stand on the flotilla attack?

Recently, 298 U.S. reps and 85 senators signed two separate letters in support of Israel, recommending Pres. Barack Obama view the attack on the flotilla as “self defense.”

Vermont’s three congressmen were not among them.


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About The Author

Shay Totten

Shay Totten

Bio:
Shay Totten wrote "Fair Game," a weekly political column, from April 2008-December 2011.

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