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With God on His Side 

Inside Track

You can almost hear the Bob Dylan harmonica from his haunting '60s tune, "With God on Our Side": News agencies around the globe reported a story last weekend that must have been music to the ears of James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and America's millions of religious fundamentalists. Our commander-in-chief George W. Bush admits to getting his marching orders from the Big Boss himself -- Almighty God!

The source is a three-part BBC Middle East documentary titled "Elusive Peace: Israel and the Arabs," in which we finally learn why our president lied to the American people about the reasons for invading Iraq. Certainly, the families and loved ones of the almost 2000 American soldiers who have died there, and the 14,000 wounded and maimed, would like to know.

Publicly, Mr. Bush said it was because of Saddam Hussein's WMDs and Iraq's ties to 9/11 -- claims every American knows were lies.

But take heart, brothers and sisters, for the Lord works in strange ways. Sure, lying is a sin, but what if a lie is required to pull off the mission that God has sent one on? If the end won't justify the means, then what the hell will?

In the BBC documentary, former Palestinian Foreign Minster Nabil Shaath recounts how, during a June 2003 meeting between Bush and Palestinian leaders, George W. told them, "I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, 'George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.' And I did, and then God would tell me, 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq,' and I did."

Surely, one can just as easily imagine God telling the young George W. as he graduated Yale back in 1968, "George, do not go fight the communists in Vietnam. Dodge that draft! Support the war, but ask Daddy Bush to slide you into the Texas National Guard instead. Trust me. It'll all work out!"

And, sure enough, it did.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan blew off the BBC "God told me" report just as he blew off British reports last May of the infamous "Downing Street Memo."

That July 2002 "eyes only" British government memo, recounting high-level secret talks between British and American officials, informed Prime Minister Tony Blair that Mr. Bush was determined to invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein regardless of the facts.

"Bush wanted to remove Saddam through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were fixed around the policy," stated the secret memo.

Got that? The facts were fixed around the policy?

Yes, indeed, the Lord works in strange ways.

Like the Downing Street Memo, the recent news that our president told Palestinian leaders two years ago he is merely carrying out God's will has so far failed to penetrate the "patriotic" U.S. corporate media's censorship screen. Its function, apparently, is to filter out disturbing foreign news that puts the administration in a bad light.

"Absurd," says the White House. But in Bob Woodward's book, Plan of Attack, George W. explained his decision to launch the Iraq war by saying, "I was praying for strength to do the Lord's will. I'm surely not going to justify war based upon God. Understand that. Nevertheless, in my case, I pray that I will be as good a messenger of His will as possible."

God needs a new messenger, eh?

When we watch our TV news screens and see the violence and mayhem stirred up by religious extremists, we often feel a sense of relief that we don't have similar fanatics running loose in the USA. Think again.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court stopped the Florida presidential recount in 2000, religious extremists have been running the American government. The president says we invaded Afghanistan and Iraq because God told him to invade!

God, known for his chattiness, probably also told George W. to gut environmental-protection laws, oppose renewable energy, give millionaires two huge tax cuts, and appoint Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.


Because it's clear now that the God George W. has been listening to all these years is a pretty consistent God who obviously doesn't give a damn.

Deus Ex Machina? -- Recent developments in Foggy Bottom signal the emergence of long-awaited cracks in the Born-Again Bush Castle. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, the king of sleaze, has been indicted and forced to step down as leader.

In the Senate, Republican boss Bill Frist is facing two federal investigations for a suspicious financial windfall he recently enjoyed that resulted from his sale of stock held in a "blind trust," just before the stock's price fell dramatically.

This all comes on the heels of the shameful White House response to Hurricane Katrina and the Vietnam flashback we're experiencing called Iraq.

As everyone knows, Vermonters do not have a Republican representative or senator in Congress whom they can contact. The top elected GOP official in Vermont is Gov. Jim Douglas. But Gov. Scissorhands, state chairman of the Bush re-election campaign in Vermont, is rarely challenged on his candidate's performance. Given his party's recent screw-ups, we dared raise the subject at last week's presser. (By the way, this week's gubernatorial ribbon-cutting is Wednesday in Royalton.)

"Well," replied Douglas, "there hasn't been a determination yet, as far as I know, on the outcome of those situations. A House Majority Leader is, like any American, entitled to the presumption of innocence, and he has strongly asserted his. So we'll see what happens. And the Senate majority leader has offered a response to the concerns expressed about the [stock] transaction, and we'll see what the ethics committee says, so I don't think we should prejudge them."

Certainly not. Even Al Capone was innocent until proven guilty.

But despite the DeLay and Frist scandals, Vermont's Republican governor will also have to walk a careful line on the subject of Mr. Bush as he seeks reelection in 2006. Given President Bush's record-low approval rating in recent national polls, Douglas was asked if he'd still give Bush a high rating.

"Well, the president's job is not an easy one," replied the governor. "He's got a lot of criticism from the political world, and frankly, from the media," said Douglas. "The president has a tough job," continued the Guv, "and [there's] all the scrutiny that goes with it. He's certainly, I'm sure, doing his best."

That's the scary part.

But how would you rate him, we asked, if a pollster called?

"I think under the difficult circumstances that he's facing, he's doing a good job," answered Douglas.

Well, that marks a noteworthy change. Vermont's Republican governor used to say President Bush was doing a very good job.

Different Viewpoint -- On Saturday, October 29, former clergyman, state senator and Democratic Party Executive Director Scudder Parker of Montpelier will officially kick off his campaign to unseat Jim Douglas in 2006. If elected, he would be the first "Scudder" to become governor. We've had a Moses and an Isaac, a Mortimer and a Madeleine, but never a Scudder.

