March 19th, 2007

The Scouring of the Bush Presidency

by Philip Baruth

It’s wonderful to be right. Not all the time, not even most of the time, but some of the time. And that part of the time when you do happen to be right, it’s even better to be surprisingly and undeniably right.

bush gets a subpeona

For instance, in the run-up to the last midterm election, Democrats finally managed to unify around a single, nationalized talking point: that one-party rule had created a culture of corruption in Washington, a culture intent on undermining key democratic institutions as a way of maintaining permanent majority status.

Give us control of even one chamber, Democrats argued, and we will use our restored subpoena power to show you the rot in the foundations of government. Give us control of two, and we’ll sweep it away.

It was classic reformist language, but I believed it, deeply believed it. So did every Democrat I know.

But in spite of all that meticulous mental preparation and those deep reserves of political faith, the actual effect of Democratic oversight on the Bush Administration — just in the last few weeks — has been breath-taking.

It isn’t necessarily that more scandals are suddenly coming to light; nearly every three-month period for the last four or five years has produced evidence of a handful of separate abuses.

What has been fundamentally changed are the physics governing the scandals themselves.

rummy, now long goneI remember watching Donald Rumsfeld testify before Congress during the Abu Ghraib scandal. Outrage over the abuses had reached its height, both nationally and domestically; reporters had conclusively linked the abuses in Iraq to those at Guantanamo Bay, indicating a policy of torture and humiliation fashioned at the highest levels.

And in his own maddeningly blasé fashion, Rumsfeld began by taking full responsibility for the whole sadomasochistic shooting match.

Of course, the rest of Rumsfeld’s testimony was dedicated to unwriting each clause of that opening paragraph, in order, one by one.

It was a shocking display of political hubris, and I was certain that Rumsfeld would regret it, and soon: Bush was six months out from the second-most important election of his political life.

But I was wrong. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Delay and Hastert held tight on Abu Ghraib, and the moment passed.

Those men — the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of Defense and the Republican Congressional leadership — functioned for years like the five fat fingers of a single unwashed hand. No matter what came to light, no matter who or what it threatened, they would fold together, blindly, into a fist.

The more damning the revelations, the tighter that fist.

Of course, that was then.

tiny bushNow a different dynamic has taken hold, and it goes something like this: 1) allegations come to light, 2) Bush administration officials admit some small “issues” or “errors,” but claim there is no overriding issue of any concern, 3) Congressional committee chairmen contact those involved about testifying under oath.

And of course 4) suddenly all manner of holy hell breaks loose, with the Administration desperate to fire or force the resignations of all key players before they can be sworn in on the Hill.

The Walter Reed scandal set the pattern. Within days of the Washington Post expose — and under subpoena threat by Congress — a Major General, the Army Secretary, and the Army Surgeon General had all been summarily ousted.

For the Bush Administration, it was unprecedented scandal management; under Rumsfeld and the outgoing GOP Congressional leadership, some lower level types would have been scapegoated, and the White House would have brazened out the scandal.

And indeed, the Secretary of the Army Francis Harvey tried initially to take control of the situation by pre-emptively assigning guilt: “We had some NCO’s (non-commissioned officers) who weren’t doing their jobs, period.”

That “period” with which Harvey rounded off his sentence couldn’t be any more telling.

It would be possible to argue that the Walter Reed scandal scattered Administration defenses so completely only because it went to the core of the Republican “Support the Troops” mantra.

But the story of the United States Attorney purge — the so-called Gonzales Eight — has worked in almost precisely the same fashion. After initially arguing that the mass-firing was merely “an overblown personnel matter,” the Administration suddenly caved, agreeing to rescind the enabling element of the Patriot Act, and to allow Justice Department officials to provide testimony without a subpoena.

the LeahyAnd the documents released in the last few days by the White House make clear why resistance was not an option: email ties Karl Rove, Harriet Myers, and Bush himself to the firings in a straight line going back more than a year to the earliest planning stages.

