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Revisionist History 

Inside Track

Bernie Sanders

Published February 25, 2004 at 5:00 p.m.

That's what Deputy Campaign manager Bob Rogan calls recent national press accounts using unidentified sources to blame Howard Dean's demise on the "inexperienced" local yokels on his campaign staff.

"It reminds me of JFK's line," said Rogan, "the one about victory having 100 fathers while defeat is an orphan."

The post-mortem spin has been that the Vermont core staffers, particularly Rogan and Kate O'Connor, were constantly at war with the wiser campaign professionals like Joe Trippi.

Incidentally, Trippi, Dean's second campaign manager who departed after the New Hampshire defeat, has become almost as famous as Ho-Ho. After leaving Burlington, Joltin' Joe was instantly reborn on MSNBC as a TV pundit.

Rogan, meanwhile, was at his desk Monday. The campaign that once had 600 employees nationwide -- 150 in Vermont -- was down to just 20, he said. By next Monday, they'll be down to seven. What goes up must come down.

"Yeah, sure," said Rogan sarcastically in response to the stories that blame the Vermont staffers. "We wanted to crash into the mountain. We didn't want Howard to succeed."

Rogan, always a gentleman, respectfully declined "to denigrate anyone" who was part of the team. "We had great successes and we did that together," he said. "And together we all made mistakes."

But he couldn't resist saying something about the current Trippiesque spin. The fact is, the campaign outraised and outspent everyone else. But after Iowa and New Hampshire there was nothing to show for the $40 million that went flying out the door.

"We collectively made the decision," said Rogan, "to put the money on black." The group plan was to spend heavily on TV and achieve what Trippi called the "whoosh effect" coming out of Iowa and sweeping into New Hampshire. To get there they had to make the unknown candidate from Vermont known.

"We needed to put him on the map," said Rogan, justifying the expensive TV advertising. "We threw some ‘Hail Marys.' Some made it to the end zone. Some didn't."

When Dean started to "stumble" in Iowa during December, said Rogan, the campaign decided to spend even more on TV spots more "to retain his frontrunner status." The decision to spend heavily and early on TV advertising, Rogan insisted, was a group decision. "We all participated and the governor signed off," said Rogan.

The Dean money was on black, but the ball landed on red.

"That's just the way this business works," said Rogan. "Unfortunately, there was a whoosh effect after Iowa, but it belonged to John Kerry."

As for Trippi, Rogan called him "a political genius." No bad blood, he insisted. But Trippi wasn't perfect. Rogan said he was often "difficult to work with," and had "a mercurial personality."

Trippi's focus was on the Internet and the media. "He had a strategic vision," said Rogan, "and he served the campaign well."

Rogan said the Trippster "may have been many things, but he wasn't a good manager." There was "tension" in the office, conceded Rogan, "over the need for others to fill in to make up for Trippi's lack of management ability."

Rogan was still too close to it all to isolate specific strategic errors that led to Dean's departure from the race. That will come with time. For now, he pointed to a comment by William Greider in The Nation magazine.

As Greider wrote, Howard Dean "stuck his chin out and got his head taken off."

GOP Crime Watch --

In a government plagued by scandal, it's hard to keep track. One recent juicy one that you might have missed involves the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

Two Republican staffers have resigned in the wake of the discovery that internal policy emails between Democrats were being regularly stolen by Republicans. Sen. Edward Kennedy has compared it to the Watergate break-ins of yesteryear.

Following a briefing by the Sgt. at Arms Office, Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said on February 12 that the briefing "unfortunately confirmed that two former Republican Judiciary Committee staff members were involved in wrongfully accessing and downloading thousands of Democratic computer files over many months. While it is premature to judge whether any crime has been committed, it is clear that unethical conduct has occurred."

What's locally interesting is that U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy is the vice-chair of the Judiciary Committee. And here in his home state, the Vermont Republican Party is eagerly promoting the distribution of the stolen documents.

On its Web page, under the heading "The Sound of Silence," the Vermont GOP asks, "Why is the press ignoring what the Democratic Judiciary memos say?"

No mention of the fact that they're stolen documents and an investigation is underway on Capitol Hill.

