Bernie Stays Put | Inside Track | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice
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Bernie Stays Put 

Sanders opts against running for governor of Vermont — a job he says he's dreamed of — to stay put in Washington.

Make no mistake, he wanted to run for governor. But even for a political superstar like Bernie Sanders, the impact of September 11 has simply been too much to overcome. Things have changed.

As everyone knows, Vermont’s firebrand Independent Congressman Bernie Sanders announced Tuesday he will pass on a bid for Vermont’s open governor’s seat next year. Instead, he’ll stay right where he is and spend another two years flying the friendly skies weekly between Vermont and Washington.

It was a tough decision, one Ol’ Bernardo didn’t reach until last weekend. “The idea of being governor of this great state is something that I’ve dreamed about,” said Sanders, “but right now I can’t walk away from the responsibilities that I have in Congress.”

No one has been more eagerly anticipating Bernie’s decision than Anthony Pollina, the 2000 gubernatorial candidate of the Vermont Progressive Party who’s pointed toward a 2002 rerun. With Bernie out, Anthony’s path is clear.

“I feel energized,” Pollina told Seven Days following the Sanders announcement. “The bottom line is, Vermont will continue to have the best congressman in America,” he said. “Now all we need is someone in Montpelier who’d do as good a job as Bernie.”

Make no mistake, Mr. Pollina thinks he’s that guy. That means a three-way contest between Tony the Prog, Doug Racine the Democrat and Jim Douglas the Republican.

What fun!


Speaking of Doug Racine — Democrat Lt. Gov. Doug Racine had his gubernatorial coming-out Saturday in Montpeculiar with a fiery speech at the Vermont Democrat fall fundraiser. And he went right after his Republican rival, Jim Douglas.

“Now don’t get me wrong,” said Racine, “Jim Douglas is a nice man, but Democrats have led wisely and responsibly, and Jim Douglas isn’t going to fool anybody when he tries to deny that.”

Racine was countering Slim Jim’s recent crack that Racine “may be a nice guy, but we can’t afford to turn over Vermont’s checkbook” to him. Doug rattled off a litany of his party’s fiscal achievements, from lowering the income tax and reforming public education to paying off state debt and winning Vermont its highest bond rating in 30 years.

“I will not let that record of accomplishment — our record of accomplishment — be forgotten as this campaign unwinds,” he declared with pride.

The Richmond auto dealer also publicly acknowledged what some consider his greatest shortcoming.

“A lot of you have told me that I’m kind of a quiet person,” said Racine. “Many of you in the room have told me I’m too quiet a person. But do not doubt my spirit. Do not doubt my resolve nor my endurance nor my passion.”

The Quiet Man spoke proudly of his French-Canadian roots and the values instilled in him.

“Do not doubt what is in my heart,” said Doug. “I am ready for this race and I am ready to be governor of the state of Vermont.”


Visitor From Dixie — Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina was the keynote speaker at the Democrat love-in, and Sen. Patrick Leahy had a little fun teasing Edwards and Gov. Howard Dean about how amazingly well they complement each other. Both Dean and Edwards are mentioned in the national press as possible presidential candidates in 2004.

“You’ve got a senator and a governor,” noted Leahy. “That’s balance.

“You’ve got a northerner and a southerner,” he continued. “There’s balance.

“And then you’ve got the most compelling balance,” said St. Patrick. “Think about this — a lawyer and a doctor. Now there’s a hell of a combination!”

The audience roared as Leahy joked that he didn’t know which ticket sounded better, Dean-Edwards or Edwards-Dean?


World Citizen Loses Plane — The first time 83-year-old Garry Davis had an airplane problem was in the sky over Germany. His B-17 was shot down while bombing Werner Von Braun’s heavy-water laboratories. Davis survived a crash-landing in Sweden and was taken prisoner. Three months later he escaped.

After the war, Mr. Davis stepped into the spotlight of the world stage in Paris when he declared himself a “citizen of the world.” The inevitable rivalry of nation-states only leads to continuous war, he notes, and for the past 50 years, Mr. Davis has remained true to his cause.

In August, Davis flew his own plane, a 1963 Navion Rangemaster, to Montréal to pick up an American citizen who’d been denied U.S. entry after a visit to Canada last year. Shirley Kermali, said Davis, was born in St. Croix — U.S. territory — but is illegitimate and has no birth certificate. While detained in Canadian custody, she applied to Davis’ World Service Authority (www.worldser vice.org) for help.

On August 1, Garry flew her from Dorval to the Burlington Airport and immediately taxied to the U.S. Customs station. There Ms. Kermali was arrested and Davis’ aircraft impounded. She is currently incarcerated in Maine, trapped in immigration limbo.

Davis insisted he did nothing wrong and followed proper procedure to the letter.

U.S. Attorney Peter Hall told Seven Days, “We’re continuing to try to negotiate to reach a fair resolution so he can get his plane back.”

Stay tuned.


Dean’s Memory Loss — He’s a 52-year-old baby boomer, and there are disturbing signs the ol’ memory is starting to go. Is it a case of the dark side of the aging process or the dark side of a politician who forgets what he chooses to forget?

