On Wednesday, September 4, 2008, John Nichols of talks about the importance of impeachment to our representative democracy. Nichols is a pioneering political blogger, political writer for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent, contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times, the associate editor of the Capital Times. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers. He is a frequent guest on radio and television programs as a commentator on politics and media issues. He was featured in Robert Greenwald’s documentary, “Outfoxed,” and in the documentaries Joan Sekler’s “Unprecedented,” Matt Kohn’s “Call It Democracy” and Robert Pappas’s “Orwell Rolls in his Grave.” The keynote speaker at the 2004 Congress of the International Federation of Journalists in Athens, Nichols has been a featured presenter at conventions, conferences and public forums on media issues sponsored by the Federal Communications Commission, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Consumers International, the Future of Music Coalition, the AFL-CIO, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, the Newspaper Guild [CWA] and dozens of other organizations. Nichols is the author of the upcoming book The Genius of Impeachment (The New Press), as well as a critically-acclaimed analysis of the Florida recount fight of 2000, Jews for Buchanan (The New Press) and a best-selling biography of Vice President Dick Cheney, Dick: The Man Who is President (The New Press), which has recently been published in French and Arabic. He edited Against the Beast: A Documentary History of American Opposition to Empire (Nation Books), of which historian Howard Zinn said: “At exactly the time when we need it most, John Nichols gives us a special gift–a collection of writings, speeches, poems, and songs from throughout American history–that reminds us that our revulsion to war and empire has a long and noble tradition in this country.” With Robert W. McChesney, Nichols has co-authored the books, It’s the Media, Stupid! (Seven Stories), Our Media, Not Theirs (Seven Stories) and Tragedy and Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and Destroy Democracy (The New Press). McChesney and Nichols are the co-founders of Free Press, the nation’s media-reform network, which organized the 2003 and 2005 National Conferences on Media Reform. Of Nichols, author Gore Vidal says: “Of all the giant slayers now afoot in the great American desert, John Nichols’s sword is the sharpest.”
ImpeachForPeace.org cofounder Jodin Morey discusses at the RNC why even as Cheney and Bush leave office, impeachment is still crucial to the health of our republic. — So I’m here to talk to you about impeachment, and I know what you’re thinking “Bush is almost out of office.” But this isn’t about Bush. The underlying problem does not end with him, it preceded him, and it will endure after him.
I’m here today to advocate for impeachment as an ever-present value in YOUR life. We should see impeachment as a cherished tool that balances power between us and government. We should never have allowed government, or media to convince us impeachment is extreme or divisive. We need to alter our thinking about impeachment to coincide with that of early presidents and the founders of our nation. James Madison was proud that the Constitution made impeachment of a power abusing president “easy.”
Since I’ve been alive, almost every president who has been in office has abused their power in such a way as to warrant impeachment.
We should impeach George W. Bush.
We should have impeached Reagan.
We should have impeached Bush Sr,
we should have impeached Clinton , but NOT for his lying about a blowjob, but rather for military actions overseas. The media of course largely ignored Clinton’s abuse of power in Yugoslavia and Mogadishu.
And anyone who believes that the next president will magically remain within his constitutional restrictions is fooling themselves.
If you don’t support impeachment now, when will you? When it’s time to impeach McCain?
When it’s time to impeach Obama?
Will you once again accuse the impeachment movement of being divisive? Or INSTEAD will you recognize the corrupt GOVERNMENT for being divisive? Will you once again ask for impeachment to wait until we’ve won the next midterm elections, and after those elections will you then say that it’s too late? Will you once again believe what the media tells you about the likelihood of impeachment, or will you fight for a cause because it’s right. And believe that today’s impossibility is tomorrow’s reality. If you only fight for the causes that the media tells you are possible, how does that make you special or a visionary? How does that make you courageous or bring meaning to your life?
You’ve seen that bumper sticker that reads, “I’m already against the NEXT war?” Well, I’m already in favor of impeaching the NEXT PRESIDENT!” Until we do, and continue doing it with every president that abuses their power, they won’t stop. And why should they? They’ve got a pretty good deal going. Presidents can do whatever they want and get away with it.