The party's home page at even provides a direct link to a site where the stolen emails can be downloaded!

Talk about being helpful!

Vermont GOP Chair James Barnett defended the link this week. Mad Dog told Seven Days that while he didn't "condone the way the memos were obtained," the real concern is that "they reveal the coordination between Democrats and the special interests that were pulling the strings" to block Presi-dent George W. Bush's judicial nominees.

But James, they're stolen. Hello? What if the shoe was on the other foot?

Perhaps Mad Dog should heed the warning of a fellow Republican. Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina recently said, "Conservatives who offer justification for this based on politics have missed the boat. As a conservative, it runs against my philosophy of what the law is all about."

Former Vermont Press Bureau reporter Tracy Schmaler now works as a press aide for St. Patrick on the Judiciary Committee staff. She told Seven Days, "It looks like Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge have cleared out a little room in their gutter for our friends in the Vermont Republican Party."

Good point, eh, Mad Dog?

The Eyes Have It --

Suspended Burlington Eye Doc David Chase finally got some "good" press last week. His defense team at Sheehy Furlong & Behm P.C. filed a motion with the Medical Practice Board to reinstate his license and dismiss the charges against him.

Dr. Voodoo Eye's one-man St. Paul Street eye factory closed down last summer after the state charged he'd been performing unnecessary cataract surgeries. In December, the attorney general's office filed a 127-count complaint with the Medical Practice Board.

Chase's motion got good play in the local media. He claimed "unethical conduct" by the state. He also alleged one witness, a former employee, claimed her sworn statement contained words she had never uttered. Assistant Attorney General Joe Winn declined comment.

Bright and early, the day after the Freeps' story broke, a "50ish-looking" woman arrived at Seven Days with a package. Only a couple of staffers were present. The woman deposited a fresh Hannaford's pumpkin pie on the front desk. The word "Humble" was written on top in whipped cream. And there was a note.

The note read: "This is for Peter Peckerhead from Dr. Voodoo Eyes' adoring, respectful and pissed-off patients. We hope Pecker will give as much coverage of fact as he has fiction."

It was signed "Yvonne C."

Never look a gift pie in the eye, folks.

On Friday we picked up a copy of the document package Dr. Voodoo Eyes' lawyers had earlier released to the Free Press. Over the weekend we went through it page by page.

Our non-professional analysis is that Chase's lawyers are throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the wall in hopes something -- anything -- sticks. The motion to reinstate Chase's license, we'd suggest, is a desperate attempt to make Dr. Voodoo Eyes and his supporters momentarily feel good.

You see, the conventional wisdom is that a doctor wrongly charged would want his case tried as soon as possible rather than postpone the inevitable with delaying tactics and diversionary motions like the one filed last week.

Attorney Winn declined to comment because he does not intend to fight the case in the press. He doesn't have to. He told Seven Days this week the state will file its response next Tuesday.

Interesting that Chase's lawyers only attached a portion of former employee Amy Landry's deposition to their motion. Landry is their lynchpin. She worked for Chase for 11 months. While the claim is that her signed statement isn't accurate, it appears to us that investigator Phil Ciotti merely paraphrased Amy Landry's remarks.

Interesting, too, that the documents show Landry corrected her original statement saying Dr. Voodoo Eyes steered all patients over 35 toward cataract surgery. Actually, said Landry, it was all patients over 45.

That's not the kind of evidence that will get Dr. Chase's license reinstated. In fact, this week Seven Days found more evidence backing up the state's case.

Veteran local radio broadcaster Joel Najman told Seven Days that when his eye doctor retired two years ago, he visited Dr. Chase. Joel is known to many listeners from his years on local Burlington radio. But he's known statewide, too, as the Saturday night host/producer of VPR's brilliant 1950s rock 'n' roll show, "My Place."

At Najman's first appointment, Chase quickly informed him he had cataracts and needed immediate surgery. Like anyone else, Naj-man believed what a doctor told him. But something didn't feel right. He told us he had checked around and picked up information about Chase from friends and colleagues that made him have second thoughts. Several days later, Najman canceled.

