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Ouagadougou?

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Our favorite presidential hopeful is visiting Africa this week, attending an international AIDS conference and enhancing his foreign affairs resume.

Gov. Howard Dean M.D. has suddenly become Vermont’s premier world traveler. Since September 11, he’s been to Germany, Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Finland and Canada. Now he’s in the heart of deepest darkest Africa — the landlocked nation of Burkina Faso, a former French colony once known as “Upper Volta.” Dr. Dean is attending the 12th International Conference on AIDS and STDs in Africa. Maybe he’ll find a way to drop in on Afghanistan soon?

Ho-Ho’s spending the week in Ouagadougou (wa-ga-doo-goo), the capital of Burkina Faso. Making the trip with our Guv are his darling daughter, Anne Dean (the next Chelsea Clinton?) and his Vermont State Police security detail. According to Dean’s press secretary, Susan W. Allen, the governor is personally paying his daughter’s travel expenses. Those of the state troopers are paid for by Vermont taxpayers… more on that later.

According to the U.S. State Department, “U.S. citizens traveling to and residing in Burkina Faso are urged to exercise caution and maintain a high level of security awareness at all times. Street crime in Burkina Faso poses high risks for visitors. Thieves are especially active during international meetings or events, which draw large crowds to the capital. Travelers should stay alert, remain in groups and avoid poorly lit areas. Be especially cautious at night.”

Good thing’s Ho-Ho’s got those troopers along, eh?

Before arriving in Ouagadougou, Ms. Allen told Seven Days, the Guv and his travel mates stopped off in Bamako, the capital of neighboring Mali. They met with the U.S. ambassador, the Mali minister of health and six Peace Corps volunteers from Vermont. Small world.


More Good Press! — Vermont’s governor picked up a very nice plug Saturday in a big newspaper out in America’s heartland — Kansas.

Columnist Steve Kraske of the Kansas City Star introduced Vermont’s White House hopeful to the folks out on the prairie over the weekend:

Bet you’ve never heard of Howard Dean.

There’s really no reason you should have. He’s governor of Vermont, and a fairly nondescript man at that.

But here’s some inside skinny: The early word is that Dean is the smart guy’s sleeper candidate for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination.

On paper, at least, Dean has the kind of profile that will catch the attention of many Democrats: A governor for 12 years, he’s a fiscal conservative and a social moderate. He has an impressive record of balancing the budget during good and tough economic times. He’s big on child health-care coverage and the environment.

And he’s said to be a straight-shooter — brash, tough and blunt. A Democratic John McCain.

In short, he’s worth checking out.

A Democratic John McCain?

Who is this guy — the Wizard of Oz?

But Mr. Kraske goes on to point out that the big mucky-mucks of the Democrat Party are in the process of changing the primary campaign set-up in a way that dims the hopes of longshots from Vermont. Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is trying to move up all the state presidential primary dates to as early as possible. That way the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate will be determined by the end of February or early March at the latest.

The Kansas columnist notes:

Here’s the rub. Front-loaded primary schedules place a tremendous premium on fund-raising. Only candidates with loads of cash can wage effective campaigns in multiple states at once.

So the idea of a little-known contender, such as a Howard Dean, gradually emerging from the pack, as Jimmy Carter did in 1976, just isn’t going to happen. Pulling a Carter out of the primary morass takes time, and Dean isn’t going to have any.

The Democratic nominee almost certainly will be the candidate who can stockpile the most cash in the months leading to January 2004. That means the fat cats, not you regular folks, will be making the choice.

Picking a presidential nominee should be a long-term affair. Democrats want to turn it into a one-night stand.

Best of luck, Howard Dean. You’re going to need it.


Up And Running — Mean-while, on the World Wide Web, Candidate Dean has finally arrived. His official political action committee Web site is up and running at www.fundforahealthy america.com. Check it out. It’s the best evidence to date of how Ho-Ho is packaging himself for national consumption. It’s where he gets to define himself before the critics take notice.

“Governor Dean is considered a common sense moderate who believes that social justice and environmental protection can only be accomplished through strong financial management.”

“The Vermont Record” page lays out what Dean considers his five best selling issues: fiscal discipline, health care coverage, education, environment and equality. That’s right, equality.

“Building on a commitment to equal rights for all Americans, Governor Dean has signed into law tougher penalties for hate crimes, as well as tighter restrictions against discrimination in the workplace, housing, public accommodations and more. Vermont is the first state to legally recognize long-term committed unions between gay and lesbian couples.”

There, he said it.


First at Bat — This could get interesting. The Vermont Republican Party contest for the nomination for governor, that is.

This week, the longshot in the GOP primary, Cornelius “Con” Hogan, had his first head-to-head with the capital press corps in Montpeculiar.

King Con gave his education pitch. “Equal educational opportunity” for Vermont kids, said Hogan, is about a lot more than money. He called for the “elimination” of the Act 60 sharing pool that’s anathema to gold towns.

Unfortunately, like all the other Act 60 bashers, he still hasn’t been able to figure out a legal way to do that. Cutting the fairness mechanism out of the fairest public education plan in the country is, indeed, a daunting challenge.

