Thursday, December 04, 2003

On Monday, a friend send me the link to a Newsweek story on Dean's "records problem". It's a nice, impartial piece by Michael Isikoff with the calm, neutral headline, "What's in Howard Dean's Secret Vermont Files?" All in all, it's an example of everything that's good and right with our media today.

If you still care, here's a column on the topic by Peter Freyne, who's been in VT politics for years and knows the woman who got this story rolling by whispering in Isikoff's ear. I'm sure you'll be surprised to hear that she's a Republican and lost to Dean in two elections. Freyne also provides a nice bit of context by telling us what other states do with their comparable records:

"According to a 2002 study by Professor Charles Schultz, 28 states have a law requiring governors' records go to the state archives. Only 20 states, however, actually make it a practice. In Colorado they’re sealed for 25 years. In Maryland it's 30 years."

As for Bush, while his records are nominally available, they haven't been indexed, and since the only way you can access them is with a written request for a specific piece (which can be rejected for any of 29 exemptions to the open records law), that availability remains nominal rather than actual. In Vermont, however, any member of the public can go into the archives and rifle through the box, without even giving out their name.

I agree that, in an ideal world, Dean should release all of the records and let us make up our own minds about what's in them. Instead he made a political decision to keep possible ammunition out of the hands of his opponents. But Isikoff makes it sound as though sealing his records was virtually unprecedented, when it's more or less the norm.

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