In five Vermont communities, a centuries-old tradition of residents gathering in town halls to conduct local business became a vehicle to send a message to Washington: Impeach the president.
An impeachment article, approved by a paper ballot 121-29 in Newfane Tuesday, calls on Vermont’s lone member of the U.S. House, independent Rep. Bernie Sanders, to file articles of impeachment against President Bush, alleging he misled the nation into the Iraq war and engaged in illegal domestic spying.
“It absolutely affects us locally,” said Newfane select board member Dan DeWalt, who drafted the impeachment article. “It’s our sons and daughters, our mothers and fathers, who are dying” in the war in Iraq.
At least four other Vermont towns, spurred by publicity about Newfane’s resolution, endorsed similar resolutions during Tuesday’s meetings: Brookfield, Dummerston, Marlboro and Putney.
In Newfane, the impeachment item came at the end of a roughly four-hour meeting that was devoted mostly to the local affairs of the town of 1,600 located in southeastern Vermont. Among the other items discussed was whether the town should fix some of its 100-year-old sidewalks.
The impeachment discussion took up more than half an hour, reflecting the intense interest in the topic and something of a division over whether the town meeting was the appropriate place to debate it.
“As a teacher I can’t say to my kids that what happens on the national level doesn’t affect us at the local level,” Ann Landenberger told the Newfane meeting. “Would that we could all be in a cocoon, but that is not the case.”
Greg Record, a local justice of the peace, criticized the amount of time and attention such advisory votes get.
“We spend more time on these things than on a million dollar budget item,” said Record, who said the town is made up of people from the “far left.”
Lenore Salzbrun defended Bush, saying she had close friends who died in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“I am so grateful that our president didn’t just put his head in the sand ... and did go out and fight,” she said.
“How many attacks have we had on the U.S. since September 11?” asked another resident, Carlton Brown. “Maybe some of the terrorists around the world are sitting up and taking notice that we’re not going to be patsies.”
Lawmaker: Impractical to impeach
The Bush vote is not the first time Newfane has used its town meeting forum to take a state or national stand. Last year, for example, the town went on record against the Iraq war.
Sanders issued a statement after the Newfane vote saying that although the Bush administration “has been a disaster for our country, and a number of actions that he has taken may very well not have been legal,” given the reality that the Republicans control the House and the Senate, “it would be impractical to talk about impeachment.”
Jim Barnett, chairman of the Vermont Republican Party, said Sanders should reject the resolution: “We should not be impeaching presidents just because we disagree with them.”