Guest Column

Blue Dog Tales


Blue Dog Muzzled


Tim Kaine is the only statewide candidate who won't give the Blue Dog an interview -- all because of a little satire. Chill out, guys, the Blue Dog barks at everyone.


There's a demilitarized zone between Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tim Kaine and Blue Dog of late. It's a yellow and blue dogfight turned truce and now a purgatory-like stalemate on the subject of free speech and tough love.


It began with a Blue Dog blog posting about Kaine's spokeswoman, Delacey Skinner, and her past associations with the Howard Dean for president campaign in South Carolina and George Soros' America Coming Together organization in the New England.


According to Michael Shear's Washington Post column, "Virginia bloggers have described her as a 'truly soulless P.R. hack' and a 'spokesmodel.' "


I've never met her. But there's no doubt in the Blue Dog's mind that Skinner served as press secretary on Howard Dean's South Carolina campaign starting in December 2003 and as New Hampshire press director of the anti-Bush grass-roots group America Coming Together. Ahh, yes! Blog beauty is in the eye of the beholder!


Why did I post the information? Well, just maybe I'm tired of being ignored for interviews by the Kaine campaign and don't have the ability pull the ear of higher-ups like other columnists and editors to get satisfaction.


The Blue Dog wrote to the Kaine campaign, "Do you hear me barking now?"


Spam Dog Kaine's campaign manager Mo Elleithee wrote back, "Please remove me from your e-mail Spam list." SPAM!


That's a major diss of the Blue Dog's loyal readership! So, the Blue Dog distributed his note to all my rowdy political friends in the state to gather support for the cause of the Blue Dog's free speech. I wrote: "In the name of free speech - first off, the Kaine campaign has not responded to numerous interview requests with the Blue Dog columnist for months.


"Now apparently, I'm nothing more than 'SPAM' to the Tim Kaine's campaign manager.


"A blog is not an advertisement, and I'm not selling anything here - but the truth. 


"Let's set the record straight from the get-go.


"I'm just an average Joe with a story to tell.


"It's not to further my political career.


"It's not sour grapes on my part.


"It's not revenge, either.


"Furthermore, there's no political agenda here either, except the truth. Politics should be about ethics and truth, but it's not. That's a shame. And that's my motivation for writing.


"Let's see, I've read where the Democratic Party of Virginia is a 'Big Tent' ... 


"Why am I a Virginia Democrat? That's a good question."


Another friend, "not ken hutcheson," wrote back, "Isn't SPAM something the Blue Dog eats as a treat from time to time? I hear it is good when fried up and placed between two pieces of bread."


The Valley Yellow Dog said, "No biscuit for you today, Blue Dog."


Never at a loss for words, Dry Throat wrote back, "Today, the Blue Dog's blog is one fight away from the Jerry Springer Show!"


Her ultraconservative husband, who blogs under the pseudonym "John Birch" wrote, "Spam biscuits are manufactured with Argentine Beef, therefore, un-American."


Oh, Mr. Birch, that's the wrong kind of Spam, err - but I appreciate the meaty support. Nevertheless, most Republicans notice those kinds of things, especially, when Democrats air their dirty laundry in public.


In fact, the Bill Bolling campaign recently wrote, "I noticed Ms. Byrne was not included in the 'religion and politics' article. Did she refuse to respond to your interview?"


For the record, as far as the Democrats are concerned, that marked the first time for Leslie Byrne being a nonparticipating interviewer - she is usually good about replying, while attorney-general candidate Creigh Deeds has responded to all requests. On the other hand, Kaine has not responded to interview request since April.


It must be the dog days of August, err - I meant to say the dog days of the Augusta Free Press Blue Dog Tales.


The Blue Dog noticed where Deeds used the same dog-days analogy, in a recent campaign e-mail entitled, "Whatever Happened to the Dog Days of Summer."


Even joined the hit parade of clichés: "The candidates gear up for their 'dog days of summer' campaigning."


