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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Welch in the Lions' Den

Peter_in_lions_den A little "Welch in the Lions Den" feeling in White River Junction Saturday as 250  Vermonters let Democratic U.S. Rep. Peter Welch know where they stand on the impeachment issue. And where they stand is in a different position than where he stands.

The vast majority were exceptionally polite. And Congressman Welch stuck around until every last one of them who wanted a say, got one.

That meant the "town meeting" that began at 11 a.m. didn't conclude until 1:40 p.m. - an hour and ten minutes longer that its planned 90-minute length.

Of course, the 90-minute length was not the congressman's first choice. Initially, he agreed to a one-hour session, and one that would commence at 9 a.m. Saturday morning. At first, when Impeachment organizers grumbled, they got a take-it-or-leave it response from the Welch camp.

Their response: they'd leave it!

At that point Welchie appears to have seen the light, gotten religion or had a vision. It appeared he'd realized how he would appear to many Vermonters if he gave Vermont's most passionate, persistent and polite anti-Bush grassroots constituency the big brush off.  After all, these are not folks who vote Republican. Why enflame them and get the top spot on their hit list?

Wright_ernest Among the Saturday political activists was this gentleman [left] with the "Impeach Bush" sign.

Ernest Wright, 86, of Randolph, is a World War II veteran. He was as a Navy SeaBee in the Pacific. Was at the Hartford High School Gym on Saturday because, he told me, he could "no longer stand a government which is illegal, uses torture and has violated the Constitution."

The government Mr. Wright was referring to is the government that's been operated in the United States of America since January 2001 by Republican President George "WMD" Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Peter Welch gave his standard argument against impeachment: Mr. Bush is the worst president of his life, but starting impeachment proceedings will not speed the end of the illegal and immoral War in Iraq that Dubya and his cohorts started in the name of the United States of America.

Impeachwelch_2 Before the town meeting started, organizers held a presser at which they were asked how many people they expected to show up. After all, Welch didn't confirm the time change, moving the start back from 9 to 11, until late on Tuesday.

"If we get 100 people," said Attorney Jim Leas, "we'll be delighted. If we get 500 we'll be thrilled."

Let me tell ya, 250 people turning out on short notice on the first beautiful Saturday morning of May wasn't bad.

Leas also noted Welch had just voted to continue funding the Iraq War on Thursday.

"You cannot end the war by funding the war," said Leas. "By funding the war, you're supporting the war."

What's next?

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Comments

Anon

Didn't Welch say he wouldn't vote for a budget that had no timeline?

professor crabby ph.d.

Welch has got to be the luckiest three time loser that walked the Vermont woods This idiot would have made it four losses for four if he hadn’t lucked out with a self destructing neophyte – I heard him speak last summer and was amazed how bad he sounded—for someone who had been around the track as long as he you’d think he’d have hired a speech coach or something—so poorly spoken and resoundingly unimpressive. Then he gets in and the first I see of his sorry butt he’s fawning all over the chimp at the state of the union –back slapping, laughing behaving for all the world like some teenage girl with the most popular boy—then the idiot wouldn’t own his behavior—he sucks— it would be great to see him ousted but the reality is he’ll be there until he runs for PL’s seat—we deserve so much better

Vermonter

I read that when Welch was speaking, someone from the crowd shouted, "It isn't about what you believe, it's about what we believe, becayse we elected you." First off, an elected representative is supposed to use his own judgment. That's called representative democracy. Otherwise, there'd be no reason to elect somebody. We could all just electronically send in our votes on every single issue before Congress. Second, if the speaker's statement is true -- that Welch is not supposed to use his judgment, but instead just supposed to vote the way the voters want him to -- then he has to take into account the wishes of the vast majority of Vermonters who didn't show up for this attack-fest. The logic of this speaker's position -- you have to vote the way we 250 activists tell you -- is ridiculous and selfish.

