In these days of early summer, it's hard to find anyone particularly upbeat about the current state of world affairs. But rose-colored glasses still exist, and at least one Vermonter wears his proudly.
President George W. Bush is now being widely hailed as the worst president in the history of the United States of America. His bloody invasion of Iraq, launched in response to 9/11 as the first step in the War on Terrorism, has turned into a War Promoting Terrorism.
Pictures of dead American soldiers, including Vermonters, have become a staple of the nightly news. And Selective Service officials we've spoken to say privately that if Bush is reelected, the military draft will start up in 2005. Twenty-year-olds will go first, we're told.
These are, indeed, the times that try men's souls.
But not everyone sees the Bush Invasion of Iraq as a bad thing. Despite the findings of the 9/11 Commission that there was no link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, architect of the New York slaughter of innocents, at least one prominent Vermonter strongly believes that George W. Bush did the right thing.
Unfortunately, the person we're talking about is currently the official leader of Vermont state government: Republican Gov. James Douglas.
Somehow, some way, despite the fact that Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, Independent Sen. Jim Jeffords and Independent Rep. Bernie Sanders all had the good judgment and the courage to vote against the Bush war measure, Gov. Douglas sees things from a completely different point of view.
"I don't think," said Gov. Douglas last week, "that there's any dispute that the world is a better place without Saddam Hussein in power."
What in the name of God has our governor been smoking? We trust the Guv's last minute position-reversal on medical marijuana was not based on a personal experience?
After all, it's now a statement of unadulterated fact that our current White House occupant lied repeatedly to the American people and the entire world about the reasons that justified his invasion.
Bush told us Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.
Bush told us Saddam tried to get nuclear material from Africa.
Bush said Saddam was a threat to the United States.
And the list goes on.
Didn't President George W. Bush lie to the American people about the reasons for war?
"I don't accept that characterization," replied Douglas. "I believe the President of the United States acted on the information that he believed to be correct at the time he made the decision to commit our American forces.
"There may be evidence that that information was flawed, and that's a judgment history will make, but I believe the president acted in the best interests of the American people as he understood it."
Some people believe in the Tooth Fairy, too. And sorry, Guv, but we don't have to wait for history to pass judgment. That will be done by the American people on November 2.
This Saturday at noon, Vermonters opposed to the Liar-in-Chief's Iraq War will be flocking to City Hall Park in Burlington for an antiwar demonstration. "Bring the Troops Home" is the rallying cry.
Despite the fact that Gov. Douglas will not be there (no ribbons to cut?), we expect a pretty decent turnout. Great business for the farmers' market, eh?
Speaking of Ribbons -- Vermont's number-one ribbon-cutter has apparently been hearing the behind-the-scenes chuckling about his trademark gubernatorial style -- ribbon-cutting to open anything possible, including gas stations.
Gov. Douglas bragged to Burlington Rotarians Monday that he's on the job "24/7," as he put it.
"In fact," said Douglas, "some people are making fun of the fact that I get around a lot, attend a lot of events. Some call me 'Ribbon Cutter' or whatever it is," said Jimbo.
Hey, c'mon Guv, you read Seven Days. You know the correct name: "Gov. Scissorhands!"
"Well, I don't apologize for that at all," continued Gov. Scissorhands, "because whenever there's a ribbon to be cut, that shows that there's progress being made and that good things are happening."
OK, OK, take it easy, will ya? Remember, slow and steady with the wrist. And never run while carrying a pair.
And Happy 53rd birthday, too!
Reunion Week --
That infamous political duo, the young and talented Nasty Boys of the 2002 election, are back together this week.
Neale Lunderville, special assistant to the governor, moved over Monday from the Fifth Floor to handle Douglas' reelection apparatus as campaign chairman. In 2002, Neale was campaign manager.
The Boy Wonder, who turns 30 in August, is now reunited with his fellow American University grad Jim Barnett. Mad Dog Barnett is the ferocious political attack pooch who in 2002 left so many teeth marks in Democrat Doug Racine's posterior that we simply lost count. Racine still has trouble sitting down.
