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.