That's right: Will our little state's legislature, sitting under Montpelier's golden dome, impeach the most dangerous, dishonest and incompetent president the United States of America has ever known? The headline, folks, is not a typo.
"You're stoned! Can't be done!" you say, even if it is a worthy and patriotic goal. Only the U.S. House of Representatives can impeach a president, you shout! A Senate trial follows. That's what we witnessed firsthand with Presidents Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon. Big Bill survived the Senate vote. Big Dick, however, resigned in disgrace before his trial could start.
Nice grade-school education, dear reader, but what if we told you that you're dead wrong? What if we told you it can be done? What if we told you it's all in black and white?
The fact is, the U.S. House operates under published rules, and the rules of the current House, the 109th Congress, include Jefferson's Manual. Written in 1801 by then Vice President Thomas Jefferson, it's a book of procedural rules and parliamentary philosophy, originally intended to guide senators in the early days of the republic. Ironically, the Senate does not use Ol' Tom's Manual today, but the House does, to supplement its official standing rules of procedure.
And Jeff Taylor of Clarendon, Vermont, a 63-year-old attorney who has vivid memories of his antiwar protesting during the mid-1960s, told us this week he recently took a close look at Jefferson's Manual. His eyes lit up at the text in Sec. 603:
In the House there are various methods of setting an impeachment in motion: by charges made on the floor on the responsibility of a Member or Delegate; . . . by a resolution dropped in the hopper by a Member and referred to a committee; by a message from the President; by charges transmitted from the legislature of a State or territory or from a grand jury.
"Well, let's have Vermont be the first!" thought Taylor. He decided "to get the ball rolling by starting with the local Democratic committee."
And so, on February 28, the Rutland County Democratic Committee unanimously passed this resolution, authored by Mr. Taylor:
WHEREAS, Rule 603 of the Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives provides for impeachments to be initiated on a motion based on charges transmitted from a state legislature, and
WHEREAS, George W. Bush has committed high crimes and misdemeanors as he has repeatedly and intentionally violated the United States Constitution and other laws of the United States, particularly the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the Torture Convention, which under Article VI of the Constitution are treaties as part of the "supreme law of the land," and
WHEREAS, George W. Bush has acted to strip Americans of their constitutional rights by ordering indefinite detention of citizens, without access to legal counsel, without charge and without opportunity to appear before a civil judicial officer . . ."
There's more, but you get the flavor, eh?
Here's the kicker:
NOW THEREFORE the Rutland County Democratic Committee submits that his actions and admissions constitute ample grounds for his impeachment, that the General Assembly of the State of Vermont has good cause for submitting charges to the U.S. House of Representatives under Rule 603 as grounds for George W. Bush's impeachment.
Democratic State Chairman Ian Carleton told "Inside Track" he received a copy of the Rutland Resolution on Friday and had "not yet looked into its procedural merits."
At Saturday's state committee meeting, said Ian, "The proponents of this measure were very clear that they wanted this issue to be discussed in smaller groups around the state first. In keeping with those wishes, the state party is not presently involved."
On Tuesday evening the Orleans County Democratic Committee was scheduled to vote on the impeachment resolution. County Chair Judy Bevans told "Inside Track" she was "confident it would pass . . . unanimously!"
But before folks start dreaming about getting Bush out of office by Christmas, a few technical issues were raised by Jeff Weaver, Rep. Bernie Sanders' chief of staff.
One problem, said Weaver, is that with the GOP running Congress, there have been "no investigations" into who knew what when, etc.
"This is a necessary first step because ultimately impeachment is a quasi-judicial proceeding that culminates in a trial before the U.S. Senate," said Mr. Weaver. "You really can't start the process without having this kind of detailed information. While we all have suspicions about what happened, we don't have the kind of proof needed in an impeachment proceeding."
Another problem, he noted, is that the GOP currently refuses to even hold hearings, so they certainly won't allow articles of impeachment to pass.
