Vermont’s senior senator, elected in an upset way back in November 1974, was standing in front of the soda coolers at the Radio Deli on Pearl Street in Burlington Wednesday morning. At one of Patrick Leahy's elbows stood Independent U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders, a candidate for the open U.S. Senate seat created by Jeezum Jim Jeffords' retirement. At the other stood State Sen. Peter Welch, the Democrat shooting for Ol’ Bernardo’s open House seat.
The presser drew a very good media turnout: Ch: 3 and Ch: 5 had crews crammed in the narrow Radio De li aisle; Sam Hemingway from the Freeps (with the new goatee) showed, as did John Dillon from VPR and the new Montpelier bureau chief of the Associated Press John Curran. That's Mr. Curran with the interesting tie. (And yes, he's the guy who finally replaced Chris Graff.) Does anyone else see a resemblance to ex-Vanguard Press editor Jeff Good? Jeff, a St, Mike's grad, went on some success at The St. Petersburg Times before coming back to Vermont and finding paradise over at the Valley News.
The official topic was the federal minimum wage and there wasn't a Republican in sight. Would you believe the entire trio wants it raised from $5.15 up to $7.25? What a surprise!
Everyone stuck to their script and when they finished no reporter-type had a minimum-wage question on the tip of their tongues. So we popped something a little fresher: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s speech last night to the American Legion National Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The most incompetent, dishonest Secretary of Defense in memory actually played the Adolph Hitler card. Rumsfeld, as you know is a man not even Republican Sen. John McCain has any confidence in. Our current embarrassment of a defense secretary actually compared those Americans who are today’s patriotic critics of the Bush administration’s dishonest Iraq disaster to unnamed Americans from the 1930s who did not take Adolf Hitler & Co. seriously enough and called the threat of fascism “exaggerated.”
Said Rumsfeld to the Legion last night:
“It was a time when a certain amount of cynicism and moral confusion set in among the western democracies. When those who warned about a coming crisis -- the rise of fascism and Nazism -- were ridiculed and ignored.
“Indeed, in the decades before World War II, a great many argued that the fascist threat was exaggerated -- or that it was someone else’s problem. Some nations tried to negotiate a separate peace -- even as the enemy made its deadly ambitions crystal clear. It was, as Churchill observed, a bit like feeding a crocodile, hoping it would eat you last....
“I recount this history because once again we face the same kind of challenges in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism. Today, another enemy -- a different kind of enemy -- has also made clear its intentions -- in places like New York, Washington, D.C., Bali, London, Madrid, and Moscow. But it is apparent that many have still not learned history’s lessons.”
You’ve simply got to read the Rumsfeld speech.
St. Patrick bristled as we asked for comment, on Rumsfeld's crack about how Iraq War critics have not learned their history lessons. Pat Leahy got very, very serious, very, very quickly:
“You know, to quote my friend Bernie, I was outraged at what [Rumsfeld] had to say. You want to talk about reading history? I wish somebody in the Bush administration would actually read a history book, I doubt if anyone has from the top all the way down!”
“I’m reminded of what [former Bush Attorney General] John Ashcroft said when we actually asked questions about his failed effort, his failed effort to stop terrorists. Ashcroft said, ‘Those who are questioning us are giving aid and comfort to the enemy.’
"In other words the definition of treason.
“The press asked me what I thought about that and I said, look, I can’t criticize his right to speak. I’m a strong proponent of the 1st Amendment. He has a right to say anything he wants, no matter how stupid it might be.
“And I’ll say the same for the Secretary of Defense. He has a 1st Amendment right to say anything he wants to, no matter how stupid it might be. This was pretty stupid!
“To suggest, as this administration does over and over again, that if people question what they’re doing, then somehow we’re unpatriotic.
“I think the highest mark of patriotism in this country is to raise questions, and especially to raise questions about an administration that’s carrying out policies that make absolutely no sense, that have alienated us from much of the rest of the world, and have not made us safer, but has made us less safe.
“Is that clear enough?”
Peter Welch piped up:
“I just want to add - for the good of the troops for the good of the country I think Donald Rumsfeld should be fired today. He misled us into the war. He criticized legislators and the press who asked questions before we went to war. He’s criticizing people who are now asking to hold him accountable. He refuses to accept responsibility for his own policies and his own actions. It’s unacceptable.”
And finally, Bernie Sanders:
“In point of fact, not only did Sen. Leahy vote against the War in Iraq. Not only did Sen. Jeffords vote against the War in Iraq, I voted against the war in Iraq. And that makes, in fact, the Vermont delegation the only complete delegation of 50 states in America to vote against the War in Iraq.
“And you know what?
“We were right.”
Tough to argue with these guys, eh?
At least on the topic of George W. Bush's War in Iraq.
The war that never needed to happen!