By David Swanson, PDA National Board Member / Co-Founder, AfterDowningStreet.org
Remarks at Progressive Democrats of America Lobby Training, May 21, 2006, Washington, D.C.
On Friday our President attended a fundraiser in Virginia Beach for a Republican Congress Member. But the Congress Member didn’t show up. This has happened a number of times, with both Bush and Cheney. Yesterday, the LA Times ran an article on the way in which AH-nold is backing away from Bush. Republicans are beginning to understand that being associated with Bush and Cheney is a liability.
About two-thirds of Republicans and one-third of Americans still approve of Bush, and about half that many people still approve of Cheney. Ninety percent of Democrats, 80 percent of Independents, and a third of Republicans disapprove of Bush. And Americans’ number one concern is the war, which strong majorities believe Bush lied us into and want to get us out of.
A majority of Americans support an investigation into grounds for impeachment, and a third of Americans – even in the most slanted Washington Post poll, conducted three or four scandals ago – want Bush impeached and removed from office. That is to say, a third of the country, prior to any real action in Congress or the media, has already jumped out ahead of an investigation, ahead of impeachment proceedings in the House, and ahead of a trial in the Senate. Those people are ready to convict the President and send him back to his so-called ranch to await criminal prosecution.
While a third of the nation is significantly more than wanted Clinton impeached and removed from office even following saturation pro-impeachment media coverage, many more than a third of Americans believe that Bush and Cheney have committed impeachable offenses.
After all, the impeachable offenses are remarkably blatant and open. Bush has readily confessed to violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, promised to continue doing so, and nominated one of his fellow law breakers to run the CIA. The evidence that Bush and Cheney intentionally deceived the public and Congress about reasons for war is overwhelming. Numerous new pieces of evidence have emerged and been posted on www.afterdowningstreet.org since Congressman John Conyers released his report “The Constitution in Crisis” late last year. The primary excuse offered repeatedly by media outlets for neglecting new pieces of evidence is that everyone already knows we were lied to.
Conyers’ report found that “there is substantial evidence the President, the Vice President and other high ranking members of the Bush Administration misled Congress and the American people regarding the decision to go to war with Iraq; misstated and manipulated intelligence information regarding the justification for such war; countenanced torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and other legal violations in Iraq; and permitted inappropriate retaliation against critics of their Administration.
“There is a prima facie case that these actions by the President, Vice-President and other members of the Bush Administration violated a number of federal laws, including (1) Committing a Fraud against the United States; (2) Making False Statements to Congress; (3) The War Powers Resolution; (4) Misuse of Government Funds; (5) federal laws and international treaties prohibiting torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment; (6) federal laws concerning retaliating against witnesses and other individuals; and (7) federal laws and regulations concerning leaking and other misuse of intelligence.
“While these charges clearly rise to the level of impeachable misconduct, because the Bush Administration and the Republican-controlled Congress have blocked the ability of Members to obtain information directly from the Administration concerning these matters, more investigatory authority is needed before recommendations can be made regarding specific Articles of Impeachment.”
That is to say, Congressman Conyers, like anyone else who’s paying any attention, knows that Bush and Cheney have committed offenses that are decidedly impeachable if anything other than sex is ever to be impeachable again. But before detailed charges can be drawn up, a real investigation with subpoena power must be conducted – something the Republican Congress has never done during this administration.
To make the case for impeachment painfully obvious, over three years after Bush launched a war based on lies, and after he himself has labeled each of his justifications for the war a well-intentioned mistake, he’s still fighting the war and has begun another one in Iran without any legal authorization whatsoever. He’s still killing Iraqis and Americans every day even though he himself has acknowledged that his claims about WMDs and ties to 9-11 were false, and all but the most loyal Fox viewers are aware of that fact. He continues to torture, to detain without charge, to use illegal weapons, to target civilians, to spy on Americans, and to violate untold dozens or hundreds of U.S. laws. Having never vetoed a bill, he has written several hundred signing statements declaring his intention not to obey the bills he signs into law. He’s daring us to impeach him. The public is accepting the dare. And Republican Congress Members are reluctant to be seen in the same room with him.
All of this might lead you to expect every Democrat in Congress to be lined up behind John Conyers’ call for an investigation. The Republicans have not allowed a serious investigation of any of Bush and Cheney’s apparent crimes in either house of Congress. If the Democrats were all lined up for an investigation, can you imagine the pressure that Republicans in moderate districts would be under to join in? I’m sure you can, unless you are a Democratic Congress Member or staffer, because in that case you will have been heavily trained to think only in terms of defense, never offense.
