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Truth Be Told 

Former Reagan Attorney General Ed Meese led what was billed as a “truth squad” to Vermont Monday to condemn U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy as an “obstructionist,” a “hijacker of the Constitution” and a “religious bigot.”

Meese came to Vermont — his first visit, he told us — to put the wood to St. Patrick for not caving in to President George W. Bush’s increasingly strident effort to get his right-wing judicial nominees through Leahy’s Judiciary Committee.

Meese was joined by Ed Conner, head of a radical right-wing organization with the innocuous name the “Family Research Council,” and a black lawyer, Darlene Kennedy, who’s been on billionaire evangelist Pat Robertson’s payroll for the last four years.

“Sen. Leahy is unfortunately compiling the worst record of any chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the history of our country,” charged Meese. “In the past two years there’s been a marked change in the way the Judiciary Committee has operated, and that, of course, has been under his leadership.”

Sorry, Eddie. St. Patrick’s only been chairman for 11 months. And the reason there are so many vacancies on the federal bench is that the Republicans stonewalled President Clinton on judgeships for the last six years of his administration.

But Monday’s attack on St. Pat by the out-of-staters had a very strange flavor. That’s because Meese and crew were shepherded around by Rev. Craig Bensen, proud organizer of the anti-gay- rights “Take It To the People” group that bitterly fought against civil unions two years ago. In fact, several prominent gay-bashers from the ol’ “God Hates Fags” days were in the audience at the Sheraton Monday.

The gay-bashing connection became more evident when we visited the Family Research Council’s Web site — The top item Monday was a condemnation of the American Society of Pediatrics for supporting adoption by gay parents, something that’s been underway in Vermont for years without any ill effects.

A little research on Ms. Kennedy revealed she’s an outspoken opponent of laws that ban discrimination based on race, creed, gender or sexual orientation.

Folks, this crew was brought to us by the radical Christian Right — our homegrown Taliban.

Conner told reporters that “Increasing concerns have been raised about potential religious bigotry on the part of Sen. Leahy. It seems that people of faith need not apply and if they do they’re not going to get a hearing before this senator. That’s one of the worst forms of bigotry that a senator could engage in.”

Ed Conner must be in la-la land if he thinks coming to Vermont and calling St. Patrick a religious bigot is going to help his cause.

Jesus, Mary and St. Joseph.

The Meese “truth squad” had planned to stage their media circus in front of Leahy’s Burlington office in the a.m. and in front of the Vermont Supreme Court in the p.m. However, it rained all day on their parade and they moved indoors.

Ah, yes, the Lord works in mysterious ways.

DeanWatch 2004 - Speaking of la-la-land, our favorite presidential hopeful was back in Vermont Tuesday after a five-day swing that took him from Washington, D.C. to Wyoming, with stops in between. In fact, Gov. Howard Dean held two private meetings with legendary political warriors and, no doubt, he will benefit from any free advice offered.

Ho-Ho followed up his Thursday night “champion of civil unions” speech to a gay/lesbian audience in D.C. with a Friday press conference on Capitol Hill. Dr. Dean joined Rep. Ben Cardin of Maryland to blast President Bush’s new welfare-to-work proposal. The press conference, which wasn’t on either of Dean’s public schedules, was timed to coincide with Bush’s speech in Ohio.

It worked. Gov. Dean got a nice mention in the national press stories about the Bush speech, stealing a little of the President’s thunder.

Next, Ho-Ho headed west to address the Wyoming Democratic Party convention.

Folks, a candidate who’ll go to Wyoming, the “Equality State,” is one hell of a serious candidate. Imagine a spot 10 times the size of Vermont with 100,000 fewer citizens, and you’ve got Wyoming. Now they can say Howard Dean slept there.

According to reliable sources, Dr. Dean had a little one-on-one in Colorado with a man who knows all about the trials and travails of running for President. Ho-Ho met with former U.S. Sen. Gary Hart, a recognized expert on national defense policy.

(By the way, bet you didn’t know that our pal, columnist James Dwinell, the darling scribe of the Vermont right wing, was a key player on the Hart for President team way back when.)

On Monday, Gov. Dean was campaigning in Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District on behalf of Rep. Jim Maloney. “‘Green’ Governor Stumps for Maloney” was the headline in the Waterbury Republican-American.

The Record-Journal of Meriden also covered the Dean-Maloney show and reporter Mark Peters ended his piece with this interesting little paragraph:

“Before arriving in Connecticut, Dean said he met with former President Bill Clinton in New York City to discuss the governor’s possible bid for president.”

Our sources say Howard and Bill, meeting in our Guv’s hometown, discussed “political strategy.” Wonder if they touched on the proper way to avoid cute interns?


Alexandra’s Return! — The media surprise of the week popped up at Gov. Dean’s weekly press conference at the Statehouse last Thursday. From behind, we didn’t recognize the woman with the sophisticated hair-do, but when she turned around, we were floored.

Alexandra Marks was a WCAX-TV reporter and news anchor in the late-1980s. Twenty years ago, she shared a dingy, oft-flooded basement office on lower College Street with yours truly. We were staff writers for Burlington’s first successful alternative weekly, the late, great Vanguard Press (which folded in 1991).

Since leaving Vermont, Alex did a stint as press secretary to former U.S. Sen. John Kerry of Nebraska. She’s currently one of the star national writers for the distinguished Christian Science Monitor. Ms. Marks was in Montpeculiar checking up on Gov. Dean’s trashing of the President’s much-heralded new education plan. That’s the one Dean says Vermont won’t participate in, even at the cost of millions in lost federal dollars.

