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John Nichols

John Nichols

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These Folks Know About Ethics

Bill Clinton certainly had his flaws as a President. He was a militant free trader, who used all of his political skills to win support for the North American Free Trade Agreement, permanent normalization of trade policy with China and a host of other initiatives that slowly but surely kicked the legs out from under American workers, communities and industries. His welfare, education and telecommunications reforms were bumbling at best, and more often malignant. He showed only slightly more respect for the Constitution than the current president, and his military misadventures and meddling in the affairs of other countries suggest that he had no respect at all for George Washington's warning about avoiding "foreign entanglements."

But Clinton's presidency saw significant progress on some fronts, including the signing of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, a tax increase that reversed the growth in federal deficits that had ballooned during the spending-spree presidency of Ronald Reagan, the nation's last minimum-wage increase and a period of economic growth that lasted long enough to actually begin to modestly improve the circumstance of the country's poor. The relative health of the economy during the second term of his presidency surely contributed to the 65 percent approval rating that Clinton took with him when he left the White House, which represented the highest end-of-term enthusiasm level for any President in the post-Eisenhower era.

Clinton remains a beloved figure in many circles, and that surely accounts for the substantial continuing interest in the former president and his life – and interest that has created something of a tourist boom for tiny Hope, Arkansas, the community where the 42nd president grew up.

Last week, the U.S. House voted on a perfunctory measure authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to designate the President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home in Hope, Arkansas, as a National Historic Site and unit of the National Park System. It is notable that, at a time when Republicans are banging away on critics of the Bush administration for not respecting the office of the presidency, the vote was not the unanimous show of approval that might have been expected.

Republican members of the House forced a roll-call vote -- extremely rare on such matters -- and a dozen of them then voted against so honoring Clinton's birthplace.

The "no" votes came from Tennessee's Marsha Blackburn, Florida's Ginny Brown-Waite, Utah's Chris Cannon, California's John Doolittle, Virginia's Virgil Goode, Oklahoma's Ernest Istook, Texan Ron Paul, Pennsylvania's Bill Shuster, Georgia's Lynn Westmoreland and North Carolinians Virginia Foxx, Walter Jones and Patrick McHenry.

Ron Paul gets a pass. The former Libertarian Party presidential candidate is against just about everything the government does.

Give Walter Jones a pass, as well. He's a principled critic of the free-trade policies of both the Clinton and Bush administrations, who says, "If it had been a historic site for George W. Bush, I would have voted against it. I've seen this country outsource jobs and outsource security. I can't even get money for people of my district."

But what about the rest of these "no" voters? Were they just so offended by Clinton's personal transgressions that they could not bring themselves to help a little town in southwest Arkansas stir up some tourism?

Istook's spokesman said the congressman "has never been a big fan of Bill Clinton" – which was, at least, honest. But many of the other members suggested that they had ethical problems with Clinton.

"There are a lot of things to be concerned about, but designating this as a historic site is a joke," growled McHenry, who said of Clinton: "history has not made a final judgment on his presidency," and then added as an aside: "Maybe it should be a landmark. He is only the second president to be impeached."

Brown-Waite, who forced the roll-call vote on the designation, grumbled that: "(Clinton) has some explaining to do."

Frankly, this is an interesting crew to set itself up as the defenders of political virtue and elective ethics.

Indeed, we could be looking at something of a "people-who-live-in-glass-houses" scenario here, considering the fact that:

• Doolittle's name has been more closely associated with that of Jack Abramoff, the GOP "super lobbyist" who pleaded guilty to three felony corruption charges in January, than any member of the House except DeLay and Ohio Republican Bob Ney, accepted more than $100,000 in contributions from the lobbyist and his clients. Doolittle wrote letters and contacted federal agencies on behalf of those clients. The congressman has, as well, been linked to San Diego businessman Brent Wilkes, who has been implicated in the November bribery conviction of former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham.

• Istook took $29,000 from Abramoff and his lobbying partners and, according to the Associated Press, repeatedly signed letters on behalf of Abramoff clients after accepting those contributions.

• Shuster had to give away campaign contributions from Abramoff and his associates after the scandal blew up.• Westmoreland accepted more than $15,000 from former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's ARMPAC, was a leader in efforts to apply ethics standards to DeLay and has been repeatedly linked to "K Street Project" concerns. Westmoreland is, as well, a close ally Abramoff-tied lobbyist Ralph Reed, and an active supporter of Reeds campaign for lieutenant governor of Georgia this year.

• Foxx also accepted $15,000 from DeLay's ARMPAC and also voted to weaken House ethics rules in order to protect her mentor.

