Clavelle: Douglas Blew It
Burlington's Democratic Mayor Peter Clavelle recently told Seven Days he intends to disprove all the local political "experts" who say he won't win the governor's race in November because there's no one issue like Act 60 or civil unions to ignite support for Clavelle's cause.
Asked to state the key difference between himself and Republican Gov. Jim Douglas in one sentence and one sentence only, Clavelle paused, clenched his teeth, and uttered one word: "leadership."
This week Mayor Moonie pointed to the Douglas administration's huge defeat on the Circ Highway as a concrete example of the quality of Vermont's current leadership.
"About a year ago," said Clavelle, "there was a proposition brought forth by those that had some issues with the Circ Highway that would have settled the issue and would have allowed for the construction of Segments A-B."
The June 30, 2003, proposal by the Conservation Law Foundation and Friends of the Earth stated the groups would not go to court to block construction if Gov. Jimmy Scissorhands would fund a commuter-rail service from IBM to Franklin County, improve CCTA bus service, and take an independent look at the effects of the final leg of the Circ through Colchester.
Douglas treated it like a peace offering from Saddam Hussein. He refused to even talk to the environmental groups. As a result, they did go to court. And last week they won the case, stopping Gov. Douglas' top transportation initiative dead in its tracks.
"I think," said Clavelle, "the administration at the time was a bit arrogant when they said we don't need to work this out with you. We're going to construct the road.
"The homework wasn't done," said Clavelle. "The environmental studies required by federal law weren't completed. Frankly, I think they blew it!"
Mayor Moonie said that were he Gov. Moonie, he would have brought the parties together and worked out a deal to build Segments A-B. He said it's the kind of leadership he's shown in Burlington, and it would continue in Montpelier.
"On November 2 or shortly thereafter, I would bring together the stockholders and have the discussion to strike a balance so the project can go forward."
Gov. Douglas' political hit-man, GOP State Chair Jim Barnett, was quick to pounce on Clavelle's criticism. According to Barnett, Clavelle's support for negotiating a deal with the opposition "once again reveals his reckless ways."
Mad Dog charged that Moonie's approach "encourages political extortion and rewards obstruction by pressure groups. This is exactly what governors should stand against."
Really, James? Even when Gov. Douglas' stand against negotiations led directly to his Circumferential Waterloo?
P.S. Some may be wondering why the editorial page of The Burlington Free Press has not been castigating environmentalists since the May 10 court decision stopping construction of the Circ.
You see, the Gannett-chain daily is in a bit of a box on this one. That's because five years ago, before the current editorial page editor arrived from Kansas, the Freeps was an outspoken critic of the Circ.
"The Circ Highway is a dinosaur project," declared the Free Press in a November 1998 editorial. "Critics who are calling for alternatives must not back down."
Kind of surprising the paper's not trumpeting its victory on this one, eh?
Meanwhile, we continue to hear from Vermont news junkies who are amazed that editorials in Vermont's largest daily newspaper continue to ignore the top story on Vermonters' minds -- the war in Iraq.
Myth Alert -- Saturday's Rutland Herald first reported the incident. It's since been picked up by the Associated Press wire and reported all around.
There had been a confrontation between a passing citizen and an antiwar protester in Rutland. The irate citizen grabbed the protester's American flag, reportedly incensed because there was a peace symbol in the box where the stars usually sparkle.
Remarkably, the passerby, Graeme Rockerfeller, told Rutland Herald reporter Gordon Dritschilo that he, too, opposed the Iraq War, but the protester's flag had caused some sort of flashback.
Rockerfeller said he was a Vietnam War Vet. He said upon returning to the States in 1969, he had been spat on at the airport by a hippie antiwar protester.
"A little hippie-ette wearing a large peace symbol walked up to me and screamed about being drug-crazed and killing babies," he said. "I'm sure those people took shifts at the airport. She wasn't there waiting for a flight."
Ding, ding, ding ding ding!
Myth alert! Myth alert!
If Mr. Rockerfeller is indeed a Vietnam vet, and we have no reason to doubt him, and if he can prove his claim of being spat on by the hippie chick at Los Angeles airport, it will be the first documented case that such an incident ever took place!
The Vietnam-era myth of the spitting antiwar protester -- almost always at an airport -- actually began years after the Vietnam War ended. As Hollywood films like Coming Home and Rambo flourished in the late 1970s, the spitting stories, as well as the creation of the myth of the unstable, violent Vietnam Vet, flourished in America's cultural psyche.
If everyone thinks it's true, it must be true, right?
Discredited Chicago Tribune columnist and author Bob Greene gave the Vietnam Spitting Myth an additional huge boost in his 1989 best-seller Homecoming. In the book, 63 out of 131 interviewed Vietnam vets claimed personal experiences with spitting antiwar hippies. Greene later admitted he'd been skeptical of at least a few of the accounts.
Vietnam vet and Holy Cross Professor Jerry Lembcke researched the spitting-on-Vietnam-vets story in great detail a few years ago. It led to the publication of The Spitting Image; Myth, Memory and the Legacy of Vietnam (New York University Press, 1998). It's a marvelous, scholarly, in-depth opus that weaves fact and fiction, myth and history as only a Ph.D.-authored creation can.
Lembcke's research led to a long list of dead ends. He checked out vets who said they were spat on, and he checked newspaper accounts and police records of the day.
Surely, if hippie chicks were spitting on war veterans at California airports the way so many now claim, there would have been six inches of saliva on the floor. Besides, airport police would have arrested at least one "hippie protester" for spitting. The dastardly crime would have been splashed across the front page.
After all, at the time antiwar protesters were not exactly popular. In May 1970, unarmed students protesting the Vietnam War were shot down in cold blood on at least two college campuses, Kent State and Jackson State. Not one trigger-happy Ohio National Guards-man or Mississippi Highway Patrolman has ever been brought to justice for those murders. In 1970, it was open season on antiwar protesters.
