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Leahy's Badge of Honor

Inside Track


Published June 30, 2004 at 4:00 p.m.

Another prestigious award for Vermont, folks! The hits just keep on coming, don't they?

The latest was bestowed on Sen. Patrick Leahy last week by the man a heartbeat away from the presidency, Vice President Dick Cheney. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Vice President Dick!

The choice words you hurled at the senior senator from Vermont on the floor of the U.S. Senate last week will echo in the marble hallways of American history long after you depart.

Your eloquent, heartfelt remarks will be right up there, Dick, with Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty, or give me death," and John F. Kennedy's "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

One day it'll be a question on the SATs: What corrupt, discredited vice president once told a Vermont senator on the floor of the U.S. Senate, "Go fuck yourself?"

As everyone knows, the vice president climbed out of his bunker last week to attend the photo shoot of the current class of the United States Senate. As the distinguished members milled about, observers say party lines divided the room: Republicans on one side, Democrats on the other.

The tall, charming bald guy from Vermont noticed the segregation and sashayed across the divide to chat up the Veep.

"Don't you guys talk to Democrats?" quipped Leahy as he extended his hand.

St. Patrick instantly got the cold-fish handshake from Cheney. And then Halliburton's former CEO lit into the Vermonter for daring to question the ethics of the Bush-Cheney administration's multi-billion-dollar, no-bid, sweetheart contracts with that company. "War profiteering" is what Leahy called it.

Corruption is always a touchy subject for politicians caught practicing the ancient art.

Cheney's back went up. He described Leahy's Halliburton charges as equivalent to the excrement of a feathery barnyard animal.

"Chickenshit!" is how Mr. Halliburton put it.

Leahy was taken aback by the heat behind Cheney's words. He'd crossed the imaginary political divide in the carpeting for nothing more sinister than idle chat. Anyone who knows St. Patrick knows he's a gabber and a kidder. The Vermont senator didn't realize, however, that he'd crossed a DMZ and entered a free-fire zone.

Noticing Cheney's spleen, St. Patrick, a Roman Catholic, let Dick know that he had been personally offended when the Bush-Cheney troops attacked him for being "anti-Catholic" for opposing several of Bush's right-wing judicial nominees.

Then from the lips of the vice president of the United States of America came the three little words that said so much about Mr. Cheney, and so much about the state of our democracy.

If anything, Dick's outburst merely put on the record the approach this administration has taken to anyone and everyone who has disagreed with it.

To Americans who want to see a reduction in polluted air and acid rain, the Bush administration has responded, "Go fuck yourself."

To Americans, including Nancy Reagan, who want stem-cell medical research to move forward in hopes of curing Alzheimer's disease and more, the Bush administration says, "Go fuck yourself."

To gay and lesbian Americans who want to enjoy all the rights of citizenship, the Bush administration says, "Go fuck yourself."

To National Guard weekend warriors now assigned to the front lines of a war of choice...

To Vietnam and Gulf War veterans in need of medical care...

You get the drift, eh?

Kudos to the Washington Post for publishing the Cheney curse exactly as delivered. After all, it's one of the most commonly used expressions in the English language.

Yours truly vividly remembers the first time the F-word passed our lips...

I was 8, and I and my mates from Sacred Heart School were walking home one day. We passed a pack of "greasers" from the local public school heading in the opposite direction. They made fun of our jackets and ties.

Never one to keep my mouth shut, I let fly with a "Fuck you." It was my first-ever public use of the phrase.

Unfortunately, at 8 years of age, I wasn't exactly sure what it meant. As a young Catholic entrusted to the care of nuns, I had not uttered any bad words. I'd heard older boys, role-models, use the unmentionable once or twice as a demonstration of power.

There was perhaps a one-second gap between my utterance and the impact of the greasers' fist on the bridge of my nose.

My first thought was that I needed to get to confession before dying. I had done a really bad thing.

And when mom asked about the blood stains on my shirt, I lied. I said I had no idea why Tony Whatshisname had popped innocent little me.

Some history buffs think St. Patrick should have popped Cheney, or at least challenged him to a duel. As a St. Michael's College student, Patrick was quite the marksman on the pistol range, you know. Cheney wouldn't have a prayer.