• Blackburn's another major recipient of DeLay's largesse and a loyal ally of the indicted ex-leader, having contributed $5,000 to DeLay's legal defense fund. McHenry's one of DeLay's biggest defenders in the House, having declared after the Texan's legal troubles arose that, "I think in this situation Tom DeLay has become a whipping post for all the liberals in Washington."

• Brown-Waite took $20,000 from DeLay's ARMPAC, voted to weaken the ethics rules, contributed to DeLay's legal defense fund. She also met with Abramoff and took money from his clients.

• Cannon took thousands of dollars from associates of Abramoff and then actually hired one of them, David Safavian, to be his chief of staff.

• Goode, along with his friend Duke Cunningham, has been linked to the defense contractor MZM – the company accused of bribing Cunningham with millions of dollars in exchange for defense contracts. Goode recently donated $88,000 in political contributions he had received from MZM and its associates to charity. According to a USA Today investigation: "In more than 30 instances, donations from MZM's political action committee or company employees went to two members of the House Appropriations Committee -- Cunningham and Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Va. -- in the days surrounding key votes or contract awards that helped MZM grow."

Ned Lamont v. Joe Lieberman

Ned Lamont, the Connecticut cable television entrepreneur whose anger over Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman's support of Bush administration policies spurred him to explore whether to mount a primary challenge to the most prominent Democratic supporter of the war on Iraq, is done exploring.

Lamont's running, and he's got a message for the globetrotting incumbent who returned from his most recent trip to Iraq with a ringing endorsement of the occupation: "Senator," the challenger said, "stop by Bridgeport on your way back from Baghdad and listen to your constituents..."

What Lamont thinks Lieberman's constituents will tell the senator when Connecticut Democrats vote in the August 9 primary is that the Bush administration must be challenged, not coddled.

Making pointed reference to the incumbent's status as the Democrat that Republicans love to love, Lamont declared his candidacy with a Monday announcement that, "I am jumping into this Senate primary because voters deserve a choice."

That choice, the challanger suggests, is between a "Republican-lite" incumbent who cooperates with the administration and a progressive who will confront the president when Bush is wrong.

"Let's have the debate," Lamont announced in a speech that spelled out the differences between the three-term incumbent and a progressive challenger who promises he won't be "complicit" with this White House.

Lamont's declaration of candidacy was blunt and aggressive in its critique of Lieberman, signaling that this will not be a tepid challenge to a Democratic incumbent who has broken faith with the progressive base of the Democratic party.

Here's an excerpt from Lamont's announcement speech.

Let's have the debate.

Three years ago politicians with years of political experience rushed our troops off to war; they told us the war would be easy; we'd be greeted as liberators.

Now three years later, America is no safer, Israel is no safer, the Middle East is even less stable, Iran is on the prowl, Osama Bid Laden is on the prowl, and we have 130,000 valiant troops stuck in the middle of a violent civil war in the heart of Iraq.

Those who got us into this mess should be held accountable.

In Washington they give you a medal; in my world they say: "You're fired."

I say it is time for the Iraqis to take control of their own destiny and we're just getting in the way.

Let's have the debate.

The $250 million a day we are spending in Iraq is better spent on pre-school and healthcare, public transit and veterans benefits.

Let's have the debate.

I would have lead the opposition to the nomination of Judge Alito? Next year the Supreme Court will hear the South Dakota law which outlaws a woman's right to choose, even in the case of rape and incest.

Let's have the debate.

I believe that President George Bush's illegal wiretaps, his reckless fiscal and environmental policies are weakening America and leaving too many hardworking citizens behind.

I doubt that anybody will call me "George Bush's favorite Democrat."

Do you remember that Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska? Part of the 6,371 earmarks, which are multi million dollar pork ridden special favors for special congressmen, added to a bill at the last moment, under the cloak of darkness. And it's all legal, the big easy for career politicians.

If you are not shouting from the rafters that this is wrong, then you are complicit and part of the problem.

I am not a shouter, but I come to this race as someone who is obviously not afraid of a challenge. I am ready challenge business as usual, I am ready to fight for our Democratic values and I will tell the Bush administration to put their haughty arrogance in their back pocket and deal with the rest of the world with respect. That's how America will start winning again in a post 9-11 world.

As I travel the state I have heard from thousands of you - students and elderly, veterans and teachers, small business and labor, even a few courageous political leaders: let's have a primary, let's have the debate: how did we get into this mess and how do we get out?

Sure, there are some that have not been quite so encouraging: Ned, don't jeopardize a safe seat.

