Democrats, peace activists prepare for Cheney’s visit

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(Host) Vice president Dick Cheney’s visit to Vermont Thursday has triggered a strong reaction among Democrats and anti-war activists. The state Republican Party will host Cheney for a brief fundraiser at the Burlington airport. Democrats have challenged Republican gubernatorial candidate James Douglas to distance himself from White House policies. And protesters also plan to picket the Cheney event.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) Vice President Cheney’s visit is supposed to raise $200,000 for state Republicans in just a few hours.

The Democrats hope to use Cheney’s appearance to raise their own form of political capital. The Party has challenged Republican James Douglas to say whether he supports the Cheney-Bush agenda on the environment, education and the economy.

Democratic Chairman Scudder Parker says that White House policy is bad for Vermont in a number of areas. He says that the Republican-backed tax cuts have hurt the state. Parker also criticizes the administration’s plan to allow power plants to operate without additional pollution controls. According to Parker, that will result in more acid rain falling on Vermont forests:

(Parker) “The domestic agenda of the Republican Party is directly harming the Vermont economy, the Vermont environment and the Vermont communities. It’s a pattern of action regarding the economy. It’s reflecting the interests of groups of people who really don’t care about rural America, who don’t really care about strong communities and whose interests are related to large corporations and the tax cuts that rewarded those folks. And that pattern is something Jim Douglas needs to take a stand on.”

(Dillon) Douglas says his close relationship with the White House will help the state. He says the state’s Independent and Democratic congressional delegation has failed on issues such as the dairy compact:

(Douglas) “I’m very proud of my close relationship with the administration in Washington. That’s going to serve Vermont well when I’m governor because I’m going to have access to the president and cabinet officers and key White House staff to press our case in favor of the Northeast Dairy compact, which is very, very critical to the dairy farmers here. Whatever the issue, we’re going to need administration support and the close contact I have with the Bush administration is going to be very, very positive for Vermont.”

(Dillon) Douglas says he doesn’t agree with the president on every issue. He says he does not support the administration’s plan to lower pollution standards for Midwest coal plants.

Meanwhile, the White House’s threats against Iraq have drawn opposition in Vermont. Peace activists met in Burlington Wednesday and promised to protest Cheney’s visit. Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream company, says the administration has chosen military action without considering the alternatives:

(Greenfield) “I think Vice President Cheney – he certainly seems like one of the people really pushing for military action. And his coming to Vermont for a Republican fundraiser is really galvanizing people for action.”

(Dillon) The vice president’s trip to Vermont will be brief and he won’t leave the airport grounds. But the peace activists hope their protests will be loud enough for him to hear.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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