Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Spin Baby, Spin

Boy, things are tight around here. Where I’m painting, that is. It seems that as the tension builds between the legislature and the Guv’s office over the state budget the state employees get more than a bit edgy. Even the nice lady who has been allowing me access to some state-sponsored Internet access at lunchtime has been sassy today. Maybe it’s the budget. Maybe it’s the weather. But, whatever it is, this place is just plain uptight today.

So, before I get my head bit off for smudging a keyboard or taking too much time at a desk that would otherwise sit idle, let’s get some lunchtime blogging in.

Speaking of the budget tension, I hope Darren Allen over at the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) and formerly of the Vermont Press Bureau is keeping his resume dusted off. Because, as the guy who took Allen’s place at the Press Bureau, Louis Porter, has reported today, the House Dems are taking aim at some of the “communications professionals” that are popping up like cluster flies in a sunny farmhouse window.

Specifically, the Dems have slashed funding for nine communications positions, including flack jobs at the Agency of Agriculture, Human Services, Natural Resources (that’s Darren’s job), Transportation and Public Service. Of course, the Dems in the Senate will have to go along with these cuts and then the Guv will have to sign the budget into law before poor Darren and his eight flacking friends have to return to the real world of work.

Personally, this all smells like one big Gaye Symington tantrum. The Queen Speaker is clearly rip-snort over the way the press has been treating her of late. But she apparently hasn’t come to grips with the fact that she’s handing them the negative stories as eagerly as the families on Liberty Street hand out Halloween candy.

“Hi!” Gaye seemingly greets each reporter, “whom do you write for? Okay, sit down and let me tell you how hard I’m working at doing nothing and – once I get the tears worked up – you can snap some pictures of me crying.”

Then, of course, she’ll talk about that stupid “big hug” she and Senate leader Shumlin had with the Guv at the beginning of the session. Yeah, that hug, the one where Douglas tried not to crack a smile when he told them he really wanted to be one big team this legislative session, hoping like hell that Symington and Shumlin would forget that they have veto-proof majorities and could make his life miserable.

“Big hug!” the Guv called out, knowing how much liberals love meaningless hugs. And, of course, they obliged and went on their merry and meandering ways, so far failing to so much as challenge a governor who – somehow – is holding the short-end of the stick but wielding all the power. Douglas must be one hell of a hugger…

Wait. Where was I? Oh yeah, Symington’s tantrum. Indeed, since the spin coming out of the state government isn’t making her look to sharp, she’s going to take a shot at the Guv’s spinmeisters. And while I think the spinmeister’s are as worthless to the state government as she apparently does, it’s a mistake to spin this as Douglas’ doing because old Howard – Dean, that is – was the one who put many of these flack positions on the payroll to begin with.

Douglas’ Secretary of Administration, Michael Smith, tried his hand at spin while defending the state government’s 14-paid flacks by saying that they do more than just talk to their former colleagues – er, make that, reporters.

“They help people navigate through the complexities of state government,” he told the the Press Bureau’s Porter before – ahem -- asking for his resume.

Nice try, Mike. But all you really did was substitute the word “reporters” for the word “people.” Here, I’ll put the word back so you can see what he was really saying without the spin:

“They help REPORTERS navigate through the complexities of state government.”

Indeed, as in: “Here’s all you need to know for the story you’re snooping around for. Call me if you have questions. And, by the way, the first beer’s on me…”

After I mentioned Darren Allen the other day, I received a number of reported Darren-sightings from you, dear readers. But I also received an email copy of his weekly work product at the ANR, very uncleverly called “Dateline: ANR.” And so, with the words of Mike Smith still fresh in your minds, consider the way in which Darren himself spoke about his work to his fellow ANRers:

“Here's today's edition of Dateline:ANR. A friendly reminder to keep those clips coming, and if you'd like to see your good work end up in the state's newspapers and broadcast outlets, let me know about all upcoming events, celebrations, achievements as far in advance as you can. We're looking to keep ANR's good works in the news.”

Hmm, smells like pure spin to me – with nary a mention of “helping people navigate through the complexities of state government.”

Can’t both sides just be honest on this one? The Guv’s office should admit the role of the flacks and the Dems should admit they’ve got sour grapes and want nothing more than 14 flacks of their own.

And then, when they’ve settled this, can they move onto taxes, health care, school funding, the war, etc.?

Snark on. And keep those snarky tips coming my way. Email me at: