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A Missed Opportunity for Impeachment in Vermont

By       Message Randolph T. Holhut     Permalink
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DUMMERSTON, Vt. — Vermont had its moment in the sun last week when Garry Trudeau decided to do a story arc in Doonesbury on the impeachment movement here.

While Trudeau’s version of the impeachment story played out on the comics pages of newspapers around the nation, an entirely different thing was happening here.

There is a resolution in the Vermont Legislature calling for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney. But the Democratic leaders, House Speaker Gaye Symington and Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, have decided that it will not be taken up in this year's session.

Symington has wanted no part of impeachment from the very beginning of the session. She insists that her chamber must focus on "important matters" and that the House "does not have the time" to deal with impeachment.

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Shumlin has often spoken about the evils of Bush and Cheney and has said he supports impeachment. Now, he says that he won't pursue the issue as long Symington says no.

Even though an impeachment resolution, like any other Vermont law, can start in either chamber, Shumlin is using decorum and the "we don't have time" argument as an excuse to duck this important issue.

Our representatives in Washington have been no better on impeachment. Sen. Bernard Sanders, and his successor in the House, Peter Welch, as well as Sen. Patrick Leahy, have treated the issue as if it were a barrel of toxic waste. Short-term political considerations apparently are more important than upholding the Constitution that they took an oath to uphold and defend.

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Nearly 40 towns voted for impeachment at their town meetings this year. There is little support in Vermont for Bush, Cheney and the war in Iraq they lied us into. The list of the administration's failures at home and abroad is long and embarrassing. Yet Symington, Shumlin, Welch, Sanders and Leahy feel no sense of urgency to hold Bush and Cheney accountable.

On Tuesday, more than 100 impeachment activists went to the Statehouse in Montpelier to make their case to Shumlin and Symington. They went away empty-handed.

Symington may be wrong, but at least she's consistent. She has said from the start she was against impeachment, and has behaved accordingly. Shumlin, sadly, is trying to have it both ways. He has faced the wrath of Vermonters who support impeachment as a result.

Given the other things that our Congressional delegation is doing in Washington, Sanders, Leahy and Welch are getting a free pass on this issue. But Symington and Shumlin are not. Too many Vermonters see them as the epitome of the Democratic Party's penchant for being timid when the times demand boldness.

If a state as solidly liberal as Vermont can't pass an impeachment resolution, something is seriously wrong.

There will be a time when future generations will look at us and wonder why Bush and Cheney were not removed from office.

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They will question why, when confronted by the most corrupt and incompetent administration ever witnessed in the United States, little was done to stop it. And they will look at Vermont, and question how a bottom-up impeachment effort with broad support ran into a brick wall of indifference in Montpelier as well as Washington.

When the story of our time is written by future historians, there will be but one question asked: when confronted with the malevolence and mendacity of the Bush administration, how did the people in positions to do something about it react?

The Vermont Legislature has a chance to go down in the history books as the first state legislature in the nation to stand up to the worst president ever. If they fail to seize this opportunity, history will not look at them kindly.

 

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Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 25 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at randyholhut@yahoo.com.

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