Leahy and the Press | Freyne Land

Leahy and the Press

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Vermont's senior United States Senator Patrick J. Leahy was a featured guest on the luncheon panel at the big Society of Environmental Journalists annual weeklong conference at the Sheraton Burlington on Saturday. About 400 for lunch. What a jam-packed conference schedule!

That's veteran Rutland Herald reporter Kevin O'Connor taking notes. Check the Sunday paper to see what he got.

Needless to say, the SEJ was friendly turf for the Vermont Democrat. The last question for St. Patrick was actually more of a complaint from a Seattle journalist about the extremely slow pace of getting "Freedom of Information Act" requests filled by federal agencies in the Age of Bush II.

Needless to say, Leahy of Vermont could relate. The tall bald guy who grew up in Montpeculiar closed out with an apropos story from the "good old days" of the 1980s when Ronald Reagan, Hollywood's gift to the White House, was in power, and William Casey was his CIA chief. As a few old-timers will remember, Leahy served on the Senate Intelligence Committee back then.

CIA Director Casey, noted Leahy, was required by law "to notify it ofcertain activities prior to their happening. He never did. Invariablynews of those activities would "appear in The New York Times or the Washington Post." Then Casey would  "come running up [to the Hill] for an emergency meeting"

The CIA Director would tell the Intelligence Committee he had "meant to inform them" about the matter, but the information was unfortunately "on the front page" of the newspaper that day.

"About the third time he did that," said St. Patrick, "I said. think of the money you couldsave! Stamp The New York Times 'Top Secret' and then deliver it to us! I said, we’ll have three advantages:

"One, we would get the information far quicker than you ever got it to us.

"Secondly, we’ll get it in far greater detail than you ever gave to us.

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"And thirdly, there is that wonderful crossword puzzle!"

Funny guy.

St. Patrick's Vermont chief, Chuck Ross, was driving him to the airport to catch a 2:10 p.m. Washington flight. Son Mark is running in a Marine Corps marathon Saturday. Dad wanted to be there for the finish.

But we grabbed him at the door with our trusty old-fashioned tape recorder to get his latest forecast for November 7. Don't know about you, but I have found no shortage of folks scared shitless - i.e. on pins and needles - over anticipating the possible election outcomes on Capitol Hill. Said Leahy:

"I believe the House of Representatives will go Democratic. The Senate, under normal circumstances would.  I understand, for example, in Tennessee horribly racist ads have been run by the Republican National Committee. There are totally racist ads being run against Harold Ford. Twenty years ago those would be very detrimental to the African-American candidate. It’s conceivable that they won’t work. Hopefully they won’t work. If they work, then that’s a seat that we lose.

"In Virginia, they’re running ads because James Webb is a well-known writer and has written books."

{That was a reference to the Virginia race and Republican U.S. Sen. George Allen's charge that his Democratic opponent's novels about the Vietnam War are "demeaning to women." In addition to his novels, Challenger James Webb, a decorated Marine veteran of the Vietnam War, is also the former Secretary of the Navy. Sen. Allen is obviously desperate! Hey, Republican Gen. Martha Rainville's become a tree-hugging critic of the Bush war policy right before our very eyes!]

"My God, I mean if the highly negative ads work, then we don’t take it over. The Republicans have a lot more money to spend than the Democrats and they’re spending it on some of the most vicious ads.

"Their wholly-controlled commentator’s getting into it - Rush Limbaugh making fun of Michael J. Fox. Do these things work?


"I don’t know. They worked a couple decades ago. I 'm hoping they won’t work now."

Post Script: Yours truly got some feedback at the Sheraton about our recent take on Democratic gubernatorial candidate Scudder Parker's chances. A few nice folks suggested I had written the Scudster off "too early." Today's Freeps poll has him "just" 10 points behind. We'll see, gang.

Also, I had the "surprise factor" thrill of breaking the news to a few "journalist-types" at the conference who had not yet seen today's local daily and were still in the dark about the Freeps endorsement of Democrat Matt Dunne over Republican Brian Dubie in the Lite-Gov race.

A unanimous surprise it was.

Bit of a shock, too, eh?

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