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Better Than Castrating Bull Calves 

Bernie Sanders

Published October 11, 2000 at 1:00 a.m.

As the clock ticks down to Election Day, Ruth Dwyer, the challenger, appears to be gaining strength while Howard Dean, the incumbent, flounders on his belly, groping for an effective defense strategy. It’s the worst political jam Ho-Ho’s ever been in and it shows.

Reliable sources say Ruthless Ruth’s numbers are moving upwards slowly but steadily in tracking polls, while Dean’s numbers hold steady in the mid-40s. We’re heading for a nail-biting finish.

Mrs. Dwyer is ratcheting up her blistering attack on the health-care front, while gaining valuable image points off the fabulous one-minute, Technicolor campaign commercial that’s dazzling Vermont’s TV viewers.

The “Listen to Lead” spot was produced by Phil Fremont-Smith, a Washington, D.C.-based media consultant. It deserves an Oscar for completely reinventing Ruthless Ruth in the image of Katharine Hepburn. The high-quality spot surrounds Ruthless with lush, warm colors and at least 13 small children, most culled from stock footage. Gotta love the little Asian-American boy with the teary eye. Then there’s Ruth walking her 13-year-old gelding, Bongo, and sitting on the porch with Phaedra, her oldest golden retriever. Ruth Dwyer — mother, animal lover, protector of the elderly and little kids, too.

Pure oatmeal!

It is a brilliant commercial. One of the best to ever hit the Vermont airwaves. But it’s total fiction! Pure horse feathers. And the scary part is, that may not matter at all. The power of television — image over substance!

All the little kids in the ad were just a bit much for yours truly. You see, Ruth Dwyer isn’t even a mom. Never had kids. Never adopted. You wouldn’t believe it from seeing the ad. The fact is, Ruth’s husband moved out. Her marriage is on the rocks.

The real Ruth Dwyer is almost unrecognizable in the television commercial. The real Ruth Dwyer is a tough, angry right-wing rebel. If there’s one thing Mrs. Dwyer has, it’s a solid, well-earned reputation for never listening to any other voice but her own. It’s always been Ruth’s way or the highway. That’s the Dwyer track record, from the Thetford school board to the Vermont House. The Dwyer television commercial is fiction, but effective fiction. And the national media is starting to notice her, too.

Newsweek had a reporter in town last week. And the Washington Post was sighted at Monday’s candidate debate at Wake Robin. Also, Ruthless was touted as “Babe Ruth” in the conservative Weekly Standard.

After a long day on the campaign trail one recent Saturday, Mrs. Dwyer describes the ordeal for the Weekly Standard’s Andrew Ferguson as “better than castrating bull calves.”

If there’s one thing Mrs. Dwyer does have, it’s big balls. Very big balls.

She’s demonstrating that in her less-than-accurate assault on Dr. Dean’s “support” for a Canadian-style health-care system. As governor, Ho-Ho has, in fact, been a solid roadblock in the path of the liberals who’ve long touted a single-payer system. How brazen to suggest otherwise!

And how brazen of Ruthie to go on the offensive against the press last week, naming names and not pulling any punches.

In an interview at Libby’s Diner with WKDR news director Tim Dodd and Guy Page of the Colchester Chronicle, Dwyer unloaded on Associated Press Bureau Chief Chris Graff. She accused Graff of printing “rumor and innuendo” and of “promoting Howard Dean for all he’s worth.” She even suggested a close relationship between Mr. Graff and Ho-Ho’s press secretary, Sue Allen, a former Associated Press writer.

“Every time I go to Montpelier,” said Ruthless, “I see Chris Graff and Susan Allen. Every time. Going to lunch. Going down the road. C’mon, he’s not out there promoting Howard Dean for all he’s worth? You bet,” charged Dwyer. “In his position, is that appropriate? No, sir.”

“Not so,” says Graff. He points to columns in which he’s been critical of Dean, too. And we well remember the days when Democrats from Sen. Patrick Leahy to Gov. Madeleine Kunin blasted Graff’s coverage, accusing him of being pro-Republican. The term they used, we recall, was “Dick Snelling’s lap dog.”

Clearly, it’s full steam ahead for Babe Ruth. Take no prisoners. Nothing to lose. In the Libby’s Diner interview, Mrs. Dwyer also named her number-one hero — Confederate General Robert E. Lee! Anyone surprised?

