Published on Wednesday, September 10, 2003 by the San Jose Mercury News
Santa Cruz Urges Probe into Bush Impeachment
by Ken McLaughlin
The Santa Cruz City Council on Tuesday became the nation's first local government to ask Congress to look into impeaching President Bush on charges he deceived the American public about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and has used the Sept. 11 attacks as an excuse to crush civil rights.
In a 6-1 vote, the council decided to send a letter to members of the House Judiciary Committee asking the panel to investigate the president.
``It's a courageous action,'' said Sherry Conable, leader of a coalition of 10 local groups that support impeachment of all top administration officials.
Conable held a sign saying: ``Love your country and the world. Impeach Bush/Cheney.''
Activist John Jenkel, who traveled from Sebastopol to attend the council meeting, said he couldn't agree more. ``This is a treasonous president,'' he said.
In September 2002, Santa Cruz became the first city council to oppose a war aimed at toppling Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Although the council drew some ridicule at the time, 165 councils and boards of supervisors across the nation eventually passed nearly identical measures.
Santa Cruz council members said Tuesday they hoped their vote would trigger similar grass-roots actions by local governments.
The overwhelming majority of the 80 or so people who filled the council chamber Tuesday agreed with the council's letter to the House panel. But a handful of critics warned the council that it could make the city look foolish.
Local attorney Paul Sanford, who teaches constitutional law and ``never leaves home'' without a copy of the U.S. Constitution, said he agreed the Bush policy in the Middle East was flawed. But to impeach a president, ``high crimes and misdemeanors are required. Period.''
Nothing Bush has done would qualify, he said.
But Councilman Mike Rotkin said he considered the unjustified ``murder of innocents'' a high crime.
Rotkin and other council members argued that the country deserved to find out whether the White House purposely lied to the people and Congress about Iraq's nuclear aspirations and the alleged stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction.
``It's time for us to open up this can of worms,'' Councilman Tim Fitzmaurice said.
Critic: Focus on home
Sylvia Mullen, on the other hand, argued it was time for the city council to start paying more attention to the city and less to foreign policy.
``The streets are full of potholes, weed-infested medians and circles that serve as trash receptacles,'' said Mullen, who has lived in Santa Cruz for 33 years.
``Even the downtown areas and streets in Buenos Aires and Zimbabwe were superior to ours,'' added Mullen, who in the past year and a half has visited South America, Europe, Africa, Australia and parts of the United States as a tourist and volunteer.
The Santa Cruz council has a history of tangling with the federal government. It has voted to sue the Drug Enforcement Administration and Attorney General John Ashcroft on behalf of patients who need medicinal marijuana. The action followed a September 2002 raid on a Davenport-area pot farm.
Soon afterward, council members thumbed their noses at the feds by allowing the cooperative -- the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana -- to pass out pot to sick people on the steps of City Hall.
The letter to the House Judiciary Committee broaching impeachment was put on the agenda by three council members -- Mayor Emily Reilly, Vice Mayor Scott Kennedy and Fitzmaurice.
It asks the panel to investigate whether Bush violated congressionally ratified international treaties and the Constitution by invading and occupying Iraq.
Two other questions asked in the letter: ``Did false or misleading information exaggerate the threat posed by Iraq, and was this part of a conscious effort to mislead the American public? Did President Bush exploit the fear generated by the 9/11 terrorist attacks to erode or compromise our constitutionally guaranteed rights and liberties?''
White House spokesman Ken Lisaius said Tuesday that council members were free to send any letter they want but it would not change Bush's resolve, made clear in a prime-time speech on Sunday night.
``The president remains focused on doing the work of the American people -- strengthening the economy, winning the war on terrorism and defending the homeland,'' Lisaius said. ``The people appreciate what he is doing.''
Top Bush administration officials in July apologized for allowing a British intelligence report on Iraq's nuclear ambitions into the president's State of the Union address in January. The report, which Bush cited, said Iraq was seeking to buy uranium ore from Niger to use in building nuclear weapons. But officials from the CIA and the National Security Administration had previously deemed the report to be false.
But Bush and top White House officials have denied misleading the public on the issue of weapons of mass destruction. They say they still expect them to turn up.
The push toward the impeachment resolution began on July 22 when more than 100 activists packed the council chamber to urge that it pass a resolution asking the Republican-led Congress to impeach Bush, Ashcroft, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice for their roles in going to war and creating the USA Patriot Act.
The anti-terrorism legislation, passed shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, has been widely criticized by civil libertarians.
Contending that the Patriot Act represents an unwarranted assault on civil rights, the Santa Cruz council in November 2002 unanimously passed a resolution urging the federal government to rescind parts of the law.
Congress had overwhelmingly passed the law after the Sept. 11 attacks, making it easier for police to eavesdrop on phone conversations, seize voice messages, track e-mail and obtain certain confidential records -- including books that people check out at libraries.
Last November, Santa Cruz became the 14th city in the country to come out against the Patriot Act.
Attorney General Ashcroft recently finished a tour aimed at defending the law, saying it has prevented terrorism and is necessary in a post-Sept. 11 world.
The only dissenting vote Tuesday was cast by Councilman Mark Primack, who argued that the council has enough city business to attend to without jumping into national and international debates.
He indicated he agreed with the council politically but said he wasn't elected because he was an expert on constitutional law or national policy.
``Every action we take like this weakens our ability to function as a city,'' Primack said.
Copyright 2003 San Jose Mercury News