Vermont's Republican Gov. Jim Douglas made an unannounced visit to the Iraq war zone this week. Word came Tuesday morning shortly after 8:30 from gubernatorial press secretary Jason Gibbs and caught everyone off guard.
"Governor Jim Douglas is making a surprise visit to Vermont troops serving in the Global War on Terror this week, beginning with visits to Kuwait and Iraq," stated the release.
Gov. Scissorhands dined with Vermont troops in Kuwait on Monday and arrived in Baghdad Tuesday morning. From there he flew by armed chopper to the base outside Ramadi where many Vermont Guard troops are stationed.
Tuesday afternoon Gov. Scissorhands spoke with the Montpelier press corps via satellite phone from Kuwait where he's spending his nights.
Yes, he wore body armor and a helmet. And yes, he heard a little gunfire in Baghdad.
Douglas' decision to leave the country couldn't have been timed better. That's because on Tuesday morning, newspaper readers in the nation's capital read a very interesting story about the state Jim Douglas governs: "Vermont Towns Call for Bush Impeachment."
The Washington Times zeroed in on Newfane, Vermont, and Dan Dewalt, the 49-year-old ponytailed selectman who sponsored the Town Meeting Day resolution calling for the impeachment of America's current Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush. It passed 121-29.
The Times, which bills itself as "America's Newspaper," also told Washington, D.C., readers that Mr. Dewalt "likes tofu," "makes cabinets," and "grows organic vegetables in his spare time."
Reporter Stephanie Mansfield (hmm — any relation to the mountain?) summed it up this way: "Newfane, a tranquil enclave where Volvos go to die, decided to rise up in revolution to lead the charge for impeaching Mr. Bush."
"I don't know if [Bush] is a bum," Dewalt told the Washington Times, "but he is a liar."
Not much argument about that anymore, eh?
In addition to Newfane, impeachment resolutions were adopted at town meetings in Dummerston, Brookfield, Marlboro and Putney.
The Washington Times told readers, "The White House press office has made no statement on the Vermont uprising."
Not yet, anyway.
Besides the Town Meeting Day support, the impeachment of George Bush is the hot, hot topic among grassroots Vermont Democrats.
Last week, we reported the Orleans County Democratic Committee was poised to adopt the so-called "Rutland Resolution" authored by Jeff Taylor of Clarendon. They did.
Taylor's resolution is based on Sec. 603 of Jefferson's Manual. The Manual guides U.S. House procedure. Sec. 603 permits an impeachment resolution to be brought by an individual state legislature!
First passed by Rutland County Democrats on February 28, the "Rutland Resolution" calls for the impeachment of our dangerous president for a host of high crimes and misdemeanors, from illegal wiretaps to lying about the reasons for war.
"Inside Track" has learned that, in the past week, the resolution has also been adopted by Democratic Party committees in Franklin and Bennington counties. More county votes are scheduled.
According to Steve Schlipf, secretary of the Franklin County Committee, the Vermont Democratic State Committee "will be asked to have a special session to endorse a similar resolution, after which the process goes to the legislature for the joint resolution. If this passes, it will be brought to the U.S. House."
We learned Tuesday that at least one party leader, state Chairman Ian Carleton, will be happy to accommodate the grassroots impeachment effort.
"It's my understanding it's gained significant momentum in the counties and there's going to be a move to have a special state committee meeting to address this at a statewide level," said Chairman Carleton on Tuesday. "I support that and I'd be happy to schedule such a meeting as soon as possible if that's the will of the counties."
Looks like another national media spotlight might be focused on little Vermont, eh?
Incidentally, Carleton, who's been Democratic state chairman for just three months, is an attorney and graduate of Yale Law School. But like yours truly and countless other Americans, he'd never heard of Jefferson's Manual until Jeff Taylor's resolution was adopted in Rutland County two weeks ago.
"If it ever came up," said Carleton,"it was in an American history class, not in law school."
As for Gov. Scissorhands' trip to see the situation in Iraq firsthand, Democratic State Sen. Peter Welch, candidate for U.S. Congress, told "Inside Track" he hopes that when Douglas returns, he'll hold a public town meeting to allow ordinary Vermonters "to hear what insights he's developed from his trip to Iraq, and let Vermonters ask questions."
Good idea, eh?
In fact, if the Vermont Democratic State Committee adopts the impeachment resolution in coming weeks, it will be sent to the Democratic-controlled Vermont legislature for adoption by House and Senate.
So far, legislative leaders have not commented. Some will no doubt argue it's nothing more than a monkeywrench that will stall adjournment, costing the taxpayers money. Surely that's what Gov. Douglas will say, eh?
Others, we trust, will suggest that our state legislators' number one responsibility is to listen to the voices and the will of the people who elected them. And given the horrendous human and financial costs of this president's needless war, putting Vermont's voice front and center on Capitol Hill might be just what our country needs right now.
Marvelous Martha — The November opponent Peter Welch is worried about, Republican first-timer Martha Rainville, appeared on Ch. 3's "You Can Quote Me" Sunday morning (She looked awful in some light-gray top, too. Bad color choice!).
Marvelous Martha is wearing two hats this month: officially declared congressional candidate and commander of the Vermont National Guard. Next month, Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie's little brother Michael Dubie — also a professional airline pilot — will replace the nation's first female adjutant general, and Martha will be a full-time candidate.
Welchie recently issued a public call for the dismissal of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Rummy, a loyal and deceitful Bush appointee, has led America's most ill-conceived and badly planned military action since President Lyndon Johnson sent 58,000 young Americans to die in the rice paddies of Vietnam.
