Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Brian Dubie is learning it's not easy to be a Republican candidate and stray from the party line on the president's war in Iraq. Take his recent comment to the Times Argus/Rutland Herald about the Bush administration's quagmire:
"'If, in fact, there were no (weapons of mass destruction), it was a bad decision,' Dubie said when asked whether the war was a mistake."
And everyone knows there were no WMDs. Heartening to hear a Republican even hint at the truth, eh?
It was so unusual, in fact, that a few days later the paper took note in an editorial: "Dubie went so far as to admit that the war in Iraq was a mistake. That may be an early attempt to separate himself from Bush. Vermont voters will be wondering how separate he can truly be."
Apparently the double-barreled coverage made Doobie-Doo a wee bit uncomfortable. A few days later, a Dubie-authored op-ed appeared. In it, Brian referred to the recent coverage regarding the Iraq war and attempted to "clearly state" his thoughts.
Obviously, Dubie was looking for wiggle room, implementing a little damage control, hoping to calm the Republican faithful, both in Vermont and in Washington, who did not appreciate his published remarks about the war being "a bad decision."
The Doobster dealt with his little GOP loyalty problem by writing: "Concerning the decision to go to war in Iraq, I did believe Secretary of State Colin Powell when he made the case before the United Nations that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. The intelligence supporting that view has thus far proven to be flawed. If flawed intelligence leads to a decision to invade Iraq, then that decision is necessarily flawed."
Nice out, eh? Even Powell knows it was rubbish, has admitted so, and will regret until his dying day that he gave it credence before the UN.
In the spirit of finding continued value in completing a mission that was based on lies, or what Dubie calls "flawed intelligence," he reminds readers what an evil dictator Saddam Hussein was.
"It is also a fact," wrote Dubie, "that we have discovered the mass graves of 300,000 Iraqis killed by Saddam Hussein."
A fact? Really?
We inquired, and Mr. Dubie informed us he had "four sources."
One was a speech given by British Prime Minister Tony Blair in March 2004. In fact, Blair claimed 400,000 bodies in Saddam's mass graves!
Another was a speech by Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice. A third was a Human Rights Watch 2003 report, and the fourth was a Human Rights Watch article.
However, more than a year ago all those claims were debunked in a published report by Peter Beaumont, foreign-affairs editor for the London Observer newspaper.
"Downing Street has admitted to the Observer," wrote Beaumont on July 18, 2004, "that repeated claims by Tony Blair that '400,000 bodies had been found in Iraqi mass graves' are untrue, and only about 5000 corpses have so far been uncovered.
"The claims by Blair in November and December of last year were given widespread credence, quoted by MPs and widely published, including in the introduction to a U.S. government pamphlet on Iraq's mass graves."
As for citing Condi Rice as a credible source, well, sorry, Brian, it's tough to keep a straight face.
And Human Rights Watch researcher Hania Mufti admitted to the Observer, "Our estimates were based on estimates. The eventual figure was based in part on circumstantial information gathered over the years."
Sounds like Dubie's using a little out-of-date, flawed intelligence for his damage control, eh?
Brian might be better served if he just stuck with the truth: George W. Bush's Iraq War was a mistake, a huge mistake. Everybody knows it.
Instead of pleasing the GOP campaign consultants in Washington, Dubie might think about pleasing Vermont voters, especially the mainstream, middle-of-the-road ones who've been voting for years for the popular, antiwar, left-wing congressman Dubie hopes to face off against in November -- after beating Megabucks Richie Tarrant in the September GOP primary.
Rep. Bernie Sanders voted against the war. The vast majority of Vermonters now agree with him. Taking that issue off the table might be the smartest thing either GOP Senate hopeful could do. Don't ignore history. Pull a George Aiken.
It was Vermont U.S. Sen. George Aiken, a Republican, who in 1968 urged Democratic President Lyndon Johnson of Texas to "declare victory and get out" of Vietnam. He was, unfortunately, ignored.
