“There are many regrets that I’m not a citizen of New Hampshire and a member of its Legislature, but my chief regret tonight is that I’m not allowed to vote for Betty Hall’s House Resolution 24 to commence impeachment procedures in the U.S. Congress. At our founding, New Hampshire was essential. At our preservation, it is even more so. Vote to impeach to restore our unique democracy.”
- Edward Asner
By Lauren R. Dorgan / Concord Monitor – Activists from as far away as Michigan and as close as Warner clutched their pocket-sized U.S. Constitutions and crowded into a State House hearing yesterday on a proposed resolution that would request Congress to begin impeachment proceedings against President Bush and Vice President Cheney.
Even Hollywood chimed in: An organizer read a statement he said was from Ed Asner, the liberal actor best known as Mr. Grant on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Asner conveyed regrets “that I am not a citizen of New Hampshire,” according to a statement read by Stuart Hutchison, who leads a New Jersey-based anti-impeachment group. “At our founding, New Hampshire is essential,” Hutchison read. “At our preservation, New Hampshire is even more so.”
The resolution was proposed by Rep. Betty Hall, a Brookline Democrat. It lays out a case that Bush and Cheney violated treaties “by invading Iraq without just cause or provocation” and misled American lawmakers to make their case. It claims that the federal government’s warrantless wiretapping, detentions of “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo and use of torture on terrorism suspects are due cause to impeach Bush.
Hall argued that the nation’s founders intended impeachment as a tool when other checks and balances failed.
“They didn’t know there could be such a thing as shock and awe, used to start an illegal war, but they knew there would be illegal wars,” Hall said.
About 100 people crammed into a State House hearing yesterday, many of them gray-headed, most of them appearing in favor in the bill. There were a few opponents. Rep. David Hess, a Hooksett Republican, said he spoke for his party’s leadership in opposition to the bill.
“I have never seen a document more vitriolic and more inflammatory,” Hess said.
He said he didn’t see evidence – and “I’m not talking about a statement anybody could write in Vermont or San Francisco.” Hess specifically challenged several portions, including the paragraph about Bush’s use of “signing statements,” documents with which Bush claims the right to disobey laws he’s signed because he thinks they’re unconstitutional.
“I don’t know what signing statements are,” Hess said, prompting clucking and laughter from the audience.
Meanwhile, a man in the corner intently planned his testimony, penciling in all-caps phrases FREE ELECTIONS and SECRET COURT. Several people testified about their efforts to support a pro-impeachment movement in Vermont; one woman said she was now working for an effort that hoped to bring “the (Dennis) Kucinich camp and the Ron Pauls together.”
The hearing quickly became a discussion of national malaise, with many telling the committee that the country isn’t the same as it was when were young, with speakers cited everything from confidence in foreign policy to toy safety.
“I’ve watched my country change in the last years for the worse,” said Gail Mitchell of Barrington. Later, she listed off some changes that worry her: “Food, homes, jobs, safety, health care.”
For others, the hearing was about history. Various speakers brought up the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I and World War II to argue either that Bush’s actions have historical precedent or that he is beyond all precedent.
Nan Stearns of Amherst said she came with a group she founded, Women Making a Difference, or WMD.
“The war is wrong. Torture is wrong,” Stearns said. “I can’t think of anything the Bush administration has done right except bring those of us who are here today together.”
The committee is scheduled to vote on the bill today.