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Dubie in Deep Doo-Doo?

Inside Track


Published January 12, 2005 at 5:00 p.m.

Seven Days has learned that shortly after winning re-election in November, Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie of Essex Junction applied for a prestigious "ambassadorial" appointment from the administration of President George W. Bush.

Not a pretty story, folks. And, as we write this, other Vermont news organizations are finally on the case, too.

You see, the question first raised here last month about Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie's quest for a new ambassador-type job has finally been answered.

Unfortunately, it hasn't been answered by Dubie himself, who once again gave us the brush-off last week.

Despite his support for the Bush-Cheney ticket, Dubie got 56 percent of the vote in what is supposed to be the most liberal state in America. Bravo!

Doobie-Doo did so not because of his political views, we'd suggest, but because of his boy-next-door image.

The Doobster joined the Vermont National Guard while a UVM student. Flew F-4s and F-I6s and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Brian worked at Goodrich Aerospace for a number of years before joining American Airlines in 1988 as a pilot. Over the years he's seen more of the wild blue yonder than any politician in Vermont.

As "Inside Track" regulars know, throughout December the Doobster declined to return our calls.

Now, folks, it's all perfectly understandable!

Seven Days has learned from reliable sources that our favorite Vermont airline pilot was making the pitch to the Bush team that he's got what it takes to be the new U.S. ambassador to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The what?

Fair enough. Most folks, including this one, have never heard of the ICAO. After all, not many of us fly the friendly skies in a cockpit.

The ICAO is a specialized agency of the United Nations, like the World Health Organization. Formed in 1947, the ICAO has 187 member nations. Its purpose is to establish uniform standards for commercial aviation, including the licensing of pilots.

And -- get this -- the ICAO headquarters is just up the road in Montr?al. If he gets the job, Dubie could commute from his Chittenden County home!

Suddenly Lt. Gov. Dubie's first-term fixation with international travel and diplomacy from Shanghai to Havana to Montr?al starts to make sense, eh?

Of course, if Brian gets the ICAO job, he will have to resign as Vermont's lieutenant governor. Under our constitution, the post would remain vacant until the 2006 election.

Understandably, our December reports of a Dubie job search had some people wondering about Mr. Nice Guy's commitment to the voters who just re-elected him. "Unseemly" was how a Vermont Democratic Party spokesman put it when we first raised the matter.

Last Friday, yours truly finally got to pop the question directly to our favorite King of the Cockpit.

We were outside the east door of the Statehouse. The sun was shinning. The air was crisp.

Yours truly told Mr. Dubie we had no problem with his career ambitions. In fact, we told the Republican that it made perfect sense, given the fact that the Vermont Senate is now controlled by Democrats. In terms of the Statehouse political power game, Doobie-Doo will be no more of a player in the coming biennium than the Statehouse janitor.

Besides, Brian's whole adult life has been spent flying airplanes. His resum? is perfect for the ICAO post.

The lieutenant governor paused and took a deep breath. He looked us in the eye with a half-grin, half-grimace on his kisser. He placed his right hand on our shoulder and politely said, "I am not going to comment."

Doobie-Doo then turned quickly on his heels, climbed the stairs and entered the building.

Sure didn't take the bull by the horns, did he?

Look, if it wasn't true that he had applied for the ICAO appointment, surely he would have told us we had a screw loose?

"Pedro," he might have said, "what have you been smoking?"

Or: "That's absurd, Mr. Reporter. I promised the voters when I ran that if they honored me with their votes and gave me a second term I would serve out the full term. It's a privilege to serve the people of Vermont, and I intend to honor my commitment."

But Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie didn't say that. Instead, he declined to say anything about his career climb. Whatever happened to honesty being the best policy?

P.S. Seriously, folks, we wish Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie well in his job quest. He'd make an excellent ambassador to the ICAO.

However, political insiders tell us his chances are slim. That's because plum jobs like the one Brian's after are political appointments. If only he'd raised a few million dollars for the Bush-Cheney Campaign, eh?

