Middlebury, Vt.

Life in the middle of Vermont.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Douglas shows his GOP colors with Palin

So, I was planning to make all nice-nice this week about how glorious it is to live in Vermont in September.

Last Saturday alone, there were enough interesting activities to keep you busy and happy for at least two weeks – from farmers markets to coffeehouse concerts to anniversary celebrations and a Paul Winter performance at the Center for While Communities in Waitsfield.

Then Gov. Jim Douglas started making all nice-nice about Sarah Palin, and I felt my blood pressure begin to spike.

No more Mr. Nice Guy for me.

You may have noticed Douglas prominently featured in news photos shown around the world -- standing all jut-jawed and resolute behind the Republican VP nominee, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska.

Douglas is an astounding politician from a statistical standpoint. He’s had only one significant career loss that I can think of, to incumbent St. Patrick Leahy in a Senate race. He’s a Republican governor in the most Democratic state in the union, and the only GOP governor in all of New England.

Moreover, he still gives every appearance of truly liking the job. Ever the Happy Warrior, he remains affable and unflappable in person. Thousands of Vermonters who basically detest his politics vote for him every two years because “he’s such a nice guy.”

But every eight years or so, Douglas has to take a stand with or against his fellow Republicans in state less blue than Vermont. Then Jim’s true colors start to show.

Again this year, he’s fallen in line with the party faithful as they pull the country ever further to the right, somewhere in the direction of Rutherford B. Hayes.

Like a lot of GOP elected officials, Douglas had to immediately answer media questions about the GOP ticket-- a fate that Palin managed to avoid for two weeks.

No surprise that Douglas supports John McCain. That’s an easy one.

But our governor’s forthright support of the Palin pick has a lot of people just shaking their heads. What could he be thinking?

For the record, here’s what the governor said, in asserting that having the 22-month Alaska governor on the national ticket would help Republicans in traditionally Democratic states:
“For the first time in many years we have someone on the ticket that’s just like us, someone who has dealt with the challenges of raising a family, dealt with so many issues that confront small town America…someone who has provided leadership in rural parts of America.”
Well, some of the cashiers at the co-op are just like me, too. But I wouldn’t want them to be one heartbeat (or fatal melanoma cancer) away from the presidency.

No word from Our Gov about Palin’s stance against reproductive choice, her support for oil drilling in protected wilderness, and her doubting the reality of global warming even as parts of her state melt into the sea. And of course, no assessment of how effective Palin could be as a world leader while raising five children including an infant with Down syndrome. (Heaven forbid we talk about a candidate’s family values, right?)

“She’s going to bring a great deal of enthusiasm to the Republican team,” Douglas said of Palin, “and I am very optimistic about what the fall portends.”


Doesn’t that sound like just the kind of word that an arugula-eating elitist would use? Somebody who’s actually had a passport for several years and who’s been to foreign countries other than Wasilla?

Maybe the Republicans should take a little closer look at Just-Us-Folks Jim. He might not really be their type, what with all that portending.

* * *

In boosting Sarah Barracuda, Douglas was of course in step with most of his GOP brethren. But not all. In a candid off-camera exchange, Wall Street Journal columnist (and ex-Reagan speechwriter) Peggy Noonan told GOP strategist Mike Murphy the choice of Palin was “political BS.” The pick was so bad, Murphy responded, that the election was “over” for McCain.
Predictably enough, Douglas’s mindlessly robotic parroting of the Palin party line drew howls of protest from the Vermont left.

Here’s J.D. Ryan on GreenMountain.com:
“I guess Douglas feels that Vermonters also have foreign policy experience because we live so close to Canada… Or perhaps the Vermonters he meant were the loons in Second Vermont Republic who can relate to her days in the Alaskan secessionist movement.”
Taking a more tongue-in-cheek approach, a Times-Argus editorial suggested Douglas himself for VP.

“McCain is playing a game of inordinate hypocrisy,” the paper wrote. “His campaign has decried what it called the media's preoccupation with the story of Palin's daughter's pregnancy, even as McCain held a photo-op at an airport, greeting the girl's boyfriend for all to see. Never before in American politics has a boy received such royal treatment for getting his girlfriend pregnant.
“Jim Douglas is not a moralistic right-winger; nor is he a colorful character who can divert attention from the substance of governance. That apparently counts him out as a vice president…

“But in the event that McCain needs a backup, we offer the name of Jim Douglas. He would not placate the religious right. But for the job of vice president, he and dozens of other Republicans would be better qualified than Sarah Palin.”

Even more biting, though, was late-night host Conan O’Brien: “Experts say that since Sarah Palin became the vice presidential nominee, there's been an actual spike in the sales of her style of eyeglasses. Yeah, with Palin's glasses, you'll be able to see everything, except what the hell your teenage daughter's up to."

So much for abstinence education and the vision thing.

It’s all quite amusing, if you set aside the frightening possibility that Palin might one day be called upon to replace the aging and serially cancerous McCain as president.

But does any of this matter for the election itself?

Maybe not. Palin is the flavor of the month, but there’s nearly two months until Election Day, and she will surely stumble or just fade from memory among all but the religious right. Anyway, these things get decided by the top of the ticket, not the VP nominee.

As for Jim Douglas, count on hearing from him for the next two years at least. Neither Democrat Gaye Symington nor the hapless “progressive, er, I mean independent” Anthony Pollina stand a buck’s chance in November of becoming governor this year.

And as for those benighted folks who have Pollina "We Can Do Better" signs in their yards -- they might as well replace them with Douglas signs.

Any slim chance the Democrats had of winning back the governorship were erased the day Pollina announced his candidacy. We can, indeed, do better than Douglas, or Pollina and the Progressive’s divisive sideshow.

OK, now I’m going to go take my blood pressure medication.


Blogger Rosemary Carstens said...

Oh, I don't think you veered that far off from your original idea for a post about these months as summer wanes and winter looms, Greg. Your topic DOES constitute the fall colors this year and red and blue bee hives abound. Don't get me started on the Palin thing--her nomination and the touting that she is "just like us" makes me want to, uh, SCREAM. She does NOT represent me, her values will knock us into a nuclear winter the likes of which we've never seen. I never saw this coming and hope the outrage of it will further energize democrats to vote, vote, vote!

Rosemary Carstens

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