Chief of Staff to the Attorney General, Kyle Sampson, has already packed his bags.

And if the last several weeks are any guide, the current stand-off — the White House suggesting that Rove and others will not testify, and Pat Leahy suggesting that they damn well better — will be revealed to be an Administration bluff by week’s end.

This new scandal dynamic reminded me of something, but for the longest time I couldn’t pin down the resemblance. And then late last night, I got out of bed and hunted up my old battered copy of Tolkien’s The Return of the King.

And there it was, in the second to the last chapter, “The Scouring of the Shire.” The Wizard Saruman has reached the Shire long before the hobbits of the Fellowship, and he’s maliciously fouled the water, cut down the trees, tortured and beaten down all who would resist.

And although he is a shadow of his former self, Saruman warns the hobbits that if they strike him, his blood will stain the Shire, cursing it forever. Of course, it turns out to be Saruman’s own mistreated henchman who kills him, but still the hobbits watch in horror as a dark spirit seems to gather over the body.

And then a clean wind breaks it up, and blows it entirely away.

[This piece ran first in the Vermont Guardian.]

March 17th, 2007

Hillary Clinton Repudiates Promise to End the War; Bill Clinton Launches Rhetorical RPG at — Wait For It — The New York Times

by Philip Baruth

Strange times in the Clinton campaign.

Let’s begin with Hillary’s Clinton’s very strange front-page New York Times interview yesterday. If you have yet to read the Times round-up of the sit-down, you certainly should: in it, Hillary seems to almost completely repudiate everything she’s been saying about bringing the troops home for the last six months.

hillary, in a nice clean shot

In case you missed it, her stump speech now contains the line, “If we in Congress don’t end this war before January 2009, as president, I will!” And it gets loud applause wherever she delivers it.

But there is no way to reconcile that one-liner with the meat of the Times‘ interview. There she speaks about leaving a very substantial number of troops in country, to defend Kurdistan, to repel Iran and Turkey, to fight terrorism, and assorted other tasks.

The Times points out that this idea is not new.

“It has been advocated by Dov S. Zakheim, who served as the Pentagon’s comptroller under former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Mr. Zakheim has estimated that no more than 75,000 troops would be required, compared with the approximately 160,000 troops the United States will have in Iraq when the additional brigades in Mr. Bush’s plan are deployed.”

Which seems about right. Clinton is talking about accomplishing multiple military missions, deterring multiple potential foes. And that’s the sort of thing that requires tens of thousands of troops, stationed in multiple bases around the country.

In short, Clinton is having us on when she talks about ending the War as President. What she means, actually speaking, is changing the size, shape, name, and intensity of the War.

Read the interview, and the analysis of it, and see if you don’t agree.

And it makes one wonder: why, in the midst of a hotly contested primary, with the Party’s potent and growing anti-War faction up for grabs, does Hillary so explicitly walk away from her loudest applause line?

Why does she effectively exchange it for something like, “If we in Congress don’t relabel this war before January 2009, as president, I will!”

Bill, UnleashedBut it gets stranger when you read the accounts of a fundraiser Bill Clinton threw for Hillary on Tuesday night.

Apparently, Clinton “aggressively criticized” the Times for their coverage of his wife, and accused them of “going soft” on Obama, of overstating Obama’s opposition to the War. [Photo: Courtesy of Cathy Resmer]

Are the interview and the hissy fit at the fundraiser connected?

Tough to say, without knowing when the interview was conducted. But if it was conducted on Tuesday afternoon, say, that would give Bill and Hillary time enough to put their heads together, time enough to realize that Hillary’s line on future troop strength in Iraq was not going to play well.

Was the hissy fit, in short, an attempt to pre-emptively spin a potentially crippling story coming out of a strangely mishandled interview? Or a simple blow up?

I’ve never bought the line that Bill Clinton would fondle another intern at precisely the wrong moment for his wife’s campaign, and queer the whole deal. That’s a Right-wing fantasy, and probably not much more.

