Dozens of speakers told state lawmakers Thursday that the Washington Legislature needs to do what Congress won't — push for impeachment...

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OLYMPIA — Dozens of speakers told state lawmakers Thursday that the Washington Legislature needs to do what Congress won’t — push for impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

Witnesses at a state Senate committee hearing called Bush and Cheney war criminals, decried the “Bush junta” and warned of American dictatorships to come.

“The people have come here today to say to our state Legislature: ‘You have the opportunity and you have the duty to do the right thing,’ ” Democratic activist Susan Harmon said.

The hearing was on two measures: one by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, that asks Congress to block the troop increase in Iraq, and another by Sen. Eric Oemig, D-Kirkland, that calls for Congress to investigate and consider impeachment.

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No one spoke against the impeachment proposal.

Republicans boycotted the hearing of the Senate Government Operations and Elections Committee. Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, issued a statement calling the hearing and an earlier impeachment rally “partisan, political displays.”

Impeachment and Iraq resolutions

Senate Joint Memorial 8016: Calls on Congress to investigate and consider impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

Senate Joint Memorial 8003: Calls on Congress to block the U.S. troop increase in Iraq.

Democrats here and in Washington, D.C. — including state Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee — also have criticized the move.

Murray and Inslee had urged Senate leaders to drop the impeachment proposal, calling it a diversion for Democrats that could cause bitter political divides in the nation’s capital.

The hearing provided a seamless blend of accusations of illegal activity by Bush and Cheney and of political cowardice by congressional Democrats. It all was met with near silence by Senate committee members. There was no cross-examination and not even a polite question of a witness.

The only lawmaker who spoke at length was Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, a co-sponsor of the impeachment measure. He defended congressional Democrats.

“Restraint sometimes is not just a political calculation, but a real reflection of the national interest,” he said. “We are interested in governing a country and a state.”

At the rally and at the hearing, speakers congratulated Oemig for taking on the administration and applauded Washington for being one of a few states considering similar measures.

Committee Chairwoman Darlene Fairley, D-Lake Forest Park, said there was zero chance the impeachment measure would get a vote by the full Senate.

Oemig said he will try to get a vote before the Legislature adjourns April 22.

Fairley is a co-sponsor of Oemig’s proposal and said she was glad people were given a chance to have their say. They did it calmly and followed Fairley’s admonition that no clapping or hissing would be allowed.

About 50 people packed the committee room. An additional 230 or so spilled into other rooms where they watched on TV.

Oemig said his bill was not “directly about impeachment” but about a serious investigation of Bush and Cheney. But most speakers were clear that they saw it as a direct call for impeachment.

Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, a rising voice in the anti-war movement, was invited to Olympia by Oemig to testify. He said there’s never been “such a compelling case for impeachment.”

Many speakers said congressional Democrats are too timid in their approach to Bush.

“Even if it was true, which it’s not, that starting impeachment hearings would disturb the agenda that Democrats have, so what? This is more important,” said Elaine Phelps, of Shoreline.

Activist journalist Geov Parrish said that “inaction in this case is a form of action.” If there is no impeachment, he said, it would set Bush’s action as precedent and possibly lead to a “legal dictatorship in the United States of America.”

Joe Colgan, whose son Benjamin was killed in Iraq in 2003, testified for the resolution opposing the troop increase.

“I have come to the conclusion that our troops were abused and have been abused and are being abused,” Colgan said.

“It was hard to come to this conclusion because then you have to ask yourself, when you lose a son, what did he die for? I really believe my son died as a hero,” he said. “But as far as protecting our country or our freedom, not at all.”

David Postman: 360-236-8267 or

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