Brattlerouser

I didn't see it as an attack-fest and I'm not so sure Welch would either. Although there are some folks who lack some serious communications skills, I see this as an important issue that's got the attention of A LOT of Vermonters. Of course you're not going to get "The vast majority of Vermonters who didn't show up for this 'atack-fest.'" No event can. What's unique to me is when was the last time you saw this number of concerned citizens come from all over the state to express their opinions on impeachment? If I were in Congress, I'd take this issue seriously and go to bat for them in D.C. The majority of these folks know their stuff and did their homework. Despite these few overzealous folks, I'd be impressed.

> The logic of this speaker's position -- you have to vote the way we 250 activists tell you -- is ridiculous and selfish.

Vermonter, if this were an issue you cared about (say property taxes) and Welch chose to thumb his nose at you on this.... would you still be making the same assertion? Just wondering.

Since you've responded to an issue that I'm concerned about (not to mention more than 250 + activists) explain to me why you think the Jefferson Manual is NOT law. I'm interested in hearing what you have to say. Thanks.

Floyd

There were less than a dozen screamers and inappropriate jerks at this event. Most were polite and respectful and let Welch finish speaking. The majority of disrespectful people were the LaRouche Bags who had a significant presence at the event and were giving out free copies of their books that are about as subtle as, well, your average LaRouche supporter. Some of these folks were really rude and nasty and it could be argued that they were sabotaging the movement by being there with such rude comments and demeanors. They do not represent the majority of people there, either in what we beleive or in how we express it. Yes, there was anger at Welch repeating the Democratic talking points over and over, but most of the folks in attendance were able to listen and talk when it was their turn.

Vermonter

Did the so-called moderates at this event speak up to openly disavow themselves from the less than a dozen people whom you acknowledge were screamers and inappropriate jerks? I didn't read anything about that. Anyway, the point is, that no matter what you say, the pro-impeachment voice is a minority voice in this state, and Peter was elected to represent everyone in this State, not just you.

Vermonter

Where is the Jefferson Manual mentioned in the Constitution? Where is the Jefferson Manual codified in any statute, federal or state? In what Act of Congress did our Congress say, we hereby make the Jefferson Manual a law? Btatterouser, can you point me to the statute in which the Jefferson Manual was made the law of the United States? IT IS NOT THE LAW. Thank you for your attention.

Daniel Sanchez

Welch has his hands tied. Maybe on a personal level, he would wholeheartedly support impeachment, but lets be honest about the possibilities of impeachment in the current US Congress: O%. The Democratic House leadership has already stated that is not their goal. The Democrats don't have the numbers in the Senate to vote on impeachment should it even get to that level. I believe George W Bush should be impeached. He certainly has broken laws, ignored the mandate of the people in this past November 2006 election, but Welch seems to be playing the pragmatist. Welch won't even want to touch this topic in the House with a 40 foot pole. The Democratic leadership in the House and Senate is weak enough so that Republicans can hold sway still even in their minority position to make sure such important bills as cutting off funds for the war and bringing our troops back before November 2008 a pipe dream. The best approach to deal with Bush is to neuter the creep is to withhold funds for everything. In the current climate it's very unlikely such a thing would happen, so he still holds sway, let's make certain he owns this war. Democrats should shout out loud and clear: THIS IS YOUR WAR, NOT OURS... WE HAVE ATTEMPTED TO RESPOND TO THE PUBLIC'S WISHES, BUT YOU ARE AN OBSTRUCTIONIST. For an administration that has such a disregard for the publics' wishes and US Congress, politically the best policy is to make the statement: WE DON'T WANT YOU, BUT WE HAVE TO MOVE ON. Throw him into the dustbin of history. Let that be his judge. His was a waste of a presidency. Impeachment is not the best tactic at this point. Democrats should focus on other priorities and stick it to the Administration where they know they can beat him politically. This is a dead end. We have already achieved what we could do politically at this stage, the biggest victory being the Vermont Senate resolution. They are plenty of other scandals in the administration, let's throw all of that in his face and at the Congressional Republicans. That way Democrats can gain talking points and the upper hand. Expose the laundry and keep flaming the fire so as to roast Bush & Co. that would lead to bigger gains in Congress and have a better working majority.