But let’s not forget that Clinton’s temper has caused him as much trouble over the years as his libido. And that’s not going to be helped by an insanely extended primary season, in which Clinton is expected to meekly follow the instructions of his wife’s campaign staffers.

His is not a small ego, and his reserves of patience have never been large.

But to return to what I said above, if you’ve yet to read this interview — and you’re passionate about seeing this War brought to a close — you should do so.

hillary, having it both ways

If a force of 75,000 in Iraq, occupying permanent bases, is the heart of Hillary Clinton’s strategy to end the war, then she is in effect taking up arms against not only the anti-War Democrats, but the netroots, and the majority of Americans who said enough in November.

And it that’s the case, then VDB has only one thing to say: Bully. Let the battle be joined.

Late Update, 3:20 pm:

The Obama campaign has now responded to Bill Clinton’s remarks at the fundraiser, and they’re keeping it fairly simple:

“In 2002, I opposed giving President Bush the authority to invade Iraq, and said that a war based not on principle but on politics would lead to a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I wish those words had never come true, but I have stood by them since that day and continue to today.”

March 16th, 2007

Interim State House Report: The Good, The Bad — and Frankly, The Ugly

by Philip Baruth

Okay, bit of a mixed bag up at the State House yesterday.

On the plus side, the interview with Peter Shumlin was a riot, helped along substantially by the stream of questions that came in right up to the moment I left Burlington. Many thanks to those who hit that deadline, but thanks as well to those whose questions arrived late.

state house

Not to worry: they’ll be filed away for later use.

Of course, the day wasn’t all milk and honey. Downtown Montpelier was sandbagged out the wazoo, and everyone who walked by the river stopped to give it a long suspicious once-over. Every coffee shop and gas station I went into was full of people rehearsing escape plans, what to leave if and when the ice dammed, what to save.

And when I walked into the State House, I ran immediately into an older gentleman exiting the bathroom, one Representative Trombley. He stopped and slit an eye at me, brought up a little invisible bolus of phlegm.

“The Sergeant at Arms sometimes has ties at his station, if you find you want to put on one,” he said, and then walked away in what seemed a lot like disgust.

Like I say, mixed bag.

But the Shumlin Interview will go up on Monday or Tuesday, come hell or high water, tie or no tie.

March 16th, 2007

After Years of Torture and Secret Captivity, Shaikh Mohammed Redeems Self by Drawing Fire From All The President’s Men

by Philip Baruth

No doubt by now you know that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, after emerging from years in the CIA’s secret prison system, has confessed to masterminding the 9/11 attacks “from A to Z,” as well as putting in motion a laundry list of some 30 other various plots, mostly unsuccessful, including the assassinations of Carter, Clinton, and Pope John Paul II.

in step

The story quickly moved the saga of the politically purged US Attorneys — the “Gonzales 8″ — below the fold.

And as happenstance would have it, additional shocking details were saved for Day #2: that Mohammed also confessed to beheading journalist Daniel Pearl, personally, with his “own blessed right hand.”

Talk about luck. We had Pearl’s actual killer in custody all this while, without even realizing it!

Mohammed alleged two additional points: 1) that he had been tortured in the secret prison he came to call home, and had in the past produced false testimony to end the abuse; but that 2) his current statements were given fully of his own volition.

Sounds perfectly reasonable to us.

And in the spirit of full disclosure, long-time reader Ann writes in with her own shocking tales of Shaikh Mohammed:

Dear VDB,

Knowing that VDB is concerned with how national issues affect Vermonters, I’m writing to alert you to something I learned this morning while listening to VPR. A few years ago, our cat—a really unique character—went missing. We’d always assumed he’d fallen prey to a Fisher cat or a coyote, since our neighbor told us he’d frequently seen both in the adjacent woods.

Well, this just demonstrates the naiveté of those of us on the left. I just discovered that Chester’s disappearance was spearheaded by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed—part of a plot to cause emotional distress in Americans by stealing their pets.

