NEWFANE — Voters in this postcard-perfect town didn’t like the resolution asking Rep. Bernie Sanders to start impeachment proceedings against Pres. George Bush. So they made it broader.
After three hours in a crowded, creaky town hall discussing bridges and budgets, 121 voters endorsed by paper ballot a measure to ask both Sanders and the state Legislature to set impeachment wheels in motion. A proposed amendment to impeach Vice Pres. Dick Cheney was voted down, as was an effort to delay the original resolution indefinitely.
“The purpose of this meeting is to discuss town business, not a national business,” asserted Gunther Garbe, moving to postpone.
But Selectboard member Dan DeWalt defended his measure.
“What is happening today in our name, even though it’s on the other side of the world, affects us locally in the numbers of our sons and daughters and mothers and fathers who are dying, in our tax dollars, in the number of people who are rapidly becoming our enemies and plotting to destroy us,” he said. “We see the results of these policies locally and directly, and as a result, it is incumbent upon us to address these policies.”
Unlike voters in Marlboro, Putney, Dummerston, and Brookfield, who spoke mainly with their votes in favour of impeachment, Newfane residents took nearly an hour to debate and vote on the measure, which ultimately passed 121-29. In Brookfield, where the measure passed 59-38, voters stood for a count. In Newfane, emotions ran high on both sides.
“My ancestors in Germany were silent during the time of the atrocities in Germany,” and Newfane resident Norm Kuebler, “I’m not comparing Bush’s actions to Hitler’s … all I’m asking is for discussion.” Calling democracy a privilege, he continued, “We have this privilege. I suggest we take advantage of it; we should discuss this and any item that may come up in the future, whether it’s abortion or whether you like the Red Sox or the Yankees.”
Sanders issued a quick response to the Newfane resolution, saying it would be impractical for him to pursue impeachment in a Republican-controlled Congress.
“The difficulty that we face is that with Republicans controlling both the House and the Senate and serving as a virtual rubber stamp for the White House, they have consistently refused to even hold serious hearings or investigations on any of Bush’s abuses of power or misguided decisions,” he said in a statement.
But Leland & Gray drama teacher Ann Landenberger said the town’s actions send an important message, not just to lawmakers, but to young people, many of whom feel powerless to confront their government’s policies. “A lot of my high school seniors believe what they do is pointless,” she said. “This is a very important symbol; we’re saying that right here we can initiate change.”
A handful of residents defended the president, including some comments that served as a testament to the power of the White House message machine, which has consistently attempted to implicate Iraq in the 9/11 events, despite the absence of any evidence to support such a claim.
“On 9/11, I stood in my office and I watched the planes go into the buildings; I watched my friends and colleagues jump from their office buildings to their death,” said an emotional Lenore Salzbrun, her voice cracking with tears.
“I am so grateful that my president didn’t put his head in the sand and he didn’t ignore what happened,” she continued. “He did go out and fight for our safety and continues to, even though it is a very unpopular thing for him to do.”
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