Nate Freeman

Unfortunately, the entire impeachment question at this point surrounds culpability issues in terms of the Iraq war, and not, more appropriately, with clearcut lawbreaking unveiled in the DOJ hearings. Incumbent Democrats have a vested interest in NOT moving the impeachment question forward in regard to Iraq because they own culpability in authorizing the war. Hillary Clinton, we may recall, sat on the Select Foreign Intelligence Committee and was privy to declassified intelligence that contained additional facts which were exculpatory to Iraq." (see "Why they really won't impeach him" OpEdNews.com) So is Nancy Pelosi going to open up that monkey barrel as the election cycle begins? Let's just say, that might not be in good form.

So the voting public is given one red herring after another. We are told that the argument against impeachment is because we need to stop the war. Well, we're seeing right now that the war won't be ending anytime soon. We are told that it's about the elections. As far as '08 is concerned, Congress has a 35% approval rating, right down there in the bucket with GWB. We are told that history will judge the Bush Administration. If history is the only judge we have, then going down with Bush and Cheney will be our nation's rule of law.

Unfortunately, Symington, Welch, Pelosi, and the DNC seem to be using the same disingenuous tactics as the infamous Alberto Gonzales: every week, it seems, they have a different implausible story the public is expected to swallow. Reality? It's just politics; or more precisely, it's all about Hillary. If Congress and the media begins a deep dive of "what they knew and when they knew it" on Bush and Cheney regarding WMD, the same question is going to be thrown back to the Foreign Intelligence Committee and presidential hopeful, Hillary Rodham Clinton. If there wasn't good information about WMD, Clinton is just as culpable as Bush and Cheney. This doesn't exactly make for a good selling point for a presidential candidate, unless we want more of the same.

Which leads to the next question -- does the Democratic leadership really want to clean up the White House? All of the precedent of the "unitary executive" might be pretty tempting for any presidential candidate. Just think of the power. Would the Democratic Party have to even worry about how many seats it has in Congress if it gains that singular authority created by Gonzales, Bush, and Cheney? Surely, they won't be using the expanded powers of the Presidency to torture people; but why not use the precedent to stop global warming, expand health care, or any other issue of interest? Even if the next president authors 500 signing statements, it will good compared to Bush, right? In that strain of thought, the real questions might be, "Why raise the standard, when it could be useful to have it so low? Why not use this power for the greater good?" No political party has a monopoly on ethics, after all.

If any of this is near the mark, Welch may just be jumping on his sword in electoral politics in anticipation for a cozy administrative appointment in a Clinton administration. Maybe, just maybe, your vote doesn't really matter to him nearly as much as his relationships with the DNC leadership. That's where the power is, no matter what Howard Dean may have told us. Welch has a life raft waiting for him -- it just happens to be a yacht.

So here's what can be done: change the impeachment question. Don't address the Iraq war, since there is so much blame to go around. Address the Presidential Records Act. Address the Hatch Act. Stay focused on clear cut violations of the law instead of interpretations of the Constitution. It may not have as much emotional appeal -- but it's an approach that will work, as versus one which will not.

Respectfully submitted,

Nate Freeman

vermonter

You pro-impeachment people forget one very important thing: you voted for these Congressmen and Senators AFTER they voted to support the war in 2002. Now you want to pretend that you yourselves never had anything to do with the war. It's like a parent saying, "that's not my child." Guess what? It IS your child. You're blaming the Congresspeople for positions that both they and you knew about when you voted them into office. That's totally dishonest.

Daniel Sanchez

The Vermont Congressional delegation that I voted for all voted against the Iraq War resolution in 2002, and by that I mean Jim Jeffords, Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders. Please do better research the next time around. That is, of course, unless you reside in another state and vote for different representatives. Please do not confuse the record and tarnish the good work that our Congressional delegation has done to fight the Bush administration from the beginning. Many Democrats from other states voted for the Iraq War Resolution, but the Vermont delegation stood united in standing up to Bush. Those Democrats should be recriminated. An argument that the war is the child of Vermont Democrats and independents is a bunch a baloney. Besides, this war has never been the voters' child from the beginning. It was concocted and conducted with deception by the neoconservative Republican elite in the Bush administration. This is their war, not that of the American people. WMDs and terrorism were the excuses used to start it. Terrorism after the Iraq War has actually increased since the invasion began. WMDs to this day have been found to be... whoops, nonexistent. That's where the truth of the matter lies. The American people want out, and Bush stands in the way of doing so. Long live the Master Deceiver, long live the Obstructor in Chief!