I tell them, Connecticut is a progressive state. You're not losing a Senator, you're gaining a Democrat.

They tell me, Ned, don't rock the boat.

And I tell them, baby, it's high time we "rock the boat."

We are running for the heart and soul of the Democratic party; we're showing the country that we can win as proud Democrats fueled by your grassroots support and energy and passion; and on August 9 the pundits will be shaking their heads and noting: here come the Democrats.

Feingold Moves to Censure Bush

U.S. Senator Russ Feingold on Monday asked the Senate to officially censure President Bush for breaking the law by authorizing an illegal wiretapping program, and for misleading Congress and the American people about the existence and legality of that program.

If the Wisconsin Democrat's move were to succeed, Bush would be the first president in 172 years to be so condemned by Congress.

Charging that the President's illegal wiretapping program is in direct violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) – which makes it a crime to wiretap Americans in the United States without a warrant or a court order -- Feingold argues that Congress cannot avoid facing the fact that fundamental Constitutional issues are at stake.

"The President must be held accountable for authorizing a program that clearly violates the law and then misleading the country about its existence and its legality," says Feingold. "The President's actions, as well as his misleading statements to both Congress and the public about the program, demand a serious response. If Congress does not censure the President, we will be tacitly condoning his actions, and undermining both the separation of powers and the rule of law."

Feingold's motion faces an uphill fight in a Republican-controlled Senate that does not appear to be inclined to make Bush the first president since Andrew Jackson to be censured by Congress. But it does raise the stakes at a point when the Wisconsin senator and civil libertarians have grown frustrated with the failure of Congress to aggressively challenge the administration's penchant for warrantless wiretapping.

Republican senators have proposed rewriting laws to remove barriers to wiretapping, arguing that the president must have flexibility in order to pursue his war on terror.

But Feingold rejects the suggestion that changing the rules after the fact would absolve the president.

"This issue is not about whether the government should be wiretapping terrorists – of course it should, and it can under current law" Feingold said. "But this President and this administration decided to break the law and they have yet to give a convincing explanation of why their actions were necessary, appropriate, or legal. Passing more laws will not change the fact that the President broke the ones already in place and for that, Congress must hold him accountable." Though the censure procedure is not outlined in the Constitution – as is impeachment – it is well established in the history and traditions of the Congress.

Jackson was censured in 1834 for refusing to cooperate with a Congressional investigation, and there have been many moves over the years to use the procedure to hold president's to account.

In 1998, a then-new online activist group, MoveOn.org, proposed that as an alternative to impeaching Bill Clinton for lying to a grand jury and obstructing justice, the president could be censured. After rejecting impeachment in 1999, senators discussed censuring Clinton but failed to muster the votes to do so.

Last December, U.S. Representative John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, introduced separate resolutions to censure President Bush and Vice President Cheney for refusing to cooperate with Congressional investigations into the manipulation and mismanagement of intelligence by the administration when it was lobbying the House and Senate to authorize and support the invasion of Iraq.

Conyers has also introduced a resolution calling for establishment of a select committee to review the actions of administration with regard to the use of pre-war intelligence and to make recommendations regarding impeachment.

While the impeachment process can lead to the removal of a president or vice president from office, a vote to censure Bush would merely condemn him.

Though Feingold says that the president's actions are "in the strike zone" of meeting the definition of an impeachable offense, the senator argues that censuring Bush is the proper and necessary step at this time. "The president has broken the law and, in some way, he must be held accountable," explained the third-term senator who is considering a run for the presidency in 2008.

"Congress has to reassert our system of government, and the cleanest and the most efficient way to do that is to censure the president," said Feingold, who added that he hoped a censure vote would lead Bush to "acknowledge that he did something wrong."

The White House did not respond to Feingold's announcement. But Republican senators rallied to the administration's defense. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, dismissed the censure move as "a crazy political move" that would weaken the president's hand in a time of war. U.S. Senator John Warner, R-Virginia, accused Feingold of "political grandstanding."

But Feingold's record of challenging the actions of Democrat and Republican administrations may make that charge a tough sell. The ranking Democrat on the Constitution subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Feingold has repeatedly clashed with the Bush administration, and before that with the Clinton administration, over separation of powers issues. Indeed, he was the only Democrat who broke party ranks in 1999 to oppose a proposal to dismiss charges against Clinton before the Senate trial on the impeachment charges against the Democratic president had been completed.

An outspoken civil libertarian, the Wisconsin Democrat has a long record of confronting abuses of Constitutional protections by the executive branch.