Unfortunately, to make a bad situation worse, Cheney went on FOX, the TV network the God Squad loves, to tell the faithful he felt better for having said what he said. What a man!

And FOX followers have inundated Leahy's office with nasty calls. The young Vermont receptionsists are told to hang up when the caller uses the F-word.

So much for the candidate who, when picked by Bush to be the running mate, promised "to restore a spirit of civility and respect."

As one Washington veteran put it, "If Howard Stern had said it, he would have been shipped off to Guantanamo."

Since Cheney fired off the "fuck heard 'round the world," it's been entertaining to watch holier-than-thou Christian conservatives rush for the exits like cockroaches.

One example is the Concerned Women for America -- www.cwfa.org. The conservative outfit's mission is "to protect and promote Biblical values among all citizens -- first through prayer, then education, and finally by influencing our society -- thereby reversing the decline in moral values in our nation."

We checked CWA's website expecting to find a denunciation of the Vice Man's vulgarities on the Senate floor. Indeed, CWA was paying attention to the Senate on the day Cheney dropped the F-bomb. In fact, CWA issued a press release that afternoon highlighting the need for "decency" in America.

Unfortunately, the release was about Janet Jackson's Super Bowl breast-fest, not about the vice president of the United States telling the senior senator from Vermont to "Go fuck himself!" CWA praised the Senate for passing "Defense of Decency" legislation that very day that ups the fines for "abuse of the public airwaves" by nipple-exposing TV stars and radio shock-jocks.

Not a word on the CWA site about Cheney's obscenity. Never have heads been deeper in sand, eh?

So we called CWA in Wash

ington this week and spoke to

Rebecca Riggs, the press officer. Why no press release on Cheney's shock-jock remarks?

"We don't do press releases on everything," replied Ms. Riggs. After consulting her superiors, she called Seven Days back to tell us that "CWA will have no comment" on Cheney's potty-mouth remarks.

Do you think they would've been so silent had a Democrat dropped the F-bomb?

One Republican who did jump into the fray was our pal Jack McMullen, the millionaire Massa-chusetts cat-napper. McSnoozer's struggling campaign issued a statement.

"I don't think it's appropriate for the Vice President to use that kind of language in those circumstances," said McMullen, "but, more disturbing is what Patrick Leahy's long record of partisanship has sewn (sic)."

More disturbing?

As Mr. Cheney would put it, "What the fuck are you on, Jack?"

Meanwhile, the only Independent member of the U.S. House had an insightful take on the whole Cheney-Leahy Fuck Fest.

"Brunch with Bernie" is a regular Friday feature on the nationally syndicated Thom Hartmann radio show. Rep. Bernie Sanders conceded upfront that he has been known to use the F-word once or twice himself. (Yours truly can vouch for that.)

"Cheney's obscene outburst tells us a couple things," said Sanders. "Some of our right-wing friends pretend to be very religious, caring and sensitive," said Bernie, "but underneath that surface it may not quite be that way."

The other thing is, said Ol' Bernardo, "it tells us that Bush and Cheney are feeling a lot of pressure now. They're seeing poll numbers that go down and their lies exposed. They're stressed out."

"Around here there's a lot of false friendliness," noted Vermont's congressman. "Everybody's an 'Honorable Gentleman' and 'Honorable Lady,' and everybody loves each other while they're stabbing each other in the back five minutes later."

But what Cheney said to Leahy, Sanders suggested, "was a very unusual statement."

As Cheney himself might say, "No shit, Sherlock."

Local Impact

-- Bad timing for Republican Gov. Jim Douglas, eh? Gov. Scissorhands actually got a double dose of obscenity last week.

As the Vermont chair of Bush-Cheney 2004, Mr. Douglas was not pleased with Cheney's vulgar outburst. The day after the story broke, Jim and Pat were side-by-side at the formal opening of General Dynamics' Technology Center in Burlington.

Though the other distinguished journalists on hand weren't interested, we just had to ask Douglas about his ticket-mate's suggestion that the senior senator from Vermont go somewhere and have sex with himself.

"Well, uh, uh," said Douglas, backing away, "perhaps [Cheney] had a bad day."