That’s the weird thing about accountability. No one forces it upon themselves. Our founding fathers knew that. Jefferson once said, “In questions of power let no more be said of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”
What happens when you create a powerful office in which the officers are not accountable to the public? Politicians who are unsavory gravitate towards it. We are asked to trust the president with the power to spy on us. But a presidency that demands trust attracts untrustworthy presidents. It’s easy to fix the problem, our founding fathers knew the solution: Checks balances, and transparency. When you turn on the cellar light, the roaches scurry. But congress has learned that WE don’t care about accountability as much as the LOBBYISTS care about the status quo. After all, if we turn on the light of transparency, the roaches known as lobbyist will be caught in the act as well.
So, instead, the president breaks the law, and congress fiddles. It seems so obvious when you think about it that one should impeach a criminal president. Think of any other criminal. Say a rapist. What if a judge were to stop prosecuting rapists because he said that doing so was divisive, or that their crime was in that past and that we should be looking forward instead. That’s what our congress has done, except instead of raping a person our president has raped a country and congress refuses to prosecute. As a result a million are dead, millions more are displaced, and future presidents will feel free to rape countries as they wish., until we start impeaching them.
Until then, our democracy will continue deconstructing until there is no democracy left. We’ll slide slowly into totalitarianism while singing “Land of the free and Home of the Brave.” But when we’re not brave enough to stand up to our presidents, we lose that freedom. If everyone who thought Bush should have been impeached would have called their congressperson, we’d be in a different kind of country today. You could still do it right now. Even if it doesn’t result in Bush’s impeachment, it will let congress know that the public is behind impeachment in principle when a president goes haywire. Maybe then they’ll start holding presidents accountable.
But it’s always easy to come up with reasons not to do something, or why something might fail. And that pessimism can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. We can go the way of societies like Nazi Germany who were too pessimistic or distracted to do the right thing when there was still time to do it. We seem willing to do that with the environment. But can we afford that luxury? What will it take to motivate good people to turn off their TV and make the difference that’s necessary?
Let me leave you with a hopeful thought. Because I believe we will eventually start impeaching presidents freely. We’ll have to. So imagine the presidency we’ll have one day when they fear impeachment. When so many before them have been impeached, and imprisoned that they fear the power of the people. A presidency with so much transparency, oversight, and accountability that they know they can’t step too far out of bounds. Imagine the kind of politician who would never run for such an office. Do you think Cheney would wish to work there? Imagine the kind of president that office will attract.
A president who isn’t afraid to have the people see what she’s doing.
A president who preserves and restores our civil liberties.
A president so proud of her work that she won’t claim executive privilege.
A president who identifies with citizens, not corporations.
A president who doesn’t fear our free speech.
A president with the interests of the people paramount in her mind.
A president the founding fathers envisioned was possible only after they mandated the use of impeachment.
The following describes my experience as a protester being mistreated by the St. Paul police during the RNC. My name is Jodin Morey, and I’m a Cofounder of Impeach for Peace.The police abuse I’ll describe includes the use of concussion grenades, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and batons.
I joined the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign in a march from Mears Park On September 2, 2008 at 4 p.m. Having heard that some peaceful protesters had been arrested the day before, I was concerned about joining this march. I had been the one to reserve a one-hour slot on the protest stage at 1 p.m. on the following day. National speakers had come from around the country (Ray McGovern, John Nichols and Debra Sweet from the World Can’t Wait). The St. Paul Park and Rec. had made it clear the stage would only be available if I were physically present with my driver’s license at the time reserved. I therefore had decided to join the march with the idea of being extremely cautious to avoid any interactions with the police that could result in my arrest.
I was dressed as a Guantanamo Bay detainee to protest the denial of habeas corpus as a human right. There were speeches that went on for a very long time. The organizers spoke about human rights and the need for housing, education, and health care. There was a scuffle between the police and some of the protesters during these speeches, but I was not in a location to see what occurred.
Before we began the march, the main organizer had each of us raise our right hands and repeat after her that we would behave peacefully and non-violently. She also stressed that this was important because there were children in the march, and some of them were hers. I saw the organizers intercept some people wearing black bandanas over their faces and black clothing and told them they were welcome to join the march but only if they promised to be peaceful and non-violent. They told the leaders of the march that they were going to be peaceful.