Don't worry, Brian. Serving out the term you were just elected to won't be that bad. Hey, man, you might even learn a few new tricks under the golden dome that'll come in handy later on.

We suggest that answering a straight question with a straight answer would be a good place to start.

Political Wisdom -- Vermont Public Radio started airing a positively brilliant 10-part series this week that's like an Old-Timers' Game for Vermont political junkies.

"Under the Golden Dome: The Stories Behind Vermont's Citizen Legislature" features the plainspoken wisdom of former Statehouse all-stars, from the "Young Turks" of the 1960s such as Phil Hoff and Dick Mallary to the Titans of the 1990s such as House Speaker Ralph Wright.

It airs during "Morning Edition." Unfor-tunately, one cannot listen online. The series was produced by the Vermont Folklife Center for the Snelling Center for Government. VPR, you see, doesn't own the rights.

The Folklife Center will be selling CDs at some point, but no one at the Center could say when. However, the transcripts are posted

online free of charge at www.ver montfolklifecenter.org.

Sounds Like a Plan -- Former Gov. Howard Dean is hosting an "Un-auguration" on January 20 at the Sheraton Hotel in South Burlington from 6 to 10 p.m.

There'll be music, refreshments and a certain pretty funny standup comic.

In fact, Jason Lorber is so hilarious that voters in Burlington's Old North End recently elected him to the legislature.

About time the Statehouse had a certified comedian.

No surprise Tuesday when Ho-Ho officially declared his candidacy for chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

As far as the ailing party of Franklin D. Roosevelt goes, Ho-Ho is just what the doctor ordered.

Media Notes -- Out with the old and in with the new, eh?

The Burlington Free Press' top political reporter Candace Page will not be spending the rest of the winter at the Statehouse. Though she was there for the big opening last week, Ms. Page tells Seven Days she's returning to home base in Burlington "to cover the environment, land use and agriculture in Vermont."

It was Candy's fourth stint under the dome. Her first began in 1974. Talk about institutional memory, eh?

Terri Hallenbeck is the new Freeps Statehouse reporter replacing Madame Page. Terri's been the local Gannett paper's assistant metro editor for the last five years.

She's a Rochester, New York, native, a UVM grad and former Peace Corps volunteer who served in Niger, West Africa.

For Terri, journalism is a family affair. Husband Brent Hallenbeck is also a staff writer at the Freeps.

Welcome to Montpeculiar!

Over in TV Land, WPTZ reporter Graham Johnson is heading back to Seattle after almost five years with our local NBC affiliate. Very solid reporter.

Bon voyage.

Burlington Square Garden? -- One year after its first meeting, the Governor's Arena Study Committee received a long-anticipated consultant's report of the feasibility of a new sports arena in the Burlington area.

The commission, chaired by Commerce Secretary Kevin Dorn, meets next month to come up with final recommendations to Gov. Jim Douglas.

But don't get your hopes up. One hour before the commission met Monday, Gov. Scissorhands was pooh-poohing the prospects of a new arena. The problem, you see, is figuring out where the money will come from.

UVM, not surprisingly, is gung-ho for the project. Of course, UVM has no intention of paying a nickel for it.

That leaves students and us taxpayers.

Actually, the biggest hurdle is not financing the estimated $60 million construction. The biggest hurdle is finding a way to cover the projected $2.7 million in annual operating costs.

Douglas told attendees at the Lake Champlain Chamber breakfast, "There'll be questions about its sustainability from a financial standpoint on an ongoing basis."

The arena study suggests increases in student fees and/or increases in the state sales tax and rooms-and-meals tax as possibilities.

Needless to say, that is not music to the ears of Gov. No Tax Increase.

"Some will say," said the Gov, "we should add on a tax for an arena and, before you know it, local taxes have gotten pretty high."

Stay tuned.

P.S. The fact that hockey fans are second-class citizens in the U.S.A. was driven home last week when ESPN declined to air the gold medal game in the World Ice Hockey Junior Championships from faraway North Dakota. Had the U.S. team made the final, ESPN would have broadcast the game. But Canada vs. Russia?

