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What a Patsy! 

Peter Freyne reacts to a public accusation — from the chair of the Vermont GOP — that he is acting as de facto spokesman for Bernie Sanders.

Bernie Sanders

Published September 1, 1999 at 1:00 a.m.

Jeezum Crow! Poor Patrick Garahan. It's not easy being chairman of a statewide Republican Party organization, especially if that organization is in the Green Mountains. You might think for a second that, in Vermont, the GOP is a struggling third-party movement. Just take a look around.

The governor?

A Democrat.

The lieutenant governor?

A Democrat.

The state auditor?

A Democrat.

The secretary of state?

A Democrat.

The state senate?

Sorry, a Democrat majority.

The House?

Another Democrat majority.

Vermont's one and only congressional seat?

A Progressive, revered by the Democrats.

In these times, all the state chairman of the Vermont GOP can crack a smile over — and a thin smile it is — is Jim Douglas in the treasurer's office and Jeezum Jim Jeffords occupying one of our two U.S. Senate seats. (The other one is occupied by a Democrat, naturally.)

So when yours truly was on "Vermont This Week" recently, recounting what an extraordinary week Congressman Bernie Sanders had — with all the glowing national media coverage he received, from the "CBS Evening News with Dan Rather" to The New York Times to USA Today — Poor Patsy just snapped. Mr. Garahan fired off a three-sentence communique to Vermont Public Television.

"We Republicans have very low expectations regarding fair reporting from the Vermont media. However, last week's "Vermont This Week" sunk to a new low with the reports on Bernie Sanders. In interest of truth, please give Peter Freyne the proper title in future shows — Spokesman for Congressman Sanders."

Thank you, Patsy. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Nothing like a new title. It’ll hopefully replace the one that’s been hanging around my neck since winter — “Press Secretary for Republican Mayoral Candidate Kurt Wright.”

Still, Patsy’s missive makes one wonder just what sort of “fair” coverage Vermont Republican leaders want. Don’t they watch WCAX-TV? Or follow Sen. Jeffords’ career in the Rutland Herald, where Ol’ Bernado is persona non grata?

Okay, okay, we’ll give it the old college try. For the sake of fairness and the benefit of the delicate ears of Patsy the Republican, let’s try a different spin on Bernie’s extraordinary week. How’s this?

Congressman Sanders continued his fervent effort to close down the IBM facility and send Vermont back to the economic Stone Age by playing butt-boy to a bunch of disgruntled, lazy and obviously anti-American senior IBM employees. Sources say many of the disloyal Big Blue naysayers grew up in the `60s, had long hair, smoked pot, dropped acid and avoided the draft. They complain they’ve been screwed by IBM’s pension plan switcheroo. Like, maybe they should wake up and consider themselves lucky to even have a pension. Sanders, an avowed socialist, promised them anti-corporate, subversive pie in the sky if they stage a proletarian-style revolt inside the IBM corporate castle.

Sanders, who is not a Vermont native, received mention in the left-leaning Times as well as on CBS. Few who lived through the Watergate Era will soon forget the unpatriotic rudeness Dan Rather demonstrated in his vicious, unfair questioning of former President Richard Nixon, who, unlike Pat Garahan's predecessor as Vermont Republican chairman, was not a crook!

As for Sanders' USA Today article whining about the price of prescription drugs, what did you expect? Without prescription drugs, drug stores would go out of business, putting working people, who don't get paid very much as it is, out on the street. Is that what Comrade Bernie really wants?

And what about the fact that prescription drugs save lives — remember when we called them "wonder" drugs? Besides, Pfizer et al. wisely spend millions on tender television commercials informing the American public of the latest scientific discoveries that do everything from relieve hot flashes to stimulate erections. How can pharmaceutical companies be so bad if they really do so much good lifting people's spirits as well as other parts of human anatomy? And what's wrong with making a huge profit? It's the American Way.

As for the feature story in Roll Call on Mr. Sanders' possible bid for the U.S. Senate, one can only ask: Why does this New York transplant care so little about Vermont?

The way things are now, Vermont’s congressional delegation is a perfect geographical mix. Sanders of Burlington, Leahy of Montpelier and Jeffords of Rutland. For some selfish reason Sanders continues to flirt with a challenge to Jeffords. Great. Take away the last thing in the world Rutland has going for it — a United States Senator.

Look, Rutland used to be something, a contender. It was the center for manufacturing, commerce and law. When the railroads and the Proctor family ran this state, Rutland was king. It was once Vermont’s second city, but, according to a July press report, Rutland’s now dropped to third in population, behind the Town of Essex. How humiliating. Rutland don’t even have a gay bar anymore. Now all they’ve got is a newspaper, a downtown Wal-Mart and a new $17 million white-elephant parking garage, built with federal funds secured by — who else? — Jim Jeffords.

So what if the Rutland Herald is going all out to discourage Sanders from taking on their hometown boy. It is, after all, the Rutland paper. On the matter of the paper’s blowing off the Bernie/IBM Congressional Town Meeting, Herald scribe Diane Derby explained to the VPT audience last weekend that yours truly just doesn’t get it. “We’re based in Rutland, the Rutland Herald, and tend not to pay as much attention” as The Burlington Free Press would.

Oh, okay. Now we get it. Sorry.

There, yours truly has repented. It's time to see the news through the eyes of Patsy — a Rutland native. Down with Sanders. Up with Jeffords. Save Rutland.

Please pass the Maalox.

Vice-President M.D. — So far we've been the voice in the wilderness on the prospects of Gov. Howard Brush Dean nailing down the number-two spot on the 2000 Democratic ticket. Nuts, are we?

Finally, Ho-Ho has made somebody else's list of possibilities. In the September issue of Campaigns & Elections, Dean is fourth in the running behind California Sen. Diane Feinstein (5 to 1), Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh (6 to 1), Energy Sec. Bill Richardson, "a Catholic Hispanic with an Anglo name who was born in California (12 to 1)." Dean was pegged at 14 to 1 in the morning line, just ahead of Bill Bradley.

History indicates 14-to-1 shots have been known to hit the wire first. In fact, there was one little filly we fancied at Saratoga two weeks ago that did just that.

Place your bets, folks. Ho-Ho for veep!

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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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