"Last Thursday," said Dean for America spokesperson Trish Enright, "my phone stopped ringing."
All of a sudden, last week, the media's political eye turned away from presidential politics and zoomed in on California politics. Reporters and TV crews were instantly transferred from New Hampshire to Los Angeles. The recall of Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and the lineup of 193 candidates to succeed him is the hot political story of the moment.
In one week, Time and Newsweek have gone from putting presidential hopeful Howard Dean on their covers to fronting gubernatorial hopeful Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Austrian-born bodybuilder turned multimillionaire Hollywood actor. Ho-Ho has been upstaged by the Termin-ator. Turn on the news networks and it's all Arnold, all the time. Does this help or hurt Howard Dean's presidential bid?
Given the fact that the California Recall comes on the heels of Dean emerging as the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, it's Dean's opponents who have the most to lose. Howard of Vermont already has the momentum. Monday afternoon almost 4000 Deaniacs packed Independence Mall in downtown Philadelphia to cheer their hero before a televised candidate forum.
Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, we're told, drew a crowd of only 40 supporters. More TV time for Arnold will mean less TV time for Kerry, Dick Gephardt and the rest. And the California media rush comes just as Big John is desperately trying to rejuvenate his sagging campaign. Kerry's slipped down into second place in New Hampshire, a must-win primary for the richest member of the United States Senate.
In the past week Big John has started to lash out at Little Howard. In Monday's evening Philadelphia forum, Kerry looked down his long nose at Ho-Ho, belittling the notion that what worked in a tiny state like Vermont can in any way, shape or form be applied to the country at large.
Kerry is also awkwardly stretching the English language as he tries to wiggle out of his vote last fall that gave Bush a blank check to invade Iraq. He's trying to convince voters the Iraq Resolution only authorized the president to use the "threat of force" rather than force itself.
Good luck splitting hairs, John.
Meanwhile, there's been a radical change over at the Kerry campaign headquarters. Just two weeks ago, Campaign Manager Jim Jordan was pooh-poohing Dean's use of the Internet to raise money and organize supporters. Now they're trying to duplicate Dean's online bonanza.
On Saturday, the Kerry Campaign started up an online fundraising effort. It featured a mythical moving van that would supposedly move President Bush 1446 miles from Washington to his ranch in Crawford, Texas. For each $100 raised, the moving van would move one mile.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Kerry's moving van has advanced a grand total of 212 miles. It appears stalled outside Roanoke, Virginia. That means just $21,200 has come in. Trish Enright notes that means the Kerry moving van is traveling at about 2.4 miles per hour!
Based on recent experience, when the Dean Campaign makes an online fundraising pitch, they raise that much in hours, not days.
Another sign things are heating up between Big John and Ho-Ho was the online blog battle that erupted over the weekend. Kerry's new Web site appears to copy Dean's in many respects. Like Dean, Kerry now offers a blog where supporters post their comments.
On Sunday, Dean supporters started visiting the Kerry blog. Many declared their support for Ho-Ho and respect for Kerry as a good second choice. But a few Kerry loyalists took it poorly. One posted a message calling for war.
"I say, let's call everyone to arms to fight fire with fire," wrote a Kerry supporter named Pocki. "Until this stops I am going to raise hell on the Dean boards, and I encourage all Kerry people to join me. They outnumber us, but, as Kerry said, 'I know how to do mud.' Their candidate is a traitor anyway. I would rather have Bush than Dean, and I am sure most Kerry supporters agree!"
Finally, Dean Campaign Manager Joe Trippi stepped in to cool things down. Joltin' Joe posted this message on the Dean Blog: "No one does this campaign or our cause any service by posting on another candidate's blog. Let them build their community -- let them battle their own trolls -- and let's get on with the hard work of building the Dean community that will take our country back."
We tried to get the Kerry camp's side of this, but phone messages left with the Kerry press office on both Monday and Tuesday were not returned. Maybe they simply don't respond to calls from the 802 area code?
In addition to the shots taken by Kerry, Republicans are also starting to take notice of the little guy from Vermont. The Republican-friendly Washington Times ran an amusing article Sunday attempting to debunk Ho-Ho's reputation as a fiscal conservative. The Times piece, "Dean budget-balancing act left taxpayers red," by Donald Lambro, made the preposterous claim that under Gov. Dean the Vermont state budget grew from $662 million in 1991 to $1.8 billion last year when he stepped down. Holy mackerel, Howard Dean tripled state spending?
Obviously the Washington Times is not going to let the truth get in the way of bashing the Democratic frontrunner.
According to information supplied by Steve Klein at the Joint Fiscal Office at the Statehouse, the Vermont general fund budget in 1991 was $642 million. Last year the general fund budget was $890 million.
We contacted Mr. Lambro, who was unable to explain how he came up with the $1.8 billion number. Lambro also told us he was a little uncomfortable with the headline, since Vermont is one of the few states in the nation that continues to operate in the black, not the red.
Bottom line -- expect more lies from the right-wing press when it comes to the Dean record. George W. Bush remains the greatest threat to the security of the United States, and Howard Dean has emerged as the greatest threat to George W. Bush.
"Fair and Balanced" -- This column will continue to strive to be fair and balanced Oops! Can't say that anymore.
That's because Fox News, the right-wing TV network launched by billionaire Rupert Murdoch in 1996, claims it owns the slogan "fair and balanced." Under the law, says Fox News, only Fox News can be called "fair and balanced." 1984 author George Orwell would blush with pride.
