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Vermont vs. the Bush White House 

Inside Track

Bernie Sanders

Published August 22, 2007 at 4:00 a.m.

A very nice photo of Vermont's senior United States senator appeared in Tuesday's edition of The New York Times. There he was, Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, doing his duty before the congressional press gaggle in the vacant Senate Judiciary Committee room on Monday afternoon.

Congress may be out of session, folks, but make no mistake, the temperature is rising on Capitol Hill.

As the Times described it in its "Senator Threatens to Charge White House With Contempt" story, St. Patrick "ratcheted up the battle" over access to secret documents regarding the dictatorial George "WMD" Bush White House's illegal and warrantless wiretapping scheme.

No can do in America, George. The Bill of Rights says so.

Congress is not in session for another couple weeks, but St. Patrick made the trip down to D.C. Monday on the off chance the Bush White House might actually comply with the law, as required, by August 20. They would have had to produce the documents, and Karl Rove, White House master of deception, would have had to schedule his appearance under oath before the Judiciary Committee.

Fat chance.

The Times reported that Leahy "threatened" to pursue "contempt charges" when Congress returns next month.

"Time is up," said the Vermont senator. "We've waited long enough."

Not so fast, said the Bush White House. What's the rush? In fact, President Bush's spokesman gave a nice smack across the ol' kisser to the former Chittenden County State's Attorney.

"Senator Leahy regularly uses hyperbole in his reactions to these things," said Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman, in an interview with the venerable New York "broadsheet." (Which shrinks before the eyes of those who still read it in newsprint form. Did you notice the Times shrank another inch-and-a-half in page width last week?)

"We'd hope the conversations that occur with the White House counsel are more constructive," Mr. Fratto said, "and we hope that Senator Leahy will accept the notion that there is time to work this out in a spirit of cooperation."

Mr. Fratto is certainly good with a shovel, isn't he?

In an interview with "Inside Track" late Tuesday morning after returning home to Vermont, St. Patrick told us that the Senate Judiciary Committee has waited long enough. He made it perfectly clear he "is not in a mood to negotiate."

"I don't know Mr. Fratto," Leahy told us. Never heard his name before, he said. "But I do know that the White House was supposed to respond at 2:30 yesterday (Monday) afternoon. I flew back to Washington to be there if they did. They didn't. They simply asked for more delays."

Chairman Leahy noted the Judiciary Committee's subpoenas for documents and witness testimony "were issued by a vote of Republicans and Democrats."

Yes, indeed. The tide, my friends, is turning. The noose is tightening and the corrupt, dishonest and downright anti-American Bush regime is crumbling.

"The Judiciary Committee and I have been measured, resolute and bipartisan," said Sen. Leahy. "We've extended the deadline a full month, but patience and time tend to run out when the White House's only refrain is 'Take it or leave it.'"

Leahy said he'll next return to Capitol Hill over the Labor Day weekend. "We'll bring the committee together and poll them on what to do," he told "Inside Track."

St. Patrick noted he's gone the extra mile to be fair to the White House. In fact, many would say more than fair to an administration that, due to its deceit and deception, truly has not deserved it. Chairman Leahy gave the positively unbelievable Attorney General Alberto Gonzales "an extra week and a half" to correct his testimony because of the "obvious misstatements in it." When Alberto did not lift a finger to change a word (instead, he actually went on a trip to Iraq with his office in a shambles), Leahy turned the attorney general's testimony over to the inspector general for criminal investigation.

In the case of Mr. Rove the Spinmeister and the documents behind the warrantless wiretaps, Leahy and the Judiciary Committee had extended the deadline more than a month. For their kindness, the committee was completely stonewalled.

"I'm not interested in more delays," Leahy told "Inside Track" on Tuesday. Fasten your seat belts, folks.

And, by the way, yours truly inquired, "Are you, as the White House spokesman said, a 'regular user of hyperbole?'"

"I wasn't aware of it," answered the tall, bald guy who grew up in Montpelier, Vermont. "I think of the days when I was a prosecutor. I never used hyperbole then. Back in those days, things were pretty black and white," he said. A citizen "could either follow the law or face the consequences of the law. I have exactly the same attitude today, and I do not accept it when people act as though they're somehow above the law."

And if ever a bunch did act above the law, Team Bush certainly does, eh? Puts the old Richard M. Nixon/Spiro Agnew crowd of our college years to shame!

Meanwhile, Karl Rove made featured guest appearances on three Sunday-morning political chat shows: "Meet the Press," "Face the Nation" and "Fox News Sunday."

A rarely seen gentleman is Rove, and now I appreciate why. King Karl decides what version of reality can be addressed, and it certainly is a different one than ours.

Leahy of Vermont said he didn't catch any of Mr. Rove's TV appearances on Sunday morning. Busy with the grandchildren was he.

"It was the first day off I'd had in about 10 days," said Sen. Leahy, "and I found the two granchildren a lot more interesting than watching Karl Rove. And a lot more satisfying.

"Though, I must admit," added Vermont's senior senator, "they were probably every bit as tiring."

Right about that.


We're No. 1 - Yes, indeed, Vermont is the only state in the United States of America that President George W. Bush has not visited. And the national media is starting to take note.

Last week the conservative Washington Times, the Bush-friendly daily founded and funded by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, father of the Unification Church, took note. And the paper's story has sparked interest at other news operations as well. Brace yourself for a little national media attention, folks, especially if you're an office-holder or have ice-cream connections.