The sports cable network apparently makes more money airing those Texas Hold 'Em poker games.


Gaye Press Coverage -- The best line of the session to date was uttered on opening day by House Minority Leader Rick Hube on Ch. 5.

Asked about the ascension of Democrat Gaye Symington to the podium as House Speaker, Rockin' Ricky the Republican replied in his trademark gravelly voice, "I'm looking forward to working on her, er, with her."

Nice catch.

So far, Vermont's new speaker is off to a fine start.

It hasn't taken long to get the sense that the new speaker is blessed with intelligence, integrity and a sense of fairness, as demonstrated by her committee assignments. As Symington told the members last week, "You have given me a gavel, not a crown!"

Meanwhile, some wonder how WGOP, er, WCAX will work on the new speaker, given the station's kid-glove treatment of Lady Gaye's Republican predecessor and uncritical coverage of Gov. Scissorhands. As all but recent transplants know, WCAX's owner Red Martin has long been a generous donor to Republican, and only Republican, candidates.

Still, we were more than a little surprised Thursday evening when WCAX's news reader Marselis Parsons told viewers that Speaker Symington had declined to do an on-camera interview and -- here's the shocker -- was refusing to talk to all reporters until the following Monday.

If true, stop the presses!

"We wanted to talk to House Speaker Gaye Symington about this report," Marsillyiss told the 6 o'clock audience. "She helped write Act 60 -- and her leadership also led to Act 68 -- but Symington did not want to talk on camera. She says she will not be doing any interviews until Monday, when she hands out committee assignments to lawmakers."

It was a "Twilight Zone" moment. Symington has appeared very open to press inquiries so far. Why would she suddenly shut the door? Had the brain of Speaker Walter Freed been transplanted into Symington's skull?

When we confronted the new speaker Monday with the Ch. 3 report, she looked at us incredulously. Obviously, Lady Gaye has been too busy to watch Parsons and his better half Sera Congi every night.

"I don't ever remember having that conversation with anybody," said Symington.

So we put on our Howard Kurtz hat and emailed Parsons and his boss, General Manager Peter Martin over at our local CBS affiliate.

Hey, as everyone knows, it's been a bad week at Black Rock, as the New York City headquarters of CBS is known. The network ate a ton of crow, admitting inaccuracies in Dan Rather's "60 Minutes II" report about Dubya's less-than-honorable National Guard service.

The bottom line in journalism is accuracy. No one gets everything right all of the time, but it's the goal we all shoot for. Mistakes not only hurt one's pride, they hurt something much more important -- one's credibility.

Since no other Statehouse scribe we spoke with was aware that Lady Gaye was refusing to talk to the Vermont press, the accuracy of the WCAX report looked a little dodgy.

According to Mr. Martin, Ch. 3 reporter Kristin Carlson asked Gaye's assistant, Jill Krowinsky, last Thursday if the speaker would have time for an interview on several subjects. Martin informed us Jill did indeed get back to Kristin within five minutes and informed her, "Gaye would not be doing interviews until the following Monday, when she would announce committee assignments."

According to Martin, Carlson told her she wasn't interested in committee assignments and wanted to touch on other issues.

Krowinsky declined comment, referring questions to her boss.

Carlson likewise did not wish to discuss the matter. She told us Tuesday afternoon she was "on deadline," and didn't have time to talk about it.

We do know that Reporter Carlson and Speaker Symington had a little private chat earlier on Tuesday. Hope all is well.

"I talked with Kristin," said Symington, "and I understand better what happened." Carlson, you see, had called to talk about a new education-financing report. The speaker did not know that her assistant had told Kristin that the speaker was busy on committee assignments and didn't have time for an on-camera interview.

As it turned out, committee assignments were handed out late Friday morning, and the speaker appears to be speaking to everybody, including WCAX-TV.

In fact, Tuesday morning the special House Health Care Committee met with Lady Gaye in the speaker's office. Two reporters slid into the room and quietly observed the proceedings. Not one word of objection was raised.

Under the previous speaker, that had about as much chance of happening as hell freezing over.