To defend its trademark rights, Fox News has sued comedian/satirist Al Franken because the words "fair and balanced" appear on the cover of his new book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. The subhead is A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.
Fox News proudly boasts it was created to be "an alternative to what its founders perceived as a liberal bias in the American media."
Damn liberals. First they freed the slaves. Then they let women vote. Then they tossed out racial segregation. And now they want homosexual people such as Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter to have the same legal rights as everyone else when it comes to love.
In dedicated pursuit of its goal to counter the perceived liberal bias in the media, Fox News cut its TV teeth zeroing in on the penis of Democratic President Bill Clinton. Newswise, oral sex superseded foreign policy, AIDS, global warming and corporate greed. Fox News built its audience with nonstop coverage of Pecker-gate, the greatest non-scandal in American history.
Fox News' Orwellian claim to own the phrase "fair and balanced" belongs right up there with Saddam Hussein's claim he was "democratically" elected by the people of Iraq.
P.S. By the way, Candidate Dean hasn't been seen on the Fox talk shows. Is Ho-Ho ducking Fox?
According to Dean spokesperson Trish Enright, the candidate has received invitations to appear on Fox programs.
However, at present, said Ms. Enright, "We're not looking to do the confrontational scream shows. When it works in the schedule," she said, "we'll take a look at it."
Inside Pick for Chief? -- Indications are that the next Burlington Chief of Police will not be a woman. In fact, the selection looks to be an inside job.
Chief Alana Ennis announced her departure last week. She's landed a cushy post in the world of corporate security. Alana arrived a few years ago from North Carolina. She was the first woman to hold the chief's job in Burlap. And she did so quietly.
Chief Ennis operated pretty much beneath the radar. Mediawise, she was the polar opposite of her smooth-talking predecessor, Chief Kevin Scully. The loquacious and charming Scully was a regular face on the local TV news for many years. Now we only see him in those TV commercials for a certain local funeral home.
All indications are that Chief Ennis has whipped the BPD into top shape. Truth be told, we haven't heard one significant complaint from her underlings throughout her tour of duty.
Ennis' pending departure on September 30 gives Mayor Peter Clavelle the opportunity to exercise the mayor's new power to pick the chief. In the past, the police commission would have made the call. But recent charter changes approved by the electorate have given the mayor of Burling-ton more power than ever before.
Mayor Moonie was vacationing in Maine this week and not available for comment. But, sources say, we should expect Clavelle to pick Ennis' successor from within the current ranks. No national search on this one. The two contenders are Deputy Chief Tom Tremblay and Deputy Chief Steve Wark. Both have been groomed by Ennis for the top spot.
"She's mentored people," said Police Commission Chairman Jerry O'Neill. Mr. O'Neill told Seven Days he expects Mayor Moonie to make a pick soon, so that a seamless transition of leadership will take place on October 1.
Little in the Crossfire -- Guess who was in the middle of the battle in Minneapolis last week over the nomination of an openly gay priest to be consecrated the Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire?
None other than former Republican State Rep. Tom Little. Little chaired the House Judiciary Committee in 2000 that wrote Vermont's landmark civil-unions law. Levelheaded and mild-mannered, Chairman Little was a true profile in courage as he stood up for what was right in the face of intense, hate-spewing opposition.
The Shelburne lawyer was one of four lay delegates representing the Vermont Episcopal diocese at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church (USA). Tom ended up in the thick of things once again, as he was called on to serve as counsel for the investigation into last-minute allegations of improper conduct by Rev. V. Gene Robinson.
The investigation cleared the nominee and Robinson was subsequently approved as a bishop. This week the decision is prompting a schism within the church as some conservative Episcopal pastors are publicly declaring their opposition to ordaining gay priests and blessing gay unions.
As someone raised in an Irish Catholic home, yours truly certainly hates to watch Protestants fight in public. Poor old Henry VIII is probably turning over in his grave, eh?
As for gay marriage, said Little, the Episcopal church adopted what he called a "watered-down resolution" that gives each diocese "the option of experimenting with some form of liturgical response to same-sex unions." Little says he supports such a step.
"That's where the church is basically heading," said Little. "The church ought to provide an appropriate liturgical response, a blessing, some ceremonial way of recognizing long-term monogamous relationships," he said.
But don't expect the Episcopal Church to call it "marriage" anytime soon, added Little.
As the gay marriage debate becomes more and more a national issue, Democratic contender Howard Dean has continued to walk the fine line of semantics between equal rights under the Vermont civil-union label and the "M" word -- "marriage."
And since President George W. Bush recently labeled gay and lesbian Americans "sinners," it's expected the issue will heat up on the presidential campaign trail. Oh, boy!
For Vermonters, it's deja vu all over again. The same ugly lies are being broadcast by the High Priests of Homophobia, everyone from the Roman Catholic Pope John Paul II to America's fundamentalist religious police. Just as we heard in Vermont three years ago, the end of traditional marriage, even the end of the world, is forecast by the holy rollers. Remember when the Vermont opposition predicted our state would be overrun by thousands of invading homosexuals?
We're still waiting.
If only they took the time to examine the Vermont record. We are the proof in the pudding. Legalizing love for all citizens only strengthens communities and families. It may even strengthen marriage, given the fact that, left exclusively to heterosexuals, the modern institution of marriage has been turned into a 50-50 crap shoot and an economic stimulus package for divorce lawyers.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph!