Monthly Archives: April 2009

Synchronicity

From a Brattleboro Reformer story today on local bus drivers no longer carrying emergency pagers in case of a Vermont Yankee accident:

Brian Davis, contract manager for First Student, confirmed that no bus drivers currently carry state-supplied emergency pagers. He said First Student relies on a phone tree to notify bus drivers.

From the latest edition of satirical newspaper The Onion this week:

WASHINGTON—The Federal Emergency Management Agency on Monday unveiled its new $48.2 million Phone Tree Response System, a program designed to alert every American in the event of a large-scale disaster.

- Dan Barlow

“Not a surprise”

Is "pulling a Jim Jeffords" officially part of the political lexicon now? Seems that way.

News that Sen. Arlen Specter would leave the Republican Party and join the Democratic Party broke Tuesday just as Sen. Patrick Leahy was at a D.C. press conference on an anti-fraud bill. Questions quickly turned to fallout from Specter's decision.

Here's a transcript from a portion of the press conference, courtesy of Leahy's staff. The Vermonter referenced toward the end is Philip Baruth, the political writer and Vermont Daily Briefing blogger. He was in the city to shadow U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, but wow, talk about right place, right time.

-Dan Barlow

QUESTION:  (OFF-MIKE) ask you about the news that's breaking right now regarding Senator Specter.  

(CROSSTALK)

LEAHY:  He voted for the bill, too.

(LAUGHTER)

Thanks, Chuck.

GRASSLEY:  Yes, I'm only interested in answering questions…

(CROSSTALK)

LEAHY:  I think out of fairness to Senator Grassley, we should let him leave.

Go ahead.

QUESTION:  (OFF-MIKE) 

LEAHY:  Senator Grassley — Senator Schumer called me this morning to let me know he's going to.

He and I have been friends for — its (inaudible) to be 40 years.  We first met when we were both young prosecutors.  I was the state's attorney in Chittenden County in Vermont.  He was the district attorney of Pennsylvania.  We had worked together, met at a prosecutor's meeting, kept in touch, he with me when I was running for the Senate and I with him.

So we have a particular friendship, our personal relationship, and he wanted me to know before it became in the press.

Frankly, in talking with him, I got the impression that he went through much the same that Jim Jeffords did from Vermont, and feeling that the Republican Party, a great party in this country, had left him, not the other way around, and that he'd be more — more comfortable here.  

And I — I believe he will.  I expect him to be just as independent as ever.  It's not — just like — you know, in our — in our caucus we don't have any automatic votes for anything.  

But I've worked with — I've worked with Arlen ever since he came here.

We've done numerous pieces of bipartisan legislation, just as Senator Grassley and I have, Senator Hatch and I have.

And I — I think having watched Jim Jeffords agonize over it, I know for some of the things that Senator Specter said to me over the weeks, I know how hard he's agonized.  I believe he's going to be happier.

QUESTION:  Did you have any (inaudible)?  He said he got a call from Schumer (inaudible).

LEAHY:  No, I meant Specter.  I'm sorry.  I said a call from Senator Schumer.  I got a call from Senator Specter earlier this morning, who wanted, because of our long friendship, wanted me to know, and I've been — sort of kept quiet until he actually issued his own comment.  He had talked with Senator McConnell and Senator Reid, but because of our long personal friendship, he wanted me to know about it.  And it was his cancer I was talking about, and (inaudible) cancer.

QUESTION:  Do you have any idea (inaudible).

LEAHY:  It is not a surprise.  

QUESTION:  (inaudible)

LEAHY:  (inaudible)

QUESTION:  (inaudible) not a surprise?

LEAHY:  Well, just because I know him so well.  You know, I remember a conversation that Senator Stafford of Vermont told me about.  It was right after Jim Jeffords had changed parties.  I went in to see, as I usually did when I was in that part of the state, I dropped by to see Senator and Mrs. Stafford.  He told me he had gotten a call from former President George Bush about the time that, just before Jim Jeffords changed.  

The conversation was something like this, "Bob, it's George." "Hi, George.  How are you?"

"I'm fine, Bob," and they did pleasantries about their families and all.  

And he says, "Bob, I hear that your senator is thinking of switching parties."

"Well, George, that's right."

"Bob, how do you feel about that?  What do we do?"

He said, "Well, George, he was in here to have breakfast with me today and I told him, I said, I think you're going to be a lot happier doing that."

And he said, "Well, thank you, senator."

"You're welcome, Mr. President.  Good-bye."

(LAUGHTER)

But we knew it in Vermont.  We knew it long — apparently long before anybody down here.  It was well talked about.  I see Bill Baroonth (ph) here from Vermont.  He knows everybody was talking about it before it happened.  And it wasn't a case — I mean, the Jeffords, the whole family, a long line of distinguished members of the Republican Party, but it was too much and he left.

QUESTION:  Regarding Specter, what happens on the Judiciary…

QUESTION:  (inaudible) nomination that (inaudible)

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION:  (inaudible) nomination (inaudible).

