Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson may have been greeted with foot-stomping enthusiasm Monday night as he preached the gospel of impeaching President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to a crowd of about 250 at the Veterans Memorial Building on Monday. But at the Santa Barbara City Council, the idea of passing an impeachment resolution still remains an orphan in search of a parent. Anderson has emerged as a compelling political curiosity-the nation’s most liberal mayor emerging from the reliably conservative state of Utah. Anderson seeks to connect the political left and right by appealing to “the core values” he says animate all Americans. “If we do not call for accountability, we are complicit,” Anderson thundered to repeated ovations. “We either condone by our inaction, or we hold Bush accountable to demonstrate to the rest of the world that we are so much better than this.”
Anderson accused the Bush-Cheney White House of ignoring repeated warnings of a terrorist attack just prior to 9/11, and then using the emotional fallout from that attack to stampede the American public-and its elected leaders-into war. “Iraq never posed any threat to us,” Anderson said more than once. “We attacked a nation that posed no threat to our security. That’s a crime against peace, the same crime for which people were convicted in Nuremburg,” he said.
Anderson concludes his second term this January and won’t be running again. Instead, he hopes to bang the gong in favor of impeachment. He accused House Democrats who oppose impeachment-including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi-of “timidity and cowardice.” In dismissing impeachment, Pelosi has argued that the Democrats must run on a record of genuine accomplishment rather than grandstanding. But Anderson noted that Congress-led currently by a Democratic majority-has accomplished little of substance. He said many Democrats-like presidential candidate Hillary Clinton-refrain from impeachment talk for fear it would highlight their votes authorizing the war. In a private conversation, Anderson remarked how Clinton had voted in favor of the war without reading available intelligence reports. Clinton has acknowledged as much, but insists she’d been fully briefed.
Anderson was scheduled to meet with Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum on Monday, but Blum cancelled after being struck with food poisoning. Blum has supported placing the impeachment proclamation before the council for discussion but until recently has not received the support needed by a single councilmember to place the matter on the agenda. (In recent weeks, Councilmember Brian Barnwell has reportedly indicated that he’d give Blum the support she needed.) Blum said she still supports impeachment-“I just want to see that guy [Bush] taken away in chains,” she said-but she also admits that the moment may have passed. “Now most people are focused on who will be running for president. And I don’t think whatever resolution we pass will have much impact on whether there’s an impeachment or not.”
Council progressives Das Williams and Helene Schneider-both running for re-election-have been notably gun-shy on the subject. Schneider expressed concern that the prospect of impeachment would interfere with the work of the congressional oversight committees now probing the conduct of the war. Of all the councilmembers, only Williams attended Anderson’s speech. One questioner challenged Williams to explain why Santa Barbara would not pass such a resolution when 80 American cities already have. Williams said he’d polled on the matter and found little support for it. Though Williams thinks Cheney and Bush have committed impeachable offenses, he said the Santa Barbara public has clearly indicated limited patience with symbolic causes. Instead, Williams challenged those in attendance to generate public interest to pass such a resolution. His message was echoed by Anderson, who commented that most elected politicians are constantly testing the political winds. “It’s up to us,” he said, “to organize and change the wind.”