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Bernie Sanders

Skeletons in Closets

The weekly Vermont GOP Update questions Bernie's whereabouts during his missing years in the 1960s. Meanwhile, Sanders travels to Eastern Europe to study the effects of IMF loans and continues to raise questions about IBM's pension plan.


Published September 8, 1999 at 1:00 a.m.

Being a politician takes guts. It's not the most respected occupation these days. Just look at how the folks in Northfield were applauded for barring politicians from marching in Monday's Labor Day Parade. What's next, no fat people allowed?

But there is one politician these days that people appear to like — the new messiah of the Republican Church of the Almighty Dollar. And next month the Big W is coming to Vermont.

Lone Star State Gov. George W. Bush will be the "sugar" at Sugarbush on October 22 for the Vermont Republican Party's $125- a-plate fundraiser. The Big W — heck of a guy. The front-runner. The son of a President. The best-funded horse in the race.

'Course, there is the little white powder problem. The one he refuses to discuss anymore. Were it a Democrat with alleged white lines in his past, we would be witnessing the biggest turkey shoot since Monica decided not to send the blue dress to the dry cleaners.

But hey, W wore the uniform. He was a jet jockey in the Texas Air National Guard, and like it or not, on his watch not one, I repeat, not one North Vietnamese or Viet Cong aircraft violated Texas air space.

And just the other day, Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords of Rutland said, during one of his increasingly frequent swings through Burlington, that The Big W shouldn't have to 'fess up about sins of the past.

"I think that's a decision that he has to make, how he wants to handle it," said Jeffords. "I feel that things that are not relevant to your immediate service or to your effectiveness as a public servant, that are distant in the past, are not really worthy of discussion."

Well said, Jeezum Jim. Let bygones be bygones, except, of course, when it comes to Congressman Bernie Sanders. Remember, in 1996, when Republican congressional candidate Susan Sweetser tried to dig up the dirt on Bernie's distant past by adding the services of a private detective to her tasteless, ethically challenged campaign?

And now, the latest quest for skeletons in Sanders' closet is featured in the current of the Vermont GOP Update — "News you can use from the Vermont State Republican Party.” The Rs have started a contest called “THE MISSING YEARS." It was the executive director James Dwinell, who was assisted by Libby Sternberg. The Update reads:

Like bees on honey, the national media is fixated on George W. Bush’s past life. In the same spirit of gratuitously probing into politician’s past lives, VERMONT GOP UPDATE officially announces the “BERNIE’S MISSING YEARS CONTEST.” Readers are asked to submit their ideas of what Bernie was up to during the mid-1960s (which are undocumented in the biographies of the “small s” socialist Congressman).

To “prime the pump” Sternberg published a "Top Ten Reasons Bernie Sanders Will Not Reveal Where He Was or What He Was Doing in the Mid-1960s." Among the suggestions are, "He was doing the 'people's work' in a revolutionary Venceremos brigade in Cuba," and "He was running the Brooklyn chapter of the Jane Fonda Fan Club."

Way to go, GOP! It doesn't get any dumber than this.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, Sanders was due back in Washington Tuesday evening after a 10-day fact-finding trip through Eastern Europe as part of a six-member congressional del-egation. The lawmakers went to study the effect of International Monetary Fund loans to Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary. You didn't hear much about it on TV or read about it in the papers because Sanders' office did not issue a press release, and in these strange journalistic times, unless there's a press release, it's not really considered reportable news by the mainstream Vermont media.

Take last week’s story on the IRS memo Sanders obtained, indicating serious questions about “age discrimination” involving an Ohio company’s new “cash balance” pension plan. It’s the very issue Sanders has raised over the new IBM pension plan. The story made the front page of the Los Angeles Times, and once again, Ol’ Bernado made “The CHS Evening News with Dan Rather.” (Apologies to Patrick Garahan.) The next day there were stories in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. With the current uprising at IBM, it’s very big news. But don’t tell that to the local media, which barely gave it a mention.

A check of the news transcripts over at WGOP, er, sorry, WCAX’s Web site indicates the story on the IRS memo was buried on “The Late News” with Roger Garrity, and, needless to say, Bernie was not mentioned. After all, WCAX’s report on the recent overflow Town Meeting Congressman Sanders convened at St. Mike’s didn’t contain those two very simple words: “Bernie Sanders.”

When yours truly questioned WCAX General Manager Peter Martin about the omission of the the name of the congressman who organized and ran the congressional town meeting, he noted WCAX had just had Sanders on their Sunday morning interview program, “You Can Quote Me,” where Sanders “spoke for four minutes or so, straight and unedited on the IBM problem and his activities on behalf of the workers.”

Strange times, indeed.

Media Notes — After 15 years with the station — the last 10 as news director — WPTZ-TV’s Stewart Ledbetter takes over next week as Vermont bureau chief for the local NBC affiliate. Sound like a demotion?

“It depends on your perspective,” said Ledbetter. “I think it’s terrific.”

Andy Wormser, the assistant news director, moves into Stewart’s Plattsburgh office Monday. Congratulations.

Idiot’s Untie — Oops. That’s “unite.” And John Sortino’s new book is the rallying point. The legendary John, who went from peddling on Church Street to starting up the Vermont Teddy Bear Company, is the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Being a Successful Entrepreneur. It just hit the bookstores. "I'm so jazzed people are going to be reading something about what's really true," said Sortino. First printing: 25,000 copies. Price: $18.95.

Bearing All — Some politicians just want to perform. Take ex-mayoral candidate Eric Brenner. The 27-year-old massage therapist is a jack-of-all-trades. He's been hosting interview programs on Ch. 17, has a new band called Glasnost and a new hobby — dancing naked in front of women. Eric recently premiered at a Burlington bachelorette party. "He was absolutely terrible," said one bachelorette. "I don't want to hurt his feelings, but when the G-string came off I left."

Brenner admitted he was a little nervous his first time out.

"He has a nice body," said our bachelorette, "but absolutely no rhythm."

Eric's current plans include a run for a Ward 3 city council seat next March. And speaking of dancing, wasn't that Ward 4 Republican City Councilor Matt Gardy dancing a jig atop the bar at Ri Ra on a recent Friday evening?

“I can neither confirm nor deny that," he told Seven Days.

Sources say Gardy kept his clothes on. No guts, no glory.

Speaking of Congressman, Bernie Sanders



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