As if that were not enough disturbing news in one day, I also learned the fate of a wallet I lost in the mid-80s. At the time, I attributed the loss to my own carelessness (as if!), but now I’ve learned that wallets were disappearing all over West Philadelphia that year.

You guessed it—Khalid Shaikh Mohammed knew he could disrupt the local economy and the economic stability of graduate students by having his minions riffle through our backpacks for cash. I now recall an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer reporting on a drop-off in orders for Chinese take-out that month!

Loyal reader,


Look, VDB has in the past insinuated that the Bush Administration routinely front-pages bulletins from the War on Terror to move public opinion, using information that is months or years old. We have even insinuated, occasionally, that the information is fabricated, or produced by unreliable informants, massaged by pliable operatives, and then released in well-timed, Fox-friendly packages.

But this time there’s no escaping the truth: apparently Khalid Shaikh Mohammed picked a peck of pickled plots.

The question before us is the following: If, in fact, Shaikh Mohammed picked a peck of pickled plots, how many pecks of pickled plots did Shaikh Mohammed pick?

And how many potentially plugged Popes would it take to bury the purged prosecutors permanently?

confessing out the wazoo

March 14th, 2007

VDB Lunch Special: Lightly Grilled Shumlin

by Philip Baruth

All right, friends, let’s talk Shumlin.

VDB will be sitting down with the Senate President Pro Tem tomorrow morning for our first in-depth interview since the political horses of 2006 ran under the wire.

shumlin works the crowd

And yes, we’ve been getting pumped: upping the caffeine level a few cc’s every hour, to reach maximum alertness at just the right conversational moment, and spooling through hundreds of hours of black-and-white footage of Shumlin, back at the beginning of his career, when he was just a featherweight.

But we need your help, as well. What should we be asking when the tape recorder begins to spin?

Think of it this way: It’s Monday, March 19th, you’ve just finished reading through the long transcript of the Shumlin sit-down on VDB. You like it, but there’s this gnawing hole in your sense of satisfaction, this void.

What question did we miss that you really wanted answered? Probably easier to tell us now, when we can still do something about it.

No promises that we will use every question — even every good or excellent question. The time frame is finite, after all, and we’ll tend to bundle together questions that advance logically one from the next. But certainly we’ll try our best to intermingle as many as possible with our own, and never let on which is which.

Anonymity guaranteed, in other words. And all help, of all sorts, greatly appreciated.

March 13th, 2007

Existential Feedback: The New York Times Tells You Who You Are, Probably (Now With Multiple Navel-Gazing Updates!)

by Philip Baruth

In Don Delillo’s White Noise, there is a character named Babette, who teaches Sitting, Standing and Eating in the basement of a local church. Her husband wonders how much there is to teach about, say, Standing. Babette replies that people like to have their existing knowledge confirmed. It’s reassuring, she says.

poll date courtesy of the New York Times

Well, the New York Times has a poll out today, breaking down the demographics of Americans who read political blogs. And it will strike you in just this comforting sort of way, confirming most of what you know, or suspect already.

Men more likely to read political blogs than women; the college-educated more likely to read than those without the degree. No bombshells there.

But the comment stream at The Caucus pointed up something that matched our experience here at VDB: by and large the people who communicate by email are over 30, over 40 in fact. And in general I’d say that those who get into the real weeds on political blogs are older, and more politically active, than this and other such polls would indicate.

Why do the numbers continue to show the under-30 crowd as the major bloc?

Just a guess, but it might have something to do with the fact that under-30 types do make up the majority of blog readers (blogs here including Live Journal, My Space, Gaming, Pop Culture, etc.), without a doubt. And when that population is polled, they no doubt answer that they read all sorts of blogs, including the political.

And they very well might. But we’d be willing to bet that the majority of committed and regular political blog readers comes in somewhere in the early to mid-40’s.

Or maybe Vermonters are late bloomers. Just a hypothesis.