If Scudder hopes to win, he will have to be a bit more talented than Jim Douglas' last two Democratic victims.

In 2002, Lt. Gov. Doug Racine lacked the required backbone, flip-flopping on environmental positions to satisfy the "business community."

In 2004, Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle lacked focus and never developed a clear, concise message that blasted through Douglas' well-greased armor.

When asked this week to respond to the governor's comments on President Bush, Parker jumped at the bait.

"I am stunned," replied Scudder, "that Jim Douglas would say he thinks George Bush is doing a good job. Is this his idea of leadership?"

Apparently Parker, the ex-minister, is hearing from a different segment of Vermonters than has Douglas, the ex-WFAD radio jock.

"I hear from Vermonters that they are increasingly worried about job security, health care, energy bills for driving to work and heating this winter," said Parker. "And they are worrying about our soldiers in Iraq, and the losses we are suffering there with no end in sight."

"What is particularly alarming to me," said the Democratic challenger, "is that many of the 'difficult circumstances' Mr. Bush faces are mostly of his own making, either by poor planning and administration, or by just doing the wrong thing. Does Mr. Douglas believe in accountability?"

Not sure at the moment.

Shumlin Sees the Light -- Officially, Peter Shumlin said he was dropping out of the race for the Democratic congressional nomination because of family and the desire to stay closer to home.

Unofficially, make no mistake that Putney Pete saw the writing on the wall. Peter Welch has this one wired. Former Dean for America staffer Zephyr Teachout has been considering a bid, but with Shumlin out, she concedes the "one girl vs. two Petes" dynamic has changed. It's highly unlikely Zephyr will run in what would be a hopeless chase.

So it's shaping up for a Democrat Peter Welch vs. Republican Martha Rainville final. But what about Progressive State Rep. David Zuckerman? Davy the Prog has a congressional campaign website but hasn't formally jumped in. Our Democratic sources say he won't.

Zuckerman's "candidacy," they say, is merely a vehicle to promote a deal with the Democrats. First, he tried to get the Democrats to cave in on statewide Instant Runoff Voting. That went nowhere.

Then he floated a deal under the terms of which Davy the Prog would stay out of the congressional race if Democrats stay out of the Lite-Gov's race. That would pave the way for Progressive Anthony Pollina to finally have a decent shot at winning something.

But it ain't going to happen, folks.

Independent Bernie Sanders, godfather of the Vermont Progressive Party without ever becoming a party member, has made it clear he will support the Democratic candidate for his seat, Peter Welch. Bernie and the Democrats have never been tighter.

In return, the Democratic Party, both in Vermont and D.C., will not mess up Ol' Bernardo's clear shot at the U.S. Senate. Would Zuckerman go against the godfather's wishes and campaign against Bernie's chosen successor?

"Bernie's endorsement is not going to make or break whether I run," Davy the Prog told us. Sure, whatever you say.

But Pollina has much better name recognition, noted Zuckerman, than Democratic State Sen. Matt Dunne, who's considering taking a shot at the Lite-Gov race. Even a few Democrats think Anthony's earned the shot, but they're not the ones running the party these days.

Meanwhile, with Shummy out of the race, his campaign manager Kate O'Connor is out of a job. Ms. O'Connor says she'll now have more time to devote to organizing the journals and notes she kept during Ho-Ho's presidential run.

"I've been working on putting them in order just in case someday, someone wants to know the real story of the rise and fall of Dean for America!" said Kate.

Bonne chance!

Where's Bernie? -- Look for a more moderate Bernie Sanders, folks, as he zeroes in on the big one: a seat in the U.S. Senate. With two conservative Republicans, Rich Tarrant and Brian Dubie, in the running to battle him, there's no need for Bernie to play leftist radical in this one.

In fact, "Inside Track" has learned that Ol' Bernardo was attending a Tuesday fundraiser in his honor at the Cambridge, Massachusetts, home of Abby Rockefeller -- yes, one of those Rockefellers.

Locally, Sanders' media event this week will be a talk to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders at Edmunds Middle School. The only socialist in the U.S. Congress "will discuss nutrition and local agricultural issues with the students."

Viva la revolution!

Media Notes -- A couple Vermont news junkies did a double-take this week when they noticed the byline of veteran Montpeculiar Statehouse reporter Ross Sneyd on a fresh story out of New Orleans.

In fact, it was the hot story of the week, an interview with the 64-year-old retired, black schoolteacher brutally beaten by three white New Orleans cops in the French Quarter. The bloody assault on Robert Davis was caught by an Associated Press video crew.

The three cops have been charged and suspended. Of course, had the press not been there, they'd still be serving and protecting the citizens of New Orleans.

Sneyd told "Inside Track" he's in New Orleans working out of a temporary AP newsroom set up in the luxurious W Hotel in the French Quarter. He expects to be there for 10 days, "mostly editing, but when needed I'm getting thrown a few stories."

On Monday, Ross got thrown the beating story and interviewed the victim at the scene of the crime. Sure beats a Statehouse health-care hearing, eh?

And, by the way, it's Ross' first visit to the Big Easy.

"It's a surreal city," he writes in an email. "There is debris everywhere. And yet the central business district and the French Quarter, largely spared the flooding, are coming back to life. There are tourists in the French Quarter. There is electricity. There's traffic. And yet, there is devastation. Two cars sit next to the hotel where I'm staying crushed beneath bricks that fell from the façade. Driving in from Baton Rouge, I saw houses blown off their foundations. Blue is the dominant color on roofs all over the city, the color of tarps covering them."

Other impressions of New Orleans?

"A few more bars than Montpelier," he replied, "and a lot more beads."

Mr. Sneyd is due back at his usual Capital City haunts sometime next week.

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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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