Upon taking office, Gov. Douglas showed just how much he liked this particular pooch by slipping him into the position of State Republican Party Chairman and making it a paying job for the first time in recent memory.
The Nasty Boy Reunion is a sure sign the Douglas campaign is up and running, although the mainstream Vermont press declines to notice.
One of the benefits of Douglas' refusal to debate Democrat Peter Clavelle is that the absence of candidate debates gives the media nothing to cover. The strategy has so far effectively kept Mayor Moonie's name out of the news stream.
This from the same candidate who two years ago at this time had been running TV and radio commercials for more than a month.
Candidate Douglas even complained to the Rutland Herald on June 12, 2002, that Doug the Democrat was "ducking debates."
"[Racine's] campaign manager said last year or early this year that it was not in his candidate's interest to attend forums, but it is certainly in the public's interest," Douglas said back then.
Nothing like success to change one's world view, eh?
P.S. Also, teaming up with the Nasty Boys are Ian Grossman and Dennise Casey.
Ian will be the campaign manager. And, yes, like Jim and Neale, he's an American University grad. What a coincidence!
Dennise will be Ian's deputy. She actually graduated UVM, we're told.
Hospital Hill -- Not much to report regarding the dispute between management and nurses over staffing levels. We reported last week that one floor recently had a shift with just one nurse on duty for every 10 patients.
The day after Seven Days hit the street, The Burlington Free Press gave its take on what's going on at Fletcher Allen Health Care with an informative, top-of-the-page news article on the Mary Fanny's effort to improve the food at Vermont' largest hospital.
I'm not making this up.
Don't expect the nurses' union to get a whole lot of play in our local Gannett-chain daily. Gannett managers view union organizing as the equivalent of a smallpox outbreak. Every union effort at the Freeps has been beaten back.
The local daily followed up the hospital food story with a big one on the Mary Fanny's effort to replace offshore medical transcriptionists with locals. City Councilor Phil Fiermonte led the charge.
Both stories originated as hospital press releases. Got to get story ideas somewhere, eh?
When asked about the Freeps' food story, Jen Henry, R.N., president of the nurses' union, smiled politely.
"Nurses don't have time to eat," Nurse Jen said calmly. "But it's nice," she added, "to hear the food is getting better."
Unfortunately, Nurse Jen hasn't heard back from the hospital trustees on the subject of safe nurse-to-patient ratios. And she hasn't heard from Chairman Bill Schubart about doing lunch, either.
Nor has Mr. Schubart, also chairman of the board at Vermont Public Radio, returned Seven Days' call from last week.
Guess he likes the new food, eh?
P.S. Freeps neighbors on College Street have been asking us why the paper won't lower its flag to half-staff in honor of Ronald Reagan.
Haven't a clue.
McSnoozer for Senate! -- Surely it was just a little cat nap; everyone takes them now and then. But the cat napper spotted snoozing in the big comfy chair in the lobby of the Wyndham Hotel Monday wasn't your ordinary citizen. Rather it was the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate!
Jack McMillion, er, McMullen, the Massachusetts transplant on a one-man crusade to become relevant, was catching a few zzzz's while waiting for Monday's Rotary Club luncheon to start. Gov. Jim Douglas was the guest of honor.
When we passed McSnoozer in the lobby, we first thought the worst and checked to make sure he was breathing.
Fortunately, a few minutes later, Mr. McMullen awoke and entered the hotel ballroom looking white as a sheet.
Yours truly was so concerned we tipped off the Guv's security officer, asking him to keep an eye on the little bald guy. A health emergency could be just around the corner, and troopers know CPR.
"You're right," said the officer. "The guy looks really pale."
Thankfully, McSnoozer made it through lunch OK.
The day before, Mr. McMullen appeared on WCAX-TV's "You Can Quote Me." To say it was a rather odd program is putting it mildly.
As he did six years ago in his humiliating loss to the late, great Fred Tuttle in the GOP Primary, McSnoozer preaches a gospel of economic development. He blamed St. Patrick for IBM's decision to build their new chip plant in New York. He also noted the federal judge who recently halted the Circ Highway, Big Bad Bill Sessions, was nominated by Leahy.