When it was revealed in December that, despite previous denials by the president and his aides, Bush had repeatedly authorized a secret program by the National Security Agency to listen in on Americans' phone calls, Feingold charged that the spying scheme was indicative of a "pattern of abuse" by a president who was "grabbing too much power."

"We have a system of law. (Bush) just can't make up the law," complained Feingold. "It would turn George Bush not into President George Bush, but King George Bush."

Port Deal Question: What's the White House Still Hiding?

President Bush, after watching his already low approval rating take a dive because of his mishandling of the issue, wants memories of the controversy about whether Dubai Ports World should run six east coast ports to fade away fast.

Republicans in Congress, well aware that severe damage has been done to the public impression that their party is serious about national security, want the controversy to go away.

Democrats in Congress, punch drunk from the experience of actually prevailing in a standoff with the White House, appear to be quite willing to pop the champagne corks and declare victory.

And a Washington press corps that loves neat little stories with beginnings and ends – even if the "end" in this case takes the form of a clear-as-mud announcement by the UAE firm that it would shift control of the ports of New York and other major cities to a "U.S. entity" -- is more than willing to bend once more to the will of official Washington.

But the one member of Congress who just can't quite go with the flow – perhaps because his past breaks with conventional wisdom have so frequently put him on the right side of history – is not letting go.

U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the Cleveland Democrat who knows a thing or two about ports from his days as mayor of a big city on Lake Erie in the days when Great Lakes ports were still going strong, is not willing to pretend that all the issues raised by the administration's attempt to sneak through approval of a move that would have shifted operational control of the six ports Dubai Ports World have been settled.

"The port deal is not dead," says Kucinich. "Much as they would like to, Congress must not allow this Administration to sweep this under the rug. Congress must fulfill its Constitutional duty and provide aggressive oversight of this ill-advised and misguided deal. Congress must continue to investigate this deal to ensure similar deals, which put the security of our nation at grave risk, can not happen again."

Kucinich, the ranking Democratic member of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations, has invoked the House's little used "Resolution of Inquiry" procedure in an attempt to force the Bush administration to turn over documents relating to whatever security review was conducted with regard to the port deal.

Specifically, Kucinich is demanding that the White House and the Department of Homeland Security turn over to Congress:

1. All documents in their possession regarding the December 13, 2005, Coast Guard Intelligence Coordination Center document – materials which could show that the Bush administration had been informed of security concerns regarding the UAE firm.

2. All documents in their possession regarding discussions between the White House and Dubai Ports World relating to the Committee on Foreign Investment process for approving the acquisition – materials which could show that the administration worked with the UAE firm to help advance the deal.

3. All documents in their possession regarding discussions between the White House and the Carlyle Group between October 1, 2005, and March 2, 2006 – materials which could shed light on whether the president's enthusiasm for the port deal might have been stoked by contacts with international business interests with which his father remains closely associated.

How far will Kucinich get with his demand for documents from a White House that is never forthcoming when it comes to cooperating with Congress? That depends, in large part, on his fellow House Democrats, and on those scared House Republicans who were so busy claiming to the cameras that they wanted to "get to the bottom" of all the issues raised by the port deal.

Under House rules, when a member introduces a Resolution of Inquiry, it must be taken up by an appropriate committee – in this case the House Financial Services Committee -- within 14 legislative days. If the committee, which of course has a Republican majority, votes to votes to squelch the resolution, then the White House is off the hook. That's likely to happen unless House Democrats pick up Kucinich's call and make enough noise to keep this issue alive.

If Congress ran as it should, this would not be a partisan issue. In the past, members of the president's part often demanded accountability from the Executive Branch. But, in this almost fully dysfunctional Congress, only a united Democratic demand will give Kucinich's important initiative a chance. Unfortunately, House Democrats have tended to put the "d" in dysfunctional for some time now. So Kucinich could, again, be left in the unenviable position of having to wait for history to again prove him right.

Patriot Act Politics

Rarely has the disconnect between the faith of the American people in the bedrock principle that it is possible to be safe and free and the failure of faith on the part of their elected leaders been more evident than in recent days.

There is no question that, outside of Washington, concern runs deep about the assaults on basic liberties contained in the Patriot Act. Eight state legislative chambers – in Alaska, California, Colorado Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Montana and Vermont -- and 397 local government bodies in communities large and small nationwide have passed resolutions urging Congress to fix the act so that Constitutional protections are not sacrificed in pursuit of the false promise of domestic security.

Americans understand and respect Benjamin Franklin's warning that: "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."

They also understand and respect U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold's calculation that, with minor changes, the Patriot Act could have preserved "both the national security needs of this country and the rights and freedoms of its citizens."