At his weekly press conference last week we asked Gov. Howard Dean why there hasn’t been any talk of tapping the state’s rainy-day funds to soften the effects of the current economic downturn. We noted the governor had boasted in a recent CNN interview that his fiscal leadership had been so outstanding, Vermont would be left with $100 million in the bank when he leaves office.

“I never said that,” replied Ho-Ho.

“Yes, you did.”

“No, I didn’t. I want to see the tape,” said the Guv.

Fortunately, we still had the tape. It was a live interview via satellite with CNN’s White House correspondent John King. It was broadcast on September 5, the day Ho-Ho announced on the Statehouse lawn he would not seek reelection.

Monday, prior to a “media event” at Burling-ton’s main Post Office, yours truly had the pleasure of playing the audio portion for Dr. Dean.

Ho-Ho was bragging to a national audience about what a wonderful job he’d done for Vermont as a combination “fiscal conservative” and “social liberal.”

“I’m going to leave office with $100 million in the bank,” he boasted to reporter King.

As Dean listened to the sound of his own voice coming out of yours truly’s tape recorder, his eyes widened. He realized he’d been caught. He smiled sheepishly and quipped, “Well, it won’t be $100 million anymore!”

But Dean’s “truth-telling” test had only just begun. Postal officials were gathered in the lobby to present the governor with a framed, enlarged replica of the brand-new “United We Stand” American flag stamp that went on sale that morning. Not exactly major news, but for our favorite presidential hopeful, a chance to play the red, white and blue card is always hard to resist. But Dean was in for a surprise.

The framed “United We Stand” stamp was late in arriving, so Jerry Reen, the colorful postmaster from Lyndonville, killed some time by regaling those in attendance with a little “mail story,” as he called it.

With Dean at his side, Mr. Reen told reporters about an encounter with the governor a few years back.

“The governor came to St. Johnsbury one day,” said Reen, “at a time we were talking about health care in Vermont, a single-payer program. I’m sure it was a slip of the tongue,” he said, “but the governor said a single-payer program run by the government wouldn’t work. It would be akin to having the postal service run it.”

“I never said that,” exclaimed an embarrassed Dean.

Heard that one before, haven’t we?


Fifth Floor Weirdness — Confusion over our lame-duck governor’s public appearance schedule continues this week, and the C.J. Cregg of Vermont’s West Wing is doing some overly dramatic acting.

You see, Ho-Ho was in Montréal Saturday taping several editions of “The Editors,” which airs on PBS coast-to-coast. And on Sunday he was off to Maine for a campaign event. Neither trip made the weekly public appearance schedule issued by Susan W. Allen, Dean’s press secretary and spokesperson.

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that the simple question, “Where is the governor of Vermont?” has become the most controversial Vermont press question of the day. So be it.

Monday we e-mailed Ms. Allen to ascertain her official policy. Sweet Sue replied, “I will not release his private or personal plans. He can, and on occasion does, discuss those publicly if he chooses. In the event political events are scheduled, Kate O’Connor will deal with those after hours.”

Ms. O’Connor is Ho-Ho’s longtime aide. She’s been a campaign manager and chief cook and bottle-washer. Officially, Kate’s on the state payroll as Vermont’s “Secretary of Civil and Military Affairs.” In fact, Ms. O’Connor just got put in charge of Vermont’s anti-terrorism efforts. Now we can sleep soundly, eh?

Yours truly wrote Vermont’s C.J. Cregg back. We wanted to ascertain just when “after hours” is, and also asked for an “after hours” phone number for Kate. And we inquired what Ms. Allen’s current state salary was.

Within one minute of hitting the send button, the phone rang. It was Sweet Sue, only all the sweetness had left her. She began by asking, “Can I tell you something off the record?”

As a former journalist, Ms. Allen knows “off the record” is a technique utilized by government officials to provide accurate information and perspective without leaving any fingerprints behind. Unfortunately, Sweet Sue had no information to provide other than her current state of mind. It reminded us of the day a few years ago when yours truly was alone on the elevator at the federal building with a certain Assistant U.S. Attorney.

“Can I tell you something off the record?” he asked.

“Sure,” we replied, anticipating a juicy morsel of insider information.

“F**k you,” he said.

“Hey,” we replied laughing, “In America you can say that on the record.”

Dean’s press secretary expressed a similar point of view.

“Why are you at war with me?” Ms. Allen screamed, and we mean screamed, at the top of her lungs. “Why are you hinting in your column that I’m lying? Why are you asking about my salary?”

Yours truly held back the receiver from our ear for a moment, Sweet Sue was that loud. Welcome to the Department of Weirdness Department!

“I’m not at war with you,” I answered.

“Yes you are,” she yelled.

“No, I’m not.”

“Yes, you are.”

“No, I’m not.”

We suggested Vermont’s C.J. Cregg had crossed the line. That her best course of action was to end the conversation immediately and hang up. “Off the record” is not intended to be used by a government official for the sole purpose of getting in their personal digs, we told her.

Ms. Allen paused and thought about it for a second. Then she said goodbye and hung up.

A press secretary, after all, speaks for the boss. And yours truly knows from personal experience that there are some things a press secretary should never say.

Stay tuned. The tracking of the travels of our favorite presidential hopeful, we assure you, will continue, one way or another.

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About The Author

Peter Freyne

Peter Freyne

Bio:
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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