Alexandra quickly picked up on our Guv’s run for the White House. Hey, it’s not like she never heard of Howard Dean. In fact, way back when, before turning to journalism, Ms. Marks was a member of Burlington’s Citizens Waterfront Group (CWG). A young Burlington doctor, yet to enter the political arena, was a co-founder of the group. The CWG’s “radical” agenda called for the creation of a bikepath along Burlington’s grungy waterfront.

Miracles never cease.

Public Records? — The Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) does not think the latest traffic studies measuring the potential effectiveness of the proposed Circumferential Highway are public records. Interesting.

Brian Dunkiel, a Burlington attorney representing Friends of the Earth, requested copies of the traffic studies under Vermont’s access to public records statute on May 3.

In a May 10 response, Richard Ranaldo, the project manager, denied Dunkiel’s request, citing “executive privilege.”

On May 13, Mr. Dunkiel appealed the matter to Transportation Secretary Brian Searles. The claim of “executive privilege,” wrote Dunkiel, is “without merit.” He noted that under Vermont law executive privilege is “limited to information prepared by high government officials for the governor.” The latest Circ traffic studies don’t fit that bill, he argued.

Dunkiel’s client, Friends of the Earth, opposes construction of the controversial Circ. “Alternatives to the Circ need to be analyzed,” he told Seven Days.

According to Mr. Dunkiel, VTrans’ last traffic study showed unsatisfactory traffic congestion at key intersections during peak travel times — even if the road is built.

For example, the previous traffic study showed the intersection of Vt. 117 with the Maple Street extension by IBM would be just as congested with the Circ in place. And the intersection of Mountain View Road and Redmond Road would actually get worse.

Stay tuned.

Of course if IBM lays off 1500 workers and puts its giant Essex Junction facility on the sales block, as reported in Tuesday’s Boston Globe, the Circ will go the way of the dinosaurs.

Turf War — Monday evening’s powwow at City Hall in Burlap had an air of three crime families in a turf battle. On hand were representatives from the cities of Winooski, Burlington and South Burlington.

Under the new reapportionment plan, the legislature has bequeathed to the three communities 15 seats in the House — one less than they currently have. And the golden dome crowd is giving the three towns the first chance to divvy up the local real estate. Time’s a-wasting — they have until next Wednesday to cut a deal.

South Burlington currently has three seats plus a fourth shared with Burlington. South Burlington dons, Bill Cimonetti and Peter Taylor, quickly staked their claim to four full seats, leaving the folks from Burlington and Winooski with an offer they quickly refused.

“It appears South Burlington came with a predetermined position — take it or leave it,” charged Rep. George Cross of Winooski. He wasn’t buying it. Neither was Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle.

Mayor Moonie would like to see the pie cut up so that Burlap shares one single-seat House district with a chunk of Winooski and one district with a chunk of South Burlington. Based on the tenor of Monday’s discussion, the Southies ain’t going to buy it.

Nonetheless, Clavelle told Seven Days Tuesday he’s “confident” they’ll work it out.

How about this? Cimonetti gets his four seats if he reopens Club Fantasy? Heck, give him four-and-a-half.

If no deal is reached, said the Moonmeister, “We’ll hold our breath and throw it to the legislature.”

Nobody wants to see that happen, or do they?

Some say the Southies have no problem with Republican Speaker Walter Freed playing Don Corleone on this one.

Tour de Vermont! — What a magnificent weekend it was in the Green Mountains as the creme de la creme of America’s collegiate bike racers descended on Burlington and the Mad River Valley. It was the first time in a decade the national collegiate championships were held east of the Mississippi.

Congratulations to University of Colorado freshman Darby Thomas — winner of the 65-mile men’s Division I road race on Saturday. The race included two draining uphill climbs, ending with a killer ascent up the Appalachian Gap. After three grueling hours in the saddle, Darby sprinted uphill to a six-second victory.

Folks, this was the closest thing to the Tour de France we’ll ever see in our own backyard.

And remember that name — Darby Thomas. He may have worn the colors of the University of Colorado, but Darby was actually riding on familiar back roads. Mr. Thomas, you see, is a Vermont kid who grew up in East Montpelier and graduated U-32. He’s been road racing for three years. Today he’s our national collegiate road race champion.

Bravo, Darby!

Chris Niggel of Williston, a senior on the University of Vermont team told Seven Days, “We knew Thomas would be a competitor because he was racing for the University of Colorado/ Boulder. They have a very competitive team, and are always favored in the national races.”

UVM, by the way, is no slouch. The Catamounts have made their mark nationally in — what else?— mountain biking. UVM’s won the Eastern Conference championships the last three years, said Mr. Niggel.

Meanwhile, Lance Armstrong and his U.S. Postal team are preparing for the grueling three-week Tour de France which starts July 6 in Luxembourg. Arm-strong, who has conquered cancer, Wheaties and Le Mont Ventoux, is on track for a fourth consecutive yellow jersey. Someday, somebody’s going to be the “next” Lance Armstrong — maybe it’ll be a mountain-climbing Vermonter, eh?

Correction — Last week, we gave Rep. Bernie Sanders a little too much credit. Sorry, Bernie.

We noted Mr. Sanders knocked Republicans Susan Sweetser and John Carroll out of the Vermont political arena.

Shortly after Seven Days hit the Statehouse, a quiet guy in a suit slid up to us and politely noted that while Ol’ Bernardo had indeed defeated John Carroll in the 1994 congressional race 49.6 percent–46.5 percent, Carroll did not leave the arena. In 1996, Mr. Carroll ran for lieutenant governor, the quiet man reminded us. He got clobbered by a Democrat named Doug Racine 54 percent– 41 percent.

Thanks for the reminder, Mr. Racine.

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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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