NEWFANE, Vermont (Reuters) – Known for picturesque autumn foliage, colonial inns, maple sugar and laid-back villages, Vermont seldom makes much of an impact in national political debate.
But in one week, resolutions approved by five towns to impeach U.S. President George W. Bush are giving several sleepy Vermont communities a new, renegade image.
Not everyone is happy about it.
“We’ve got a lot of negative feedback — letters coming in mail, e-mails, people telling us we’re unpatriotic,” said Maureen Albert-Piascik, treasurer of Newfane, a village of about 1,600 people which approved an impeachment article against Bush at its annual town meeting on March 7.
“All we were doing is exercising our freedom of speech,” she said. “This little town can’t be responsible for impeaching Bush, but everybody has the right to freedom of speech.”
The residents’ 121-29 vote at the town meeting called on the state’s sole member of the U.S. House of Representatives, independent Rep. Bernie Sanders, to file articles of impeachment against Bush for misleading the nation on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and engaging in illegal wiretapping, among other charges.
“We’ve been let down by our politicians, by the media, so we really have to take things into our own hands,” said Dan DeWalt, a 49-year-old woodworker and part-time teacher who drafted the impeachment call.
DeWalt’s resolution inspired four other Vermont towns to do the same. “It struck a nerve,” he said. “We need everyone in the country to consider, should we impeach the president.”
Lenore Salzbrunn, a Republican who heads the Newfane Business Association, dismissed the impeachment resolution as a “tantrum” by just 10 percent of registered voters.
“We had a busload of people who they said they would not spend another dime in Newfane,” he said. “They were so outraged. I’ve talked to about 80 people like that. People are saying things like ‘Don’t you realize we are at war?”‘
OUTSIDE POLITICAL MAINSTREAM
The idea of impeaching Bush resides firmly outside the political mainstream. Wisconsin Sen. Russell Feingold’s call this week to censure Bush — a step short of an impeachment — found scant support on Capitol Hill, even among fellow Democrats.
Harper’s Magazine, a 158-year-old liberal publication, gave impeachment a push in a March cover story, and three of the 10 House members from Massachusetts signed a resolution calling for an investigation and possible impeachment of Bush.
In 2003, the city council in Santa Cruz, California voted to ask Congress to impeach Bush. Other California cities followed suit, including San Francisco last month. The declarations made local headlines, but even San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, joked about the minor national impact such calls have.
Bush, who says his domestic spying program is legal, has virtually no chance of being impeached due to a Republican majority in Congress, political analysts say.
Sanders, the Vermont congressman, said a far better goal is ending Republican dominance in Congress in November elections.
Bruce Harrington, a 73-year-old retired Newfane machinist who supported the impeachment vote, said he’s had enough of Bush. He said the president is “just blowing money like it’s going out of style.”
Harrington said he cannot recall a bigger political fuss in Newfane, a heavily Democrat village founded by Puritan settlers in 1774 where most town meetings deal with routine issues such as electing school district officers.
DeWalt, who sports a graying beard and ponytail, is in his first year as a town selectman and says he is fielding calls from other towns on impeachment.
“Now I’m connected with people from across the country who are very methodically laying the groundwork to make this a reality, to make it not just a little pipe dream of a few wishful thinkers,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Adam Tanner in San Francisco)
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