Not hard to imagine them popping the champagne corks up in Groovy UV Land Monday when word ricocheted around the state, and around the world, that the Vermont Supreme Court had issued its long-anticipated decision on same-sex marriage.
Finally, the Vermont press had a big, sexy story to at least temporarily replace the one about the “Baa! Baa! Black Sheep” Hockey Hazing Scandal. Hey, it’s Christmas week. Let’s give the hockey pucks and UVM’s Keystone Cop administrators a breather. Instead, this holiday week, let’s applaud our favorite UVM hockey fan and Vermont governor, Howard Brush Dean III. On Monday, after years of hemming and hawing, Ho-Ho finally came out of the closet.
You see, Howard Dean has always steadfastly refused to state his personal opinion on same-sex marriage. “I’ll wait until the court decides,” he’d always reply. Savvy politician that he is, Ho-Ho long ago learned that one who takes public positions on controversial social issues can expect to alienate about half the electorate. And our governor, a self-professed “passionate centrist,” would never do that. But on Monday, the state supreme court finally did decide and Ho-Ho could no longer wiggle out of ‘fessing up.
So, what does Howard Dean really think of gay marriage? “It makes me uncomfortable, same as anybody else,” he replied. Uncomfortable? Uncomfortable how? Does it make Howard feel like he’s got cooties? Or that ants are invading his underpants?
“The 4000-year tradition of heterosexual marriage being an institution,” said Ho-Ho, “is something I think you have to respect. I think there are a lot of people in this state who are uncomfortable about the concept of gay marriage.”
Pressed by reporters to further illuminate his view on the matter, Dean resisted, saying his “personal preference” on same-sex marriage is “irrelevant.”
“My private dilemmas are my private dilemmas,” said Dean. “My job is to get the state through this. My opinion doesn’t affect the ship of state.”
Why won’t he just say it? Or, is it, in his mind, a matter of saving one’s political neck, especially when the politician in question is a Democrat with thinly concealed national aspirations?
No question, one hour after the Supremes released their opinion Monday, one could detect Ho-Ho’s sense of relief. Had the high court gone all the way, as Associate Justice Denise Johnson suggested, and said, “Hand out the marriage licenses,” the name of Vermont Gov. Howard Dean would forever be linked to the legalization of homosexual marriage.
Monday’s legal tome from Chief Justice Jeff Amestoy mercifully gives Dean some breathing room. The ball is now squarely in the legislature’s court and, on Monday, King Howard was once again pulling up the drawbridge. He refused to say if he’d sign or veto a gay-marriage bill that reached his desk Ho-Ho deflected the question, saying there aren’t the votes there to pass such a bill. He’s right about that.
On the other hand, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ruth Dwyer had no problem stating publicly, once again Monday, that she opposes gay marriage. She was straightforward and clear about it. Obviously, she doesn’t share in Howard Dean’s White House reverie.
Election 2000 — Speaking of Ruthless Ruth Dwyer, word is she has quietly put the word out to her supporters that her 15-year marriage to veterinarian Dr. John Dwyer has ended by mutual agreement and they plan to divorce. According to her campaign manager, Kathleen Summers, “It’s an amicable divorce. They’ll work out the final terms over the next couple months.” She said Mr. Dwyer had moved to Florida. She also said her boss will retain her married name.
McCain’s Pop Quiz — Sen. John McCain, main rival to Gov. George W. Bush of Texas, won the hearts and minds of hundreds Sunday with a stop at City Hall in Burlington. Almost 600 people — and we’re not talking political hacks — poured into Contois Auditorium to see a legend for themselves. John McCain did not disappoint as he hosted a one-hour Phil Donahue-style show, cracking jokes, taking questions and preaching his message of reform: reform of government, reform of the military, reform of the tax code, you name it, he’ll reform it. He used the word “reform” so much you’d a-thunk he was running against Jesse Ventura and Donald Trump.
It was easy to see why the Washington pundits are criticized by the Bush boys for their love affair with McCain. He doesn’t come across like a politician, but rather as a person with a real life history and a mission. He joked how in an early New Hampshire poll he got just 3 percent support. “And the poll had a 5 percent margin of error.” Quoting Mao Zedong he quipped, “It’s always darkest before it goes totally black.”
The man who would be President brushed off his hero status as a Navy pilot shot down over North Vietnam and a prisoner for five years in the “Hanoi Hilton.” No big deal, said McCain. No heroic deed, he explained. The only skill involved, he joked, was in being “able to intercept a SAM missile with my own airplane.”
Afterwards the crowd gathered close to shake hands and get autographs. They were polite and patient. Many were veterans.
When Jim Campbell of Colchester’s turn came, he shook hands with McCain and told him how on December 19, 1972, he was flying a B-52 over Hanoi. Remember the Christmas bombing? Campbell just wanted to let his fellow flyer know that the crew up at 35,000 feet that night was thinking of McCain and the other U.S. prisoners down below.
Before departing for points east, McCain took questions from the local press. Some wise guy asked him to name the prime minister of Ireland.
The candidate searched his memory bank but couldn’t come up with it, though he did praise Sen. George Mitchell and President Bill Clinton for moving the peace process forward.
Next, the smart-aleck reporter asked for the name of the governor of Vermont. A softball.
McCain remembered “Snelling,” but Dick Snelling died eight years ago. He strained his memory circuits and came up with “He’s a Democrat. He’s a doctor.” Nice try.
The following day The New York Times reported that McCain said later he was feeling just fine Sunday, “except for the fact I stumbled over the name of Howard Dean.”
As for the smart-aleck reporter?
Sorry, the devil made me do it.
Hazing News —The bad situation involving the UVM men’s ice hockey operation is reverberating around North America. We received several reports from former hockey players from other schools that hazing has long been a part of hockey. An article on the Internet from Canada described a ritual in which a string is tied to a player’s wee-wee. The other end is tied to the handle of a pail that is hung over the back of a chair. Teammates then begin tossing pucks into the pail, slowly, one at a time. After about 20 pucks the pain is excruciating, but when it’s over the initiate revels in the manly bond of team spirit.