Good, practical criticisms. However, as we've seen time and time again in our storied past, when the American people lead, America's leaders always manage to follow.
P.S. According to the Rutland Resolution's author Jeff Taylor - he prefers to call it "The Vermont Initiative" - GOP Gov. Jim Douglas would not even have to sign it. It would be a "concurrent resolution" of the Vermont Legislature, adopted by House and Senate (both with solid Democratic majorities). That's all Rule 603 of the House requires. Taylor said he expected a few Republicans and Progressives to support it, too.
Dean Sighting! — The chairman of the Democratic National Committee showed up Tuesday morning to vote at Burlington's Ward 5 polling station on Pine Street. He was all by his lonesome, too, and in great form.
There has been growing criticism of Ho-Ho for his recent reorganization of the DNC, including the axing of the gay-outreach position at HQ and the funding of dozens of new organizers in Red States. We asked him if November 2006 will be the test of the longevity of Dean's DNC chairmanship.
"No," he replied quickly. "Actually, it's not." The Democratic Congressional and Senatorial Campaign Committees are on the point as far as November 2006 goes, noted Ho-Ho.
Both the DCCC and the DSCC, said Dean, are running to regain majorities, "and I think that's great and we hope to help them do that with the ground game. The real test," said Dean, "is 2008, the presidential race and what's going on on the ground now."
What's going on on the ground now, indicated Ho-Ho, is some pretty good stuff.
"We've won four consecutive races in Mississippi, special elections to the House. We've won the mayor's race in Mobile, Alabama, which is one of the most conservative parts of a very conservative state. So we're starting to win in places that Democrats couldn't win before."
Ho-Ho wants to win back the House and/or Senate, but, "They have to have a unified message and they have to be talking from the same playbook everywhere in the country. That's how former GOP House leader Newt Gingrich did it in 1994," Dean noted, "and that's how we'll do it."
At least he's got a role model, eh?
Tarrant Update — Vermont's strangest political candidate of 2006 continues to amaze. Republican Richard Tarrant, the gazillionaire who wants to replace Jeezum Jim Jeffords in the United States Senate, continues his policy of avoiding press conferences as he hides behind his lavish, Hollywood-produced TV commercials and free spaghetti dinners.
To date, Richie Rich, the man who wants to be your "voice" in Washington, has been voiceless. Tarrant has held just one press conference, an event that was called off after 16 minutes because the candidate was woefully unprepared for questions on the issues of the day, even simple ones. Will someone tell Tarrant America is at war?
Instead, all Vermonters get is the amazing, self-funded, televised ego trip that features the cofounder of IDX strolling across the court in his black leather jacket, remembering his St. Mike's basketball glory days of the 1960s.
Letters to the editor in Vermont newspapers indicate Tarrant's efforts to feed Vermonters free spaghetti and clothe them in his soft-focus jockstrap glory aren't working. You'd think someone running for a U.S. Senate seat would be eager to discuss his positions on the issues, and why those positions are best for Vermont.
Think again. It's been all duck-and-cover so far. Very strange.
A couple weeks ago, Richie Rich gave WGOP, er, sorry, WCAX-TV an exclusive. Playing the role of shocked and violated political virgin, Tarrant called on the frontrunner, Rep. Bernie Sanders, to join him in supporting a ban on partisan TV ads paid for by out-of-state organizations - the so-called "527s."
"You know, politics is nasty, and I'm learning firsthand how nasty it can be," said Richie the Rookie. "That's OK, I signed up for this. I'm a big boy. But it suddenly dawned on me that perhaps Vermont could send a message to the rest of the country that it doesn't always have to be nasty. It can be issues-based, and I thought maybe it would be a good thing to do here."
Tarrant's Ch. 3 "exclusive" was perfectly timed to hit the airwaves before Mr. Sanders could fully respond. Nice teamwork, eh?
