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It’s time to get some backbone

Posted February 16, 2007

In October, a Newsweek poll showed 51 percent of the U.S. public believes impeachment should be a top priority for the new Congress.

John Dean, the former White House counsel to Richard Nixon, wrote a best-selling book Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush. Two other books — one by John Nichols and the other by Dave Lindorff — have also sold tens of thousands of copies.

With all of this, it’s clear that the issue of impeachment is one that the U.S. public has not taken off the table. So, why are elected officials in Washington and Montpelier so dismissive?

In Washington, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, declared impeachment “off the table” before even one hearing. Instead, she wants the Democratic-led Congress to focus on “changing course.”

In Vermont, where the impeachment movement has inspired countless communities throughout the country, key state leaders dismiss the grassroots effort as a distraction. Last week, House Speaker Gaye Symington, D-Jericho, said, “The Legislature has a short amount of time and needs to focus its work on the issues most affecting Vermonters.”

During the Watergate investigations, the Democratic majority was able to pass major legislation such as the Endangered Species Act. Certainly, our elected officials should be able to uphold the Constitution and chew gum at the same time.

While any impeachment effort in the U.S. House would likely receive a lukewarm reception in the Senate, where Democrats have a one-vote majority, that should not deter the House from empaneling the kinds of hearings necessary to hold the Bush administration accountable for its actions, and to investigate claims of war profiteering and manipulation of pre-war intelligence.

To not conduct these investigations would force Congress to continue the abdication of its constitutional role to the executive and judicial branches of government. Voters in November wanted an end to the rubber-stamp, stay-the-course approach in Washington and expect Democrats to do better.

Will investigations lead to impeachment? Who knows and who cares. The bottom line is that Congress needs to hold this administration accountable. It’s time to stop beating around the bush.

Company you keep

Vermont’s blogosphere has been active recently, focusing on the Second Vermont Republic, the nascent organization that has been arguing for peaceful secession from the United States.

Bloggers are raising questions about the advisors SVR has partnered with and their connection to Southern white supremacist groups.

While guilt by association is often a slippery slope, in this case what is equally as disturbing as intelligent, well-meaning Vermonters relying on racists to think about ways to secede is the response from SVR supporters when these disturbing facts are brought to light.

To them, it is ludicrous to think of the SVR, and those at the like-minded publication Vermont Commons, to be racist. They claim to be nothing but inclusive and honorable. OK, that’s a defense.

But, they are quick to dismiss the racist beliefs of these “advisors” who have links to documented hate groups in the South.

The Vermont Guardian has long been of the mind that the concept of secession has merits because it raises key issues that every democracy should struggle with from time to time.

But, we believe that is in the best interest of SVR and the Vermont Commons to disassociate themselves from people connected with secession as a way to prove a Christian identity or racial purity through organizations such as the League of the South.

Nothing could be further from the core of Vermont’s own record as a nation-state: We were the first to outlaw slavery in a constitution, and sent thousands of soldiers to die during the Civil War in our desire to abolish slavery.

We have set strong examples for how a civil society debates issues and solves complex problems, and if it truly believes in the Vermont way, then SVR should set its own terms for secession, rather than borrowing from the racist elements that have pushed the issue in other parts of the country.

This nation has a long way to go to overcome its institutional racism, and we need to be all focusing on ways to make this nation more, not less, inclusive.