by Peter Freyne
I couldn’t believe it either.
I just turned on “The Mark Johnson Show” on WDEV at 9:17 a.m. this morning. Actually, I connected online since I get such a crappy radio signal here at the Burlington ranch. Didn’t know who was on today. Turned out to be the governor of the great state of Vermont by car phone from Bennington County!
That’s where Gentleman Jim Douglas was campaigning for reelection to a third term, accompanied by Lite-Gov. Brian Dubie and Auditor Randy Brock.
I hear the name of “Mark Foley” mentioned by Mr. Johnson. That would be the Florida congressman (Republican) who just resigned over the sex scandal with the underage congressional pages. A couple weeks ago, out-of-nowhere, Gov. Scissorhands fed Darren Allen over at the Rutland Herald/Times Argus some spiel about how “disgusted” he was with the behavior of his fellow Republicans in Washington. It was "abandon ship" time for Republicans like Jim who were worried about reelection: "Douglas scorches Bush, national GOP brass." Here's a taste:
Douglas usually demurs from criticizing his Washington GOP brethren, particularly President George Bush. But not this week. "I certainly don't want to imply that only the congressional branch of government is at fault," he said. "Both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are caught up in scandal to some extent, and I don't want to suggest that the executive branch is excluded from responsibility for the breakdown of ethical standards." He said that with Congress reeling from scandals ranging from the financial to the sexual, he has become more disillusioned than at almost any time in his 30-year political career.
"I'm appalled, I'm discouraged, I'm offended and, frankly, as someone who's been in office for many years, it's awful to see how some people who are given the public trust can breach it," Douglas said. "It's not exclusively a Republican problem down there, but it certainly seems that those caught up are predominately Republicans."
Very, very unusual for Jim Douglas, the Vermont chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaigns in 2000 and 2004, to criticize the White House. No one walks a fine line better on the public stage than Vermont's Jimmy D, and he’s been walking it since the early 1970s.
Sounded like Friday morning's Mark Johnson interview was providing a rare moment, indeed, these days. You see, regular weekly press conferences are something Vermont’s governor has actually NOT been doing since before the leaves turned!
So we catch the host asking the Governor about the Bush scandals on Friday morning:
WDEV: Well, why haven’t you spoke out about that sooner? Some of those scandals have been going on for quite some time?
Governor: Well, I answer questions that I’m asked by the media.
WDEV. You’ve never been asked about that stuff before? Is that what you’re claiming to me this morning?
Governor: Well, I can’t remember. I answer questions that I’m asked.
WDEV: Huh. My recollection is that Peter Freyne asks you about every week to make some sort of comment about the Bush administration or the Republican-led Congress?
Governor: Well, most of Peter’s questions are about Iraq. He seems to be mono-focused on that.
You see, it’s been weeks, no, make that months now since the governor of Vermont even scheduled a “Governor’s Weekly Press Conference.” He may have done a couple photo-opportunity-type “press availabilities," but the regular, standard, incoming questions from the Fourth Estate have been something we simply haven’t experienced.
A quick check with other Montpeculiar reporters indicates no one can remember when Gov. Jim Douglas actually held his last “regular weekly press conference.”
So, I scrolled back down on the page I use to write my WDEV radio news stories. Covering the Guv’s “weekly” has been part of my regular regimen since before gray hair. It’s a Vermont tradition. However, lately things have changed. Last one I have a script for was filed on Thursday August 31 - more than two months ago.
I also notice that on that same day, August 31, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Scudder Parker - for the second consecutive week - tried to engage and upstage Gov. Douglas by calling a presser of his own at the Statehouse an hour or two before the “Governor’s Weekly.”
Smart tactical move on Scudder’s part to toss down the gauntlet and force Gov. Jim to respond directly to the challenger.
But it looks like the incumbent decided that would be enough of that. Gov. Scissorhands, according to our old scripts, hasn’t permitted it to happen since. Look, if the Guv ceases scheduling a "regular weekly press conference," Ol’ Scudder can’t schedule one of his own to precede it.
Smart move, eh?
But, Gov. Douglas, what’s with taking a cheap shot at me on The Mark Johnson Show?
Just because I have been one of the few members of the press to dare question you - every few months - on your latest position regarding the bloodbath in Iraq and the lies of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney that got us there, does not mean I am “mono-focused.”
Tell it to the parents, the wives and children of the Vermonters who’ve died for those lies, eh? To the soldiers who came home alive, but will never be the same?
And wouldn't it be great if both in Washington, D.C. and Montpeculiar, Vermont, we had elected leaders who made "focusing on the truth" one of their top priorities?
One day, eh?