Twice host Marselis Parsons politely reminded Jack he was running for the U.S. Senate, not Vermont Secretary of Commerce.
Actually, McMullen has already made a significant contribution to Vermont commerce. Jack's dropped more personal dough on his dream of being a senator than the average Vermonter earns in a decade.
Meanwhile, McMullen's Democratic opponent Sen. Patrick Leahy upstaged McSnoozer on the Sunday morning Ch. 3 airwaves without even trying.
A younger-looking St. Patrick showed up on CBS' "Face the Nation" just 10 minutes before "Quote Me." It was a "50th Anniversary Flashback" and starred a tall, thin dude who still had a couple of hairs on top of his head.
The year was 1985. The topic was terrorism. TWA 847 out of Athens had been hijacked. Burlington architect Tom Cullins was on board.
The then-junior senator from Vermont was chillingly prescient:
"We keep saying that, 'Boy, next time, we're... we're going to come back,'" said Leahy.
"And we said this when 250 more Marines got murdered in Beirut, when our embassies get blown up, our ambassadors are killed, our people are kidnapped.
"I mean, every year there are more and more terrorist attacks, and every year we say, 'Boy, we're going to be tough on this,' but we don't do a darned thing.
"I think at some point we're going to see terrorism on a larger scale exported to the United States, and we're going to face it here. We might as well understand the realities of it. And at some point, everybody's going to have to wake up to the fact that we are going to have to set our priorities right and get better intelligence."
Too bad nobody in charge was listening to what the Vermont senator was saying, eh?
P.S. Late word Tuesday that McSnoozer's campaign manager has just resigned!
According to McMullen spokesman Rob Roper, Campaign Manager Greg Hahn has indeed "returned to New Hampshire to resolve some family issues." Mr. Roper told Seven Days, "It's not official that he won't be back. We're hoping he will."
Don't bet on it.
Good News -- Our distinguished Commissioner of Travel and Tourism told Seven Days this week that rooms-and-meals tax receipts are up 6 percent so far this year, and the big summer tourism season is only just beginning.
According to Bruce Hyde, Vermont's increase comes while Massachusetts has experienced a double-digit drop in tourism dollars.
In addition, the state's tourism website is enjoying record hits this year. Inquiries are up.
"There's a lot of Web traffic," said Hyde.
And, says Cousin Brucie, tourist tax revenues climbed despite the bitterly cold January that kept skiers off the mountains.
Why is Vermont increasingly popular?
Hyde remembers well the gloom-and-doom forecast by civil-union opponents back in 2000. At the time, Cousin Brucie was a Republican state rep from Fayston. He easily recalls the vulgar, homophobic emails from across America that flooded the Statehouse back then. Writers proclaimed their intolerance by swearing they'd boycott Vermont!
Bruce Hyde was one of 14 House Republicans who voted in favor of civil unions. He took a lot of heat for it. But Mr. Hyde is the kind of guy who doesn't have trouble grasping the meaning of "equal rights."
Jim Douglas opposed civil unions. Four years later, Hyde is Douglas' tourism commissioner (appointed after losing the race for state auditor), and he's delighted to report that civil unions deserve some credit for the boost in Vermont tourism. Countless gay-friendly tourist-related businesses have sprung up, said Cousin Brucie. Money knows no sexual preferences.
In fact, there's been concern, said Hyde, that Massachusetts' recent legalization of gay marriage would put a dent in the Vermont trade. But, Hyde pointed out that the Bay State policy of offering marriage licenses exclusively to Massachusetts residents has kept Vermont's civil-union romantic weekends alive.
And what about our former favorite presidential hopeful? Was Howard Dean an inadvertent tourism ambassador for Vermont?
"I certainly wouldn't say he wasn't," replied Cousin Brucie the Republican. "Dean's national presence has put Vermont on the map. Now a lot more people know we're a state, not a province of Canada."
It was worth it, after all.