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Bernie Sanders

McCain's Magical Touch


Published October 18, 2000 at 1:00 a.m.

He’s still got the magic. U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona took the stage at Burlington’s VFW Monday evening alongside U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords and the air was just as electric as it was last winter when he packed them in at City Hall.

John McCain swept Vermont’s presidential primary but, in the end, lost out to the well-oiled money machine known as George W. Bush of Texas.

The straightforwardness, the courage, the self-deprecating humor were all still there. There’s simply no one in American politics who can hold a candle to John McCain. No one in American politics who connects with individuals the way he does. No one in American politics who can bring tears to the eyes of an old anti-Vietnam War protester when he talks about “the bones of Americans that rest in far-off places all over the world that once were killing fields.”

Fortunately, McCain did not catch the pitch Jeezum Jim made earlier Monday at the Burlington Rotary. Jeffords proudly pointed to the front-page story in the Free Press touting the $140 million in federal “pork” that Jim, Pat Leahy and Bernie Sanders are bringing home from Washington this year. Without Jeezum Jim back in the Senate next year, the Northeast Dairy Compact won’t get renewed and the Veterans’ Hospital in White River Junction will close, he warned. Scare tactics?

No, said Sen. Jeffords. That’s the way the system was designed by the founding fathers, so that little states like Vermont can compete.

What a contrast it was Monday evening at the VFW as Sen. McCain railed against what he called a “national disgrace.”

“While the Congress of the United States pork-barrel spends on every conceivable thing you can imagine on our appropriations bills, we have 6000 proud, brave young enlisted families on food stamps. That’s a disgrace!” he said to applause, including the applause of our proud pork-barreler, Jim Jeffords.

And as always, John McCain brought his sharpened sense of humor with him. Former Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, the GOP’s 1964 presidential candidate, was McCain’s campaign chairman. “On election night Barry got a little nostalgic,” said McCain. Goldwater told him, “You know, John, if I had been elected President in 1964 and beaten Lyndon Johnson, you’d have never spent all those years in a Vietnamese prison camp.”

“I said, ‘you’re right, Barry. It would have been a Chinese prison camp.’”

Incidentally, Chittenden County State Sen. Peter Brownell, who headed up McCain’s victorious Vermont campaign, was respectfully acknowledged several times from the podium. Brownell, a former Air Force pilot, lost reelection when the local version of the Christian Right successfully targeted him in the primary. It was “revenge is mine time” for the local pack of religious extremists, and they made Brownell pay a price for his vote in favor of civil unions.

But Brownell certainly got better treatment Monday evening than the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, Brian Dubie. Despite the fact that McCain appears in a TV spot endorsing Dubie, the Lite-Gov hopeful and Air Guard pilot was not permitted to address the gathering. The event was under the command and control of the Jeffords campaign. Not a word was mentioned about Ruth Dwyer, either.

By the way, WCAX reporter Kristin Kelly asked McCain in an airport interview how well he knew Brian Dubie. The Arizona senator replied he had met Dubie just once at the GOP state convention.

Wow. Bosom buddies, eh?

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing? — If anything, this election season has already demonstrated that the forces of scripture-quoting religious extremism in Vermont have gotten stronger. A couple of fundamentalist pastors are having a blast stirring the sex pot and raking in the dough.

Bishop Rick Callahan, of the Maranatha Christian Church in Williston, led 12 of his disciples in a well-covered protest last week outside the office of Outright Vermont. The Bish objected to the “pornographic” images in a safe-sex brochure Outright received from the state health department. Love the way Callahan crooned on and on about the “nekked bodies” in his lilting North Carolina twang. Oh, my word!

And over the weekend the latest hate mail from the Rev. David Stertzbach landed in mail boxes. Stertzbach is doing a lot of chest-thumping these days, taking credit for Sen. Peter Brownell’s primary defeat and Barbara Snelling’s sixth-place finish. Stertzbach’s anti-gay radio barrage before the primary was paid for by a right-wing group with a Richmond, Virginia, address. Stertzbach currently writes that he needs to raise $90,000 pronto.

