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Bernie Sanders

Guerillas in the Mist

Sanders wins $1 million to promote agritourism in Vermont; continues battle against Big Pharma and exorbitant prescription drug prices in the U.S.


Published October 27, 1999 at 1:00 a.m.

It’s called guerilla warfare and, in the past, it has been known to be effective. Very effective.

Michael Collins, IRA leader of Ireland's War of Independence (1920-21), is known as “the Father of Guerilla Warfare.” The Big Fellow saw his side pathetically outnumbered and outgunned by the army of the British Empire, a worldwide plantation on which the Irish were treated as badly as all the other pets in Her Majesty’s global kennel.

Therefore, Collins argued, the Irish shouldn’t fight freedom’s fight by British rules. Ambush, arson, kidnapping, robbery and murder were the weapons the IRA carried into battle. Professor Collins’ Irish experiment was copied ‘round the world, from China to Palestine to Nicaragua.

Now, badly outgunned and outnumbered, leaders of the Vermont Republican Party are taking a crack at it, too. Lacking any issue of public policy to champion, other than “better roads and bridges” and being religiously against almost everything else, the Rs have resorted to a flurry of sniper attacks against Democrats and Progressives.

The Executive Director of the Vermont Republican Party, James Dwinell, recently took a poke at Gov. Howard B. Dean III and the Democrats for allowing Commerce Secretary Molly Lambert to speak at last Friday’s House Democrat fundraiser in Underhill. In a letter to Dean copied to the press, Jimmy the Joker asked Ho-Ho if the speech by the governor’s cabinet member represents a “change” in policy.

“It is my understanding,” wrote Dwinell, “that your policy in the past has been that it is not appropriate for high-level state employees to assist partisan political fundraising. Now it appears that you have a new policy. Could you please clarify this issue for me?”

Now where in the world might Mr. Dwinell have heard about such a “policy”? Couldn’t have been from the GOP’s feisty Chairman Pat Garahan, could it? After all, Patsy once served in Ho-Ho’s cabinet as transportation secretary, a carryover from Dick Snelling’s team.

But, according to Kate O’Connor, Dean’s top aide, there is no such “policy” and never has been. “We leave it up to secretaries and commissioners to handle their own invitations,” she told Seven Days.

Garahan boasted that, while in the cabinet, he “never” spoke or participated in a party event. “My belief, as secretary, was that the work I did was for all Vermonters,” said Chairman Patsy, “not for a particular party.” He acknowledged, however, there was “no official policy.” As for Lambert’s speech, he said, “I will not criticize the governor or Molly on this. I leave it to others to characterize the situation.”

By “others,” he’s apparently referring to the party’s hired mudslinger, Mr. Dwinell. How convenient. Plausible deniability, Patsy?

Lambert told Seven Days she carefully weighed the invitation. “I was asked to speak about the challenges and choices facing Vermont in the 21st century,” she said. It was not a “partisan” topic. Vermont’s commerce secretary said she’d be delighted to give the same 12-minute speech to a Republican fundraising gathering if invited to do so.

Another case of misguided Republican guerilla tactics is the recent attempted ambush of Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle.

Look, yours truly gets dished the dirt all the time. But dirt, a.k.a. “negative political intelligence on the opposition,” does have to meet certain standards of quality. Unless clearly labeled “rumor”, dirt must be accurate.

And accurate dirt is, after all, “good” dirt, for truth is its own reward. Good dirt that reflects how politicians’ principles don’t line up with their actions merely adds to the people’s knowledge of their leaders. And knowledge is the blood that flows in the veins of democracy.

So when yours truly got tipped off a few weeks ago to the fact that on September 23 the Progressive mayor of Burlap was sighted plopping his you-know-what into a first-class seat on a United flight to Chicago, we answered duty’s call.

We dropped by the mayor’s office and learned we weren’t the first to question the seating assignment. Republican City Councilor Matt Gardy had been there the day before. Surprise, surprise.

Turns out it was all on the up and up. Mayor Moonie said he arrived at Burlington International and ran into a buddy on the same flight who had a coupon for an upgrade. Clavelle was en route to Denver and a meeting of the U.S. Council of Mayors.

“I will never secure first-class transportation at taxpayers’ expense,” said Burlap’s five-term mayor. He ain’t that stupid. Case closed.

But last Friday we got the same tip again from another Republican insider that Mayor Proggy was seen sitting with the aristocracy in United’s “Friendly Skies.”

Recycling? Didn’t know the Rs believed in it.

Turns out, also on board for the Chicago leg of the flight was Republican State Rep. George Schiavone of Shelburne. Though Clavelle said Georgy Porgy was “real friendly” on the flight, two plus two still adds up to four. Schiavone told us Tuesday he passed the Moonie sighting along to Republican House leader Walter Freed.

Clavelle said he’s “honored” to be on their radar. “I’m not foolish enough to buy a first-class ticket,” he said, “but obviously, they’re foolish enough to make an issue of it. God love ‘em!”

Knowledge is power, they say. Unfortunately for Vermont’s Republican spin doctors, the damn facts keep getting in the way.

Running a “guerilla” war doesn’t mean you’re supposed to act like a bunch of monkeys. But these guys have apparently gone bananas.

Civil War — Incidentally, after Michael Collins’ side won the war for freedom, a bloody civil war erupted in which Collins was assassinated. And civil war is brewing in Vermont’s GOP ranks, where it appears the insiders, Garahan and Skip Vallee, have already chosen the 2000 ticket with Ruth Dwyer at the top.

“This is the way the game is played,” said Gasoline Vallee, who operates a string of Mobil mini-marts statewide. He’s also Vermont’s cash-raising moneyman for George W. Bush and Dwyer 2000.

Pat and Skip want Bill Meub to drop out of the gubernatorial race to avoid a primary. It appears they’ve conveniently forgotten how Ruthless Ruth forced a primary in 1998 after a credible, talented and financially robust Republican named Bernie Rome declared his candidacy.

Short memory span, boys?

By the way, you’ve got to check out Dwyer’s campaign Web site at Bet you never saw a gubernatorial candidate feed a pig before.

Bernie Watch 2000 — Congressman Bernie Sanders was in particularly good spirits Monday, announcing the $1 million he won to promote agritourism in Vermont. Grinning, he told reporters he saw Al Gore on television over the weekend holding up two prescription drug bottles. “This one was bought in New Hampshire for X dollars,” said Sanders mimicking Gore, “and this one was bought in Canada for much, much less.” In Washington Monday, President Bill Clinton made the exact same point. It’s suddenly in vogue to bash the current King Kong of Capitol Hill — Wonder Drugs! But even Al and Bill know it was Bernie Sanders of Vermont that led the charge.