RANDOLPH – Despite the impassioned pleas of nearly two dozen Democrats to involve the General Assembly in an effort to impeach President George Bush, the party's central committee on Saturday decided to take their case directly to Congress.
The Vermont Democratic Party became the fifth in the nation to call for the president's impeachment, following the lead of party affiliates in Wisconsin, New Mexico, Nevada and North Carolina. Although the resolution urges Congress to begin immediate impeachment proceedings, the party also informed the Vermont Legislature of its decision so that it could take "appropriate action."
Democratic State Commitee member Rep. Margaret Lucente, D-Washington, standing right, speaks during a Vermont Democratic Party State Commitee Meeting, Saturday, April 8, 2006, in Randolph, Vt. Lucente said the president had misled the country into war, conducted illegal electronic spying on Americans and violated international torture treaties. The Democratic State Committee voted Saturday to urge the U.S. Congress to begin impeachment proceedings against President Bush, but decided against asking the Vermont Legislature to join that call. (AP Photo/Alden Pellett)
The 100 people who crammed into an elementary school in Randolph all but acknowledged the futility of their call to oust Bush.
But after nearly three hours of robust debate, in which the state's trailblazing efforts to end slavery in the 18th century and its granting of rights to same-sex couples in the 20th century were invoked, the Vermont Democratic Party agreed to add its voice to a growing chorus of impeachment imperatives that have already been approved by Democrats in four other states.
"You know in your own hearts and minds that something is terribly wrong in this country," said Margaret Lucenti, a longtime party member from Montpelier. "Our voices today need to be heard."
Whether anyone is paying attention is another matter. The grassroots impeachment drive got its Vermont start in tiny Newfane, where political debate is more likely to erupt over school budgets or road repairs than geopolitical concerns. It has since spread to at least six other towns, with Rockingham joining the call late last week.
At their meeting Saturday – called in haste after the Newfane resolution gained national press attention – the state's Democratic leaders agreed to urge the U.S. House of Representatives to begin immediate impeachment proceedings against Bush. In a room strewn with American flags and copies of the Constitution, party officials debated whether to send the impeachment call to the state Legislature under an obscure provision of national law or to send the request to Congress directly.
In the end, they decided that there were "ample grounds for his impeachment" and they asked "Congress to immediately begin impeachment proceedings against President George Bush." They also agreed to send the results of their vote to the General Assembly so that it can "take whatever actions it deems necessary."
Many of the people jammed into the cafeteria were there to endorse the so-called Rutland Resolution. That resolution took note of an obscure provision of House rules authored by Thomas Jefferson that allows a state legislature to start the impeachment of a president.
"We're fed up with what is happening to our country," said the author of the resolution, Jeff Taylor of Clarendon. He was an attorney at the Justice Department at the time Richard Nixon was impeached. "Nixon said that when the president does it, it's not illegal. Here we have George Bush reading out of the same playbook."
With a population smaller than all but one other state and a political mainstream considered far to the left of the rest of the country, Vermont's role in Republican-dominated national politics is almost nonexistent. That did not dissuade any of the more than 30 people who spoke out in calling for Bush's removal.
"Vermont has a long tradition of speaking out on issues beyond our borders," said Dan DeWalt, the 49-year-old woodworker who drafted the Newfane impeachment resolution. "This is far bigger than a fringe movement on the left."
Most of the state's mainstream Democrats have downplayed the impeachment movement, instead urging their party to concentrate on winning enough seats in Congress to end the Republican majority.
The crowd Saturday wasn't buying that message. Many said to do nothing wasn't just cowardly, it was unpatriotic, particularly given that their counterparts in four other states have already moved forward with calls for impeachment.
"People say this is a symbolic act," said Dan Close of Underhill. "But, upon thinking about it, even if it is just a symbolic act, there are times for symbolic acts. The Boston Tea Party was a symbolic act. The Declaration of Independence was a symbolic act."
© Copyright 2006 Rutland Herald