September 18th, 2008

McCain Has Only One Safe Harbor Now

by Philip Baruth

What with Palin Power now become Failin’ Power, and an economic crisis pointing up McCain’s own unfamiliarity and discomfort with financial issues, not to mention Obama retaking the lead in national polls, it was clearly time for the GOP ticket to try to yank the conversation back to safer ground. The coordinated attack on the embassy in Yemen? No, too risky: it might point up Palin’s lack of foreign know-how. Where to? Right. You guessed it: LiLo. Maybe the single most pathetic campaign maneuver ever, in the history of Western democracy. Well struck, Mr. Bounds.

September 18th, 2008

Leahy Intensifies Doubts on Anthrax Case

by Philip Baruth

Back in our September 2007 interview with Senator Leahy, at the Rusty Scuffer in Burlington, he had this to say about the identity of the anthrax mailer still at large:

leahy letter

Leahy: [Slowly, with a little shake of the head] I don’t think it’s somebody insane. I’d accept everything else you said. But I don’t think it’s somebody insane. And I think there are people within our government — certainly from the source of it — who know where it came from. [Taps the table to let that settle in] And these people may not have had anything to do with it, but they certainly know where it came from.

It was a stunning charge, and one that seemed to come from a sense of deep conviction. Yesterday, in case you missed it, Leahy doubled down on those charges in a packed hearing room. From WaPo:

“If he is the one who sent the letter, I do not believe in any way, shape or manner that he is the only person involved in this attack on Congress and the American people,” Leahy told FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III at a hearing yesterday. “I believe there are others involved, either as accessories before or accessories after the fact. I believe that there are others who can be charged with murder.”

Mind-blowing stuff.

September 16th, 2008

Lieutenant Governor Dubie Cannot Debate You, Tom Costello, Because He Has Plenty Of Other Cool Stuff To Do. Seriously.

by Philip Baruth

So yesterday Tom Costello sent Brian Dubie a letter, inviting him to participate in a series of five “conversations” around the state, in the run-up to the November election. Tom, let VDB save you a step: Lieutenant Governor Dubie is busy. Never mind the dates; he’s busy for all of them. Not with legislative business. Just busy busy busy. Busy.

Dubie has elevated the avoidance of debates, and of campaigning in general, to a high art. In the last cycle, he stiff-armed the Dunne campaign when he could, and cancelled at the last minute when he couldn’t. Wikipedia, lest anyone forget, actually cites Dubie’s “laid-back approach to campaigning,” as one of the few things a newcomer to the Lite Governor’s resume should know.

Which doesn’t reflect well on us, on Vermont’s media and its voters. Politicians run campaigns when they must; if they can get by without one, they will certainly do so.

But debates, plural, should always be a prerequisite for the job. Say what you want about Jim Douglas, but he mixes it up in multiple formats, with multiple opponents, each and every time out of the box.

Put simply, it shouldn’t be up to Brian Dube whether he debates or not.

His opponents, like Costello, should not be forced to beg an audience. Both men should face an audience, more than once or twice, if they want the job at issue.

Which puts the ball, just weeks before Election Day, squarely in the media’s court. What say you, folks?

September 15th, 2008

John Minus Sarah Equals Nobody Cares

by Philip Baruth

John McCain and Sarah Palin have gone their separate ways on the campaign trail now, because McCain doesn’t need her any more to gin up crowds: the pick has permanently erased the enthusiasm gap that bedeviled the mavericky Johnny Mac pre-Minneapolis. Or so we were told. Here’s McCain in Jacksonville, where the empty seats were legion.

Huffpost has more of the sad photographic details.

But suffice it to say that the pre-Palin effect seems to be reasserting itself: people tend to believe that electing a 26-year Washington insider, one who would make history as the oldest President ever, is not the elegant solution to the Change-deficit.

And then they tend to stay home.

September 15th, 2008

That Obstacle to Todd Palin’s Subpeona? Not Much of an Obstacle After All

by Philip Baruth

VDB was about to pop the champagne when we read Friday that Alaska legislators had issued a blizzard of subpeonas for Palin aides, and one for First Dude Todd Palin. It turned out, though, that there was a catch: those subpeonas needed to be authorized by the State Senate President. Gasp.

“Alaska Women Reject Palin,” timed to counter Palin’s first in-state event, attracted 1000 [photo via Mudflats]

Would Bush/Cheney/Rove/McCain’s people find a way to fix this poor unsuspecting legislator but good?

It looks like that won’t be a problem either, though: Lyda Green, the Senate President, is the same Lyda Green that Palin has feuded with publicly, and the same Lyda Green a talk-radio host now infamously called “a cancer and a bitch” while Palin laughed mellifluously in the background.

So will those subpeonas get signed, and can we actually expect to see Todd Palin routinely referred to between now and Election Day as “Todd Palin, husband of the Alaska Governor and currently under subpeona in an investigation into his wife’s abuse of executive power” or something similar?

