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Excerpt: Presidential Crimes

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On March 4, 2008, the citizens of Brattleboro, Vermont went to the polls and voted by a count of 2,012 to 1,795 to endorse the recommendation that if President Bush or Vice President Cheney came to that town, they should be “arrested and detained” for “crimes against our Constitution.” The citywide vote on Brattleboro’s non-binding resolution was the third step in a many-months-long process that scrupulously followed the procedures laid out in a section of the Brattleboro Town Charter entitled “Powers of the People.” In winter 2007 a petition (written and circulated by town resident Kurt Daims) was signed by the required 5 percent of the population. Then in January the Board of Selectman, by a three to two vote, forwarded the issue to the town-wide ballot scheduled for early spring.

How likely is it that President Bush or Vice President Cheney will visit Vermont, the single state in the country that George Bush has not entered in his first seven-and-a-half-years in office? Less likely, even, than it was before March 4. This still leaves a large geography in which the pair are at liberty.

Or does it? In the recent history of U.S. cities, one city often acts as the catalyst for hundreds of others: in January 2002, Ann Arbor, Michigan passed a resolution voicing its noncompliance with the Patriot Act; there are now 406 towns (and eight states) that have passed similar resolutions.1 So, too, the governing councils of ninety-two towns have, by a formal vote, called upon the U.S. Congress to begin impeachment proceedings against President Bush and Vice President Cheney.2 Perhaps not surprisingly, thirty-nine of those towns are in Vermont, twenty-one in Massachusetts; but the roll call of states represented includes California, Oregon, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Colorado, North Carolina, Maryland, Ohio, New Hampshire, and New York.

So far, only one other city has reenacted the Brattleboro arrest resolution. In a town meeting this past spring, Marlboro, Vermont voted 43 to 25 to draft and publish indictments of the country’s president and vice president, and “to arrest and detain” them should they arrive in town. But what if over the next two years the number of towns that formally vote to indict and arrest President Bush and Vice President Cheney steadily grows and eventually—as in the case of the town resolutions in favor of presidential impeachment or the resolutions against the Patriot Act—reaches the number 92 or 402? Cross-country travel will then become more restrictive for the former president and vice president. The felt-duty of the population to uphold the rule of law will be encoded in the geography of the country. These efforts provide a powerful historical record whether or not they result in a forcible assertion of the rule of law.

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