Sadly, this week in Vermont, the land of DNC Chairman Howard "You Have the Power" Dean, the mainstream state Democratic Party is patting itself on the back for keeping its grassroots antiwar wing in check.
The Democratic State Committee pulled off the dirty deed on Saturday when it officially gutted a pure-Vermont original! The so-called Rutland Resolution would have dared to pressure the Democrat-controlled Vermont Legislature to officially ask the U.S. House to commence impeachment proceedings against the most incompetent, dishonest and dangerous president in American history.
It can be done, as the Rutland Resolution noted, under current U.S. House Rules, specifically under Section 603 of Jefferson's Manual, which permits impeachment action to commence upon reception of a resolution adopted by a state legislature. It would be a historic act, but when has history scared off Vermont?
As Saturday's special meeting at the Randolph Elementary School commenced, the rank and file had their passionate say. The overwhelming majority of the attending public clearly supported the Rutland Resolution.
First introduced by Jeff Taylor at the Rutland County Democratic Committee meeting in late February, the novel impeachment vehicle spread like wildfire through the party's grassroots. Eight county committees adopted the Rutland Resolution. Others backed similar versions. State party leaders simply could not ignore the groundswell, and Saturday's meeting was so ordered.
In the end, Vermont party leaders are to be congratulated for skillfully putting out the grassroots brushfire while making almost everyone feel just hunky-dory!
After three hours of hearty debate, the Democratic State Committee voted to do what legislative leaders such as House Speaker Gaye Symington and Rep. John Tracy wanted them to do -- let them off the impeachment hook.
A motion was made and seconded to edit out the key opening line of the Rutland Resolution: WHEREAS, Section 603 of the Manual 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 . . .
The motion to amend passed on a 26-18 vote. The final, gutted version passed unanimously on a voice vote. The roomful of Democrats stood and cheered and patted themselves on the back for a job well done. The Vermont Democratic Party had voted for George W. Bush's impeachment!
Big deal, eh? So have five other Democratic state committees. And so would many more if asked to. In fact, we're fast approaching the point where it would almost take an impeachment resolution passing the Vermont Republican Party to qualify for front-page news coverage.
Members of the party's grassroots had made impassioned pleas for adoption of the Rutland Resolution as is. Sure, it was a symbolic gesture, as one man said, "but so was the Boston Tea Party!"
And, yes, it would have opened a Pandora's box at the Statehouse. Antiwar Vermonters might descend on the Golden Dome the way the anti-gay-rights crowd did back in 2000. National news coverage would surely follow, and not just Bill O'Reilly.
God forbid, eh?
When the show ended Saturday, Speaker Gaye Symington got her wish. She skillfully put the best possible spin on the outcome.
"I think this was an indictment of our president," Symington told "Inside Track." "People are fed up. People wanted to make a strong statement about impeachment. To end up with a unanimous vote," she said, "is a healthy way for the Democratic Party to express its direction and its priorities."
We politely suggested that by removing all reference to Section 603 from the final product and the call for legislative action, the Dems had removed the meat from the bone.
"The meat of it," answered Symington, "is accusing President Bush of having broken the law and accusing him of lying to us in the reasons for taking us to war. That's the meat of it, and that was preserved in this resolution by sending it to Congress."
Sorry. Not buying it, Madame Speaker. Without the Vermont Legislature's official imprimatur, the resolution passed by the state party on Saturday is nothing but junk mail in the eyes of Congress. Feel-good junk mail, but junk mail all the same.
Rainville's Rocky Start -- Enough about the Democratic Party holding the center. How about what's going on in the Republican Party with Martha Rainville?
Marvelous Martha, former adjutant general and Gov. Jim Douglas' personally recruited Republican candidate for Vermont's open U.S. House seat, has many fans wondering if she really meant it when she said in her kickoff address, "I am a Republican. But candor compels me to say that some of the Republicans in control of the House seem to have lost their way. They have lost the respect of many Americans. Together we can begin to restore a respectable Congress!"
Unfortunately, actions speak louder than any nice words. And actions indicate the current corrupt GOP leadership has not lost the respect of Marvelous Martha from Vermont!
What else could explain Rainville's decision to accept a controversial $2000 donation from Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Missouri). Following Republican leader Tom DeLay's indictment and resignation, Blunt, the majority whip, had been a frontrunner to succeed him as leader. However, his ties to DeLay were simply too close.
Rainville's decision to accept the Blunt money drew editorial criticism in Vermont, from the left-leaning Brattleboro Reformer to the right-leaning Caledonia Record.
As the Caledonia Record put it, "Surely, she can raise $2000 without taking money from a controversial PAC -- and giving her opponents something to criticize in Campaign '06."
But in addition to the $2000 Blunt donation, Rainville has also won star treatment from a Tom DeLay-started PAC that funnels cash to select GOP contenders in what the leadership considers to be the top 10 open-seat races. Last week, Darren Allen of the Vermont Press Bureau broke the news that the Retain Our Majority Program III 2006 PAC, a.k.a. ROMP, has added Marvelous Martha of Vermont to its coveted list of designated financial recipients!
In fact, Rainville first revealed her association with ROMP when she filed her campaign organization with the Federal Election Commission back on March 16. Rainville listed ROMP as an "affiliated committee" for fundraising purposes. And ROMP has close ties to Rep. Blunt.
No way could Martha have sent back the initial $2000 Blunt contribution. If she had raised a moral/ethical stink about it, does anyone think the GOP House leadership would have put her on their extra-special ROMP list?
When we raised the issue with Rainville spokesman Bill Noyes on Tuesday morning, the conversation got a bit awkward.