And, don't know about you, but our natural reaction to being spat upon would be a desire to rearrange the spitter's facial bones. Surely one spat-on soldier would have slugged somebody?
And what about photos?
You would think there would be one picture somewhere in America to document one of the hundreds, if not thousands, of alleged airport spitting incidents. Many returning GIs were packing cameras themselves. Surely one snapped a photo?
Then there's J. Edgar Hoover's FBI. The bureau had devoted enormous resources to infiltrating and discrediting the antiwar movement, just as it had the civil-rights movement. The FBI under Hoover was America's Gestapo. Can you possibly imagine J. Edgar's FBI turning a blind eye on hippies spitting on returning war veterans?
Get real. Just because a story gets repeated doesn't mean it's true.
What the Holy Cross prof did find were polls of the day that showed antiwar protesters in the 1970s were actually the people who had the "warmest" feeling towards veterans. Think about it.
People marching down the street behind banners proclaiming "End the War" and "Bring the Troops Home" are not rallying behind an anti-soldier message.
Mr. Rockerfeller told the Herald the peace symbol that roused his ire "is an insult to every American veteran."
But the same peace symbol appeared in countless photographs attached to the helmets and flak jackets of American soldiers in Vietnam. Many came home in one piece. Many didn't.
"Bring the Troops Home" means soldiers spending many more Christmases with their families. Watching their kids play Little League. Having a beer at the ballpark and one day seeing the Red Sox win the World Series. It means staying alive as opposed to getting killed or maimed by strangers halfway around the globe in yet another useless war about empire.
When you think about it, being antiwar and pro-soldier actually go hand in hand. You don't need a relative on the front line to realize that.
History, they say, belongs to those who write it. The studies being written today about our Vietnam memory will shape America's identity for years to come.
If, warns Lembcke, Vietnam "is remembered as a war that was lost because of betrayal at home, Vietnam becomes a modern-day Alamo that must be avenged, a pretext for more war and generations of more veterans."
And wouldn't you know -- Hollywood just released another version of The Alamo last month. How timely!
End the war in Iraq. Bring the troops home.
Peace is patriotic.
If Pigs Had Wings -- This week the former Democratic presidential frontrunner from Vermont is campaigning on behalf of the current frontrunner, John Kerry. But a couple days ago, Howard Dean paid a return visit to the WDEV airwaves, this time as a guest rather than a caller.
Interviewer Mark Johnson got a lot out of Dean, but there were some places Ho-Ho simply refused to go. Here are some of the best Deanisms from the program:
About the Republican Party: "I think the Republicans are very, very, very well organized. They are ruthless. Democracy is not something they care deeply about. Mostly [they care about] just furthering the agenda of the right wing of the Republican Party."
About borrowing: "We're actually going to duplicate some of the things they did, things Newt Gingrich did, like making sure not one single seat in the U.S. House went uncontested."
About a big misconception: "One of the big misconceptions about our campaign is that it had something to do with the left wing of the party. We certainly had a lot of progressives supporting us, and Greens and so forth, but we also had a lot of moderate Republicans supporting us and a large number of Independents who were not particularly liberal."
About politics: "Politics is a tough game. I've learned a lot about that the hard way."
About John Kerry's staff: "John had the best staff. We had a wonderful staff, incredibly hardworking, not particularly experienced. A lot of young people learning the ropes. Kerry had a great organization from the beginning, and I knew that they were going to be a problem."
About why he lost: "Because we didn't win Iowa. We knew that whoever won Iowa was going to almost certainly win the whole thing. Gephardt was desperate to take us down. Iowa was his only chance. He went after us and we probably made the mistake of going after him."
About being called progressive: "A centrist Democrat in Vermont is a progressive elsewhere."
About what he learned: "One thing was that being a hockey parent is enormously good training for politics.
"I've probably seen a thousand youth hockey games and, you know, it's woulda, coulda, shoulda. I mean, you take some tough losses and some great wins. If you lose a really tough one, you can say the referee should have done that or the defenseman should have done this, it's all woulda, coulda, shoulda. It's all part of the game. There's not a lot to be gained by going back over it, saying, 'If only I'd done this' and 'If only I'd done that.'
"If pigs had wings, they'd fly. Well, they don't. So what's really the point of all that?"
About looking back: "In the end, the one that wins has all their mistakes absolved and they end up as being brilliant strategists. It's looking through an instrument that we in medicine call the 'retrospectascope.' And it's always 100 percent accurate and probably should never be used."
About kiss-and-tell articles: "I don't respond to those kiss-and-tell pieces because a lot of it's not true. If you're going to work for somebody, what gets said or doesn't get said in the campaign office ought to stay there."
About believing in winning: "It wasn't true that I didn't think I was going to win. I thought we always could win, otherwise why would you spend $50 million and two years of your life trying to be president?"
About campaign supporters: "It's not hard to figure out who your real friends are and who's just along for the ride."
About political copycats: "A successful message soon has many imitators. All the candidates basically took over our message, which was good. Now they've just got to stick to it."
About the national press: "Once you get chatty with national reporters, you almost always regret it."
About tasting victory: "When Al Gore endorsed us on December 9, everybody in the country thought we were going to be the Democratic nominee. I knew we had a lot of work to do, but I thought I would be."
About questioning the toughness of the Vermont press: "I should keep my mouth shut once in a while, shouldn't I?"
If you missed Ho-Ho on WDEV, you can still catch him next Tuesday, May 25, at 7 p.m. on Vermont Public Radio. Dean will be Bob Kinzel's guest for the hour on "Switchboard." Listen online at www.vpr.net.