Rev. Stertzbach runs Trinity Baptist in Williston and a political action committee that’s fanning the flames of intolerance. According to the church’s Web site, their roots go back to Bob Jones University.


And this political sleazebag of the cloth is pitching an 8-minute video clip of Barbara Snelling’s appearance on the “The Cherie and Yolanda Show” on local public-access TV “free for a donation of $50 or more.”

Babs recently appeared with Burlap’s talented drag queens to promote adult literacy, a cause long dear to her heart.

Apparently, Rev. Sleazebag has mastered the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing trick. It worked for him in September. Will enough people fall for it in November? Is Vermont ready to join the Bible belt?

Hockey & Politics? — They don’t mix, do they? Or do they?

Gutterson Fieldhouse was packed Saturday night to see the UVM hockey pucks play their first game since last January. And that Dodge Yukon parked at the front door was the one that carries Gov. Howard Dean around the state. Ho-Ho’s attendance was noted on the Governor’s weekly “Appearance Schedule” that went out the day before. We found him half-way up in Sec. 25 accompanied by a member of his security detail. Behind the scenes, the scuttlebutt was that Gov. Dean had wanted to address the crowd before the game. Hey, a captive audience of 4000 voters!

Great rumor, but not true!

To many in Jockstrap Land, Howard Dean isn’t too popular. They remember how he came down hard on the school last December when the you-know-what hit the fan. Word behind the scenes was, the hockey pucks wouldn’t take the ice if the governor took the mike.

“Not true,” said a startled Ho-Ho, when we told him about the grumbling. He was there strictly as a hockey fan, he said. “It’s time to put the hazing stuff behind us,” he said.

Press Secretary Sue Allen echoed those sentiments Tuesday. She pointed out the governor frequently attended games in the past and proudly wore a UVM Men’s Hockey jacket. Dean discontinued his attendance last season when the hazing story broke. But Sweet Sue told Seven Days her boss “is comfortable where the team’s headed. He’s back to being a fan.”

And, happily, yours truly’s back to being a fan, too. The fact is, UVM had New Hampshire, the third-ranked team in the nation, on the ropes for the first two periods. Then they paid the price for two giveaways and a questionable penalty call. UVM lost in overtime. But they showed more depth than we’ve seen in years and several freshman fit in like veterans. Can’t remember the last UVM team this big and this fast.


Wild Goose Chase — Last week yours truly received word from five separate sources that the president and publisher of The Burlington Free Press had posted a political candidate’s lawn sign in front of “Pine Haven,” his Underhill Center mansion. Yep, word traveled fast in political circles that Boss Jim Carey had planted a “Ruth Dwyer for Governor” sign in front of his house.

However, an on-site investigation by yours truly on Sunday found no sign whatsoever on or near Boss Carey’s property. But, whoa! Nice house, Jimmy-boy! Frickin’ huge! Gannett has certainly been a great company to work for, at least for Jim Carey. Congratula-tions! Reporters may have to work a second job to make ends meet, but hey, the publisher is entitled to rake it in.

We left a message for Boss Carey at the office Tuesday inquiring if someone had stolen his Ruth Dwyer sign, but we haven’t heard back.

Meanwhile, speculation mounts over the Freeps editorial endorsement in the governor’s race. Everyone knows the paper has ducked taking a clear editorial stand on civil unions for same-sex couples. Everyone knows about Boss Carey’s Jesus bumper sticker. And given the current makeup of the paper’s editorial board, a strong endorsement for Ruthless Ruth looks like a distinct possibility.

The five members of the Freeps editorial board are Boss Carey, Ed Bartholomew, the paper’s “controller” (great title, eh?), Executive Editor Mickey Hirten, Steve Kiernan, the effusive editorial-page editor, and the anti-graffiti Queen herself, Molly Walsh, the editorial writer.

Doing the math, it’s hard to find three votes for Dean among that bunch. Stay tuned. The paper’s gubernatorial endorsement may finally let the cat out of the bag on just where they really stand on civil unions.

“Gore as a Pol” — That’s the headline on a cute little piece in the current issue of George magazine that focuses on Al Gore’s political skills. Skills demonstrated at the expense of Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. It highlights the early days of Gore’s quest for the White House, when he “big-footed would-be primary challengers.” Like who?