Late Update, Tuesday, 1:46 pm:

Blog Reader X, who asked to remain anonymous, offers her own profile by way of backing up the theory laid out above:

Age: 58

Location: Northeast Kingdom

How Often: Every day - sometimes more than once a day

Which ones: All the Vermont news and political blogs, including She’s Right

Comment: Whenever particularly moved or to provide specific info

Trolls in comments sections: If everyone would just ignore them and scroll right past, they would soon get bored and leave

Political identification: Moderate Independent

[Just as we would have predicted, right down to the inclusion of Charity’s blog, which no one — Left, Right, or Center — has any excuse to miss.]

Later Update, 2:13 pm:

Since we seem to have stumbled into a day of blogging specifically about blogs, this is worth adding to the mix: Time Magazine’s Swampland blog takes off its hat to Josh Marshall at TPM for prodding the MSM into following the Purged Prosecutors story.

It’s a very fulsome mea culpa, and a nice reminder about the function of blogs with respect to traditional outlets:

“The blogosphere was the engine on this story, pulling the Hill and the MSM along. As the document dump proves, what happened was much worse than I’d first thought. I was wrong. Very nice work, and thanks for holding my feet to the fire.”

March 13th, 2007

Coulter Officially Jumps Shark: The AP

by Philip Baruth

Picking up where we left off Friday: Coulter talking down gays and Presidential candidate John Edwards, and talking up guys who gun down abortion providers with high-powered rifles.

Apparently it’s not just VDB who thinks her star is on the wane.

coulterThe AP goes national with a fairly explicit chin-puller: “Has Ann Coulter Hit Her Tipping Point?” The piece follows the thinking (and we use the word loosely, of course) of several major television producers, as regards the further usefulness of a foul-mouthed woman in a slit skirt representing the “family values” end of their intricately balanced policy debates.

Some of the key cuts, with the best line as the kicker:

“Some people on NBC’s Today show didn’t want to see Coulter before she was booked to talk about Godless last summer, said Jim Bell, the show’s executive producer.

“He overruled them. Having only certain points of view would make for a bland program, he said. Since Coulter is a best-selling author, clearly there’s an audience that responds to her. Coulter also appeared on a Today segment this Feb. 8, debating a University of Pennsylvania professor.

“Bell said last week that Coulter’s legitimate points of view are beginning to get lost in the noise of being outlandish.

“‘She sometimes goes out of her way to push some buttons and tends to generate more heat than light,’ he said. ‘We love a lively debate, but we would tend to get people who would generate more light.’

“Said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism: ‘You do wonder whether she’s destined for Dancing With the Stars at some point.’”


And another update: The Caledonian-Record, one of the forty remaining newspapers carrying Coulter’s syndicated column, and the only one in Vermont, has yet to respond to our email, calling on them to disassociate themselves from her most recent remarks.

We’ll keep you posted. And feel free to contact them yourselves, if you have any strong position on whether medical professionals should be assassinated in their kitchens, as they speak with their families.

The address is , and try to be polite, but firm. [Thanks to Jack over at Green Mountain Daily for passing the word.]

March 9th, 2007

Coulter Ups Ante, Adds Sympathetic Words for Abortion Snipers to Gay-Bashing; Caledonian-Record Covers Lipstick Costs

by Philip Baruth

If you happened to catch Ann Coulter’s performance at CUPAC, you know that she called John Edwards a “faggot.” Even if you missed her act, you know she called Edwards a “faggot,” because the remark was circulated globally.

coulterAnd of course, that’s no accident: Coulter ends her speech on the line, for God’s sake. It was meant to be the finale, the take-away, the let’s-have-at-it line.

In other words, it was not an instance of casual speech treated as hate-speech by knee-jerk liberals, but the reverse: hate-speech deliberately deployed under cover of tweaking political correctness.