But when Sanders' response came the next day, Tarrant quickly turned tail and ran for cover. That's because Ol' Bernardo not only agreed to ban ads from 527s, he also proposed a campaign spending cap so generous, it would allow the richest man in Vermont to outspend him by $400,000!
And Bernie went even further. In the current state of American politics, a well-known front-runner would normally keep an unknown challenger at arm's- length and avoid making joint appearances until the required TV debates at the end of the campaign. It's pretty much standard operating procedure.
But Bernie proposed to Mr. Megabucks that they debate mano-a-mano before public audiences in every county in the state of Vermont. That's 14 Sanders-Tarrant debates. We imagine all the halls would be packed with curious Vermont voters!
And there's more.
Ol' Bernardo also proposed that he and Richie Rich agree now on how to deal with the potential "negative" TV ads to come.
"To help keep this race positive and focused on issues," wrote Sanders, "any criticism of an opponent or other negative presentation on television would be delivered solely by the candidate speaking directly to the camera. On radio, it would be limited to the voice of the candidate."
Tarrant, the gazillionaire with two Florida mansions, would simply have to look into the camera lens and talk. No hired stand-in. He could even hold a basketball. Doesn't sound too much to ask of a man who wants to be our U.S. Senator, does it?
Predictably, the response from Tarrant HQ was negative. It came from the lips of the newly hired Kate O'Connor, former longtime head nurse for Gov. Howard Dean. Kate called Ol' Bernardo's counteroffer a "four-point incumbency protection plan."
Yikes! Would someone please tell Kate there is no incumbent in the race? Sen. Jim Jeffords is retiring. It's an open seat.
Bottom line: Rich Tarrant, the richest man in Vermont, has no desire to cap campaign spending, stop out-of-state special-interest attack ads, debate Bernie Sanders face-to-face, look the camera right in the eye, or take unrehearsed questions from reporters who don't work for WCAX.
Then why the hell is he running?
Parke Goes Swift-Boat — It looks like Vermont TV viewers will be guaranteed a slew of out-of-state attack ads. The other Republican U.S. Senate candidate, Greg Parke, a commercial pilot for a private charter outfit, has just picked up the support of the truthless "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" outfit that trashed John Kerry's Vietnam war record.
In a fundraising letter put out this week by Friends of Greg Parke, John O'Neill, the Swift Boat Vets leader, zeroes in on Bernie Sanders.
"Sanders is as radical as they come," writes O'Neill to donors. "In fact, he's so far to the Left that he calls himself an 'independent' because he thinks Democrats are 'too conservative.' His record in the House of Representatives - particularly on defense matters - is disgraceful.
"He's consistently fought President Bush on issues of national security - most specifically he voted against the use of force to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
"And even though we are in the middle of a global war on terror, Bernie Sanders proudly says he's 'leading the charge against the Bush Administration.'
And proud of it! I know, I know. With enemies like this, Ol' Bernardo won't have to break a sweat. It's free advertising!
Media Notes — Former WCAX-TV producer/reporter Brian Byrnes made The New York Times Sunday - the wedding section! The UVM grad married Maria Macarena Di Dio at a civil ceremony in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he's worked as an increasingly successful freelance journalist for the last five years - http://www.brianbyrnes.com. As the Times revealed:
"Ms. Di Dio and Mr. Byrnes met at Tequila, a nightclub in Buenos Aires, in July 2001. 'That first night was very difficult for me, trying to communicate with this girl I liked very much but whose language I did not speak,' Mr. Byrnes recalled.
"The language barrier stood for two subsequent dates.'It wasn't until the end of the night on our third date that Macarena finally admitted to me that she spoke fluent English,' Mr. Byrnes recalled.
"Ms. Di Dio explained, 'I wanted him to work hard if he wanted to be with me.'"
He did. The religious service will be held at St. Patrick's in Buenos Aires on April 1. Yes, St. Patrick's. Big Irish connection in Argentina's past. Even the father of the Argentine Navy came from County Mayo.
Election Special — Check here for the "Inside Track" on Burlington election results.