The march then began, and it was extremely long. It felt as if it were about a five-mile march. All along the march we were shouting slogans like, “Stop the war on the poor,” “If they say cut back, we say fight back,” and others. We went by the St. Paul Capitol where we stopped and invited people who were rallying there to join us. (I found out later that these people were gathered to listen to the band Rage against the Machine). We then continued to the Xcel Energy Center. The march came to a halt in free speech zone just outside the Xcel Energy Center. For those of you unaware, the free speech zone consists of a tall fence separating the public from the Xcel Energy Center in front of which is a buffer zone populated by riot police in front of which is another high fence.
Next, the lead organizer got on the shoulders of another marcher and through a bullhorn announced to the protesters that she was going to deliver a citizen’s arrest to the doors of the Xcel Energy Center for crimes against humanity. She made us raise our right hands again and promise that we would stay right where we were and to be peaceful. Everyone I could see raised their hands and repeated the promise back to her. Then she went to the free speech gate that separated us from the front doors of the Xcel Energy Center. She spoke through her bullhorn to the nearest police officer, who was dressed in riot gear.
She told that officer that she wanted to deliver a message to the people at the RNC. She told the officer she was not violent. She expressed that she did not want him to shoot or taze her. She expressed that she wanted to deliver her message to the delegates and was looking for his help in doing that. She suggested to the officer that he could deliver the citizen’s arrest, or that he could escort her to the RNC, or that he could bring someone from the RNC to receive the arrest warrant from her. But, of course, the police officer on the other side of the gate refused to respond at all, and she settled on just placing her message through the gate and asking the officer to have someone come and get it. She informed the officer that it was only a piece of paper and an American Flag so that the officer wouldn’t confuse her actions as anything but peaceful. Prior to sliding the citizen’s arrest through the gate, she asked the police officer if it was ok that she slide the message through the fence, but he did not respond. She delivered the citizen’s arrest and then she left the gate and the march was apparently over at that point.
People started to disperse. As the march had been long, many people were tired. At least 100 people remained in the free speech zone to rest and hang out. Nearly everyone sat down and quietly chatted amongst themselves. I sat down with them, took out my cell phone, and made a couple of calls. I removed my Guantanamo Bay hood at this point and left it off for the rest of the evening. I was sitting with my back against the free speech zone fence along west 5th Street. Then the person next to me borrowed my cell phone and made a call. We were not protesting or being rowdy, nor were we waving any signs or banging on the fence.
About 15 minutes after we sat down, we saw police gathering outside one end of the free speech zone (near the corner of west 6th Street and Main). The riot police opened the gates, came in, and started marching towards us in a line. Some protesters who had been closer to the police officers when they entered the free speech zone called back to the rest of us. They informed us of the officers’ message that we were engaged in an unlawful assembly. However, I only learned this through word of mouth. The officers did not announce it over a bullhorn. I found their accusation odd because we were in a free speech zone that the city had specifically set up so that we could gather to protest the RNC.
I took a picture of the police line-up. As the police came toward us I asked the officers closest to me why they were pushing us out of the free speech zone. While I was asking them this, they were shoving their batons forward in unison and shouting, “Move, move, move!” I was backing up as they were asking us to do. I told them I was moving but was curious how this could be an unlawful assembly since this cage was set up specifically for protesting the RNC. I also made the point that we had been behaving peacefully. They refused to answer me except to say, “It’s an unlawful assembly.” I kept questioning them, “By what criteria did you determine this to be an unlawful assembly?” They would not answer me. I kept moving.
I took a picture of an interaction between the riot police and some people (I believe they were with Code Pink.) They had a bicycle that was chained to a tree, and they were attempting to free it. The police were attempting to stop them by shoving at them with their batons. The bicyclists did eventually free their bikes and rode away. A protester next to me suddenly was pepper sprayed. I did not see them do anything aggressive. They were close to a police officer, but I wasn’t watching at the moment just prior to the spraying. I took a picture of him being helped by the other protesters to decontaminate his eyes.
