(Host) Vermont impeachment advocates gathered over the weekend to press Congressman Peter Welch to take up their cause in the U.S. House.
As VPR’ Steve Zind reports, Welch reiterated his belief that impeachment would slow the exit of American troops from Iraq.
(Woman sings) “Let’s impeach the President, hallelujah “
(Zind) From the cluster of banners and placards at the entrance to the Hartford High School gymnasium to the meeting’s opening song, there was no question about how this crowd felt about impeachment.
(Welch) “So we are saying to Peter Welch: initiate the investigation of Bush and Cheney now. Initiate impeachment now! Thank you very much.”
(Zind) Fresh from their exertions at the Vermont State House, where they successfully pushed for votes on impeachment resolutions, the movement’s supporters pressed Welch to begin impeachment proceedings in the U.S. House.
For his part, Welch joined the crowd in condemning the Bush Administration, but he parted company with them on the issue of impeachment.
(Welch) “I’m not going to argue with you at all! Of course I’m not going to argue with you about whether this man deserves impeachment. The question that I have on impeachment is will that prolong or shorten the war. It’s my judgement that it will lengthen it.”
(Zind) Welch said his top priority is getting American troops out of Iraq. He said he’s convinced impeachment would distract Washington and give the president’s supporters a cause to rally around, prolonging US involvement in Iraq.
(Hunter) “Will Hunter from Cavendish, Peter, I’m really troubled by.”
(Zind) Then Welch listened for nearly two hours as speaker after speaker explained why they think he’s wrong.
Some told Welch that if he believes impeachable offenses have been committed, he’s duty bound to take action.
(Hunter) “To say we’re too busy with something that’s a great threat to deal with the lawlessness that’s going on is a real license for more lawlessness.”
(Zind) Other speakers like Pat McIntosh of White River Junction took issue with Welch’s contention that impeachment would prolong the war in Iraq.
(McIntosh) “If you can impeach the president and the vice president, I’m sure President Pelosi will bring the troops home.”
(Zind) Most spoke not to the audience, but directly to Welch as he listened and nodded. The comments were sometimes emotional and sharply critical – and there were occasional shouts when Welch responded, but the crowd called for civility and brevity. One impeachment supporter threw the microphone high into the air when the audience called for him to finish his remarks.
(Audience member) ” when Cheney starts to go through.
(Crowd noise, sound of microphone hitting floor)
(Zind) Two people spoke in support of Welch’s position, including Doug Tuthill of North Pomfret, a veteran of the first Iraq war in 1991.
(Tuthill) “Yes, there are people in this room, maybe 200 of you, but you sure as hell don’t represent me and you don’t represent the state of Vermont. So I wish you’d stop referring to ‘all Vermonters’ because you’re not all Vermonters.”
(Zind) At March town meeting, 40 communities adopted impeachment resolutions. Last month the Vermont Senate supported and the house rejected resolutions calling for the impeachment of the president and vice president.
At Saturday’s gathering, organizers called for more meetings with Welch.
For VPR news, I’m Steve Zind.