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Sanders' opponent, Susan Sweetser, brings Rep. Dick Armey to Vermont for a fundraiser. This plays into Bernie's campaign against Newt Gingrich, whom Freyne says has a favorability rating of 1.9 percent.

Bernie Sanders

Published May 22, 1996 at 4:00 a.m.

No question — it's war. And this week our Republican Congressional candidate brought in her own "Armey" to lead the charge. Susan Sweetser also started a one-week advertising blitz on WCAX-TV touting her "working-class roots" and crime victims advocacy.

The 30-second spot that started running at 5:59 a.m. Tuesday was a real gem. Most of it was shot two weeks ago at the Statehouse with a host of campaign workers playing the roles of fellow lawmakers and reporters. One thing's certain — Sweetser's got some pretty talented media consultants. This spot gets an A-plus. More teeth than a barrel of alligators, and her hair was perfect. Sweetser wore 10 different outfits. Bet you didn't know she was fourth in her class at Vermont Law School, did ya? Or that she comes from "working-class roots?"

The commercial definitely projected Sweetser's star quality. But her decision to cash in on the appearance of House Republican leader, Dick Armey of Texas, makes one wonder about her political savvy.

Yeah, yeah, Armey's appearance at the Sheraton helped her fatten her campaign checkbook by $32,000 — 23 Vermont Republicans ponied up $500 a head for a pre-dinner legislative briefing by Newt Gingrich's right-hand man. Another 200 shelled out $96 for chicken with the Texan who made the front pages for calling Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts "Barney Fag."

Armey is a real smoothie, and he was happy to share his assessment of Bernie Sanders.

"I've never thought of him as an effective legislator," said Big Dick. "The problem I see with Bernie is, he just hollers all the time. When you speak on virtually every subject and you speak louder than any other voice from the well, you lose the ability to have people listen to you. For instance, I'll look up and I see Henry Hyde is speaking on the floor. I will stop what I'm doing and turn up the volume. If I look up and see Bernie speaking on the floor, I hit the mute button."

Hear no evil, see no evil.

Twenty Sanderistas, including the usual suspects like Terry Bouricius, Peggy Luhrs and Oak Logalbo, lined Williston Road to welcome Big Dick and they ended up getting most of the attention in Monday's Burlington Free Press. (Incidentally, the Freeps news staff was informed Monday that editorial page editor Nick Monsarrat, the petty little something or other, is quitting.) Great signs, too, like "Sweetser Marches With Newt's Armey."

Look, it's safe to say that Susie Creamcheese already has Vermont's conservative voters in her back pocket. She doesn't need to coddle them by bringing in right-wing celebrities who wouldn't have a snowball's chance of getting elected dogcatcher in the Green Mountains.

Ol' Bernardo was only too happy to take advantage of the opportunity Armey's appearance provided to inform everyone of just who Susie Creamcheese was schmoozing with.

"Being criticized by Dick Armey makes me feel pretty good," Sanders told Inside Track. "You have to remember that Dick Armey is a guy who has called for the abolition of Social Security and the ending of Medicare. Here's a guy who is fighting against the minimum wage, not only that he wants to abolish the minimum wage. He is supporting a constitutional amendment to ban abortion. In other words, this man is the leader of the right-wing extremist movement in Congress. I'm proud to have his opposition because Armey and his friend Gingrich stand for everything I'm trying to fight against in the United States Congress."

Sweetser, of course, is pro-choice, voted to increase the state's minimum wage and claims to be a moderate. She explains away her differences with Big Dick by saying it proves the GOP is the "party of the big tent." But jeezum crow, the air must get awful stale inside the tent. What's the old saying? If you lie down with dogs you get up with fleas. Susie must have a terrible itch this week that'll last well beyond the time her Hollywood-style TV spot 11 stops running.

Was publicly embracing Dick Armey a smart move? The money is nice, but she played right into Bernie's strategy. Even Big Dick acknowledged 0l' Bernardo wants to run against Newt, not Susie.

"If Bernie wants to run against Newt Gingrich," Armey told the chicken dinner crowd, "why doesn't he move to Georgia? Come to think of it, Georgia wouldn't be too happy about that."

Don't be surprised if the Sanderistas dare her to invite Newt to Vermont to campaign for her. Inside Track put that very question to Sweetser — she declined to answer because it's a "hypothetical question." In December's UVM Vermonter poll, Newt had a .19 percent approval rating. Even 0.J. is more liked. Maybe she'll invite 0.J.?

One undeniable fact about Susie Creamcheese is that she's about to have a baby. June 10 is the due date, but the candidate is campaigning full-speed ahead. "Cmon, Peter, it's the '90s!" she exclaimed, when asked about maybe taking it easy for a few weeks. "Women work and stay at their jobs until the babies are born, and I don't think running for Congress is different than any other job."

Hey, I bet that the little gift from heaven will look great on television.

Traveling in Style — Armey and Sweetser traveled in style from the airport to the Sheraton Sunday. Jimmy Johnston, long-tittle Jeffords campaign treasurer and father of Susan's campaign director, was the designated driver and provided the snazzy wheels — a slick black Lincoln Town car — "Presidential" model. Awesome. You see, Jimmy operates the Barber & Lanier Funeral Home in Montpelier. Usually the car's occupants are in mourning. You believe in omens?

Althea Later? — Chittenden County Assistant Judge Althea Kroger is battling cancer and apparently is doing well enough to stand trial before the Judicial Conduct Board this summer. JCB Chair Leslie Black tells Inside Track Althea's trial — on the charge she "made false, deceptive and misleading statements under oath during hearings held by the Vermont Association of County Judges" — has been scheduled for August 26. Tickets, please.

New North End Politics — Republican City Councilor Kurt Wright, who successfully took Mayor Peter Clavelle to task for cutting funding for women's programs, has made public his intentions to run for the legislative seat that became vacant when Democrat Carmel Babcock announced her retirement. It's a two-member district and Democrat Bill Aswad has a lock on the other seat. But things could get interesting if Democrat Hank Gretkowski tosses his hat into the ring.

"Quite a few people in high places in the Democratic Party have encouraged me to run," Hank says.

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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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