As the Wisconsin Democrat battled to fix the Patriot Act by eliminating unconstitutional provisions, Feingold reminded the Congress that, "The negative reaction to the Patriot Act has been overwhelming. Over 400 state and local government bodies passed resolutions pleading with Congress to change the law. Citizens have signed petitions, library associations and campus groups have organized to petition the Congress to act, numerous editorials have been written urging Congress not to reauthorize the law without adequate protections for civil liberties. These things occurred because Americans across the country recognize that the Patriot Act includes provisions that pose a threat to their privacy and liberty -- values that are at the very core of what this country represents, of who we are as a people."

Yet, when the Senate and House had an opportunity to make necessary and possible reforms to the act – by protecting the rights of innocent Americans against abuses by government agencies using the act's provisions allowing for subpoena-like "national security letters" and the seizure of library, medical and business records – both chambers chose instead to acquiesce to the Bush administration's demand that the measure be reauthorized without meaningful changes in its content and character.

In the Senate last week, only nine senators -- eight Democrats and Vermont Independent Jim Jeffords -- joined Feingold in holding out for a Patriot Act that preserves basic freedoms and national security. Disappointingly, a number of usual stalwarts for civil liberties, such as Massachusetts Democrat Ted Kennedy, sided with the administration, as did Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and New York Democrat Hillary Clinton. (Feingold, who is getting more serious about seeking the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, would have plenty to debate with Clinton, who is generally seen as the frontrunner for the party's nod.)

In the House, this week's final vote for reauthorization of the act in the form favored by the White House was 280-138. The 138 foes of reauthorization included 124 Democrats, 13 Republicans and Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders -- the chamber's most ardent champion of fixing the Patriot Act.

Unfortunately, while veteran Republicans such as Ohio's Mike Oxley and Alaska's Don Young could bring themselves to vote against reauthorization, some of the key Democrats in the House could not. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, voted "no," but Assistant Minority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Rahm Emanuel, D-Illinois, sided with the White House.

Feingold says the fight will continue, and he may have some new allies in the Senate after November. In addition to Sanders, who is running as an independent for Vermont's open Senate seat and leads in every poll, Representative Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who is challenging Republican Mike DeWine, voted against reauthorization. On the other hand, Representative Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, who is seeking an open Senate seat, voted with the administration. Cardin faces a number of primary challengers for the Maryland Democratic nomination, including former NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, who argues that, "Most of all, in our fight against the threat of terror, we must not surrender our essential liberties in the name of preserving liberty."

Vermont Towns Vote to Impeach -- UPDATED

A single Vermont community's call for the impeachment of President Bush turned into a chorus Tuesday night, with town meetings across southern Vermont echoing the demand that Congress act to remove the president.

Voters in the town of Newfane, where the movement began, endorsed impeachment by a resounding margin. The paper ballot vote was 121-29 for a slightly amended version of the resolution that had been submitted by Dan DeWalt, an elected member of the town's select board. DeWalt's initial resolution declared:

Whereas George W. Bush has:

1. Misled the nation about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction;

2. Misled the nation about ties between Iraq and Al Quaeda;

3. Used these falsehoods to lead our nation into war unsupported by international law;

4. Not told the truth about American policy with respect to the use of torture; and

5. Has directed the government to engage in domestic spying, in direct contravention of U.S. law.

Therefore, the voters of the town of Newfane ask that our representative to the U.S. House of Representatives file articles of impeachment to remove him from office.

The key amendment involved the addition of a call for the Vermont House and Senate to take up the issue. Though it is a little-known and even less-used power, state legislatures can officially forward impeachment resolutions to Congress.

The Newfane vote was expected. The surprise on Tuesday night came from neighboring communities where, inspired by Newfane's example, citizens demanded that their town meetings address the issue. At least four other Vermont towns -- Brookfield, Dummerston, Marlboro and Putney – voted for impeachment resolutions Tuesday night. Most of the additional resolutions passed by voice votes, but in Marlboro a show of hands produced a 60-10 vote for impeachment.

DeWalt, the Newfane official who started the process when he drafted an impeachment article and placed it on the official agenda for the annual town meeting, celebrated the grassroots revolt against George Bush and his administration as a healthy sign that democracy is still alive – at least in Vermont.

"In the U.S. presently there are only a few places where citizens can act in this fashion and have a say in our nation,'' explained DeWalt.