Eventually, we did get out. The lies were finally exposed. But the blood of young Americans and Vietnamese continued to flow in rivers for seven more years. Unlike the pro-war flag wavers of the day, Republican George Aiken truly supported our troops.
There's a message there.
St. Pat Disses Mad Dog -- In his statement on President Bush's nomination of longtime, loyal, crony Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, Sen. Patrick Leahy, ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, noted, "Many will be surprised that the President did not pick a Hispanic woman from the many qualified Hispanics across the country recommended to the President."
GOP Chairman Jim Barnett pounced on that one, calling it "fill-in-the-blank criticism." Had Bush picked a Hispanic woman, Mad Dog assured us, St. Patrick "would have complained it wasn't a black woman!"
We tried to get Leahy's response at his Monday presser, but it wasn't easy.
"I really don't care what he said," snapped Patrick, interrupting the question.
Barnett, continued Leahy, "is Gov. Douglas' political spokesperson. I noticed in one of [Barnett's] comments today that he read from the White House talking points. I think I'd remind him that Jim Douglas doesn't get to vote on these justices. I do."
Think Patrick has forgotten those Douglas for Senate commercials from the 1992 race?
GOP Turncoat? -- The Republican Party leadership is not pleased with the name of one of their own, veteran State Sen. Vince Illuzzi (R-Essex/Orleans), appearing on a list of supporters released last week by the Welch for Congress Campaign. State Sen. Peter Welch, as you know, is a Democrat.
Illuzzi, a senator since 1981, told "Inside Track" he's known Welch since the early 1980s when they served together, and he's watched him mature from a "tax-and-spend liberal" to more of a "moderate."
Vince said he was also disturbed by our recent report that GOP congressional candidate Martha Rainville, adjutant general of the Vermont National Guard, had first sought a primary-free campaign path as a Democrat before falling into the arms of GOP Gov. Jim Douglas. Camp Rainville denied it.
"Perhaps as the Republicans embrace Martha Rainville," said Illuzzi, "perhaps they should decide for themselves whether she really is a Republican by default or by design."
"Individual office holders will make individual decisions based on whatever they feel is appropriate," responded GOP Chairman Jim Barnett. "But there's no doubt that Martha Rainville is a certifiable Republican in the Jim Douglas mold, and we're extremely delighted to have her."
Mad Dog acknowledged Marvelous Martha "was courted by both Republicans and Democrats." But, he said, "that demonstrates what a broad appeal she has across the political spectrum."
"Broad Appeal" -- Generalis- sima Martha's campaign coordinator, Nathan Rice, tells "Inside Track" neither the Rainville Campaign nor the national GOP were behind a recent telephone survey conducted about 10 days ago that focused on Rainville's congressional candidacy.
The funny thing about the poll, according to one reader called, was that the questions were less about Rainville and more the callee's feelings on various issues such as the Iraq War, gay marriage and abortion, as well as on themes like "promoting a safer world and a hopeful America" and "restoring the American dream."
Sounded a little like a candidate in search of the right campaign package. Like a poll taken to tell Martha who she should be. Tell 'em what they want to hear, right?
After all, nobody really knows where Gen. Rainville stands on issues. So far, she's been able to hide behind the uniform and do it well.
That will only last so long.
Freeps Wins Award! -- Congratulations to the Gannett chain's Vermont outpost, The Burlington Free Press. Publisher Jim Carey is apparently feeling a bit shy; there's been no mention of the paper's recent acceptance of a prestigious environmental award!
At its recent annual conference, Renewable Energy Vermont awarded The Burlington Free Press its "Energy Ostrich Award." What for? The daily's more than 20 boneheaded, shortsighted editorials published since February 2004 that trashed the development of wind energy in Vermont. The prize is a bucket of sand with an ostrich egg atop it.
According to outgoing REV board chair Lawrence Mott of Earth Turbines Inc. in Hinesburg, "REV has created this award to highlight a missed opportunity, and willingness to ignore the changing times we live in. The 'Energy Ostrich Award' represents a head-in-the-sand approach to the world.