More to the point, the Valley Yellow Dog wrote, " 'Tis a well-worn phrase - too well worn? To be original, try 'hazy, lazy daze of summer' - woof, woof."


Bacon days


Fellow Bacon's Rebellion blogger and retired House of Delegate member Barnie Day interceded in behalf of the Blue Dog, writing the Kaine campaign, "It is my assessment that that you guys need to rethink Steve Sisson, known in the blogosphere as Blue Dog. He is a friend of mine, and I think it a mistake to diss him in any way. In fact, if I were Tim, I'd find a few minutes to grant him an exclusive interview."


Afterward, Barnie prodded the Blue Dog to begin a peaceful dialogue with the Kaine camp. He wrote, "We don't need Dems turning on each other."


In an e-mail exchange with Day, another fellow blogger, conservative Will Vehrs, interjected, "I love the Blue Dog, too, but holy cow, calling Kaine's staff 'the three stooges' after you've gone to bat for him?"


Well, I decided right at that moment to clear the air and any misunderstanding between the Kaine campaign and myself and sent a note. After all, Kaine endorsed the Blue Dog's candidacy for the Virginia Senate against GOP incumbent Sen. Emmett Hanger.


For the record, I'm not sure as to why the Kaine campaign is upset. The Blue Dog tends to chaff both sides of the political aisle with his satirical political and writing style, but for the record, it's nothing personal. I ran for office, and surely, Kaine's campaign staff, of all people, must have thick political skin as well. Heck, even Sisson and Hanger reluctantly and briefly shook hands after the 2003 election.


The Kaine campaign stated to fellow Democrat Day: "He burned us a couple of times early in the campaign, and the trust level is just not there."


That's baloney! Nobody is attempting to burn any candidate in the Blue Dog Tales column. I'm an equal-opportunity political columnist. Day vouched for me, but so can good friend Paul Goldman, who has raked multiple politicians over the coals in his career as a political writer and campaign manager.


Back this spring, I interviewed with then-chatty Kaine spokesman Mo Elleithee, and the column was entitled No Amway Christian - along with a column about Jerry Kilgore, Political bark, no bite, The Blue Dog Tale column received favorable reviews from Democrats around the state about Kaine's moral fiber, but more to the point, the Kilgore campaign wrote, "Why don't you just endorse Kaine, and get it over with, Steve?"


Another GOP staff member sarcastically said, "The Blue Dog must be on Tim Kaine's payroll."


So, there, my friends, it only proves you can't please either side! That's not my job as a writer of the Blue Dog Tales column. But more to the point, the Republican candidates and their managers still let me interview them - along with Democratic candidates like Byrne and Deeds, so what is the big deal with the Kaine campaign, may I ask?


The Blue Dog Tales are published weekly in The Augusta Free Press, but those columns are also reprinted on the Web pages of the Virginia News Source, The Conservative Voice, Bacon's Rebellion, The Locust Fork news and The Rockingham Free Press, sometimes under different titles. Point is, a lot of folks read the column.


Hopefully, the Kaine staff will reconsider interviewing with the Blue Dog. If not, I'll still keep my photo of Tim Kaine and myself above my desk study, which he signed, "Keep fighting for the Dems. Tim Kaine."


But seriously folks, Mr. Kaine is in danger of losing my vote at the ballot this fall due to his press censorship. It's so uncool to become unglued.


Blue Dog Note: Let me set the record straight, I happened to nickname Kaine ''The Choir Boy" because he sang with us at my Elkton fund-raising event in 1999. In fact, I remember personally paying for the entire Kaine staff to eat free of charge.


Day reminded the Kaine staff of this. "Here's the thing: over the top though he may be from time to time, I don't forget that Steve was wearing out shoe leather, cooking hot dogs, licking stamps, etc., for the Democratic Party of Virginia when some of these candidates were still in diapers - and doing it in Rockingham County, a tough, tough Republican neighborhood. He earned the chits he's spending."


