January 26th, 2006

Rich Tarrant 2006: Bumble of the Century

by Philip Baruth

The Tarrant Senate campaign — like no other campaign in Vermont history — is banking on image to close the deal: both the biographical (local basketball hero hits IDX jackpot) and the purely graphical (top-end campaign commercials, strung out in interlocking narrative sequence).

Much money has been spent on planning these images, and the relationship between them. Much money.

More than I make in a year, more than you make in a year, just on planning, drafting, story-boarding these long imagistic sequences. Leaves, lay-ups, long shots of a tall gentle man surrounded by children.

It’s against this backdrop that Rich Tarrant seems so breath-takingly clumsy thus far. His little residency/homestead snafu has done more to link him with the carpetbagging ghost of Jack McMullen than Bernie’s people could have ever dared dream.

“This is the stuff that I guess as a newcomer I should have expected,” Tarrant said by way of mea culpa.

Newcomer: arguably the single-most expensive word ever uttered in Vermont politics. Rough estimate: that one word unwrote a hundred thousand dollars of I’m-your-neighbor campaign roll-out.

But it gets worse. If you go to Tarrant’s website, you are confronted immediately by a slick banner featuring a smiling Rich Tarrant — an almost aggressively smiling Tarrant.

There’s something vaguely unsettling about it, but it takes you a minute to put it together.

The banner is a composite: fall leaves, a church and a barn on the left; icy winter and a large Tarrant on the right. Tarrant is way out of scale; judged against the barn, for example, he seems about 19 feet tall.

And then suddenly you realize why this picture is giving you the willies: it’s the abominable snow monster — the Bumble — from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

If you think I’m exaggerating,

That’s the story buried in the Tarrant website banner: the Bumble lurching out of a frozen forest to attack a sleepy village that doesn’t have the slightest idea what’s about to strike.

Of course, this Bumble has already labeled itself a “newcomer” — hobbling itself for no apparent reason — so the people of the village can probably afford to go on sleeping.

But not too deeply. Never forget: Bumbles bounce.

2 Responses to ' Rich Tarrant 2006: Bumble of the Century '

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  1. on May 29th, 2006 at 5:44 pm

    […] From late January, in which we compared Tarrant to the Bumble from Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer (it’s a long story): […]

  2. on September 21st, 2006 at 9:26 pm

    […] I had called his campaign office a week or two back and asked to be removed from the mailing list. This weekend the mail brought an invitation to a complimentary lunch at the Happy Hour Restaurant in Wells River. (Note: this may be considered by some a step-up from the Hungry Bear in Bradford. This is the subject of some debate in my family.) I declined this offer also. My hope is that after the election Mr. Tarrant may want to continue the free lunch program for the homeless or others in need. Also, I would like to very much agree with your early observation that indeed Tarrant’s broad aggressive smile is as frightening as The Bumble’s [from the Christmas classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer]. A difficult image to shake. […]