"Well, you'll interpret it whichever way you want," replied Noyes. "I'm not sure I'm going to give you much help. Roy Blunt is a respected congressman."
Maybe in Tom DeLay land, but the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has him on their list of the 13 most corrupt members of Congress.
After a few back-and-forths leading nowhere, we inquired if being on the GOP ROMP list was something of value for Rainville?
"It certainly reflects on the leadership of the Republican Party's view of her status," answered Mr. Noyes, "as well as her ability to win in November."
As for the Caledonian Record's critical editorial Monday, Rainville's campaign spokesman told us on Tuesday that he hadn't had a chance to read it yet.
The news of the ROMP connection comes on the heels of the daring move by the Vermont Republican Party leadership to ignore the other two GOP candidates in the race -- State Sen. Mark Shepard and Burlington businessman Dennis Morrisseau. Last week we learned that the three Vermont Republican National Committee members had written the RNC asking them to put their money and their muscle exclusively behind Rainville.
Meanwhile, calls grow for the removal of one of the key players who botched the war in Iraq, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Rainville, it appears, still stands behind her old boss. We pointed out to Noyes that yet another distinguished former military officer has called for Rumsfeld's removal -- former Marine Lt. Gen. Greg Newbold.
Gen. Newbold writes in this week's Time:
From 2000 until October 2002, I was a Marine Corps lieutenant general and director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. After 9/11, I was a witness and therefore a party to the actions that led us to the invasion of Iraq -- an unnecessary war. Inside the military family, I made no secret of my view that the zealots' rationale for war made no sense. And I think I was outspoken enough to make those senior to me uncomfortable. But I now regret that I did not more openly challenge those who were determined to invade a country whose actions were peripheral to the real threat -- al-Qaeda. I retired from the military four months before the invasion, in part because of my opposition to those who had used 9/11's tragedy to hijack our security policy. Until now, I have resisted speaking out in public. I've been silent long enough.
Rainville "said a few weeks ago," replied her spokesman, "that asking for Rumsfeld's removal at this point isn't going to speed up the process, isn't going to be a silver bullet to fixing the Iraq situation."
So, she continues to back Rumsfeld?
"I'm not going to get into that right now," said Noyes. "She'll speak to that shortly."
Shortly? This week?
"In due time," he answered.
Don't hold your breath.
The Big One -- Remember how just a few short years ago, people who spouted warnings about an impending, rapid change in the world due to global warming were considered insane "environmental wackos?" That's how Rush Limbaugh -- President George W. Bush's talk-radio champion -- slimed the "lunatic fringe" of science and society.
Americans mostly just shrugged and slid behind the wheels of their gas-guzzling, planet-killing SUVs. Certainly the United States government did, too. President Bush adamantly refused to allow the U.S. to join 162 countries in ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. The nation known for its bulging waistlines and crumbling interstates would not commit itself to reducing greenhouse gas emissions before it's too late.
If not now, folks, when?
That's why, in one sense, the Bush administration's disastrously dumb invasion of Iraq three years ago actually makes perfect sense. Today, everybody knows that Mr. Bush's sales pitch for war was based on pure lies. No links to al Qaeda. No WMDs. No threat to America.
Instead, the only reason important enough to make a president of the United States cunningly lie to the American people had to involve the one resource that distinguishes Iraq from other countries. It's a native product, and we're not talking about sand.
The fact is, if a regime believes that control of one of the world's largest remaining oil reserves is worth the lives and limbs of U.S. soldiers, including members of the Vermont National Guard, then it would be hypocritical of that regime to turn around and support an energy or environmental policy that would reduce the demand for the very war booty King George went to war to claim.
And in a related matter, this Friday at 9 a.m., two Burlington attorneys will walk into U.S. District Court in San Francisco to lay bare the Bush administration's brazen lack of concern for Planet Earth and lack of respect for laws already on the books to protect her.
Ron Shems and Geoffrey Hand of Shems Dunkiel Kassel & Saunders -- http://www.sdkslaw.com -- represent Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and four California cities. They will dare to argue before a federal judge Friday morning that the Bush administration is violating the National Environmental Policy Act by funneling billions of dollars to China and elsewhere to develop new oil fields, pipelines and coal-burning generating stations. The money comes from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a government agency, and the Export-Import Bank. The Bush administration has fought the lawsuit tooth and nail for four years, but D-Day has finally arrived. Read the court filings here: http://www.climatelawsuit.org.
"First, the government said we don't have standing," Mr. Shems told "Inside Track." They argued "that climate change can't cause injury," and raised "a number of other technical legal defenses, all of which we overcame."
The latest argument raised by the Bush administration, said one of the best friends the Earth has at the moment, is to claim that "for an environmental impact to be assessed under NEPA, it has to be reasonably probable, in other words, there are some limits. You can't go out and look at everything that could possibly happen," said Shems.
As the case finally heads to trial, "one of the arguments they're making now is that it's not reasonably probable to think that greenhouse gas emissions will result from funding a power plant or developing an oil field."
"Because," replied Shems, a former assistant Vermont attorney general for 15 years, "I would say they lack common sense."
Hmm. Good point, eh?
Bolstering Shems' commonsense argument and offering undeniable proof of the recent rapid increase in public awareness is what we'd call Exhibit A -- last week's Time magazine cover story, "Special Report: Global Warming. Be Worried. Be Very Worried."
After all, folks, Time is not exactly a Friends of the Earth, tree-hugger-type publication. It's mainstream, shopping-mall America, and the gulf between America's president and America's mainstream is growing wider by the day.
Anyone who isn't worried is either lying or fooling themselves.