Three other things you may not know, at this point:

1) Clearly seeking to boost the power of the original outrage, Coulter repeated the slur at a Christian Conference on March 3, adding some sympathetic words for those who shoot abortion doctors: “Those few abortionists were shot, or, depending on your point of view, had a procedure with a rifle performed on them. I’m not justifying it, but I do understand how it happened . . .”

2) Six newspapers carrying Coulter’s syndicated column have now dropped it, for obvious reasons. These include papers in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Tennesee, North Carolina, and Louisiana, hardly liberal hotbeds, any of them.

3) And yes, The Caledonian-Record, published right here in St. Johnsbury, is one of the forty newspapers still keeping Coulter in slit leather skirts.

Yes, the Caledonian-Record is a conservative paper, but we find it hard to believe that any self-respecting publication in the state of Vermont can continue to justify carrying Coulter’s particular brand of poison. Just a few days ago, the editorial board referred to Cindy Sheehan as “a notoriously controversial peace activist who is . . . vicious and non-discriminating in her hate-filled broadsides,” and the board seemed to indicate that this was a bad thing.

Of course, pop out the phrase “peace activist” and insert “shock pundit” and you have Coulter in a nutshell. The Sheehan editorial was titled, “We’d Like Some Answers.”

Well, with regard to Coulter, so would VDB.

So let us suggest the following: Call the Record, or email them at , and ask politely that they drop Coulter’s column. It’s beneath them, and it’s beneath the state of Vermont, frankly.

Especially given that Drs. Bernard Slepian and David Gandell were both shot with high-powered sniper rifles only hours from where the editors of the Record go about their daily business. It is unconscionable that Vermont dollars should still be finding their way into the fat bank account of someone writing applause lines about their murders.

It’s time for Coulter’s intervention, and VDB would like to see Vermont help lead the way.

[Hat tip to reader Ben, for passing on the list of the forty remaining enablers.]

Late Update, 2:12 pm:

The Good news: a seventh newspaper has let Coulter go for cause. And the Bad: no, it wasn’t the Caledonian-Record.

March 8th, 2007

The Battle for John McCain’s Sandwich

by Philip Baruth

Back during the Dean campaign, I did a piece in the voice of a deli owner named Philly, a guy who used to run with Dean in the old Rat Pack days in Burlington, supposedly (”Howard Dean Owes Me a Sandwich”). Since good characters don’t come along every day, I brought Philly out of retirement to comment on the current McCain campaign. About which there is much to comment, little of it good.


Notes from the New Vermont
Commentary #195: The Battle For John McCain’s Sandwich

Look, there’s a couple a things you gotta know about me: #1) I run a deli in Winooski I took over after my old man passed in the ‘70’s, and I don’t fool around when it comes to sandwiches, and #2) my family was voting Democratic when Roosevelt was in diapers.

But even with all that history, I always liked John McCain. He spoke his mind, you know, and he had this rascally kind of grin. Stood up to the tobacco companies. Spent five years in a POW camp, don’t forget.

So when McCain came through New Hampshire in 2000, he did a little one-day swing through Vermont too. And because I got friends downtown, I got the nod when it came to catering the event at City Hall here.

This was right around the time McCain went on national TV and called Jerry Falwell an “agent of intolerance.” Beautiful. Just what needed saying, I thought.

And so when it came time to make McCain’s lunch, I took my time, and I actually invented a new sandwich just for him: The Johnny B. Goode, a foot-long sub laid out with all the top end meats, the roast beef, the prosciutto, and some 12-year-old smoked cheddar they only make down in Ferrisburgh. Hot peppers, all the veggies.

Best sandwich I ever made.

And that’s not just me flapping my yap, either: John McCain himself said so, after all the reporters and people cleared out of the hall. He comes walking over, still working on the tail end of the sandwich, and he shakes my hand.

“That’s the best sub I’ve ever had, my friend,” he tells me, “and I’ve had subs in every hole in the wall deli in every state in America. Don’t ever change it.”

He’s got long red scars on his face and his neck you usually don’t see on TV, but the rascally grin is even better in person.

