By David Swanson
Speech delivered at Town Hall meeting on impeachment at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, May 21, 2007.
It’s wonderful to be here with these speakers, and with Buzz Davis and everyone who put this event together. My grandparents lived for many, many years in Madison, and my dad grew up here and attended this university. So did some of my cousins, and I still have family here. My grandparents’ farm, in Middleton, is going to be a Wisconsin state park. But I grew up in Virginia, and when I was a little toddler and even much older, I dragged around behind me a stuffed badger named Bucky who wore a W on his shirt. Now, I have a toddler at home named Wesley, and I’m going to bring him back a badger tomorrow. So here’s what I want to ask you: For the sake of Wesley, and for the sake of our country, I want to ask the state of Wisconsin to please reclaim and revive and restore to a decent condition the letter W.
Seriously, what if every sweatshirt with a giant W on it had the word IMPEACH added above it?
If this is going to be a Wisconsin Impeachment Summer, it’s got to be Wisconsin all the way, right? What if every cheese head hat had a peach and a pendant with the word IMPEACH added to it? Who says you can’t grow peaches in Wisconsin?
Impeachment is serious, and the Congress Members who actually do it should treat it as such. And so, in many ways, should we. The question of whether or not the world’s most powerful and most fiercely armed empire ever to exist will be commanded from here on out by a president subject to the rule of law or by a dictator with total power, a unitary executive, is one of the most serious questions imaginable. But a successful movement requires spreading the word in fun and creative ways and making the dull sounding work of restoring our constitution enjoyable and productive of solidarity and community.
Based on the few polls that have been done, we know that we who favor impeachment are a majority or close to it. That should give us all the confidence we need to make impeachment happen. But it’s not enough to be a majority. We have to feel like a majority.
One way to do that is to wear everywhere you go a t-shirt that says IMPEACH BUSH AND CHENEY. You can get one at www.afterdowningstreet.org but I recommend getting more than one, because you’re going to want to wash them sometimes. I have lots of them in all different colors, and I’ve worn them for a couple of years now. The number of negative comments I’ve received I can count on one hand, and some of those led to good conversations. The number of compliments and shouts of approval I’ve received is in the thousands. And I can’t keep count of the number of conversations that have been created by wearing these shirts.
Even people who will pick yes rather then no when asked if they support impeachment have lots and lots of questions and misconceptions and internalized fears and concerns. People get very caught up in the question of who will hold what office for a year or six months after Bush and/or Cheney are removed. As if that were all that’s at stake here. Or people regurgitate their manufactured consent to the really quite radical notion that impeachable offenses have been committed but should not be pursued because that wouldn’t be practical or viable or successful. I’m sure we won’t cover all such questions tonight, but every one I’ve ever heard of is covered at www.afterdowningstreet.org – Click on Resource Center. But my point is this: if you don’t wear the shirt or raise the topic, the questions never get asked and answers are never reached. And, in fact, by wearing the shirt you help answer most of the questions. No one who sees the word IMPEACH everywhere they look can claim impeachment isn’t possible. Rightly or wrongly, there is too much vestigial belief in democracy floating about. And I’m convinced that a bit of it is justified, that if the public makes enough noise for impeachment it will happen. Our biggest obstacle is not bad arguments. It’s silence.
What it’s going to take is not just people who answer surveys correctly. It’s going to take activists. It’s going to take all of us acting the way we would if City Council announced that it was going to demolish our neighborhood next month. If we can keep the local import of impeachment in front of us, we can bring the requisite passion to a national campaign. Here’s one of the many impacts:
According to www.costofwar.com the people of Wisconsin have spent over $6.8 billion on the occupation of Iraq. (And, please, let’s call it an occupation. It’s not a war, and it cannot be won or lost.) For $6.8 billion, Wisconsin could have paid for 330,484 college scholarships. Just the people of Madison alone have spent over a quarter billion dollars on this occupation. That’s enough to build 2,280 housing units or to pay for 33,545 kids to attend Head Start for a year.
When you talked to people who admire your shirt, or when you talk to your friends and family, bring up the ways in which failure to impeach impacts them and their neighborhoods. At www.afterdowningstreet.org there is a huge kit of resources for events including DVDs that can be shown at house parties and followed by discussions and organizing. Invite your friends and others over for movies and peach pie and peach tea. And when they leave, give them the same thing you give people you meet when you wear your shirt. Give them a handful of ImpeachMINTS.