"I don't think firing the Secretary of Defense would have any positive effect on what's going on in Iraq," said Rainville to Ch. 3 questioners Marselis Parsons and Anson Tebbetts.
"Sec. Rumsfeld has had his own ideas on how to approach the situation in Iraq. I've spoken out before, with some frustration on the post-conflict planning. That's an area many would agree we could have done better on, but he alone was not responsible for all the post-conflict planning."
Dumping Donald "would serve no productive purpose," said Marvelous Martha, "and perhaps cause some turbulence at a time we don't need it."
So let's keep our incompetent defense secretary right where he is? Really? Does Candidate Rainville truly believe there's nothing but smooth sailing ahead?
Mr. Tebbetts, journalist and dairy farmer, asked Martha about a report in the Valley News in which she expressed reluctance to have President Bush campaign for her.
"You said no. Why would you turn down an invitation from the President of the United States to come campaign for you?" asked Anson.
"I don't believe I said no," replied Candidate Rainville. "I think that what I said was that the president of the United States has far more important things to do than come and campaign for Martha Rainville. But if the president told me he wanted to come and campaign for me, I would certainly not tell him no. I would always be honored to have the president of the United States come to Vermont. I would never ask him to, though, because he is elected to be the leader and has far bigger fish to fry than coming to Vermont to help me."
"Is he a liability in this state?" asked Marsillyiss.
"In what way?" asked Martha.
"A liability," replied Ch. 3's news director, "to a Republican candidate because his popularity is so low."
"I think the Democrats are trying very hard to make this election about George Bush and their perception of George Bush. In that sense it would give them a lot of fodder for their spin. I think the president has done a lot of good things and we need to respect that."
Unfortunately, the Boys of Ch. 3 didn't ask Martha to name a few of those "good things."
Obama Whamma! — Illinois Democratic Sen. Barack Obama was a big hit Friday both at UVM and later at a campaign fundraiser for Bernie Sanders and Peter Welch at the Sheraton Burlington.
An enormous crowd, estimated at 2000, overflowed UVM's Ira Allen Chapel and extended all the way to Main Street. The event, which also featured remarks by Sanders and Welch, was free and open to the public. First come, first served.
Obama was a bit of a disappointment. Heralded as the next great black hope of the national Democratic Party, the Grammy Award-winning pol from Chicago gave a less-than-riveting address. The red meat, anti-Iraq War crowd got few red-meat lines from Obama.
One thing Obama Whamma's first-ever Vermont visit did do was give Republican Rich Tarrant's U.S. Senate Campaign an opening to attack Ol' Bernardo.
Tarrant's life-story campaign commercials have been filling the local TV and radio airwaves for weeks. On Friday, campaign manager Tim Lennon issued a press release attacking Bernie Sanders for holding the campaign fundraiser with Obama. Tarrant accused Sanders of "hypocrisy."
Richie Rich told Ch. 5, "I think it's ironic that someone who's so pro-little guy and wanting access to the political system for everyone now has a limited-access event. You have to have a thousand dollars to get hors d'oeuvres and a Coke or Pepsi. It just seems to be comical, if not hypocritical."
Goodness gracious. Ticket prices at the fundraiser started at $200. But does the wealthiest, self-funded political candidate Vermont's ever seen really have a problem with his opponents holding fundraisers?
Asked about that, Sanders' Chief-of-Staff Jeff Weaver scoffed, "Well, it looks like you can't raise money in-state. You can't raise money out of state. I guess Rich Tarrant is the only guy in this race who gets to spend any money!"
Weaver, a Franklin County boy and former U.S. Marine, added, "The truth of the matter is, when they bring Republican big-wigs into Vermont, they sneak them in in the dark of night, and no one gets to see them for free."
That's a reference to the recent secret visit to the Inn at Essex GOP fundraiser by Denny Hastert, the Republican Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
"We had 1500 Vermonters who came out to see Barack Obama free of charge and open to the public," countered Weaver.
Later Friday, Richie Rich appeared on "Live at 5:25" on local Burlington public-access TV, hosted by conservative former State Rep. Mike Quaid. Softball questions only. Richie noted he's been clear about not personally taking money from the national GOP or from PACS or other special-interest groups.
He neglected to mention why that is, however: He doesn't need anyone else's money!
You see, U.S. Senate Candidate Tarrant has not yet told Vermonters what his actual net worth is. However, on a required Senate disclosure form, Mr. Tarrant did check the box for the highest available category of net worth: "Over $50 million." Estimates of his actual net worth have been in the $200 to $300 million range.
Nor did Richie Rich mention to Quaid that Ol' Bernardo had fired back a counterchallenge, calling on Tarrant to join him in setting a campaign spending cap, as well as schedule face-to-face, open-to-the-public debates in all 14 Vermont counties.
Instead, Tarrant squirmed in his seat and appeared restless and uncomfortable. Clearly, this is a man who doesn't like being challenged. A successful corporate CEO used to asking all the questions himself. That's probably why Candidate Tarrant doesn't hold press conferences, eh?
"It's amazing to me," scoffed Richie Rich on Ch. 17. "I'm about issues. I don't care about all that stuff. I want to get issues on the table, and already they're starting with all the crap!"
Well, a lot of folks would suggest that "crap" is the only issue that Mr. Tarrant's senatorial campaign has been focusing on to date.
P.S. Incidentally, while Richie Rich was publicly condemning Sanders for daring to hold a campaign fundraiser with Obama, he rather sneakily neglected to mention he had just notified the Federal Election Commission he's loaned another $425,000 to his own campaign treasury.
That's $2.1 million in personal funds that Tarrant has kicked in so far, and it's only March. Election Day is eight months away!
The nerve of Bernie to hold fundraisers!