by Peter Freyne
Ol' St. Patrick, wife Marcelle and grandson Roan arrived from the nation's capital at Burlington International Airport Saturday morning. Yours truly and Ol' Andy Potter from Ch. 3 were there to meet Vermont's senior senator, as was veteran Leahy staffer John Goodrow (at left with the boss), once a radio-news guy himself in the good old days.
Andy's focus for WCAX-TV "Evening News" purposes was the current Farm Bill and its impact on the shrinking Vermont dairy industry (which has been shrinking for as long as I can remember).
Yours truly's questions were on a different subject.
Press: Should Vermonters think things are really changing, that there is reason for hope?
This week - the Vice President’s chief of staff was convicted on four felony counts.
This week - 38 Vermont towns weighed in on President George ‘WMD’ Bush’s honesty and integrity and voted for impeachment resolutions.
This week - the head of the FBI apologized for FBI misconduct - the misuse of "National Security Letters" under the guise of the federal USA Patriot Act.
Sen. Leahy: “I think there’s reason for hope, only because we now don’t have a rubber-stamp Congress. We now have some checks and balances."
St. Patrick noted that within one week of the November 2006 election, Bush Administration officials contacted him, requesting warrants for previously warrantless surveillance of innocent citizens they had been conducting in the name of "national security" - among them Quakers who were protesting the Iraq War.
(I suggested the Bush Administration would have cause to investigate if they discovered Quakers who were demonstrating in favor of the Iraq War!)
The Bush-Cheney anti-First Amendment fanatics knew Sen. Leahy from Vermont had complained loud and clear about such conduct which he considered unconstitutional and an abuse of individual rights.
And they also knew that within two months, in January 2007, the tall, bald former state's attorney from Burlington, Vermont would be the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee - the guy in charge - in the new Democratic Senate.
Sen. Leahy: “I didn’t let it stop at that. I said I was a great fan of Ronald Reagan. I love his expression, ‘Trust but verify.’ And so now we’ve started the verification hearings.
“Both the attorney general (Alberto R. Gonzales), and the director of the FBI (Robert S. Mueller III), came up to see me privately this week and say, ‘We’ve got a real mess here.’
"And they asked me if I was upset by that?
"And I said, ‘Upset doesn’t even cut it!'
“I think we’re going to have significant hearings on this. I suspect that we have a real possibility to revise some of the worst parts of the Patriot Act.
“There’s a change. There’s actually checks and balances. There’s actually people asking questions."
Press: Any hope on Iraq? People (including top U.S. generals) are talking of our being there militarily ‘till 2013.
“The tragedy of Iraq is it has not made us any safer. We’ve lost the lives of thousands of very brave men and women from America, tens of thousands, possibly even hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. And the worst part is that in going into Iraq, the Bush-Cheney Administration allowed Osama bin Laden to get away.
“Can you imagine if this had been Bill Clinton who had done that? And how these people would be screaming?
“We’ve got to keep the pressure on. The public’s got to keep the pressure on to get our people out of there. It is going to be absolutely essential. If President Bush won’t do it, it has to be the first order of the day of the next president.”
Here's a shot coming down Ledge Road - in Beautiful Burlap on the way home. Lake Champlain is still iced in, but that's about to change.
In fact, change is in the air, is it not?