ImpeachMINTS have been clinically proven to cure severe Beltway breath. If you hear someone say “I have agreed with Speaker-to-be Pelosi that impeachment is off the table,” hand them an ImpeachMINT, and they’ll be saying something like this: “I have a choice. I can either stand by and lead my constituents to believe I do not care that the president apparently no longer believes he is bound by any law or code of decency. Or I can act.” Chairman John Conyers said both of those things. The second one is from John Nichols’ book. As I’m sure you know, Conyers’ wife sits on the Detroit City Council and last week sponsored and passed a resolution calling on Congress to impeach Bush and Cheney and remove them from office. You can mail Mrs. Conyers packages of ImpeachMINTS care of the Detroit City Council, and you can mail them to your Congress Member or buy them for yourself by going to www.pdamerica.org
You know, they’re holding a Town Hall about impeachment, like this one, in Detroit on May 29, and today Congressman Conyers said he would come and be one of the speakers.
I want to talk about city resolutions and various other ways to build pressure for impeachment. But it’s important to keep in mind that all of the tactics I’m going to mention are aimed entirely at one thing: influencing members of the House of Representatives to cosponsor H Res 333 or any other articles of impeachment that are introduced. Four Congress Members have signed onto H Res 333, and another 50 to 100 would very much like to do so. But they need a push. Nothing can legally force them to do so, not a resolution passed by a state, not a copy of the US Constitution. But a number of tactics in combination can persuade them that they will look bad and suffer in the next election if they do not sign on, and will be treated as heroes and win votes if they do sign on.
Some of the most likely Congress Members to sign onto H Res 333 are the 35 or so still in Congress who signed onto H Res 635 last year. That was Conyers’ bill for a preliminary investigation into impeachment. Two Congress Members from Wisconsin signed onto that bill but have not yet signed onto H Res 333: Gwen Moore and Tammy Baldwin. H Res 333 charges Dick Cheney with lying about the reasons for attacking Iraq and with threatening to attack Iran. It is a felony to mislead Congress, and a violation of the UN Charter and the US Constitution to threaten aggressive war. H Res 333 is not about political strategy or punditry or the chances of a successful impeachment. It’s about the need to investigate and impeach Dick Cheney for the highest of crimes. Baldwin, Moore, and their colleagues should be asked to choose between upholding the Constitution and defending Dick Cheney. Everything we do should be focused on compelling them to make that choice.
That begins with asking them to make it. Phone them, Email them, fax them, write to them. You can do so at www.impeachcheney.org Use petitions like the ones in your packets, and collect signatures on the street in front of their offices. Mail them copies of the petitions. Request a meeting and deliver the petitions. And let the media know about it.
Make some posters that say “Honk to Impeach Dick Cheney” and stand on the corner in front of a Congress Member’s office. Bring ear plugs. Do it once a week at the same day and time, and bring a crowd.
Hold a fundraiser walkathon, only instead of walking to cure cancer, walk to cure despotism.
Bring some dedicated souls and visit your Congress Member’s office, have a seat, and refuse to leave. Read the articles of impeachment aloud. Bring signs that say things like “Cheney or Constituents: Time to Choose.” And when the Congress Member or their staff asks what you want, tell them you do not want rhetoric or meetings or vague commitments. You want to see them cosponsor H Res 333. It’s a simple Yes or No decision, and it ought to be an easy one.
Only 435 people can actually advance impeachment, and right now at least a quarter of them want to but are refusing to do so on the grounds that their colleagues aren’t with them. But when H Res 333 gets to 100 cosponsors, that argument won’t fly.
Senators can’t impeach, but Senator Russ Feingold could publicly make the case for impeachment. He’s made some of the right arguments for a year, but ended with censure instead of impeachment, as if a 28 percent approval rating weren’t censure enough. Feingold knows impeachment is needed. Lobbying him to say so could help influence some members of the House.
As anyone living in John Nichol’s town knows, our chief tool for influencing public policy is the media, the corporate media and our own media. When we hold events like this, we should videotape and post it online the next day, which usually reaches 10 to 100 times the audience that was in the room. We should make videos, photos, and reports on what we do. Ad we should work with good democratic media outlets.
Matt Rothschild at the Progressive is almost the only reporter who reported this week on Bush’s new plan for catastrophic emergencies – I mean other than creating more of them. Bush is going to personally take command of all government operations. New Orleans is going to find out they could have had it even worse.
Dave Zweifel at the Capital Times called for Bush’s impeachment almost two years ago.
Good print reporters and radio and TV reporters should be rewarded. Give them scoops on your stories. Place ads in their outlets. Don’t place ads in media outlets until they report the news. Doing so only encourages them in not doing their jobs.
