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A call to impeach from Brookline
‘I think that, more than any other president, [Bush] seems to be completely off the mark from what the country needs,’’ said Jessica Binder (left) of Brookline. Robert Sherer (right) said the resolution calling for the impeachment of President Bush was not appropriate because it did not fall within the jurisdiction of a Town Meeting. (Photos by Essdras M. Suarez/ Globe Staff)
By Kathleen Burge, Boston Globe
BROOKLINE -- He was irked when Town Meeting members voted against pledging allegiance to the flag more than a decade ago because they found the oath coercive. He was vexed three years ago when they called the USA Patriot Act an assault upon civil liberties. But Tuesday night, as Town Meeting members were poised to vote to seek impeachment of President Bush, Seymour Ziskend and about a score of others walked out in disgust.
``It was once a conservative town," Ziskend said yesterday. ``Now we have people coming in from all over. They get involved in Town Meeting to a point where they want to change the town."
Brookline followed the lead of Cambridge and a handful of communities in Vermont when Town Meeting members voted, 104 to 52, to call on the state's congressional representatives to impeach President Bush. In the final minutes of the fourth night of Town Meeting, on the last of the articles, they supported a resolution declaring that Bush has ``repeatedly violated his oath of office" by purposely misleading the country as he launched the war in Iraq.
The vote is the latest reflection of Bush's declining popularity and of growing unease about the war, in which there have been more than 2,400 US deaths since it started in 2003.
While Brookline doesn't have the same ultraliberal reputation as places such as Cambridge, Bush has drawn less support there than in the state as a whole. In 2000, he won 17 percent of the vote in the town, compared to 32 percent statewide. In 2004, Bush won 19 percent, compared to 37 percent statewide.
The resolution was sponsored by Jonathan J. Margolis, a lawyer who says that if other towns follow suit, they could persuade US Representative Barney Frank of Newton, whose district includes Brookline, to support impeachment. Margolis successfully opposed an effort Tuesday night to change his resolution to seek merely a censure of the president.
But Frank said that even if other towns in his district follow Brookline's example, he would be unlikely to support the president's impeachment. ``I don't think this is something you decide by public opinion," he said.
Frank argues that Congress should focus on changing Bush's policies, for instance, by passing a binding resolution calling for withdrawal of troops from Iraq. There is no chance an impeachment vote would succeed in the Republican-controlled Congress, he said, and the effort would divert too much attention from other issues .
Margolis said he was motivated to draft the resolution and gather the 10 signatures required to get it before Town Meeting by reports late last year of the administration's domestic spying program.
Although he once struggled with the notion of whether the town should address national issues, he eventually decided that such advisory resolutions are appropriate.
``I finally decided that if Congress can express the feelings of Americans on issues around the world, like fighting AIDS or the slaughter in Darfur, or, years ago, the genocide in Bosnia, then why shouldn't Brookline's legislature, which is what Town Meeting is, do this?" he said.
In Coolidge Corner yesterday, most residents interviewed had not heard about the previous night's vote. But many said they supported the effort.
``I think that, more than any other president, [Bush] seems to be completely off the mark from what the country needs," said Jessica Binder, a graduate student who lives in Brookline. Still, she said she was surprised that the issue was debated at Town Meeting. ``It just seems like a personal view," she said.
But Bush supporters said the Town Meeting members had erred. ``Very tacky and very crass," said Stephen Johnstone, a salesman in town. ``He's not Richard Nixon. I think the fellow's done a decent job under the conditions."
And, like Ziskend, some were frustrated that town representatives had spent time weighing in on national affairs.
``I don't believe the Town Meeting has jurisdiction over something that I believe belongs to the House of Representatives," said Robert Sherer, who said he voted for Bush in 2004. ``Anybody can send a message. You don't need a Town Meeting to do that."
Michael Selib, a Town Meeting member, was in the minority that voted against the resolution.
``I feel that resolutions that don't pertain to the government of the town of Brookline and the operation of the town of Brookline really do not belong in the Town Meeting warrant," he said.
Globe correspondent Emma Stickgold contributed to this report. Kathleen Burge can be reached at email@example.com
A Resolution in Support of the Impeachment of President George W. Bush.
Whereas, President George W. Bush has repeatedly violated his oath of office by failing to uphold, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, in particular by directing and countenancing numerous violations of the Constitution and the Laws of the United States, and by purposely misleading the citizens of the nation so as to cause the United States to commence war in Iraq, therefore be it
Resolved, that this Town Meeting urges our Representative in Congress to introduce and/or support a resolution impeaching President George W. Bush; and be it further
Resolved, that the Town Clerk send notice of the adoption of this resolution to all members of the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation within two weeks of its adoption.
SOURCE: Brookline Town Meeting