"The Editorial Board of The Burlington Free Press won," said Mott, "for carrying on in a manner that ignores the latest information, misses an opportunity to convey current, factual data, and remains dogmatic in its approach to Vermont's energy future."
And since REV officials delivered the award in person about 10 days ago, the Freeps has published two more anti-wind diatribes! It's become the editorial fetish of Vermont's largest daily. Even our sources in the utility industry have been shaking their heads at the blanket idiocy of the Freeps' anti-wind onslaught.
However, it's not the first time the paper's editorial page has been way out of touch with Vermonters. Remember 2000, when the legislature broke historic ground by establishing civil unions? Remember how Publisher Carey banned editorials on the subject?
The paper's head was in the sand back then, too.
Bratislava Update -- Word from sources on the banks of the Blue Danube is that Vermonter Skip Vallee, the new U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Slovakia (the eastern half of the former Czechoslovakia) is winning over the natives with his fancy footwork . . . on skates! Vallee, the Vermont fuel dealer, mini-mart-chain owner and former state GOP official, is a former high school and college hockey star.
These days, Skip laces them up for a Bratislava pickup league and, when he travels the country for official visits, he brings his skates along and plays with the locals. The Slovak media has picked up on it. Hockey's big there. Could it be the Bush administration finally got one appointment right?
In fact, Vallee recently scored some points with the locals by speeding up U.S. visas for Slovak hockey players reaching for the glory of the North American NHL.
As the ambassador recently told the Slovak Spectator, "One of my priorities is that we should arrange visas in the shortest possible time. We have already made some progress in this area, when we managed to get the visas for Slovak hockey players done real fast."
He shoots. He scores!
P.S. More on Vallee's life behind the old Iron Curtain may be coming soon in our local daily. Sources say Burlington Free Press staff writers Terri and Brent Hallenbeck were recently spotted in Bratislava looking like American tourists.
Maybe the Freeps will make up for spelling Vallee's last name wrong in their May 7 front page headline announcing his appointment?
Rogan Returns -- Former Dean for President deputy campaign manager Bob Rogan returned to the real world this week as vice-president for public affairs at Green Mountain Power. Before the Howard Dean political circus kicked in, Rogan held a similar position at CVPS. And before that he served on Dean's gubernatorial staff.
Rogan will be replacing Steve Terry, who is retiring in January. Welcome back to the Vermont power wars, Bob!
Hot Seats! -- There's no better place on earth to catch a sunset than Burlington's Battery Park. But even though the Burlington Police Department is right next door, parks officials have had a hard time protecting the benches along the promenade from vandalism. A few are missing.
To change all that, says Parks & Rec Director Wayne Gross, they've come up with a great solution: eight brand-new sturdy benches will soon be installed and, for a $525 fee, a sponsor can have a name or message engraved on a brass plaque affixed to the bench!
It's worked out great for the swinging benches on the waterfront boardwalk, says Gross, so officials want to give Battery Park a shot.
Visit the department's snappy website -- http://www.enjoyburlington.com  -- for more info.
Uncensored -- Fortunately, the Parks & Rec Department operates in a more democratic fashion than does the Burlington Censorship, er, Electric Department when it comes to "peace."
Last week, we reported on BED General Manager Barb Grimes' censorship of a mural recently painted on the BED's storage building on Pine Street for the South End Art Hop. Grimes said she was concerned about artist Ron Hernandez's "antiwar message," and ordered him to change it.
Meanwhile, Parks & Rec has given the green light to a Circles for Peace-sponsored Burlington Earth Clock to be installed along the bikepath at Blanchard Beach in the South End. It's described as "a stone circle for peace on Burlington's waterfront." See Pamela Polston's story, "Rock Show," on page 19a for more info.
It's "kind of a neat little project," declared Parks & Rec Director Wayne Gross.
The dedication and groundbreaking is this Saturday, October 8, at 5 p.m. Free cider and donuts. BED officials are welcome!