Republican congressional hopeful Martha Rainville officially kicked off her campaign last week and quickly tried to distance herself from the Republican administration that's been leading the nation into bankruptcy, decay and endless war. Smart move, eh?
Actually, it's the only intelligent move for National Guard Adjutant General Rainville. Marvelous Martha, the prized recruit of GOP Gov. Jim Douglas, didn't hesitate to make it clear she does not want President Bush, our fabricator-in-chief, to come to Vermont to campaign for her!
Unfortunately, while publicly distancing herself from Mr. Bush, Rainville has privately hired the Alexandria, Virginia, political ad firm that produced the most controversial, negative (and effective) TV ads of the 2004 presidential campaign. We're referring to the infamous pro-Bush Swift Boat Veterans attack ads that vilified the Vietnam war record of Democratic candidate John Kerry. They were produced by Stevens Reed Cursio and Pothalm. Check out their website - http://srcpmedia.com  - and watch the ads again. SRCP's work will soon be on Vermont TV screens.
SRCP is an ad firm that's popular with Republicans besides the Bush-Cheney team, including Sen. Bill Frist, who's under investigation for insider trading, and ex-House Speaker Tom DeLay, who's under indictment. Top-shelf. Award-winning. Why shouldn't Vermont's Marvelous Martha hire the best?
SRCP "can spin a tale that can emotionally engage people," said Bobby Muller, chairman of the board at the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation. "Those ads, make no mistake about it," said Muller, "cost Kerry the presidency. Had the Swift-Boaters not been in play, Kerry would be president."
Muller was a Marine Corps lieutenant in Vietnam in 1969. His spinal cord was severed by an enemy bullet, and he's been paralyzed from the waist down ever since.
Mr. Muller's currently working with Iraq War vets, and he told us a frightening tale of one Marine officer wounded by bomb shrapnel in October 2004.
"He wrote a letter to his superiors asking that he not be awarded a Purple Heart," Muller told "Inside Track." The soldier thinks the injury "was not serious enough," said Muller. He was also worried if he should have a "public life" in his future he could "run the risk of having his integrity denigrated over getting his Purple Heart for a wound that didn't meet some kind of adequate standard."
Shocking! To think an American soldier in combat could question his or her sacrifice and service to this nation!
"We need to be mindful of the divisiveness of what the Swift-Boaters so clearly represented," said the Vietnam Veterans leader. "Not only was it shameless, but also damaging, particularly when this country is involved in a war."
Rainville may have voted for Bush, but she didn't make the Swift Boat ads. Nonetheless, said Muller, her choice of the firm that produced them is a reflection of her judgement.
In an interview early Tuesday morning, Candidate Rainville responded to Muller's remarks. "I agree with his comments," she said. "I expect the style of my campaign will reflect higher standards."
Rainville said she was well aware of SRCP's anti-Kerry Swift Boat TV ads before hiring the firm.
"I selected them because of the quality of their work," she said. Despite the criticism, Marvelous Martha said she's "still comfortable" with SRCP. "I don't have to agree with them," she told us. "I'm in control of my ads in Vermont."
Mayoral Tactics - The highlight of Monday's live Burlington mayoral debate on Ch. 17? When a caller asked who the candidates would be choosing as second picks when they mark their historic, first-time Instant Run-off Voting ballots on March 7.
If no candidate wins 50 percent plus one vote in the first round, second choices will be counted as the low vote-getters are eliminated.
Loyal Ploof, a fiery, and sometimes confused, anti-government Independent, quickly responded with the name of Republican candidate Kevin Curley.
The other Independent, Louie "The Cowman" Beaudin, the dude with the crushed-gravel voice, said he'd write in Andy Montroll, the Democrat who lost in the Democratic caucus to Hinda Miller. Montroll is not a candidate for mayor.
Curley wasted no time appealing to Progressives. He announced he'll be making the Prog candidate, State Rep. Bob Kiss, his second choice on the ballot.