However, the Kaine campaign brushed my column off as a "weird distraction and crazy stuff." 


The Kaine campaign wrote the Blue Dog, "We are going to have to agree to disagree on this one. But, we appreciate your note, and we will take it under advisement."


In the past, I've taken Blue Dog licks with countless statewide candidates. Which included making fun of Kilgore's voice and tan; saying Deeds was a small-town attorney; calling Leslie Byrne a Howard Dean liberal (which she doesn't deny); endorsing Sean Connaughton over Bolling, and joking about McDonnell's sodomy non-remark. But they all have continued to interview. Blue Dog Note to Kaine campaign: It's called political satire - get over it!


Kaine's campaign staff wrote back, "Thanks for the note. Good luck."


Nuclear-political option


Good luck, Kaine's campaign says! As we watch the Blue Dog sink further and further to the right. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Citizen Tim Kaine work tirelessly for the ACLU, who usually represents clients in cases of free speech and civil liberties? Oh, duh!


About being a Democrat: Over the past 20 years, with the exception of a two-year hiatus with the Ross "The Little Hand Grenade with a Bad Haircut" Perot for president campaign in the early '90s, by golly, I been a lifelong Democrat! But that's another Blue Dog Tale.


At this point, I'll concede that the Blue Dog is pondering the nuclear-political option in the Commonwealth. Hmm. Should the Blue Dog consider switching parties? Running for office, again as a Red Dog, or perhaps drafting a tell-all manuscript about Kaine might be advised?


None of the above!


After all, Leslie Byrne, Creigh Deeds, Barnie Day and other statewide Democrats still tolerate and enjoy reading the Blue Dog's over-the-top musings. By the way, the "Adventures in Warnerland" book is due out between Oct. 24 and Nov. 16. I've sent the manuscript to the editors. It's about a 260-page count. I will also solicit advance sales with a Web-page account in the coming weeks. Darn! I'm having too much fun. Sorry about the book plug!


Raising Kaine!


Congressional lobbyist Dry Throat told me President Bush's Supreme Court nominee, John Roberts, argued pro bono for gay and lesbian organizations. That's why Democrats are not fighting his nomination.


Maybe Roberts will take on the Blue Dog abuse case? Maybe, just maybe, a Blue Dog barking session and grandstanding protest outside Kaine's upcoming speaking engagement close to the Valley and raise Kaine about it - like that poor distraught mother of a dead soldier sitting outside President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas


In fact, on Aug. 15, Kaine is visiting nearby Charlottesville for a town-hall meeting to discuss state tax increases, err, state tax reform, err, I meant to say state budget reform. There's probably not going to be any discussion about Virginia's Mega-Millions Lottery winnings, err, I meant to say, Virginia's Mega-Millions state surplus.


No doubt, the Kaine campaign function is being held at the Charlottesville Ice Park, where Tim can skate around the issues of raising state taxes.


Recently, the Democracy for Virginia blog wrote about a Democratic event in Blacksburg: "Tim reminded that he and Mark Warner overcame the billion-dollar state education funding shortfall and dramatically improved educational funding."


Nice, Maria, and can I have some more? Apparently, Kaine has a revisionist view of what it means to be a Southern fiscal conservative politician these days, which is more or less an elected official who increases the tax burden to finance larger government to pay for campaign promises. Like, let's say... Gov. Warner?


On the contrary, Day is the best! I'm not sure whether he remembers speaking at our fund-raising event back in the 1990s, when I was the Rockingham County chairman, but I've always had the highest respect for him. He's a good politician and a great storyteller as well. At least Day is still in the Dog's corner, writing: "My three favorite colors: Carolina Blue, Duke Blue, Dog Blue!"


-- August 8, 2005











Steven Sisson is a fiscally conservative, Mountain-Valley Democrat, party activist, columnist and serious amateur genealogist. His work is published in the August Free Press  

His e-mail address is:


Read his profile and back columns here.