Boosters pitch impeachment issue one last time
By DANIEL BARLOW Vermont Press Bureau | April 10,2007
These comic panels appeared in Monday’s “Doonesbury,” in which a character traveled to Vermont to learn about the impeachment movement.
MONTPELIER — Members of Vermont's grassroots impeachment movement will meet with Vermont's top two Democrats on Wednesday in a final effort to push along legislation calling for President Bush's removal from office.
Supporters hope to convince House Speaker Gaye Symington, D-Jericho, and Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, D-Windham, to put their political support behind a resolution asking the U.S. Congress to begin impeachment hearings against Bush.
A House bill has languished in committee since early in the year and supporters now are hoping a state senator will introduce a resolution in the final few weeks of the session.
"Shumlin has been on record saying he supports Bush's impeachment, but so far he has been unwilling to get the Senate to act," said James Leas, a Burlington attorney who helped write a town meeting impeachment resolution that passed in nearly 40 Vermont towns last month. "We're hoping we can convince him to move forward on this."
Impeachment supporters are emboldened by the town meeting victory and a nearly unanimous vote late in March by the Democratic State Committee urging the Legislature to pass the nonbinding resolution calling for an early end to Bush's second term.
The grassroots movement reached another high Monday as a character in Garry Trudeau's popular newspaper comic strip, "Doonesbury," traveled to Vermont to cover the pro-impeachment town meeting votes.
But Symington has said the House is too busy to tackle national issues. Shumlin said he supports the effort, but there is no longer enough time in the session to push through a resolution in that body.
Symington said Monday her position has not changed. Wednesday's meeting with Shumlin and the impeachment supporters was scheduled to "clear up any misunderstandings" regarding the two Democrats' positions on the issue.
She noted that the House did spend half a day early in the session debating and then passing a resolution calling for an end to the Iraq War and the return of U.S. troops. But she said local impeachment efforts should be focused on Congress, not politicians in Montpelier.
"The delegation in Washington does not need Vermont's permission to bring impeachment hearings against George Bush and Mr. Cheney," Symington said.
If Symington is reluctant to push along the House resolution, which has a Burlington Progressive and a Brattleboro independent as co-signers, supporters are hoping Shumlin will push one through the Senate.
Dan DeWalt, the Newfane selectman who inspired the impeachment movement when he proposed the question at his town meeting last year, said Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham, has language prepared for a Senate resolution.
"We're hoping to get Symington to tell Shumlin that she wouldn't mind if the Senate moved on a resolution," said DeWalt, referring to statements from the Windham County senator that he did not want to damage his working relationship with the Jericho state representative by pushing her on the issue.
But Shumlin said Monday there is no time remaining in the session to move along a Senate resolution.
"I'm going to shut down the morning committees by Friday and then we have three weeks to finish up the rest of the work," Shumlin said. "It's time for them to come to the reality that we are not going to have time for this."
That message is not what Liza Earle, a Randolph resident who got the impeachment question passed at her town meeting this year, wants to hear at Wednesday's State House meeting.
Supporters focused their attention on the Vermont House because an inaccurate reading of Jefferson's Manual, a guide to U.S. house procedures written by Thomas Jefferson, created the impression that state legislature resolutions urging the U.S. Congress to act on an issue must begin at the house level, Earle said.
"Shumlin was an avid supporter of impeachment until he found out that it can be taken up in the Senate," she said.
Shumlin responded that if impeachment supporters approached him early in the session, the Senate may have tackled the issue. But now it is too late.
"I just found out 10 days ago that we could do this," he said. "But we only have three weeks to push forward on a very ambitious slate of bills."
Meanwhile, the issue has landed in about 1,400 newspapers across the country via the Doonesbury comic strip, which has tackled everything from the Watergate scandal to the Iraq War during its 35-year run.
In the current storyline, reporter Roland Hedley, known for his sensationalism and large ego, travels to the "picturesque setting" of Vermont to talk to the "civic-minded townships" that voted to impeach Bush.
"Who are these rebels?" Hedley muses in Monday's comic. "What drives them to give comfort to America's enemies by tearing down her commander-in-chief?"
Trudeau declined an interview Monday concerning the strip's foray into Vermont politics, but David Stanford, duty officer at the online Doonesbury Town Hall, said the plot line would be six days long and run through Saturday.
"I'm not privy to everything that Garry is doing, but I do know that this storyline lasts the whole week," said Stanford, who added that he did not know how Trudeau heard about Vermont's impeachment movement.
Contact Daniel Barlow at Daniel.Barlow@rutlandherald.com.