Despite his on-air "endorsement" from Curley, Kiss the Prog was hesitant to return the favor. Instead he said he hoped to break 50 percent on the first count.
Not gonna happen, Bob.
When it was Candidate Jogbra's turn, she blew another Kiss, so to speak, urging voters to pick her first. The Democrat noted she has support in both Progressive and Republican circles. She said she was still "undecided" about her own second choice on the IRV ballot.
Tough decision, eh?
Republican Turncoat? - A Republican who once served with Kevin Curley on the city council is more than hoping Curley does not win!
"Inside Track" has obtained a copy of an email sent to the Miller for Mayor Campaign by former Ward 7 Republican City Councilor Matt Gardy. Gardy represented the New North End from 1997 to 2000. Gardy's now living in Key West, Florida. He made the effort to contact the Miller camp because, as he writes, Curley "clearly has no clue as to the challenges business owners experience, or the efforts and talents it takes to even run the smallest business. For those reasons in particular, (along with many others) I would easily put party aside and stand behind Hinda alongside former adversaries such as Jane Knodell, Peter Clavelle, and Howard Dean."
Gardy could not be reached for comment.
Curley's campaign manager Harry Snyder told "Inside Track" that Gardy of Key West is misinformed.
"I have no idea what he's referring to," said Snyder. "Everything Kevin's been saying is pretty pro-business."
Unlike Miller and Kiss, Curley is opposed to the proposed 1-cent increase in the local sales tax. "He has an exact grasp on what it takes to bring business to Burlington," said Snyder.
Incidentally, Hinda's campaign is looking at spending around $60,000 on the race. Snyder says Curley's campaign budget will get better results for just $6000. Candidates will file financial reports this Friday.
Dunne Invasion - Democratic State Sen. Matt Dunne of Windsor County, candidate for Lite-Gov, is due to invade the turf of his Democratic primary opponent, State Rep. John Tracy, on Wednesday.
Dunne will announce he's picked up the endorsements of several prominent Burlington Democrats, including Mayor Peter Clavelle and former Gov. Madeleine Kunin.
Clavelle's support comes as no surprise. John-John Tracy caused Mayor Moonie needless aggravation a year ago when, out of nowhere, he announced right here that he would run for mayor in 2006, regardless of Clavelle's decision on seeking reelection.
But last fall, Tracy reversed course and took himself out of mayoral contention to finish his health-care reform work in Montpelier. Then in January, John-John declared he really wants to be lieutenant governor.
Unfortunately, sources say, Queen Madeleine won't be present at Dunne's endorsement ceremony in Burlap. She's currently honeymooning in Egypt.
Midnight at the oasis at last, eh, Madeleine?
She Said It! - Democratic House Speaker Gaye Symington has never been accused of being flashy. She's a policy-wonk type, not a political spinmeister. That's one reason why it's been tough at times to sit through the Speaker's regular Friday "Bag Lunch" with Statehouse reporters.
No lunches are ever actually visible, and the sessions are utilized by Symington to inform the press of upcoming issues of importance. To explain things, much like a professor to her students, as opposed to a pol with a roomful of potential weapons.
Unlike a "normal" politician, there appears no intention by the Speaker to plant a particular story or raise a serious question about Gov. Jim Douglas' policy.
Last Friday, however, Speaker Gaye jumped out of character for a brief moment. She was being pressed about the fact Vermonters voted overwhelmingly in November 2004 for health-care reform. It was the number-one promise of Democratic candidates, and they swept back into control of the Vermont House and Senate.
The Dems passed a reform package last year as promised. Gov. Douglas vetoed it, and there are just enough Republicans in the House to sustain it.
Symington has politely moved forward, accepting Douglas' staunch and critical opposition, and has tried to work around the fringes of the overall reform Vermonters wanted to see happen. Until last Friday.
"The fact is," said Symington with a rare flash of testiness and clarity, "if you want significant health-care reform, you need a different governor. That's the fact!"