U.S. Representative Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who has been a fierce critic of the Bush administration, responded to the call from the towns with an acknowledgement that Bush "has been a disaster for our country, and a number of actions that he has taken may very well not have been legal." Yet, despite the fact that more than two dozen House members have cosponsored a resolution calling for the establishment of a select committee that would make recommendations regarding impeachment, Sanders said that Republican control of the House and Senate makes it "impractical to talk about impeachment" at this point.

Vermont Republicans and conservative commentators were dismissive, suggesting that town meetings ought to focus on local issues rather than attempts to check and balance executive excess.

But Newfane's DeWalt said impeachment was an appropriate item for town meeting consideration. While he noted that the resolution cited a number of issues, the select board member used the example of the continuing occupation of Iraq. "The war affects us here in Newfane," he said. "It affects us when our mothers and fathers and sons and daughters are sent off to war, and it affects us in our tax dollars to pay for that war."

What, Then, From Newfane?

It is appropriate indeed that the first time voters will be offered an opportunity to weigh in on the question of whether to impeach President George W. Bush for high crimes and misdemeanors is at a New England town meeting in a community chartered two years before the Declaration of Independence was drafted.

After all, in a country founded on the principle that executives -- be they kings or presidents -- must be accountable to the people, patriots have always known that, as George Mason, the father of the Bill of Rights, told the Constitutional Convention of 1787: "No point is of more importance than that the right of impeachment should be continued. Shall any man be above Justice?"

In Newfane, Vermont, Dan DeWalt, who serves as an elected member of the town's Select Board, has answered that question as Mason intended. "We have an immoral government operating illegally," DeWalt explained, when he proposed that today's annual town meeting vote on articles of impeachment.

DeWalt gathered the necessary signatures to qualify the measure for consideration by the residents of Newfane, who were set to gather today in the southeast Vermont community's 174-year-old Union Hall to consider more than two dozen issues, most of which involve local taxes.

It is Article 29, proposed by DeWalt, that will draw national attention for the first time to the town meetings that have been held each march since 1774 in Newfane.

That article declares:

We the voters of Newfane would like Town Meeting, March 2006, to consider the following resolution:

Whereas George W. Bush has:

1. Misled the nation about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction;

2. Misled the nation about ties between Iraq and Al Quaeda;

3. Used these falsehoods to lead our nation into war unsupported by international law;

4. Not told the truth about American policy with respect to the use of torture; and

5. Has directed the government to engage in domestic spying, in direct contravention of U.S. law.

Therefore, the voters of the town of Newfane ask that our representative to the U.S. House of Representatives file articles of impeachment to remove him from office.

The defenders of the current regime have already ridiculed DeWalt for his audacious proposal, just as they have ridiculed the voters of Newfane for considering it -- and the state of Vermont for being home to so rebellious a community. "Why should the most powerful man in the world worry about what Vermont voters say at a town meeting?" they ask, in mocking tones. "Who do these profaners from Newfane think they are?"

But mockey and condemnation have always been the portion served up to those patriots who dare to challenge the corruptions of empire.

It was not easy to challenge a King George 230.

It is not easy to challenge a King George today.

But even the most conservative of the founders, Gouverneur Morris, told the Constitutional Convention during the debate on impeachment that a president must always be conscious of his secondary role in the scheme of the new Republic.

"This Magistrate is not the King," explained Morris. "The people are the King."

Today, the people of Newfane are King. As such, they are well suited to judge the high crimes and misdemeanors of George Bush, and to propose his prosecution by the authorities who were charged by the founders with the task of checking and balancing the executive branch of governnment and its excesses.

Kate Michelman for Senate?

After Robert Casey, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination to challenge vulnerable Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, joined Santorum in backing the Supreme Court nomination of conservative judicial activist Samuel Alito, Kate Michelman was not happy.

After saying she was "sorely disappointed by the lack of commitment to women and fundamental rights by the United State Senate," the former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America ripped into Casey and local and national party leaders who back the socially-conservative Pennsylvania Democrat who is an ardent critic of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that guaranteed women the right to choose.

"As a Pennsylvanian, I am particularly appalled that local and national Democrats would hand our Senate nomination to someone who openly supports giving Roe an Alito-induced death," said Michelman. "Those whose political successes have depended on the ballots and contributions of pro-choice voters but now facilitate the career of someone who would repeal those rights deserve special enmity."

How angry was Michelman?

The veteran activist who has lived for almost three decades in Pennsylvania might just jump into the Senate race herself.

"After Casey announced his support for Alito, I got calls from around the country," says Michelman in a Legal Times article on the fallout from the Alito fight. She tells Legal Times that she has been urged by Democratic donors and feminist groups to run this fall as a pro-choice independent challenger to anti-choice Republican Santorum and anti-choice Democrat Casey.