He shakes my hand, and just for a second, I think, I might be voting for a Republican for President this trip.

Of course, in about two weeks, he’s road kill under the wheels of the Bush machine. And that was that. McCain dropped out of the picture.

Until last week.

Just as I’m unlocking the front door for the day, the phone rings. It’s McCain’s people. Of course McCain’s running for President again, he’s gonna be in New Hampshire to meet with some local big-wigs the next day, and he wants me to cater the lunch.

He loves this Johnny B. Goode sandwich so much, he wants me to make up 100 of these things, and drive ‘em over the state line to Hanover.

Did I say yes? You gotta ask?

And so the whole day I go into overdrive: I’m stockpiling the 12-year-old cheese, I’m prepping the proscuitto, and making sure the rolls are fresh-fresh, not just fresh. But about 2 in the afternoon, the phone rings.

It’s the spin doctor again. He wants to know if I can 86 the prosciutto. They’re worried maybe some in the crowd don’t eat ham. And I hesitate, but whatever, you know? It’s a sandwich, not the Mona Lisa. So I say sure.

Couple hours later, another phone call. This time it’s the hot peppers. McCain’s new brain thinks some people might find the hot peppers, you know, hot. So out they go.

And then a third call, twenty minutes later. Now the guy wants to know if I mind if they say the food came from a deli in New Hampshire. “Look,” I say, “I’m not gonna lie.

So the guy thinks a minute, and he comes up with a last-ditch suggestion: “Fine, drive the subs down, but leave them open-face until you get to Hanover — then we close ‘em up, and the campaign can say they were made in New Hampshire.”

Do you believe that? If I didn’t have a counter overflowing Johnny B. Goode foot-longs, I’d say take a hike.

But I do, so I don’t.

It isn’t until next morning that the phone rings again, and you gotta believe me when I tell you, it’s McCain himself. He sounds kind of hassled, and he apologizes, but they gotta cancel the order. Big donor in New Hampshire’s gonna handle the event.

“But you’ll get paid, Philly, not to worry,” McCain says, and the rascally smile’s there in his voice, even.

“Oh, I’m not worried about the money,” I tell him, “what I’m worried about is your voice.”

“My voice,” he says, confused all of the sudden.

“Yeah,” I say, “your voice. For some reason, you sound different this time around, Johnny.” And that’s when I hang up the phone.

[This piece aired originally on Vermont Public Radio.]

McCain, tanking

Late Update, 7:58 am:

VDB-reader BM sends us this link from a very telling forum at the Kennedy School of government: a discussion with top strategists from the McCain, Romney and Giuliani campaigns. About 3 minutes into the video, McCain’s strategist Rick Davis gets the fast ball: “Is your candidate now the face of the surge? Do you accept that premise, and if so how’d you let that happen?”

In response, Davis speaks some of the most straight-up gibberish you will ever hear. Best bits? 1#) McCain has supported Bush because he believed Bush was the man to “unravel the riddle” of radical jihadism, and #2) The American people want success in Iraq, even though they don’t know how to spell it.

Worth a look, if only in the way that you might watch crash-clips from a Sunday NASCAR race.

March 8th, 2007

A VDB Shout out to Ed “47%” Adrian

by Philip Baruth

A quick shout out to Ed Adrian, who stepped into Burlington’s Ward 1 City Council race at something close to the last moment, to pinch hit for Ian Carleton. Carleton endorsed Ed immediately, and it looked like an easy run for an uncontested seat.

ed adrian and family

But it turned out there were hurdles, and fairly high ones: an emergency caucus with nearly as many candidates as voters, and a strong Progressive challenge with significant support from party higher-ups.

Which made sense: flipping the seat could well have wrested control of the Council from Democrats. And Burlington Progressives are no dummies.

But by 10 pm Town Meeting Day, it was all moot, because Big Ed powered home with 47% of the vote. And as far as VDB’s concerned, it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

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