Finally! An honest and straightforward assessment of where health-care reform in Vermont is really at.
"And that's what will be the discussion throughout September, October and November," she added.
Damn. She's so leader-like when she gets a little mad!
Life on the Rocks? - We imagined quite a few American TV viewers rising from their armchairs and couches Sunday evening to head for their freezers. Out came the ice trays, the alcohol of choice and the glass to contain it all. Down the hatch time. The reason?
The last segment on CBS' "60 Minutes" provided an eyewitness account of something absolutely chilling; something normally kept hidden in the folder marked "Things We Do Not Want to Know." And what "it" is, exactly, is the increasingly rapid melting of Greenland's ice cap.
Readers subject to depression should skip to the next article because this tale of Tomorrow Land involves much more than simply the end of the Vermont ski industry, the Vermont maple-sugar industry and all snowmobiling and cross-country skiing as we once knew it in the Green Mountains.
CBS' Scott Pelley reported the hard-to-swallow news that scientists consider the Arctic a "canary in a coal mine." What's happening there today is a frightening warning of things to come around the entire planet as the Earth's temperature rises.
Without the enormous ice cap to reflect the sun's light, the sea warms faster and melts even more ice. The melting raises sea levels worldwide. The water has to go somewhere. Bye-Bye South Florida, New Orleans, Bangladesh and low-lying coastal communities everywhere. Shoreline real estate, including the Florida coastal hacienda of Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Richard Tarrant, is about to get real cheap. At the current rate, the oceans will rise three feet in the next century.
American Bob Corell, reported "60 Minutes," led 300 scientists from eight nations in producing the "Arctic Climate Impact Assessment." It found the temperatures at the top of the world rising twice as fast as anywhere else. Since 1986, more than 105 million acres of the 10-story Greenland ice cap has turned to seawater. That's 164,000 square miles, an area 17 times larger than the state of Vermont. And the melting rate is accelerating.
The melting ice cap also changes ocean temperature and the currents that create what we think of as "normal" weather patterns. Ireland, for example, without the benefit of the warming Gulf Stream current, will turn from the Emerald Isle to the Igloo Isle.
It's a man-made crisis, yet the current man in power, George W. Bush, refuses to acknowledge it. Is this really where "civilization" has led us?
Our children and their children and theirs will not have the luxury of ignoring it. It's not the end of the world because the world, this planet we call Earth, will be around long after we are extinct. But must it happen so soon?
There are rays of hope. In fact, members of one Burlington, Vermont law firm are hard at work. Ron Shems of Shems Dunkiel Kassel & Saunders is the lead attorney in the landmark environmental court battle of the day. On behalf of four California cities and two environmental groups, Shems filed suit to force the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the Export-Import Bank to abide by U.S. environmental law, specifically the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Both institutions are responsible for funneling billions of dollars to China and other countries to finance the development of oil fields and the construction of pipelines and coal-burning power plants. The emissions from those plants will affect everyone on this rock.
Last week Shems filed documents with the court that included a February 13 letter to Robert Mosbacher Jr., president of OPIC, from House Democratic Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi. OPIC's lawyers had argued Pelosi and other congressional leaders were long aware that OPIC claimed it was "exempt" from U.S. environmental laws and had "acquiesced."
In her letter, obtained by "Inside Track," Rep. Pelosi refuted OPIC's assertion. Rather than acquiescing, Pelosi wrote, her earlier correspondence "indicates my concern that the agency which was revising its environmental handbook, was proposing environmental policies that fell short of legal requirements."
A little ray of hope, eh?
And we'll need more like it because, mes amis, as Scott Pelley puts in an interview posted on the "60 Minutes" website, "One of the most interesting things we found out was that if we stopped all greenhouse gas emissions tomorrow, every car, SUV, coal burning power plant, there's already so much in the air the Earth would continue to warm for another 100 years."
More ice, bartender!