Brattlerouser

With all due respect, it's not a matter of who we voted for and when. It's about our elected officials defendeing the Constitution when all of them should be doing it in the first place. This is what we're trying to tell Peter Welch and he's not doing a good job at it. NanuqFC at Green Mountain Daily wrote this that gets to the heart of the issue and why Peter Welch is on the wrong side of the issue:

About 75 minutes into the meeting, Peter was asked if he remembered the words to the oath of office he took in January, and if so, would he recite the first few phrases. "I solemnly swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States," he answered. "And protect and defend?" asked the questioner at the mike. "And protect and defend," he agreed. "And do you feel that you are fulfilling the terms of your oath in refusing to use a non-optional provision of the Constitution to protect and defend it?" The meeting erupted in a roar and a standing ovation: this was the question everyone wanted answered.

... Peter Welch never changed his tune. I was sad, but not depressed. Peter will do whatever he feels is "appropriate." But really, I was there because I have to do everything I can to save and restore Constitutional rule as much as possible, and it's not possible when an administration as corrupt as this one faces no consequences beyond an election. I've said it before: I refuse to be a "good German," while my constitution and country are raped and assaulted from within by those power-hungry, greedy thugs who have violated their own oaths of office. I have to do everything I can, and if I've done that, then (at least so far) I can sleep at night.

I think that sums up what a lot of us feel. We expect our leaders to uphold, protect and defend the Constitution first and foremost and no explanation of "representative democracy" (IMHO) can weasel Peter Welch and the rest of Congress out of their primary responsibility. That's been the point all along.

Saw this quote the other day and it really speaks volumes to me and all the thing I've seen with the Vermont impeachment movement:

"When a social movement adopts the compromises of legislators, it has forgotten its role, which is to push and challenge the politicians, not to fall in meekly behind them...Whatever politicians may do, let them first feel the full force of citizens who speak for what is right, not for what is winnable, in a shamefully timorous Congress." ~Howard Zinn

Disregarding the Larouchies, the Vermont impeachment movement has really inspired me. They've come so a long way in such short time and I really do think our actions have inspired other communities, towns, cities, and states across the country to do the same. Will it bring Bush & Cheney down, maybe not. But at least I'll know that genuine, intelligent, and well-intentioned Vermonters lead the fight in preserving and protecting what's left of the American democratic experiment. It's not over yet. We still have 17 months left. And if the Boston Red Sox can come back in seven games to beat the New York Yankees and then go on to win the World Series, then we really CAN DO anything!

Proud to be a part of this inspiring and meaningful movement.

vermonter

Mr. Freeman, this is not just Bush's war; it's Congress's war and our war. Clinton, Kerry, et al., voted for it. Not because they didn't have doubts about WMD, but because polls showed that the American people supported an attack on Iraq. You can't blame this mess entirely on Bush. The American people need to take some responsibility for their own foolishness.

Mr. Sanchez, your attempt to lay this solely at the feet of Bush, and claim that we were all fooled, I would suggest is an exercise in psychological self-purging. Bush is the Idiot-in-Chief, but this is a U.S. war. Attempting to impeach Bush to make us feel better about ourselves after the fact is not only inappropriate, but it also will not hasten our exit from Iraq. As out three members of Congress rightly state, it will in fact divert attention from the war and may prolong it.

And yes, our state's Congressional delegation did vote against the war in 2002, but the Democrats in Congress and the Senate, as a whole, supported it.

Brattlerouser

> Attempting to impeach Bush to make us feel better about ourselves after the fact is not only inappropriate, but it also will not hasten our exit from Iraq.