If she does, it will be a blow not just to Casey but to liberal college professor Chuck Pennacchio, who has had worked hard -- in the face of opposition from most prominent Democrats in Pennsylvania and Washington -- to mount a Democratic primary challenge to Casey.

The filing deadline to enter the May 16 Democratic primary passes on Tuesday. But the filing deadline to run as a third party or independent candidate remains open until August 1. Theoretically, Michelman could wait until Democrats make their choice and then run if Casey is nominated. In reality, however, the prospect of a Michelman run will divert energy -- and potentially resources -- from Pennacchio's already uphill campaign.

Says Pennacchio, "A third party pro-choice candidacy would also divide Pennsylvania Democrats. Since 2000, Al Gore, Ed Rendell, John Kerry, and Arlen Specter have proven that Pennsylvania is a pro-choice state. The best way to defeat Rick Santorum in 2006 is for Democrats to nominate a pro-choice candidate who can and will unite Pennsylvania?s pro-choice majority and make a third party pro-choice candidacy unnecessary. My campaign has established county organizations around the state, and is already uniting Pennsylvanians by fighting for what they want: choice, universal health care, an end to the Iraq War, and other widely held majoritarian views."

But, with expectations high that Casey will be the nominee, the argument for getting started now on an independent candidacy cannot be disregarded altogether. Nor can the prospect that, with sufficient funding and the right breaks, Michelman could be a serious contender.

The classic case of a three-way race for a Senate seat was seen in 1970 in New York State. Both the Republican incumbent, Charles Goodell, and the Democratic challenger, Richard Ottinger, were strong critics of the Vietnam War who embraced generally liberal positions on domestic matters. William F. Buckley's brother, Jim, running on the Conservative Party line, backed the war and steered to the right on social issues. Buckley, whose campaign drew substantial financial support from conservatives around the country and support from many renegade Republicans at the state and national levels, did not win a majority of the vote. But with the major party candidates dividing up the liberal base -- Goodell got 24 percent of the vote, Ottinger 37 percent and Buckley 39 percent -- the outsider who wasn't supposed to stand a chance won the seat.

Ten Against Patriot Act Reauthorization

When Senator Russ Feingold opposed the original version of the Patriot Act in 2001, the Wisconsin Democrat was alone in his defense of the Constitution.

This year, as Feingold led the frustrating fight to block reauthorization of the Patriot Act in a form that continues to threaten basic liberties, he left no doubt that he was entirely willing to stand alone once more. To colleagues who suggested that it was appropriate to trade a little liberty for the White House's promise of more security in the war on terror, the senator declared: "Without freedom, we are not America. If we don't preserve our liberties, we cannot win this war, no matter how many terrorists we capture or kill."

When the key vote came Thursday, Feingold found he was not entirely alone. Along with Vermont Independent Jim Jeffords, eight Democrats joined Feingold in voting "no" to reauthorization. The eight were:

Hawaii's Daniel Akaka

New Mexico's Jeff Bingaman

West Virginia's Robert Byrd

Iowa's Tom Harkin

Vermont's Patrick Leahy

Michigan's Carl Levin

Washington's Patty Murray

Oregon's Ron Wyden.

While Feingold was not on his own this time, the vote was still lopsided -- 89-10 to renew and extend expiring portions of the Patriot Act, with Hawaii Democrat Dan Inouye not voting. Despite earlier talk by many members of both parties about the need to stand firm in defense of basic Constitutional protections, all Republicans and the vast majority of Senate Democrats sided with the Bush White House in favor of legislation that still, among other things, permits an administration with a penchant for warrantless wireatpping to obtain secret orders allowing it to search private records held by libraries, medical clinics, businesses and financial institutions.

The Patriot Act reauthorization also allows government agencies to issue national-security letters, which are for all practical purposes subpoenas, without the approval of the courts.

The increasingly lamentable Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, chirped that, "Our support for the Patriot Act does not mean a blank check for the president."

Reid was, of course, wrong.

One senator who got it right was the dean of the chamber, West Virginia's Byrd, who not only voted against resuthorization but also apologized for failing to join Feingold in 2001 to oppose the Patriot Act in its original form

"There is no doubt that constitutional freedoms will never be abolished in one fell swoop, for the American people cherish their freedoms, and would not tolerate such a loss if they could perceive it," explained Byrd. "But the erosion of freedom rarely comes as an all-out frontal assault but rather as a gradual, noxious creeping, cloaked in secrecy, and glossed over by reassurances of greater security."

