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June 01, 2012

A "Two-Fisted" or "Ham-Fisted" Attorney General?

When Attorney General Bill Sorrell launched his reelection campaign Wednesday at the Statehouse, he had clearly settled on a metaphor to describe his 15 years in office: that of a hard-charging fighter, ready to take the gloves off and beat his big, bad corporate opponents to smithereens.

Just a few lines into his announcement, the boxer/lawyer said, "I have been called a 'two-fisted attorney general,' and there's a reason for that: I have never backed away from aggressively but fairly enforcing our laws — even when confronting wealthy and powerful opponents."

Sorrell was so taken with the image, he repeated it again near the end of his prepared remarks: "Zealous and impartial enforcement of our campaign finance laws will remain a priority — and this 'two-fisted attorney general' will fight, fight, fight to uphold Vermont's laws, giving Vermonters a real say as to the future of Entergy's operations in the state."

So who exactly referred to the AG as he with the two fists? The New York Times? The Harvard Law Review? The Rutland Herald editorial page?

Not so much.

A quick Google search (talk about in-depth reporting!) found just one such reference: a post on the left-leaning blog Green Mountain Daily, penned by freelance writer John Walters of Montpelier.

Sorrell was quoting a blog post?!

Yep, confirms Sorrell spokesman Taylor Bates.

"That's the first printed use of the term that I'm aware of, and Bill said that's where he heard it first, though it keeps coming up in conversation at our events," Bates writes in an email. "I'm a fan of the term; I think it captures a lot of the courage Bill has displayed in litigating against some giant opponents."

Only thing is, the guy who wrote it was kinda joking.

"I don't know if I was being sarcastic or ironic," Walters says. "I certainly didn't mean it literally. I don't really think of him as a 'two-fisted attorney general,' so in that sense I guess I was being a little sarcastic."

Regular readers of the blog might have noticed that Walters — who posts as "jvwalt" — has been on a bit of a tear lately, accusing Sorrell of inflating his role in a massive tobacco settlement that continues to fill state coffers.

"It's a little odd that he's fishing so far afield for compliments. I doubt that he would quote Green Mountain Daily on other things, because there are some people in the group that are even more anti-Sorrell than I am," Walters says. "Like I said, I'm not really anti-Sorrell. I'm anti-politicians inflating their resumes and taking credit for things they don't deserve."

We'll see if Sorrell continues to make use of the ironic appellative. If not, spokesman Bates says he has a few others from which to choose:

"If you're interested in other names and titles in that vein, the Vermont Medical Society called Bill a 'Giant Killer' when presenting him with their Citizen of the Year Award in 2009," Bates writes. "People at events have introduced Bill as 'the $40 million man' for all the money he brings into the state, but I don't think it's in print yet."

Well, as soon as Green Mountain Daily types it up, look for the AG to start referring to himself as such.

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