January 9th, 2007

Douglas’s Vermont Way Forward is Bush’s Old Way Backward: Elevate the Loyal, the Tainted and the Woefully Inexperienced

by Philip Baruth

Back in the heat of the 2006 Congressional race, Martha Rainville made a real wince-producing error: for no apparent reason, she adopted one of George W. Bush’s signature phrases as her own.

martha, in camoThe phrase was “changing the tone,” and Martha built an entire ad campaign around it, blissfully unaware that voters now associated it with Bush’s broken promise to foster genuine bipartisanship.

By early 2006, it was clear that Bush had come into office prepared to change the tone all right — but for the worse.

For a candidate trying desperately to separate herself from Bush-era sleaze and disappointments, it was a stunningly inept move.

Which brings us to Jim Douglas, circa 2007.

Having watched Rainville poke a sizeable rhetorical hole in her own boat, Douglas should know better than to borrow anything from the Decider — socks, a cup of sugar, David McCulloch biographies, anything.

But you’d think Douglas would be triply wary of shopworn Bush slogans.

After all, the Governor’s last two opponents tried — with varying success — to tie him to Bush’s failed policies.

And no doubt the next will try as well.

So after listening to George W. Bush ruminate publicly about the “New Way Forward” for three or four weeks straight, what slogan does Douglas adopt to frame his own legislative agenda?

The “Vermont Way Forward.”

Okay, granted, it’s not “The New Vermont Way Forward,” which would have been worse all the way around, but the timing couldn’t be any more unfortunate: Bush is slated to announce tomorrow that the New Way Forward entails shipping tens of thousands more apple-cheeked young kids to Tikrit and Baghdad.

Where they will Clear-Hold-Build-And-Repeat. Unless or until they’re killed.

Still, if the Douglas administration echoed only Bush slogans, the harm would be minimal.

douglas hearts dickBut Douglas seems comfortable enough in his chair now to risk a little of the real Bush Doctrine — promote your loyalists, even if they’re woefully inexperienced, even if they’re under an ethical cloud.

Bush’s crew has made history: never before in America’s storied past have so many cronies been so unprepared to handle so very much. Douglas’s efforts in this regard are only now getting fully underway.

Which brings us to one Erik Mason, Douglas’s Field Director this last time out. If Mason’s name rings a bell, it should: his particular botched campaign maneuver made it all the way to the Boston Globe, via the Rutland Herald, Times-Argus, and WCAX.

Only Christopher Potter Stewart’s borrowing of Hillary’s white papers got more ink.

Mason, for his part, was busted over the filming of a Scudder Parker event at a Community College of Vermont classroom. But it wasn’t the filming itself that produced the ruckus, but Mason’s misrepresentation of his activities to instructor Laura Rubenis, who hollered good and loud.

From the Herald, :

MONTPELIER — A community college professor whose class hosted an appearance by Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Scudder Parker says a campaign aide for Republican incumbent Gov. Jim Douglas misrepresented himself before videotaping Parker’s speech.

Douglas’s camp denied any wrong-doing, pointing out that most every candidate films or records the opposition — which was, of course, beside the point. Misrepresentation and subterfuge were the real issues.

It wasn’t the crime, in other words: it was the cover-up.

Rubenis, who has written a letter of complaint to Douglas about the incident, said Friday that Douglas campaign aide Erik Mason described himself only as a member of the public when he asked for permission to attend the class.

“Mr. Mason did not honestly present himself or his motives, nor did he state his intentions to me or the institution’s administrative staff prior to class,” she said in the letter.

No apologies from the Douglas camp were forthcoming. And now it appears that Mason has gone on to his well-deserved reward.

If you go to the national AmeriCorps web-page here, you’ll find Susie Hudson listed as the Executive Director of the Vermont Commission on National and Community Service — the state’s pass-through structure for Federal AmeriCorps funding.

That would be the Susie Hudson who ran Brian Dubie’s 2006 campaign.

The same Susie Hudson who orchestrated the primary-night release of the news of Dubie’s convenient two-week deployment to Iraq.

But if you click on the Vermont AmeriCorps website here, you find that — surprise! — the new Executive Director is Erik Mason.

It’s worth noting that there was no announcement of the switch, no photo opportunity with Douglas shaking Mason’s hand. And Douglas isn’t shy about such ops.

No, it’s been all very much on the down low — which makes a certain amount of sense, given that Mason’s service to Vermont doesn’t extend much further than his much-panned efforts to re-elect James H. Douglas.

Does Mason’s elevation rise to the supreme level of stink produced by Michael Brown’s move from Arabian Horse functionary to Head of FEMA?

No. But it hardly covers the Douglas administration with glory, either. Far from it.

americorps volunteers

Under Jim Douglas, Vermont’s AmeriCorps office has become the cushy berth of political loyalists, a place to park campaign directors for the year between elections, including those who come with the muck of the campaign still fresh on their boots.

Which is — regardless of your party affiliation — a dirty rotten shame.

Why? Well, here’s the AmeriCorps pledge:

I will get things done for America —
to make our people safer,
smarter, and healthier.

I will bring Americans together
to strengthen our communities.

Faced with apathy,
I will take action.

Faced with conflict,
I will seek common ground.

Actually, that used to be the pledge. The last two stanzas have been slightly revised in 2007:

Faced with an organization built on ideals,
I will make it a partisan outpost.

Faced with conflict,
I will elevate those who help me prevail.

Now that’s a pledge for Community Service in the twenty-first century. That’s what VDB calls the New Vermont Way Forward.