When Vermont Governor Jim Douglas, a Republican with reasonably close ties to President Bush, asked if there was any additional business to be considered at the town meeting he was running in Middlebury, Ellen McKay popped up and proposed the impeachment of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
The governor was not amused. As moderator of the annual meeting, he tried to suggest that the proposal to impeach -- along with another proposal to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq -- could not be voted on.
But McKay, a program coordinator at Middlebury College, pressed her case. And it soon became evident that the crowd at the annual meeting shared her desire to hold the president to account.
So Douglas backed down.
"It became clear that no one was going home until they had the chance to discuss the resolutions and vote on them," explained David Rosenberg, a political science professor at Middlebury College. "And being a good politician, he allowed the vote to happen."
By an overwhelming voice vote, Middlebury called for impeachment.
So it has gone this week at town meetings across Vermont, most of which were held Tuesday.
Late Tuesday night, there were confirmed reports that 36 towns had backed impeachment resolutions, and the number was expected to rise.
In one town, Putney, the vote for impeachment was unanimous.
In addition to Governor Douglas's Middlebury, the town of Hartland, which is home to Congressman Peter Welch, backed impeachment. So, too, did Jericho, the home of Gaye Symington, the speaker of the Vermont House of Representatives.
Organizers of the grassroots drive to get town meetings to back impeachment resolutions hope that the overwhelming support the initiative has received will convince Welch to introduce articles of impeachment against Bush and Cheney. That's something the Democratic congressman is resisting, even though his predecessor, Bernie Sanders, signed on last year to a proposal by Michigan Congressman John Conyers to set up a House committee to look into impeachment.
Vermont activists also want their legislature to approve articles of impeachment and forward them to Congress. But Symington, also a Democrat, has discouraged the initiative, despite the fact that more than 20 representatives have cosponsored an impeachment resolution.
"It's going to be hard for Peter Welch and Gaye Symington to say there's no sentiment for impeachment, now that their own towns have voted for it," says Dan DeWalt, a Newfane, Vermont, town selectman who started the impeachment initiative last year in his town, and who now plans to launch a campaign to pressure Welch and Symington to respect and reflect the will of the people.
It is going to be even harder for Governor Douglas, who just this month spent two nights at the Bush White House, to face his president.
After all, Douglas now lives in a town that is on record in support of Bush's impeachment and trial for high crimes and misdemeanors.
For the record, Middlebury says:
We the people have the power -- and the responsibility -- to removeexecutives who transgress not just the law, but the rule of law.
The oaths that the President and Vice President take binds them to"preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."The failure to do so forms a sound basis for articles of impeachment.
The President and Vice President have failed to "preserve, protect anddefend the Constitution" in the following ways:
1. They have manipulated intelligence and misled the country to justify an immoral, unjust, and unnecessary preemptive war in Iraq.
2. They have directed the government to engage in domestic spyingwithout warrants, in direct contravention of U.S. law.
3. They have conspired to commit the torture of prisoners, in violation of the Federal Torture Act and the Geneva Convention.
4. They have ordered the indefinite detention without legal counsel,without charges and without the opportunity to appear before a civiljudicial officer to challenge the detention -- all in violation of U.S. law and the Bill of Rights.
When strong evidence exists of the most serious crimes, we must useimpeachment -- or lose the ability of the legislative branch to compelthe executive branch to obey the law.
George Bush has led our country to a constitutional crisis, and it isour responsibility to remove him from office.
John Nichols' new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use ofthe 'heroic medicine' that is impeachment with a call for Democraticleaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by thefounders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"