His cancellation of surgery at Chase's assembly-line-style eye factory did not sit well with the good doctor. Dr. Chase called Najman at home and told him to "get over here. You should have the surgery."

Najman refused.

Dr. Chase was unique in that he owned his operating room. He had time slots to fill. The state has shown that even as his patient load dropped, his cataract surgeries remained steady. Money in the bank, as they say.

Six months later, Najman went to a different doctor for an eye exam. He was relieved to learn he did not need cataract surgery.

"I really feel I dodged a bullet," said Joel. "I thank my lucky stars."

That's the kind of evidence Dr. Chase's legal team has yet to address.

Can't wait.

The Bloody Third --

The hot race in Burlap on Town Meeting Day is the battle for a City Coun-cil seat in Ward 3, an area that includes downtown and a big chunk of the Old North End.

Incumbent Progressive Phil Fiermonte is seeking a third term. Phil's a former union organizer currently serving as Rep. Bernie Sanders' Vermont director. He's in a head-to-head battle with Democrat Lynn Mesick.

Since no Republican "spoiler" is running this time, Ward 3 Democrats smell blood. Make no mistake -- Dems and Progs may be cozy-comfy outside of Burlington, but in city politics, as in Ireland, grudges never die.

"The leadership in the Democratic Party," claims Phil, "is targeting me." He points to a mailing endorsed by Rep. John Tracy, City Councilor Andy Montroll and Gov-Lite candidate Jan Backus. He wonders why Dems are putting so much "time and energy" into defeating him, since his agenda is pretty similar to that of many Democrats.

Here's one possibility.

John Tracy hasn't been sheepish about his interest in succeeding born-again-Democrat Mayor Peter Clavelle at City Hall. If Mayor Moonie upsets incumbent Gov. Jim Douglas in November, Burlington will have a special election for mayor. On the Progressive side, Fiermonte currently looks like a frontrunner for the Prog mayoral nod.

Perhaps, Tracy & Co. think now's the time to strike. Better to take Fiermonte out sooner rather than later, eh?

Next Tuesday's vote in Ward 3 is about much more than one City Council seat. For the Progs, it's all about the future.

Douglas Confused? --

Gov. Douglas confirmed our suspicions last week on a key part of his reelection strategy. It's a tried-and-true, two-pronged approach.

GOP state Chair James Barnett will play bad cop. Gov. Aw Shucks will play good cop.

We noted last week that Barnett has taken up the red-baiting cudgel, labeling Democrat Peter Clavelle a "socialist." Put a cigar in Moonie's mouth and khakis on his back and you've got another Fidel Castro, eh?

But when asked if he agreed with his party's state chairman, the Gov quickly distanced himself from Mad Dog's red-baiting bark.

"I'm going to let the chairman speak for himself," said Douglas. "I'm going to keep talking about what's important to me and the future of the state."

But Governor, we asked, "Do you think Peter Clavelle, the Democratic challenger, is really a socialist?"

"My announced opponent," replied Gov. Aw Shucks, "seems to be having some difficulty determining what party he belongs to. So I'm not sure anybody really knows."


A Real Keeper --

Kudos to WCAX-TV for "Howard Dean -- Full Circle," a brilliant 24-minute documentary of Ho-Ho's amazing presidential quest. It ran Sunday in the "You Can Quote Me" time slot.

All the drama, the high points and the low, were captured in a video package that we think many Vermont Deaniacs would treasure. This one folks, is a keeper.

It was produced by Sera Congi with help from a talented team composed of Joe Carroll (a.k.a. Mr. Congi), Adam Blair and Christine Hinkel.

Sera told Seven Days they started working on the project when Ho-Ho announced he'd drop out if victory eluded him in Wisconsin. Then Dean changed his mind, but Congi's crew kept at it. Turned out their timing was perfect. The "Full Circle" documentary was ready last week, the day after Ho-Ho officially dropped out.

According to News Director Marselis Parsons, folks can purchase copies of the video by calling the station at 658-6300. It'll cost "about $30," he said.

That's a little steep, eh? It's not the Superbowl. We suggest Ch. 3 start advertising the video (in Seven Days?) and lower the price to $19.99.

They'll make a bundle.


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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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