“He was always up against superior odds,” said Dwyer. “He didn’t let it faze him. His brilliance as a general was on the offensive when he never should have been. That’s why he was so successful.”

Until he lost, that is.

And Seven Days has obtained a copy of Dwyer’s schedule that lists a Thursday afternoon meeting with Jim Pizzagalli of Pizzagalli Construction “to discuss possibilities for Transition Team.”

That’s “Transition Team,” as in an incoming administration on the Fifth Floor of the Pavilion Building.

“One must always be prepared,” said Dwyer.

So, it’s on to Gettysburg for General Dwyer! By the way, yours truly is quite familiar with the Burlington grave sites of several Vermonters who won the Medal of Honor at Gettysburg for defeating the army of Robert E. Lee.

Wonder if Ruthless ever heard of them?

Finally, mark your calendar for next Tuesday, October 17, at 9 p.m. Vermont Public Television will premier a very special documentary on the biographical roots of the three leading gubernatorial candidates. Stuff you just won’t believe until you see it.

Corren Lands a Real Job? — Reliable sources say Progressive State Rep. Dean Corren has landed a full-time job for the first time in living memory. However, Corren refuses to confirm it.

Corren, along with State Rep. Terrill Bouricius, formed the legendary legislative duo known as The Self-Righteous Brothers. The pair added that unmistakable elitist touch to the Progressive cause and, in the process, irritated friend and foe alike. Tri-partisan joy was the reaction we’ve received since breaking the news of their assured departure from golden dome land.

In the legislative guide, Mr. Corren identifies his occupation as “inventor.” Our sources told us Monday that Corren had landed a spot on Congressman Bernie Sanders’ payroll. Hey, congratulations, Dean! At last, a real job! Just what Bernie needs — a good inventor!

When we rang up the Sanders campaign office Tuesday morning, we were not surprised when Mr. Corren answered the phone. We asked if he’d taken a job with the congressman. Corren replied,“Where did you get that idea?”

Straightforward as ever, the self-professed genius conceded he does have a paid position on Sanders’ campaign staff. We asked if he’d be moving over to the congressional staff next month.

“I don’t know,” said Corren. “It’s possible.”

Lucky Bernie, eh?

And Bernie isn’t alone in thinking highly of Corren’s skills. Ruth Dwyer does, too. No kidding.

When asked in the Libby’s Diner interview if it wasn’t true she had been impossible to work with and had listened to no one during her four years at the State-house, Ruthless used Dean Corren as her Exhibit A.

Ruth boasted she and Mr. Corren had sat side by side in the House chamber for four years and side by side on the Commerce Committee, too. Pretty cozy, eh?

“We sometimes did vote the same way and sometimes argued off the same set of notes. So to say I can’t work with someone who’s not on my side is absolutely untrue, because he was one of my best friends. I sat next to Dean Corren for four years,” said Ruthless. “We chose to sit next to each other.”

Kind of touching, isn’t it? Birds of a feather, after all, really do flock together.

Bulldog vs. Bulldog? — Poor Ed Flanagan — the soft-spoken state auditor who promotes a “bulldog” reputation. Mr. Ed’s long-planned run for the U.S. Senate is unfortunately still stuck in second gear. His opponent, Republican Jim Jeffords, is gaily waltzing around the Washington Rose Garden ignoring him. The race is viewed by most as being over a long time ago — like the day last fall when Congressman Bernie Sanders announced he would not challenge Jeffords. As he enters his golden years on Vermont’s political stage, Sen. Jeezum’s senate seat is as solid as Vermont maple.

Meanwhile, Bulldog Flanagan is turning into a Vermont version of Rodney Dangerfield — he just can’t get any respect. In fact, Mr. Ed called yours truly Tuesday morning to complain about his campaign coverage — or rather, lack thereof — in The Burlington Free Press. (We have quite the large complaint department, as you may have guessed.) And, hate to say it, but Mr. Ed’s latest TV spot really sucks, too — the one with the bull’s-eye and the water balloons.