King Con has, among other things, run the corrections department and the human services agency. He just wrapped up his duties as chair of the Governor’s Bipartisan Commission on Health Care Availability and Affordability.

(By the way, the commission’s report is available for your online scrutiny through the State of Vermont page — www.state.vt.us. The report has so far drawn surprisingly little notice.)

Mr. Hogan of Plainfield certainly offers a contrast to his opponent, Jim Douglas of Middlebury. Hogan is a newcomer to electoral politics. Douglas has been a party apparatchik for more than 30 years.

“I’m going to wear the fact that I’ve never run for political office like a badge of honor,” Hogan told the press pack Monday. “I think people are ready for that.”

Vermont’s Hulk Hogan has never before had to put the hand out for money. You may recall that was something the last Republican candidate for governor refused to do personally. (Incidentally, there were several sightings of Ruth Dwyer this week with a Ch. 22 videographer. Oh, boy!)

The absence of a fundraising past, said King Con, means, “I have no promises to keep. I don’t have to position what I say based on what I’ve done politically before.”

It’s always curious when someone decides to start out in politics by running for one of the top jobs. Gov. Dean, after all, started with a seat in the Vermont House and followed it up with a couple terms as Lite-Gov. Hogan comes into the game without having what he calls “a sense of the political ladder.” He just turned 60 and he made it plain — he has no political ambition beyond serving four to six years as Vermont’s chief executive.

Many, many Republicans would give an arm and a leg to see Con Hogan run for lieutenant governor. They know a primary battle will cost them. They’re envious of the fact that Democrat gubernatorial hopeful, Doug Racine, talked Sen. Peter Shumlin into running for Lite-Gov for that very reason.

The way it works in Vermont is that we’ve got nine months of GOP primary ahead of us, followed by less than two months of a general election campaign. That’s nine months for Doug Racine to spend lightly while Douglas and Hogan sort out their differences.

Asked about the possibility of reconsidering and taking a shot at Lite-Gov, King Con made it perfectly clear — he will never stoop to conquer.

“I’ve been a CEO of something for a long time,” replied Mr. Hogan. “My entire career has been running large complex organizations. That’s what I do and I think I do it reasonably well. I just can’t see myself standing in front of the Vermont Senate making procedural rulings. It ain’t me. That’s the fundamental answer.”

It’s simply beneath him.

Over the years, one of the knocks on Slim Jim Douglas has been that he’s not a real take-charge kind of guy. That all his years serving in somewhat lesser posts reflects a certain lack of confidence.

Confidence, obviously, is a commodity King Con Hogan has no shortage of.

The primary process, said Hogan, “is supposed to be about putting people in front of Vermonters and letting Vermonters make their choice. I’m looking forward to it.”

Jim Douglas isn’t.


Correction — Despite two years studying biblical theology in seminary, yours truly managed to screw up an Old Testament reference last week. The Ten Commandments make their appearance in the Book of Exodus. Not Genesis. Mea culpa.


Sneaky Dean Update — The governor made it official in a letter to Seven Days last week — he refuses to cough up copies of his daily schedule, as we requested last month under Vermont’s access-to-public-records law.

David Rocchio, Dean’s legal counsel, wrote, “We do object to your request to the extent it encompasses the Governor’s private calendar, information that would affect the ability of the Department of Public Safety to provide for his safety, or for information that would otherwise be exempt from disclosure” under Vermont law.

Unfortunately, Pinocchio, er, sorry, Rocchio failed to cite even one possible exemption from the public records statute (Title 1 sec. 317-319) to back up his assertion.

Two days later, Pinocchio, damn, Rocchio, wrote a similar letter to Jack Hoffman, capital bureau chief for the Rutland Herald/Times Argus, denying Jack’s similar request for the Guv’s daily schedule.

Looks like this sucker’s heading for Superior Court.

Interestingly, we put the question to Con Hogan this week. If he becomes governor, we asked, would he release the daily schedule the current governor holds secret?

“Absolutely,” replied Hogan without blinking.

Despite the current law, the tradition has been for governors to operate as secretly as the dons of crime families. None, however, has been more secretive that Howard Dean. Outside the Fifth Floor, no one knows who the governor meets with, be they captains of industry or special interest lobbyists. For example, we cannot remember a Vermont governor ever publicizing a meeting with the head of IBM, Vermont’s largest private employer. It’s always been strictly a back-room affair.

Hogan, however, promised a refreshing change.

“People need to know that I’ve met with the head of IBM,” said King Con. “IBM needs to know that that will be a public issue. I think that’s just the open way to do it.”

Open government?

What a concept!

As for who should pay for the out-of-state travel expenses of a governor’s state police security detail, Hogan said he would certainly ask any sponsoring organization to pick up the troopers’ tab. But if they refuse, said Hogan, the state of Vermont would “with regret” pay the cost.

“A governor’s on duty no matter where he or she is,” he said.

Many noticed in the front-page story in Sunday’s Rutland Herald/Time Argus that there are quite a number of divergent opinions on that one.

Interesting.

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