We need to work with the corporate media outlets to get impeachment covered. That means meeting them, pitching them, writing letters, calling talk shows, and holding events that appeal to the media. And we all need to learn how to talk to the media – through the media to the audience – which involves being concise and entertaining and not compromising what you want to say.
Sometimes the media needs a kick. I spoke a few weeks ago in Portland, Maine, and the newspaper across the street from the event didn’t send a reporter. So we took the event to them. Now they’re writing articles about the local impeachment movement.
But there’s one thing that nobody in the media is doing: polls. One major factor in moving Congress toward impeachment of Nixon was a poll that showed voters favored candidates who favored impeachment. At www.impeachcheney.org you can contact all the national polling companies, but you should also ask companies doing polls in Wisconsin to include impeachment, or pay them to do so. State polls or polls in particular congressional districts could work wonders. The questions to ask are:
Should Congress begin impeachment proceedings against Dick Cheney?
Should Congress begin impeachment proceedings against George Bush?
The Walworth County Democratic Party passed a resolution for impeachment last week, and not for the first time. The Wisconsin state Democratic Party passed an impeachment resolution on June 12, 2005. Only Nevada’s Democratic Party had done it first. Now 14 states have done so, and 10 of them since Nancy Pelosi claimed impeachment was off the table.
Across the country at least 80 cities and towns have passed impeachment resolutions, and many more have proposed them. Town and County and city resolutions are excellent ways to influence Congress. Even better is a state resolution. A state resolution has been introduced in Wisconsin by Representative Frank Boyle. I haven’t had the privilege of meeting Representative Boyle, but people who take actions like his should be very conspicuously rewarded and should be drafted to run for Congress.
Wisconsin is one of 10 states that have introduced impeachment resolutions. There have been votes in the Washington State Senate, the Vermont House, and the Vermont Senate. And in the Vermont Senate, impeachment passed.
Labor unions and every other possible organization should be passing resolutions in support of impeachment. That includes student groups, which should also sponsor debates and include more than one point of view.
I want to give you a few dates for an impeachment summer.
May 29 – June 3, unless they decide to work through, Congress Members are likely to be home, which is the best time to hold events, to request meetings, and to stage protests.
June 20 – 23, the leaders of labor unions in Iraq will be speaking in Chicago and Milwaukee. Why is this important? Because our government is trying to ram through the Iraqi Parliament a new oil law that would turn over 2/3 of Iraq’s oil to foreign corporations. Iraq’s oil workers are threatening to strike and are opposing this theft. The voices of Iraqis on the occupation of their country are not often heard in this country. Hearing them will advance the cause of impeachment and completely reshape the rhetoric in Washington about “benchmarks.”
We’re going to have two benchmarks: impeaching Cheney and impeaching Bush. See www.uslaboragainstwar.org
June 21 to September 21, there will be a march for impeachment from Chicago to DC. See www.impeach07.org
June 30 – July 9, we can expect Congress Members to be home again.
August 3 to September 4, again they’re home. And from August 3 to August 12, we’ll hold Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas, and you’re invited.
Veterans for Peace will hold its national convention in St. Louis from August 15 – 18, and the next day, August 19, the Democratic presidential candidates will debate in Des Moines – and on the Walt Disney News Channel, ABC. A major impeachment presence in Des Moines would be very helpful. The debate within the eternal presidential campaign influences the debate in Congress.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am working part-time for Kucinich for President. Our competitors are mostly pretty weak, but our opponent is the media. Here’s how it works. The media ignores and attacks and mocks a candidate who stands for peace and impeachment. And then activists working for peace and impeachment start trying to choose among candidates whom the media deems acceptable. However, even if you accept the media’s decisions, two years out, on who is viable and who isn’t, the best way to influence the supposedly viable candidates is to back the candidates who actually share your positions.
If we do that, and if we pressure Congress for impeachment, and if we keep seeing a new Bush-Cheney scandal every week, and if Congress keeps issuing subpoenas and having them ignored, we will get to impeachment, we will remove Bush and Cheney from office, we will restore our democracy, and we will end the occupation of Iraq.
And let me tell you something. There are two things, and only two things, that can happen to our troops in Iraq. They can be left there to keep killing and dying and being injured and traumatized, or they can be brought safely home. There is no third possibility called abandoning them or not supporting the troops. It’s utter nonsense. Let’s stop talking nonsense. Let’s start talking impeachment. Bring them home. Bring them home.