No perhaps about the fact that Jim himself had his own X-rated bad day last week when the Associated Press reported that the 2002 campaign website http://www.jim douglas.org now offers visitors hardcore porn. Guess the Douglas team missed a payment, eh?


The upside is that the old Jim Douglas for Governor website is definitely one that would assist gentlemen who the vice-president believes need a private moment to themselves.

Thanks, Jim.

P.S. Dare we say that WGOP, er, sorry, WCAX-TV once again may have shown its true colors with its handling of the Douglas porn-site story?

Seven Days has learned that both the A.P. bureau in Montpeculiar and Ch. 3 news director Marselis Parsons were simultaneously tipped off about it shortly after 4 p.m. last Wednesday.

A.P. Reporter Wilson Ring made the necessary call to Douglas HQ and posted a story on the wire at 5:15 p.m., 45 minutes before Marselis and Sera Congi take to the airwaves. Unfortunately, the embarrassing Douglas website story was not considered newsworthy for the Ch. 3 News at Six.

The story was reported at 11 p.m. by anchorman Roger Garrity and mentioned again in the morning by Judy Simpson. But a check of the WCAX news script for Thursday's Six O'Clock News indicates the station's largest news audience never heard about Gov. Douglas's X-rated embarrassment.


Can anyone imagine Marsillyiss considering a Peter Clavelle or Bernie Sanders porno snafu just as unworthy of a mention?

Kudos to WCAX

-- Hey, got to take the good with the bad.

Despite our differences with the Ch. 3 brass, the worker bees regularly turn out some pretty good stuff. A prime example is veteran reporter Andy Potter's coverage of Saturday's peace rally and march in Burlington. The old radio reporter has blossomed on the box, playing against the grain of the well-coiffed painted faces.

Mr. Potter's report highlighted what the local daily missed. A host of the "usual suspect" speakers addressed the crowd. But the participants Potter highlighted in his report were the unusual suspects -- an off-duty Vermont National Guardsman and the mother of a Vermont soldier on the firing line in Iraq.

"We can't wait one more day, one more hour, one more minute to demand that we end the occupation and bring the troops home," said Nancy Brown of Vermont Military Families Speaking Out. Her son Ryan Brown is serving in Baghdad.

"I can tell you," said the unidentified Vermont soldier, "that among the people I know who have come back from Iraq and Afghanistan, more and more are coming back with the sentiment that I feel: bring the troops home."

Watching Potter's report on Ch. 3, yours truly couldn't help but see that the reporter's life experience was a priceless ingredient in his news judgment.

You see, Andy Potter is a Vietnam War veteran. He knows what being sent to the other side of the world to kill and die for presidential lies is all about.

Antiwar leftist activists will always turn out for a protest march in Burlington, Vermont. God bless 'em.

But when a soldier and the

mom of a soldier do, too, you

know something truly newsworthy is happening.

Fox Racing

-- Former seven-term Democratic State Rep. Sally Fox of Essex has thrown her tail, er, hat into the Chittenden County state senate race. Princess Sally's entry means seven foxes are running for six perches on the November ballot. In the September primary, Fox will face incumbent Sens. Virginia Lyons, Jim Leddy, Jim Condos and Hinda Miller, as well as Sam Osborne and Ed Flanagan.

May the best foxes win!

Old Glory?

-- Following complaints last week on the treatment of Old Glory by our local Gannett-chain daily, we've been keeping an eye on things.

Neighbors noticed the Freeps flag had not been lowered to half-staff as ordered by President George W. Bush to honor the passing of President Ronald Reagan.

Well, as far as we can tell, no one ever touches The Burlington Free Press' American flag on its College Street pole. Old Glory flies high day and night (without illumination), in sunshine and in rain. In fact, the locks on the wire cables are pretty rusted.

Since Publisher Jim Carey doesn't talk to the press, our best guess is that he eliminated the job of the flag raiser/lowerer as a cost-cutting move.

Congratulations, Jim! That's why you get the big bucks, eh?

P.S. Proper treatment of the Stars and Stripes may not be in the budget, Jim, but, for goodness' sakes, look out your damn window. You own the filthiest American flag in Vermont!

Apparently, a little respect for Old Glory is too much to expect from Vermont's largest newspaper.


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