But despite Mr. Ed’s travails, Jeezum Jim’s energetic and highly motivated campaign team is still going allout, not taking anything for granted. Monday morning Flanagan appeared on a talk-radio program, highlighting the shortcomings of Vermont’s junior senator. Flanagan sang the latest hit from the Bernie Sanders’ song book. It was the tune about how Jim Jeffords has rolled over for Trent Lott and allowed Ol’ Bernardo’s prescription drug-import bill to get watered down by the drug industry lobbyists who so generously donate to Jeezum’s campaign kitty.

Quickly on the phone with Eddie the Bulldog was Jeezum Jim’s own fearless bulldog. Heidi Mohlman, Jeffords’ campaign press secretary, started barking that Bulldog Flanagan was full of bull. That the current import bill was a better bill than the one that squeaked through the House under Bernie’s guidance.

Later we asked Bulldog Heidi why she bothered to jump in the fray, since Bulldog Eddie has so little bark left as it is.

“When I hear my boss being maligned on the radio and the truth being distorted,” growled Heidi, “it’s my job to ensure that Vermonters get the real facts and the whole story.”

Gr-r-r-r-r—r. That Heidi sure gives good bark. Must be that Montpeculiar upbringing.

Speaking of the Freeps — Notice the two very different headlines that adorned Sam Hemingway’s Friday column? It was the typical mamby-pamby, maybe-this-maybe-that-style column that Sam the Sham is noted for. And it apparently was a pretty tough challenge for the headline writers to explain.

The Montpelier edition’s headline read, “James Jeffords’ experience puts him ahead of Flanagan.”

But the edition that landed on our Old North End front porch read, “Senate race is far from over for Jeffords and Flanagan.”

Strange newspaper, eh?

Blind Leading the Blind? — Big Bad Bill Bennett, a member of Ronald Reagan’s cabinet who became George Bush’s drug czar, hit Rutland Monday night. Bennett is now a celebrity speaker, an author and a TV talking head. Big Bad Bill’s known for his Republican God-and-country morality sermons. Bennett led the charge as Peckergate reached its climax. But he failed to shame Bill Clinton into resigning because of the wanderings of the President’s member. In the end, Bill Bennett proved he was the bigger peckerhead.

From the stage of the Paramount Theatre in Rutland Monday night, Mr. Bennett weighed in on Vermont’s proud victory in the struggle for individual freedom and liberty — civil unions for homosexual citizens. Equality and justice. The legalization of love.

Vermont may not be leading the whole world on this one. Denmark, Holland, France and Canada have marched forward as well. But Vermont is leading the whole United States of America. No surprise that to shrill Bill Bennett, Vermont’s landmark civil-union law is a bad, bad thing.

“Never before in the history of the world have we entered on a situation we are facing now,” Bennett told the true-believers. Shrill Bill called it “the deconstruction of the family.”

What a frickin’ moron!

If one opens one’s eyes, it’s quite clear civil unions promote families. And the new law promotes families at a time when heterosexuals can’t keep families together. Divorce court — for the heterosexual followers of Bill Bennett— is at flood stage.

Vermont’s civil unions strengthen and enhance family stability. The fact that Big Bad Bill ignores is that, in Vermont as elsewhere, lesbians and gay citizens already adopt children, opening their hearts and homes and lives to build new Vermont families. Strong, loving Vermont families.

Unfortunately, Mr. Bennett continues to represent the kind of “morality” and “vision” that once legitimized the placing of his nose deep inside the boxer shorts of the President of the United States. Tsk, tsk, tsk. The blind leading the blind.

Welcome to Vermont, Dick! — Folks at the Holiday Inn in South Burlington don’t appreciate Repub-lican Vice-Presidential candidate Dick Cheney’s public bitching over his recent stay there. In a wire story, the multi-millionaire oil executive complains about the accommodations booked for him by the skinflint Bush campaign. And he specifically cited his stay at our local Holiday Inn.

The article called the Williston Road establishment a “rather dismal” place. “You might want to make sure you get a room with the three-legged Murphy bed,” advised Mr. Cheney.

“I don’t know what he’s talking about,” said Lonnie Field, general manager of the Holiday Inn for the past 25 years. “There no such thing as a three-legged bed,” said Field. “The rooms were hand-picked by his staff.”

Mr. Field told Seven Days his establishment has won the “quality excellence award” from Hol-iday Inn in five of the last six years. “Cheney’s got to remember,” said Lonnie. “Hotel people vote, too.”

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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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