Being at the heart of this movement I can assure our intention is not to make ourselves feel better -- in fact many of us sadden by the fact we need to defend our country from very real threats to our national security and our system of government. There is a genuine purpose in all of this: to make our elected reps do what they're supposed to be doing in the first place. Defending and protecting our Constitution from the abuse of Bush, Cheney, and the executive branch. This is what Welch and the rest of Congress are supposed to be doing in the first place.

> As out three members of Congress rightly state, it will in fact divert attention from the war and may prolong it.

IMHO, no matter how hard they try, no matter what kinds of benchmarks, war funding, or passing of bills to bring our troops home, the fact remains that the troops aren't coming home, not on the President's watch and he's made that clear in his statements, in his actions, and in his signings. It's Bush/Cheney's war and as long as they're in power we're going to remain there. I'll never forget Bush's famous quote, "we're going to be there until the mission is finished... meaning winning. The fact remains is that this was an illegal war under the U.N. Charter, intelligence was fixed to support the justification, a CIA officer's wife was outed because he contradicted what they said he was going to find in Niger....all of these are an abuse of power and threaten our national security. Why? How? Because we've got two despots running the country.

The only possible way to bring the troops home is to remove our current President and Vice-president, put Pelosi in charge and then come up with a genunine plan to bring the troops home. I'll say it again and again, the troops are not coming home under Bush & Cheney. Wanna stop further bloodshed? Do we want to stop prolonging the war? Start investigations into impeachment, let the evidence come forth, and then convict. Then the path will be cleared to ending the war. Clinton's impeachment took four months. Nixon's took eight. With all the evidence we know that's out there, it can be done in time before their term ends.

But it's more than just ending the war. I believe we are faced with a choice right now to do what we can maintain the basic infrastructure of the Republic and if we don't maintain the rule of law that's held us together for 230 years than the likelihood that this American experiment will survive in any kind of functional form is narrow or slim.

Unsilent Witness

Did the so-called moderates at this event speak up to openly disavow themselves from the less than a dozen people whom you acknowledge were screamers and inappropriate jerks?

Yes.

Plenty of people shushed and tapped disrupters on the shoulder to ask them to cut the crap when the disrupters were so rudely preventing others from speaking. As a matter of fact, a certain gentleman, a 9-11 conspiracy-theorist, who threw and broke the school's microphone did so because he was frustrated when the majority of people booed and hissed, and called for him to finish after he (a) went waaay over the allotted time and (b) started in on the politics of personal destruction, with unnecessary and unproductive name-calling.

It's a shame such people have no compunction about interrupting others' 30 seconds, but somehow believe that they themselves should get minutes to be rude and unproductive without being held to account.

vermonter

If you believe so fervently that yours is the only legitimate opinion on impeachment, why don't you impeach Leahy, Sanders, and Welch for not impeaching.

Nate Freeman

Don't let "Vermonter" pull you into a fight. He wasn't there; he doesn't know; he won't bother to read what you wrote. Troll.

vermonter

Brattlerouser himself reports that the pro-impeachment zealots believe that Welch is violating his own oath of office by not seeking to impeach Bush. So, again, why not impeach Welch -- and Leahy and Sanders while you're at it? Please explain.

Brattlerouser


Calling us zealots is inaccuarate and an un-necessary.

He's not violating his oath of office. Nor has Bernie or Pat for that matter. Never said that, nor did I imply to.

However, I will say he is neglecting his duty to uphold the Constitution and when there is an abuse of power to the point it threatens our national security and when the Bill of Rights are being violated by our President and Vice-president, it's the legislative branch's DUTY to investigate.

vermonter

Mr. Freeman, I read everything you and Brattlerouser post on this blog about impeachment (and anything anybody else on this site writes about that subject). Just because you don't like my anti-impeachment views doesn't mean you get to insult me and call me a troll. Are opposing viewpoints not acceptable to you? Are people who don't attend your rallies not allowed to have opinions on your impeachment movement? Is this how you deal with people who disagree with you?

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