Like our Howard Dean, that’s who. Nice photo of Ho-Ho, too.

Ah, yes. The good old days when Ho-Ho was hopscotching around the nation making friends and influencing people. Back then, nobody seemed to notice or care as we tracked Dr. Dean’s presidential aspirations over the Internet. Dean was careful to keep his presidential campaign off his weekly public appearance schedule. But all that changed in December 1997.

“I thought about running,” Dean told George, “but my poll numbers [in Vermont] fell apart after Gore’s people leaked that I was contemplating a run to The Wall Street Journal. People in Vermont didn’t want me doing two jobs.” And Dr. Dean sure didn’t want people in Vermont to know he was after such a big promotion.

Today Howard Dean portrays himself as someone who’s not on Al Gore’s A-list. He does not anticipate ever being part of a Gore administration. Big Al snipped Ho-Ho’s presidential sprout practically in the bud.

UVM’s loquacious political scientist Garrison Nelson always said “Howard Dean was shopping around for a state to be governor of.”

Mission accomplished! The untimely death of Gov. Richard Snelling in 1991 slid Howard Dean into the governor’s seat sooner rather than later. But what few people realized is that the governor’s job was intended to be a mere springboard to the presidency for Ho-Ho. If things had gone according to Howard Dean’s plan, he’d be running for election this November against fellow Yale alumnus George W. Bush, not UVM dropout Ruth Dwyer.

Sources tell Seven Days that Dean was acting on what he considered at the time to be good advice. Rather than have the vice president learn of Dean’s presidential aspirations through the grapevine, the good doctor bravely informed Mr. Gore face-to-face, mano-a-mano, of his noble intentions.

Turned out to be pretty bad advice. Al Gore treated the news like it was a big joke. He effortlessly blew Vermont’s governor out of the water and out of the race.

At 51, Ho-Ho has plenty of time left for a counterattack. In politics, expect the unexpected. Of course, he’s got to win in Nov-ember.

Burlington’s Bulgarian Connection — Progressive Mayor Peter Clavelle is back home following an exciting week in the Balkans. Mayor Moonie emphasized up front, “It was not at taxpayer expense.” Mr. Clavelle is the chairman of the board of the Institute for Sustainable Com-munities (ISC). He visited projects the institute runs in Macedonia and Bulgaria.

“Democracy in Macedonia and Bulgaria is doing quite well,” Clavelle told Seven Days. “We were there at a time [Slobodan] Milosevic was being relieved from office [in Serbia]. It was a pretty exciting time to be in the Balkans.”

Mayor Moonie said he was particularly impressed by what’s happening in the press in the formerly totalitarian, communist countries. He pointed to work by the emerging “independent media folks” in terms of creating an “open, corporate-free media.” Clavelle said he was struck by the fact “the press there is actually freer than the press in this country. They have broken away from state control,” he explained, “and they’re not yet under the thumb of corporate control.” What Clavelle witnessed, he said, was “a period of freedom of the press in the real sense.”

“Kind of like Seven Days?” we asked.

“Yeah, absolutely,” replied Mayor Moonie. “Seven Days would thrive over there.”

The Institute for Sustainable Communities is an independent Montpelier-based nonprofit founded a decade ago by Gov. Madeleine Kunin. And it has been quite the success story, according to Mr. Clavelle. Its mission is to provide training and technical assistance to communities in emerging democracies in order to strengthen democratic institutions. Remember, we in the U.S. take democracy for granted. In Bulgaria, it’s still at the dream-come-true level. And true to Queen Madeleine’s values, the ISC emphasizes the need for environmental protection while promoting economic development. Ten years ago, the ISC had one employee. Today it has 70 employees and projects underway in 14 countries. Let freedom ring!

Media Notes — Associated Press writer Mike Eckel is off to Russia for six weeks. Luckily, Mike, a Colby College grad, is fluent in Russian. He’s been the bureau rookie, the low man on the totem poll, but his writing/reporting skills have not gone unnoticed. Mr. Eckel will return to the Montpeculiar bureau come January.