LEAHY:  Oh, I don't know.  I don't know that.  I would hope that we'd have a vote up or down and have a real debate, and have a vote up or down.  You know, Democrats never filibustered any of the attorney general positions when President Bush was there, purposely because — in fact, I don't think anybody in the 35 years I've been here, anybody's filibustered a position for assistant attorney general. We've voted them up or down.  We might vote against them.  We've voted them up or down.  So we'll see.

QUESTION:  (inaudible) the Democratic side?

QUESTION:  (inaudible) we've had the ranking Republican, or at least until a few minutes ago, he was ranking (inaudible)

LEAHY:  Well, that's a determination.  I'll let Senator Reid — I know what's going to happen.  I'll let Senator Reid speak to that, and the caucus will — that's a determination.  I'll let Senator Reid.  I know what's going to happen, but I'll let Senator Reid speak to that. They asked of him, and (inaudible) Senator Reid (inaudible) what (inaudible).

QUESTION:  (inaudible) judicial nomination (inaudible).

LEAHY:  You're asking questions that should be asked of him and asked of Senator Reid.

QUESTION:  What effect do you think this might have on issues (inaudible)?

LEAHY:  He will vote the way he will vote independently on judicial nominations.  He always has in the past.  He will, no matter who the president is, most of us, he'll — at least I do and I know he does — that you give the president as much leeway as you can, but we have an advise and consent position and we'll take it.  You know, if you want to (inaudible).

Same way with you, Ted?

KAUFMAN:  Yes, absolutely right.  And I think the one thing is that, as you know, Senator Specter started his career in politics as a Democrat in Philadelphia, and then changed to Republican so it's kind of like he's coming home.

LEAHY:  OK, thank you.  Thank you all very much.

An Early Primary

Reports earlier this month that a Senate bill moving Vermont's primary earlier into the year was dead appear to be incorrect.

Sen. Jeanette White, the chair of the Senate Government Operations Committee, said Monday that the bill will be taken up on the floor Tuesday for its second reading.

There have been some major changes to the bill since it was last seen. Originally, the bill moved the primary out of September and to the second week of August. But not anymore. An amendment – supported by the committee – will be offered tomorrow changing the date to the fourth Tuesday in August.

"Some people felt that the second week in August was too early," White said. "So, this was a compromise."

-Dan Barlow

Remember this?

The New York Times has a story today about FOX News personality Bill O'Reilly and his habit of sending staff to "ambush" people for interviews.

The story recounts this exchange between FOX News producer Jesse Watters and Gov. James Douglas:

When the subjects don’t answer — at least not to the satisfaction of Mr. Watters — the questions become more provocative and emotional. Last summer Mr. Watters asked Gov. Jim Douglas of Vermont about that state’s criminal statutes and asked, "About how many dead girls are we going to tolerate here?'"

Douglas isn't the kind of politician to be caught off guard, but this interview did just that.

-Dan Barlow

They Really Like Us

From this week's Savage Love sex column by Dan Savage:

"That day may come more quickly than we think … thanks to the bravery of elected officials in Iowa and Vermont. As for rewarding Iowa and Vermont…
 
Like most Americans, I consume way more corn syrup than a person should (that s—'s in everything), so Iowa is covered, but I will make sure the next bottle of maple syrup I purchase is from Vermont. Still, I’ll be pouring it on my pancakes, thanks, not my boyfriend. Food is for after sex, people, not before, and never, ever during. Food is not a sex toy, not even chocolate."
 
-Dan Barlow

There are socialists in your House!

Alabama U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus told a local newspaper in that state this week that he worries there are too many socialists in the Congress.

He even had a number: 17. He may even have a list, but he didn't share it.

Is U.S. Sen Bernie Sanders leading some sort of revolution in Congress?

Or is everyone still confused about what a socialist really is?

-Dan Barlow

The Most Important Meal of the Day

At a recent "let them eat gruel" protest of budget cuts at University of Vermont students offered up oatmeal with apples and maple syrup.

Thursday Gov. James Douglas, a member of the UVM board, said that might suggested a certain lack of commitment.

"That's what I eat most mornings. It can't be much of a protest," Douglas quipped.

-Louis Porter

Watching us

This may have gotten lost in the mix of news earlier this week, but it appears that Andrew Sullivan, the conservative blogger and gay rights activist, was in Vermont this week for the vote.

Wish he would have called first! I would have loved to interview him.

-Dan Barlow

Today? Tomorrow?

The Vermont Senate meets tonight at 5 p.m. – and they are widely expected to agree to ammendments made to the same-sex marriage bill by the House.

Once that is done, the bill is off to Gov. James Douglas where a veto awaits.

What is not clear yet is when that veto will actually happen. The Senate's agenda looks fuller than I imagined it would for a Monday – and they can wait to see the bill to one late tonight (pushing the veto – and possibly its override to Tuesday) or send it right away.

-Dan Barlow

Moats on newspapers

Rutland Herald Editor David Moats has a great piece on Vermont Public Radio this week on the national decline of the newspaper industry.

In the piece, he makes a very vital point:

The newspapers are the ones doing most of the in-depth original research. If there were no newspapers, somebody would have to invent them, if they could pay for them.

That comment ruffled the feathers of a Vermont blogger. But I had to giggle because the post following that one – by another blogger on the site – begins with the words, "Based on a report in the Rutland Herald …"

-Dan Barlow