In a phrase: yes, we can.

September 12th, 2008

NYT: Scara Palin Gets Her War Way On

by Philip Baruth

Following Palin’s first extensive interview, forecasting war with Russia over Georgia and revealing more or less complete ignorance of Bush military doctrine, The New York Times provides unintentionally spot-on commentary through adjacent head-line placement. (Special thanks to longtime VDB-reader Michael for the catch.)

September 12th, 2008

VT Edition Story on Dreyfuss Blackout

by Philip Baruth

Bob Kinzel: For two weeks, the national party conventions were given saturation coverage by the cable new networks. In addition to the speeches and floor business, there were long hours of analysis, opinion and speculation. Commentator Philip Baruth was an Obama delegate to the Democratic convention, and had a front-row seat for all the action. But he says the news story that has stayed with him is one the national media never reported.

DNC 2008:
“Actor’s Presence at Convention a Missed Story”

When it comes to seating assignments at the Democratic National Convention, Vermont is ordinarily given the red-headed stepchild treatment: even as recently as 2004, the Vermont delegation was seated way, way up in the nose-bleed seats, just behind Democrats Abroad.

But in 2008, all that changed.

DNC Chair Howard Dean waved his hand and wrought a miracle: the Vermont delegation had front row seats for the most spectacular Democratic Convention in modern history.

So as part of that delegation, I saw a lot of incredible things. But the most amazing thing I saw went almost entirely unreported by the media, and that’s more amazing still.

It was early evening on Tuesday of Convention week, and all day — all year, really — the national press had been flogging the same story: that Hillary Clinton planned to hijack the Convention because she was bitter, conniving, vindictive — take your pick.

So all that afternoon, reporters had been trolling the floor, searching for evidence of a Clinton coup in the making.

And in the middle of all this manufactured tension, who should drop into an empty seat in the row behind me but Richard Dreyfuss.

Yeah, that Richard Dreyfuss — the guy who played Hooper in Jaws, and a million other characters in films from Mr. Holland’s Opus to What About Bob? It’s him, in the flesh, and he’s really mad about something, I can tell, red in the face mad.

He’s haranguing two of our delegates in a loud whisper, really giving them a hard sell about something. And a group of four or five photographers are down on one knee in a semi-circle in the aisle, getting pictures of it all.

So very casually, I twist around in my seat and I eavesdrop on the conversation. Not proud of it, but in a huge crowd like that any scrap of information can be life-or-death, or at least food-or-no-food.

And it turns out that what Dreyfuss wants is, essentially, to hijack the Convention: he wants a critical mass of delegates to shout loudly and disruptively enough from the floor to force Nancy Pelosi, the official chair, to consider a voice vote censuring President Bush.

He’s going from delegation to delegation trying to gin up support. According to Dreyfuss, Pelosi is a coward, and so a loud demonstration on the floor of the Convention is the only way to address the issue.

Now, you could have fit the real impeachment supporters at the 2008 Convention into an Altoids tin. Most everyone had moved on from that idea; most everyone believed that bringing it up, especially by shouting down the speakers at the podium, would sidetrack everything the Obama people were trying to accomplish.

And so Dreyfuss got the cold shoulder from Vermont, and then he just sat in his seat stewing for a minute. If you remember the look he gets in Jaws when the mayor of Amity refuses to shut down the beaches, that’s the look Dreyfuss had on his face. Almost apoplectic.

And then he got up abruptly and snuck over to Colorado’s section, and began his pitch all over again. And the photographers followed dutifully behind.

But for all the photos those cameramen must have submitted to their editors, no one broke that story, because even though it was the story of a famous Democrat out to hijack the Convention, it wasn’t the particular famous Democrat they were looking for.

And that’s the most amazing thing I saw in Denver: thousands of high-buck journalists and pundits and photographers ignoring Hooper and the Great White Shark of impeachment, in order to fish for the Hillary story that never happened.

[Audio of this VPR news commentary is available here.]

September 12th, 2008

In Which Quebec Likes VT A Lot

by Philip Baruth

Okay, apparently the rule is that if you post once about wacky events North of the Border, you’ll do so ever after. But damned if madness isn’t breaking out in Canada: a Bloc Québécois MP is running around his “riding” telling voters that not only will the world keep spinning if Quebec votes for secession, it’ll gain a substantial chunk of Vermont. No, we’re not shitting you. Does VDB look like a pooping puffin?

This MP, alluding to unnamed sources, claims that a “fairly strong movement” in the Green Mountain State favors joining an independent Quebec. Possibly to ensure access to the Tim Horton’s franchise, but he’s not crystal clear on that point.

In any event, here is the freaky French video in which our desire to part ways with ourselves is confidently asserted. We watched it, and it made us feel like John Kerry. Bon soir.