June 16th, 2006

Presumed Incontinent: An All-New Brian Dubie Thriller!

by Philip Baruth

Part One:
The Presumed Incontinence of Brian Dubie

Don’t think VDB doesn’t know what you’re thinking, because we do: Sure, comedy is one thing, but jokes about a sitting Lieutenant Governor soiling his flightsuit are another thing altogether.

Is this a political blog, or a Rob Schneider flick? Where’s the dignity?

Dignity, schmignity.

meat, politicsWhat other image can come close to describing Dubie’s reaction to Thursday’s news that Anthony Pollina would hang on to his slightly threadbare hat this time around, as opposed to tossing it yet again into the statewide ring?

Pollina has been the skeleton key to Dubie’s success almost from the get-go, and without Pollina, Dubie is — a guy without a key.

Why? Because in the same way that the Dunne/Tracy primary offers a double dream for Democrats, it’s a double nightmare for Dubie, a lose-lose scenario of the first order.

And nobody knows it like Dubie.

If he runs against Dunne, Dubie faces a hungry campaigner capable of uniting the center-left coalition, a guy who brought in John Edwards for a high-profile conference on poverty, yet who also speaks fluent entrepreneur-ese.

If he runs against Tracy, Dubie faces a very likeable veteran with the ability to make Burlington the beating heart of a whirl-wind statewide campaign.

Dubie, or not Dubie — that is the root-level question, and after Thursday the answer looks distinctly like the latter.

Part Two:
In Which VDB Rethinks Anthony Pollina

As you know, we ran a rumor a week or so back, about Pollina condo shopping on the Burlington Waterfront. But that was only the half of it: the other half involved a potential run for State Senate, perhaps — in the most fantastic scenario — from Chittenden County.

And after Thursday’s announcement, we’ve been inundated with email throwing out various rationales for Pollina’s sudden pull-back: Pollina is making nice with Democrats prior to a party-switch; Pollina is plotting an even greater assault on the Democratic majority, and is merely marshalling his forces; the Progressives are looking to build grass-roots force before returning to high-profile statewide races; etc., and so on.

Back and forth, and round and round.

But as far as we’re concerned, the why is all but irrelevant.

In the end, only Pollina and his people know why he left the race open to the Democratic nominee. What matters is that he did so.

Presumably, Pollina’s future plans include politics. Presumably, whatever race he next runs will depend on Democratic votes. And as far as VDB is concerned, Pollina now deserves a fresh look from all Vermont Democrats.

As does David Zuckerman, who also drew back ultimately from a run that would have handed Bernie’s seat to Dennis Hastert.

As any regular reader knows, we had some fun spotlighting the strategic value of Zuckerman’s exploratory phase — but what matters, finally, is that David didn’t pull the trigger.

As we put it then, “Hard to fault a man for playing his chosen game skillfully, and with his cards close to the chest. Zuckerman has done a great deal to ensure that Vermont continues to challenge the deeply corrupt and wrong-headed legislation seeping from the nation’s capital. And that’s a good day’s work, for any of us. Well done, David.”

We know, we know: some hard-core Democrats will argue ad infinitum that Pollina and Zuckerman pulled back out of sheer calculated self-interest, or Progressive party interests, rather than in the interests of advancing the agenda of a united Center-Left coalition.

But again, motivation is finally irrelevant. Let’s face it: all successful politicians have vote-tabulating machines for hearts, and they consult their own hearts — and only their own hearts — when all is said and done.

The point is that Progressives have shown restraint this cycle. They’ve offered Democrats a clear field in what is unquestionably a desperate political year.

If Democrats can’t take and hold the field in the end, then it seems to VDB that well-known Progressives have not one but two compelling reasons to run next time out.

And we openly promise, as of today, to listen long and hard to those arguments when and if they’re made. We encourage other Democrats to do the same.

Make no mistake: the last three things VDB will do before drawing breath for the very last time — at age 95 or 96 — will be to cough once, twice, and then curse Ralph Nader.

Grudges are a terrible burden to carry.

But Anthony Pollina has given us an opportunity this year to shed a grudge, at least one, and for that we thank him.