February 6th, 2006

John Tracy Defeats Cheney for MMRS

by Philip Baruth

This week’s Monday Must-Read Sentence begs a pressing question: If a train derails in Seattle, injuring 125, and a car slides off the road in St. Albans, injuring 2, one of whom used to date your sister back in the ‘80’s, and still owes you 35$, which is the bigger news story?

Right — closer is almost always bigger, in all the ways that really count.

Which explains today’s apparently odd MMRS decision. On Saturday the NY Times dropped a bombshell that managed to send up surprisingly little dust: cheneyturns out it was our old friend Richard “Dick” Cheney who outed Valerie Plame after all.

“Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff told prosecutors that Mr. Cheney had informed him ‘in an off sort of curiosity sort of fashion’ in mid-June 2003 about the identity of the C.I.A. officer at the heart of the leak case, according to a formerly secret legal opinion, parts of which were made public on Friday.”

An “off sort of curiosity sort of fashion.” How priceless is that?

Ordinarily that would be game, set, match for the MMRS. How often is the sitting Vice President tied directly — in the opinion of a US Court of Appeals judge — to criminal activity?

Then John Tracy, D-Burlington, threw his hat into the ring for Lieutenant Governor.

Sort of.

“’I will be running, but I have work to do right now,’ Tracy said Friday at the Statehouse. As chairman of the House Health Committee, Tracy’s task this session is to lead the 11-member panel in writing and winning passage for a health care reform bill.

“As a candidate for lieutenant governor, Tracy said, ‘I think I can continue to work and help lead on health care reform on a statewide level.’”

Now, back during the summer, Tracy threw his hat in the ring for Mayor of Burlington. And he did it with style and determination: Tracy made it clear he wasn’t going to dither about it, and it didn’t matter what Peter Clavelle decided on the re-election question. It was time for a change in City Hall, and John was the guy to bring it.

It was the perfect statement, at the perfect moment, and it changed the dynamics of the Mayor’s Race permanently. Finally, someone was stepping into the post-Clavelle void. VDB was ecstatic. Tracy is a stand-up guy, and we were glad to jump in with early support.

And then Tracy did the unaccountable: he ran out into the ring, grabbed his hat, and ran back out. At the time, it made no sense whatsoever. VDB was puzzled, disoriented. But now we see the light: Tracy had bigger fish to fry.

Still, the man’s got an odd way of running a fish-fry.

Which brings us to this week’s MMRS, drawn from Nancy Remsen’s fine article on Tracy’s proto-candidacy. It’s a simple line, though devastating in its implications: “He doesn’t plan any significant campaigning until the [legislative] session wraps up.

No significant campaigning, for months. This in a statewide race with what will be a hotly contested primary, followed by a general election with an incumbent who took in over 50% last time out.

Tracy’s bet is clearly that work in the legislature will translate into free media, and an air of statewide leadership. As VDB recalls, that was Bob Dole’s strategy in ‘96. Until the Democrats tied the Senate in knots.

Bob Dole got angry. Bob Dole fought back. Bob Dole felt sorry for Bob Dole for a while, and then quit the Senate. But by then it was far too late.

So you have to wonder about Tracy’s hole-up-in-Montpelier strategy.

Because when you’re facing a primary against a candidate like Matt Dunne (D-Windsor) — who’s been up and running like a cheetah for months now, and who just happens to be hosting John Edwards this week in Burlington, Tracy’s own backyard — that may well be ballgame.

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  1. on February 22nd, 2006 at 11:54 pm

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