Feingold on Patriot Act: "The Fight Is Not Over"

As the U.S. Senate moved Thursday to reauthorize the Patriot Act in a form that fails to address essential concerns about the protection of civil liberties, Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, the chamber's most ardent critic of reauthorization along the lines demanded by the Bush administration, admitted temporary defeat. But, in final remarks to his colleagues on the eve of the vote, Feingold declared, "This fight is not over Mr. President. The vote today will not assuage the deep and legitimate concerns that the public has about the Patriot Act. I am convinced that in the end, the government will respond to the people, as it should. We will defeat the terrorists, and we will preserve the freedom and liberty that make this the greatest country on the face of the earth."

Here is the text of the speech Feingold -- the only senator to oppose the initial version of the Patriot Act in 2001 and one of the few to consistently oppose it throughout the reauthorization process -- prepared for delivery to the Senate:

Mr. President, in a few minutes, the Senate will conclude a process that began over a year ago by reauthorizing the Patriot Act. I will have a few closing remarks but first I want to take this opportunity to thank the extraordinary staff who have worked on this bill for so long. These men and women, on both sides of the aisle, have worked extremely hard and they deserve to be recognized. I ask unanimous consent that a list of their names be printed in the Record after my remarks.

Mr. President, beginning in November when we first saw a draft of the conference report, I have spoken at length about the substance of this bill. I hoped that when we started the task of reauthorizing the Patriot Act at the beginning of last year, the end product would be something that the whole Senate could support. We had a real chance to pass a bill that would both reauthorize the tools to prevent terrorism and fix the provisions that threaten the rights and freedoms of innocent Americans. This conference report, even as amended by the bill incorporating the White House deal that we passed yesterday, falls well short of that goal. I will vote no.

Protecting the country from terrorism while also protecting our rights is a challenge for every one of us, particularly in the current political climate, and it is a challenge we all take seriously. I know that many Senators who will vote for this reauthorization bill in a few minutes would have preferred to enact the bill we passed without a single objection in July of last year. I appreciate that so many of my colleagues came to recognize the need to take the opportunity presented by the sunset provisions included in the original Patriot Act to make changes that would better protect civil liberties than did the law we enacted in haste in October 2001.

Nevertheless, I am deeply disappointed that we have largely wasted this opportunity to fix the obvious problems with the Patriot Act.

The reason I spent so much time in the past few days talking about how the public views the Patriot Act was to make it clear that this fight was not about one Senator arguing the details of the law. This fight was about trying to restore the public's trust in our government. That trust has been severely shaken as the public learned more about the Patriot Act, which was passed with so little debate in 2001, and as the administration resisted congressional oversight efforts and repeatedly politicized the reauthorization process. The revelations about secret warrantless surveillance late last year only confirmed the suspicions of many in our country that the government is willing to trample the rule of law and constitutional guarantees in the fight against terrorism.

The negative reaction to the Patriot Act has been overwhelming. Over 400 state and local government bodies passed resolutions pleading with Congress to change the law. Citizens have signed petitions, library associations and campus groups have organized to petition the Congress to act, numerous editorials have been written urging Congress not to reauthorize the law without adequate protections for civil liberties. These things occurred because Americans across the country recognize that the Patriot Act includes provisions that pose a threat to their privacy and liberty -- values that are at the very core of what this country represents, of who we are as a people.

In 2001, we were viciously attacked by terrorists who care nothing for American freedoms and American values. And we as a people came together to fight back, and we are prepared to make great sacrifices to defeat those who would destroy us. But what we will not do, what we cannot do, is destroy our own freedoms in the process.

Without freedom, we are not America. If we don't preserve our liberties, we cannot win this war, no matter how many terrorists we capture or kill.

That is why the several Senators who have said at one time or another during this debate things like, "Civil liberties do not mean much when you are dead" are wrong about America at the most basic level. They do not understand what this country is all about. Theirs is a vision that the founders of this nation, who risked everything for freedom, would categorically reject. And so do the American people.

Americans want to defeat terrorism, and they want the basic character of this country to survive and prosper. They want to empower the government to protect the nation from terrorists, and they want protections against government overreaching and overreacting. They know it might not be easy, but they expect the Congress to figure out how to do it. They don't want defeatism on either score. They want both security and liberty, and unless we give them both – and we can, if we try – we have failed.

This fight is not over Mr. President. The vote today will not assuage the deep and legitimate concerns that the public has about the Patriot Act. I am convinced that in the end, the government will respond to the people, as it should. We will defeat the terrorists, and we will preserve the freedom and liberty that make this the greatest country on the face of the earth.

I yield the floor.

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