If the mountains of available evidence are misleading us, an investigation would allow the President to clear his name and maybe even persuade above 30 percent of us to support him. An investigation is not even an indictment, an impeachment, something for which there is clearly probably cause. An investigation is a minimal claim on continued existence for the Congress as something more than a collection of courtiers and court jesters. There is no reason that Congress Members of all political parties should not immediately get behind a demand for oversight, for checks and balances, for the system of government established by the Constitution. Thus far 37 Members support H Res 635. After your lobbying on Monday, that number should increase.
Where are the other 398 Congress Members or even the other 166 Democrats or even the other half of the Progressive Caucus? We can ask the same question about any anti-war bill. They’re busy campaigning for re-election as non-Republicans, blissfully unaware that that is how Democrats have lost elections for decades. Even the 37 who’ve stepped forward are playing defense. Even our heroes, like John Conyers, are playing defense. Congressman Conyers wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post last week denying Republican charges that he is set on impeachment, explaining that his position is, and has long been, that we need an investigation. Conyers did criticize the Republicans for their lack of oversight, but he could not do so on behalf of the Democratic Party since most of it is not with him yet. Despite the Democratic Party’s refusal to back him, Conyers backs it. He declined to say anything to urge recalcitrant Democrats to join his efforts.
The Washington Post is an efficient operation. In the course of a week or so, it promoted RNC lies about impeachment being good for Republicans, published Conyers’ defensive response, and then printed a column by Howard Kurtz that quoted all sorts of rightwing bloggers claiming that this shows that Conyers knows impeachment is bad for Democrats.
But let’s be clear about something. John Conyers is walking a line between voters’ demands for impeachment now and the demands of his party’s spineless so-called leadership to let the war criminals off the hook. He’s doing a good job of walking that line. It sometimes makes sense for Congress Members and their staffs to walk such lines. But it never makes sense for citizens to do so.
If we citizens back off from demanding impeachment, if we pretend not to know that the evidence is overwhelming, if we turn ourselves into amateur political advisors and advocate self-censorship until after the elections, then candidates and Congress Members will take two steps back from that position. The role of the citizen is to openly speak the truth. We know the President and Vice President should be behind bars, that with them in office the war cannot be ended, and that H Res 635 is a step in that direction, a very reasonable and moderate step for Congress Members whose paymasters oppose interference with the war machine.
Anyone who believes that H Res 635 is a Trojan Horse being used to sneak impeachment and other such radical notions through the gates of power is someone who believes that an investigation of the President and Vice President would lead to indictable evidence of bribery, treason, high crimes, or misdemeanors. Such a person, of either party, has sworn an oath of office that obliges them to put a check on such abuses.
When you lobby on Monday, whether and in what way you push for cosponsorship of H Res 635 should depend on what Congress Member you’re dealing with and what else you’re asking of them. But you should never hesitate to politely inform your elected representative that you want them to support a bill. If you think they are more likely to support some lesser bill on your list of asks, then letting them know what you really want turns that other bill into a compromise. Your concern is not to avoid offending your representative, but to encourage them to stop offending you.
Toward that end we have various carrots and sticks at our disposal. We have the threat of defeat in a general election, something future Congressman Tony Trupiano can tell you about in the panel following this session. We have the threat of defeat in a primary, something PDA-member and future Congresswoman Marcy Winograd is teaching Los Angeles about right now. And for every member of Congress, even one you might decide to hold your nose and vote for as a lesser evil, we have the carrots of praise, popularity, media attention, and blogosphere attention, and the sticks of condemnation, embarrassment, and civil disobedience.
Over 1,200 impeachment activists have joined PDA’s Impeachment Working Group, which is working together with a team that After Downing Street, ImpeachPAC, ImpeachBush TV, and other groups have assembled, a team of researchers, web managers, PR practitioners, and mentors for local activists working to pass city and state resolutions for impeachment, resolutions that can motivate Congress Members, such as Bernie Sanders, to sign onto Conyers’ bill. Go to www.afterdowningstreet.org/resolutions for an activist kit.
We have also assembled a list of speakers who can take part in public forums on impeachment, and you should get in touch with me if you want help with such an event. Go to www.afterdowningstreet.org/speakers for the list.
We also regularly post on After Downing Street planned public appearances of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice. These war criminals should not be allowed to come to your part of the country without major disruptions and nonviolent opposition.
We’ll talk more tomorrow about how to lobby for H Res 635. For now, let’s have questions and discussion.