Say no more!

"Maybe President Bush doesn't like Birkenstocks, or antiquing or socialists," writes Joe Curl, the chief White House correspondent for the conservative Washington Times. "It could simply be that the health-conscious president just doesn't dig Ben & Jerry's high-fat ice cream."

Sure, Joe. With Rove leaving and the Bush administration crumbling in disgrace, denial and dementia, it's time to get the focus outside of Washington, eh?

"Whatever the reason, Mr. Bush has not visited the state of Vermont. He has been to 49 other states and stopped off in more than 60 countries, including Albania, Uganda, Qatar - even Mongolia - but still no trip to Vermont," reports Curl.

Vermont's senate delegation assured the Washington Times that President Bush would get a great reception.

Leahy was quoted as saying, "The whole delegation would be there - all three of us. How many other states can you get every single member of the delegation out there?"

Curl also discussed the matter with Independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders:

"If the president came, we'd get the largest facility we possibly could. I would be delighted to moderate it, and he would be treated with the respect as is becoming the president of the United States," he said.

And Curl even got former Bush White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer in the piece. Always liked Ari, didn't you?

"Vermont is the opposite of George W. Bush: It's granola, it's crunchy, it's liberal, and it's socialist," said Fleischer, who attended Middlebury College and still vacations in the Green Mountains.

Fleischer told the Washington Times that 1000 protestors showed up at the Middlebury graduation a few years ago when he went back to pick up an award.

No place is safe in the state, Mr. Fleischer told the Washington Times:

"Even [on] the tallest mountain peak, they'll backpack their way up there to protest the president."

The story and the network interest begs the question: What is George W. Bush afraid of?

The answer?

The truth.


Governor for Life? - We all know the Republicans are losing their grip on Capitol Hill and the White House, but the GOP under Gov. Jim Douglas and Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie certainly appear to have things under control in Vermont's state capital of Montpeculiar.

Gov. Scissorhands is still riding the wave of victory after defeating the majority Democrats under the Golden Dome in the summer's big gubernatorial veto battles. And neither Democrats nor Progressives have a candidate fired up to take on Douglas in 2008.

In the land of Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, that is a little strange, is it not?

Instead, we've got the Statehouse Democrats under House Speaker Gaye Symington and Senate President Peter Shumlin appointing a blue-ribbon commission to hold public hearings around the state on gay marriage. What's a little funny is that the Democratic leaders and the commission members all appear to favor it going in.

As one distinguished blog contributor over in "Freyne Land" noted, "When the Democratic leadership (?) finally makes a point, it is an absurd idea, like a stacked commission to study a non-problem that stirs up old animosity for no purpose."

Progressive Party activist and potential candidate Anthony Pollina agreed in a Tuesday interview.

"I think same-sex marriage is an important issue," said Tony the Prog. "Equality and equity is an important issue. But I think for most Vermonters, there are a lot of more important things on their minds than same-sex marriage."

Hard to argue with him on that, eh?

"I think that what the Democrats should be talking about is how we're going to make up for the loss of good manufacturing jobs and create more of them; how we're going to lower the cost of health insurance for working families; how we're going to invest in agriculture and all the issues important to average Vermonters."

Mr. Pollina is currently doing his one-hour "Equal Time" radio talk show on WDEV in Waterbury four afternoons a week. He's also a vice president at the Vermont Milk Company. "Without a doubt," he told us, he wants to make sure Gov. Scissorhands has a serious opponent on the ballot in 2008, but he's not ready to throw his hat in just yet.

At present, former Democratic legislator Matt Dunne looks like a possible contender. Dunne lost the Lite-Gov race to Republican Brian Dubie in 2006. He says he'll make a decision sometime in November.

Pollina told "Inside Track" his decision does not depend on what, if anything, Dunne decides.

"A number of people have asked me," said Tony the Prog, "and I've said I'm interested because it needs to be done."

Unlike Dunne, Pollina refused to be pinned down on a decision time-wise. Nor would he say if a Dunne candidacy would keep him from running, once again, as a third-party spoiler type.

"I don't know when my decision will be made," said Mr. Pollina, "but what I will say is that my decision to run or not has never been based on the decision of Democrats."

Music to Jim Douglas' ears, eh?

And, indeed, the snapshot of the moment is very Douglas-friendly. It's a snapshot that shows no significant opposition to a successful Republican administration about to enter its fourth term in this incredible Age of Bush.

Meanwhile, over at the Vermont Legislature, all the political opposition can come up with is a stacked commission backing gay marriage?



Bernie's Fan Club - Did you know Vermont's Junior U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders has a regular coast-to-coast national radio audience on "Air America"? Ol' Bernardo does the 11-to-12 o'clock hour Friday mornings on Thom Hartmann's progressive talk-radio show. Leonardo DiCaprio was on after Bernie. The show is available online at

The former Burlington mayor and left-wing Vermont congressman has quite the following. Apparently a whole lot of people in this country are fed up with the crooked regime in power - a regime whose days are mercifully numbered.

"It's time for the American people to stand up and demand action on these issues," said the senator from Vermont with the accent from Brooklyn. "This country is in trouble. We've got to change our direction, and we need a lot of grassroots activism to make things happen."

"Well said, Bernie," said Hartmann the host, "and thanks for reminding us about that every single 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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