We then heard loud explosions occurring behind us, which drew our attention. Many of us continued backing up down 7th Street towards St. Peter as directed by the police, which was where the explosions were taking place. As we approached St. Peter (near Mickey’s Diner), we were met by more riot police who had their guns trained on us. That caused me to stop in my tracks and raise my hands above my head. Those around me then saw what appeared to be the concussion grenades detonating at the northwest corner of 7th Street and St. Peter. Upon exploding, the grenades were ear piercing, released a lot of smoke, and produced light flashes. I was not sure why they were setting off the grenades. We were trapped at this point, between two rows of riot police. Protesters in the crowd were expressing concerns over which way we were supposed to go. After a short while, the police officers moved allowing a small space to open at the northwest corner of the intersection (near where the grenades had been detonated). One police officer approached us and pointed towards the opening and indicated that we could either leave in that direction or be arrested. I (and many others) very quickly obliged and walked through the opening, not wishing to get arrested.
Given how the police officer directed me, I was under the impression that I was in an appropriate place. I started to slowly wander away in the general direction that the police officer had originally directed me. At this point, the Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate, Michael Cavlan passed by me, also heading north. He asked if I was ok, and we exchanged disbelief at how the police were behaving. I also got out my cell phone to let my friends, who might be worried about me, know that I was ok. I feared that if they’d heard about this incident in the news, they’d be worried.
I called one of my friends and was talking to them when all of the sudden I heard bullets firing from behind me where the police were lined up. I also heard ricocheting around me, letting me know that they were firing towards me. At this point instinct kicked in, and I started running out of fear. I informed my friend who still on the phone with me that I had to go because I was being shot at. I left the cell phone connected to my friend as I ran so that they could be a witness if necessary. A few seconds after I started running I felt an impact on the left side of my back. It felt like someone had punched me. I did not stop to check how I was because I was still trying to get away. Then I saw in front of me another line of riot police who ordered me to get on the ground.
I dove to the ground on the west sidewalk of St. Peter somewhere between West 7th and Exchange Street. Several police barked an order not to move, while pointing their weapons at me. I let go of my cell phone and Guantanamo hood so that they would not mistake them for weapons and placed my hands beside me on the sidewalk. I said, “I am not moving, I am not moving.” I lay there for a little while and then I heard someone walk up beside me. I then heard what sounded like a camera shutter going off a few times before that person wandered off again. I believe that it must have been a police officer taking my picture, as the reporters were not being treated any differently from the protesters. If there had been a reporter around me when the bullets were fired, I believe they would not have been able to freely move in the area with out the police addressing them.
A few moments later, an officer in riot gear approached me and told me I could get up. As I got to my feet, the officer asked me if I was ok. I replied, “I don’t know.” I obviously had not checked my back yet, as I was not able to move while on the ground. I also was not sure if shock had caused me to underestimate the possible damage to my back. But the officer must not have been terribly concerned about my well-being because he told me to continue north on St. Peter without checking out my back. I believe they must of known they shot me. The reason I say this is because they ordered me to the ground, took a picture of me, and asked me how I was. After asking me how I was, however, he showed in his response a clear lack of concern for my well-being. The only other motive I can ascribe to his having asked me how I was is a possible desire to relieve themselves of liability for having injured me with the hope that I would say I was okay When I did not say I was okay, he did not choose to continue the conversation, perhaps because he did not want to open up the conversation to my having been hurt.
I asked if I could pick up my cell phone, not realizing he had already picked it up. He held it out and said he didn’t know if it is was mine. I also asked if I could “get my hat” (Guantanamo hood) but he said he also did not know if that was mine so I did not pursue it further. The police were extremely intimidating with their guns pointed at me and barking out orders. I felt that if I engaged in any type of conversation with them, I was risking being maced or having them hit me with their batons. So, instead of getting badge numbers or inquiring into how I’d later obtain my stuff, I abandoned my things and walked north with my hands above my head. Reporters were videotaping my walk and had possibly been recording my interactions with the police.
