Since our last meeting, Gov. Howard Dean strategically withdrew from the national political spotlight. Once he saw the poll numbers on his presidential shenanigans, Ho-Ho sounded a speedy retreat. Replacing him under the CNN television lights is Vermont's congressman — Bernie Sanders.
It never made any of the top 10 lists for 1997, but Ol' Bernardo's emergence on Capitol Hill as an effective and outspoken coalition builder was the biggest unheralded political story of '97. On Sunday, Bernie Sanders sat at the right hand of Jesse Jackson on CNN's "Both Sides." Monday evening he was the special guest on "Crossfire." Finally! The topic — the controversial Asian bailout. Ol' Bernardo is in the eye of the storm on this one.
"What we're seeing now," said Sanders, "is the growth of an international financial house of cards which is extremely fragile. I have real doubts whether a handful of people operating mostly in secrecy are going to be able to run the world's economy when we can't even solve the problems of a small state."
Bernie's been getting a lot of national and international press lately. He did an interview with the BBC on Tuesday, and he's due to appear on "Frontline" next week on PBS. And how could we ignore his appearance Sunday on WGOP ... sorry ... WCAX's "You Can Quote Me." Not only did Marselis Parsons fail to lay glove on Sanders, the veteran news director hardly threw a punch. Parsons' best shot came at the very end when he charged that David Hale, noted economist and Vermont native, had called Bernie "dangerous."
"I'm glad Mr. Hale thinks I'm dangerous," replied Sanders. "Mr. Hale gets paid a lot of money to protect large corporations and some of the wealthiest people in the world. So if Mr. Hale thinks I'm dangerous, I must be doing something right."
Also doing something right lately was Howard Dean. The polls told him Vermonters did not approve of the way he's been sneaking around the country on Vermont time hustling a presidential star. Ho-Ho's no dummy, so he masterfully planted a front-page story in the state's largest papers the Sunday before the legislature returned to Montpeculiar. Brilliant!
According to Dean, he changed his mind, because his kids don't want him to run for the White House in 2000. How sweet. How charming. (Do you think it's the kids who keep telling him the commuter rail project makes sense?) Our media-savvy governor shopped the story to a handful of chosen scribes. But he ran into a little trouble at the Burlington Free Press. Ho-Ho wanted Sue Allen to write it up. But Sue's the editorial page writer. Instead Dean got the one reporter he didn't want to deal with — Jeff Good, the paper's capitol bureau chief and holder of a Pulitzer for editorial writing (from his days in Florida). But Dean is not a Good Man. Wouldn't talk to him. Jeff wrote the story anyway, using Dean's comments to the Associative Press.
"No more DeanWatch 2000," said Ho-Ho with a smile to yours truly following his State of the State speech. How about 2004?
Chunnel Vision! — Several readers of the January 12 issue of U.S. News and World Report got a jolt when they turned to page 10 and noticed a familiar Vermont face front and center in an article describing how the opening of the Chunnel has made France a weekend/second-home getaway for middle-class Britons. The photo is of a very smart and dandy Chunnel-riding "Brit" reading his Financial Times. Only he ain't no Brit. Burlington Attorney Allen Martin, the GOP national comitteeman, may have a "second home" in Orford, New Hampshire, but we don't think he's got one in France! Allen told Inside Track Monday he'd already heard from his optician and his dentist about the photo. "I was actually not conscious of the picture being taken," he said. That's concentration for you.
Media Notes — The latest Nielsen television news ratings are out and WPTZ continues to hold first place by a whisker in the five-county metro area. Ch. 5 got a 40 percent share in the metro at 6 p.m., while Ch. 3 pulled a 39 share. At 11 p.m., Ch. 5 cleans up: 37-22.
The results are a bit different, though, in the 12-county "DMA" that includes five more Vermont counties and two from New Hampshire. Ch. 3 wins at 6 p.m., 36-22, but Ch. 5 hangs on to the lead at 11 p.m. WVNY, our local ABC affiliate, only pulled a 2 percent share at 6 p.m.
But Ch. 5 is about to lose one of its biggest assets. After almost 13 years at the anchor desk, Erin Clark is moving West. Her last broadcast will be January 23. Destination — Salinas, California, which is 20 miles inland from Monterey. She'll be replacing Clint Eastwood's wife Dina Ruiz at the KSBW-TV anchor desk. Erin's moving because her hubbie Tom Burns has located his footwear company — Blend Footwear — in Carmel. Erin started out at WVNY-TV before making the switch to WPTZ in 1983.
"After the last couple days," Clark told Inside Track, "California never looked so good."
"It's the end of an era," said Ch. 5 News Director Stewart Ledbetter. He doesn't have a replacement lined up yet — a national search is under way — but he's got some talent in-house with Lori Rothman and Susan Post. (Word is Ms. Post's fill-in duties last week drew quite a favorable response from male viewers in particular. Hey, it ain't radio.)
A lot of folks noticed Debbie Bookchin's byline in the Freeps in last week's storm coverage. Debbie's a former Rutland Herald scribe who once served as Bernie Sanders' press secretary. Debbie tells Inside Track she's only at the Freeps "temporarily" as the paper's website editor. The Burlington Free Press plans a website in the not too distant future, but don't plan on reading the newspaper online. And the location won't be www.bfp.com, either. That's a bondage/fetish website. Lisa Rathke has replaced Aaron Nathans at the Associated Press bureau in Montpelier. Aaron landed a position at the A.P. bureau in Madison, Wisconsin. Lisa formerly wrote for Harrowsmith County Lifi magazine in Charlotte. She's a graduate of Colby College.
And this Sunday, the Rutland Herald/Times Argus will become the second paper in Vermont to take on the story of convicted child sex offender Fred Hill, Vermont Public Radio's development director. It's written by James Bandler, who also authored the feature story in the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine.