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Statement by House Speaker Gaye Symington Regarding Proposals to Initiate Impeachment Proceedings Against President Bush

By Gaye Symington

I believe the domestic and international policies of George Bush and Dick Cheney have had disastrous environmental, fiscal and social consequences for our country. I also believe President Bush’s justification for the war in Iraq was wrong and misleading. I wholeheartedly condemn both the war in Iraq and the president’s conduct in other areas, including his domestic surveillance practices, his advocacy of torture as an interrogation technique, and his politicization of the Justice Department.

Earlier this winter the Vermont House debated and passed a resolution calling for an orderly withdrawal of troops from Iraq to begin immediately. Despite my general reluctance to debate national issues in the Legislature, I supported this debate and the outcome. I am proud that Vermont was the first state to take such a strong stance against the war.

However, I do not believe the Vermont House should pass a resolution calling for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, or a resolution that calls for our federal delegation to initiate an impeachment process. I will not vote in favor of such a resolution on the House floor and I did not vote in favor of a similar resolution at Jericho’s town meeting.

Why?

First, I feel our Congress is now doing the work necessary to hold the Bush/Cheney administration accountable for their disastrous policies and actions. And, most importantly, they are doing that in the course of doing the business of government, not as what would be seen as a purely political maneuver.

Additionally, because I trust the values and priorities Congressman Welch, and Senators Leahy and Sanders bring to their work in Washington, DC on behalf of Vermonters. I know that each one of them opposes the Bush administration and is working for legislation that represents the interests and priorities of working Vermonters. I stood side by side with them during the last election cycle, working towards election results that would allow for a change in direction for our country. I do not feel it is necessary or appropriate for the Vermont Legislature to second-guess them as to the best means of redressing the harm and injustice this administration has brought to our nation and the havoc it has caused beyond our borders.

Since the new Congress convened this winter it has held hundreds of hearings focused on the misinformation that led our country into this war, the inappropriate actions of our federal government, and the misguided policies that have so compromised the confidence of our allies abroad. Congress is holding the administration accountable for its policies and actions. Americans in blue and red and purple states are listening and learning of the distortions of the Bush administration. I believe that if Congress were instead to turn its attention to impeachment, we risk losing the attention of that diverse an audience. Many will see it as a distraction from the business of governing and, worse, could turn to defend their president against what they see as blatant partisan attacks.

An impeachment agenda would quickly polarize our country and turn Americans’ attention away from the real lessons we are learning from these events:
• Senator Leahy is holding Attorney General Gonzales accountable for mismanaging and politicizing the Justice Department.
• Senator Boxer is bringing scientists back into the discussions and proposals for action around climate change.
• Senator Levin is holding hearings to learn how we were misled into the war in Iraq, how we have mismanaged that war and how we can withdraw troops in an orderly way with time certain deadlines.
• Congressman Welch is advocating an Oversight and Government Reform for the subpoena of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for testimony and documents on fabricated claims in pre-war intelligence.
• The 110th congress has already held 160 oversight hearings on Iraq.

For these reasons I am not convinced that an investigation is the best course of action given the vigorous issue-by-issue responses by Congress, the many pressing domestic and international priorities Congress needs to address, and the fact that the process would likely not conclude until the end of the Bush presidency. I believe Congress would better serve the nation by focusing on getting out of Iraq in an orderly way and addressing the country’s many pressing priorities.

I have also said that impeachment should not distract the Vermont House from the important work we came here to do. I have come to believe that regardless of whether the House votes on impeachment or not, it has already come to take significant time and attention from the House’s work. I now believe that by bringing the resolution up for a vote, we can address the issue of impeachment as a full body and then move on to the work ahead in the final weeks of the session.

Over the past weeks I have heard from many Vermonters about this issue. Many have spoken about upholding our constitution and seeking justice for the country. I feel justice would be best served by getting our country back on track, caring for its people, rebuilding its relationships with other countries, and repairing the fiscal damage of the Bush Administration. The constitution stresses the balance of power necessary to make our democracy work. Impeachment may be needed where checks and balances fail. That is not the case now, and instead of choosing that disruptive and divisive option, we should support the legislative branch of our government as its members work to hold the executive branch accountable for their misguided policies and mismanagement. We should not short circuit that process of accountability.