I arrived at an intersection where the protesters and reporters were gathered at the location (around 10th Street) that seemed consistent with where the policed wanted us to be. Once there I checked my back by just touching it and seeing if it hurt. From what I could tell, I didn’t seem seriously hurt. I asked a reporter to borrow her cell phone so I could let my friend know that I was safe. I assumed that they were pretty worried about me after my previous phone call.
After I got of the phone, within a minute or two, once again I heard a ruckus and everyone started to run away from the spot closest to the police towards the north again. The police apparently again were trying to move us by the use of tear gas or pepper spray without first giving us an audible warning. I did not stick around in an attempt to find out exactly what was happening. Instead I tried to get out of the area once again by heading north. When I reached 11th Street, I turned the corner to the east and removed my Guantanamo Bay jumpsuit. I did this in case the police had any residual negative feelings about me and might associate it with the suit. Then, as I continued eastward, I saw another line of officers and therefore asked someone near me if it was safe to head in that direction. The person indicated that the police were rounding people up and that it as not safe to go that way. I backtracked to St. Peter and attempted to cross the bridge over 94 to the north. Once I was clearly away from all the activity, I checked my back more thoroughly and saw that I had a red spot where the bullet had hit. It was obvious at this point that the bullet had been some non-lethal version (rubber bullet). Luckily, I was then able to get to my car and drive home. Since then, despite my numerous attempts to retrieve my cell phone and hood, the St. Paul Police refuse to help me find the cell phone when I call their offices.
I’m still unsure how citizens were supposed to express their free speech during the RNC if not in the free speech zone set up by the city. I’m also not sure how someone in the U.S. is supposed to avoid police brutality if the police aren’t expected to give individuals who they are about to abuse, fair warning of how to avoid that abuse by following whatever directives they feel are necessary. I am in talks with the ACLU, however. They have preliminarily agreed to work with me on a lawsuit.
St. Paul, Minnesota — On the third day of the RNC (Wed, Sept. 3rd), Impeach for Peace will be taking the Protest Stage at 1pm and World Can’t Wait will have the stage at 4pm. So far, the list of speakers includes:
Ray McGovern, is a retired CIA officer turned political activist. McGovern was a Federal employee under seven U.S. presidents over 27 years, presenting the morning intelligence briefings at the White House for many of them.
John Nichols: Author of “The Genius of Impeachment.” Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. He is a contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times and the associate editor of the Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers.
Sylvester Spoon, Cofounder of Patriots for Corporate Rights. An organization which advocates for the Iraq War, the coming Iran War, corporate rights, and defends the practice of torturing. They have had many protests against impeachment, and support rallies for President Bush around the Twin Cities.
Debra Sweet is the National Director of World Can’t Wait. World Can’t Wait is organizing people living in the United States to take responsibility to stop the whole disastrous course led by the Bush administration. World Can’t Wait seeks to create a political situation where the Bush administration’s program is repudiated, where Bush himself is driven from office, and where the whole direction he has been taking U.S. society is reversed.
Ann Wright, a Colonel in the U.S. Army and a career diplomat who resigned in protest the day before the war began.
Jodin Morey: Cofounder of Impeach for Peace (ImpeachforPeace.org), a grassroots, nonpartisan organization based in Minnesota with chapters in twelve states throughout the country working to achieve the impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney and holding them and future elected officials fully accountable under the Rule of Law.
Other speakers such as Scott Ritter (United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998), and members of the Glassbead Collective may also speak.
Join us outside the Xcel Energy Center for these great speakers, and to learn how we move forward from here towards accountability in government and restoring our civil liberties and freedoms! The stage is on W. 7th St. between W 5th and 6th Street. It’s easiest to get there by coming from the North on St. Peter, and heading West on 7th St. Parking is easiest just North of the State Capitol Building.
Sept. 1st, Prisoners of Guantanamo, March on the Republican National Convention from 12pm-3pm
We’re having a “Prisoners of Guantanamo March” to the Excel Energy Center and back again with chains on our arms and hoods upon our heads.
Gather at 11am at the East Steps of the Captiol Building, Downtown St. Paul.
Look for orange Guantanamo Bay outfits and the ImpeachforPeace.org banner. We’ll have some extras for people.