Feel free to send this link as far and wide as you can…
Thank you -- Brad
For months I have been listening to people in the back of my San Francisco taxicab express the most profound anger/disgust/embarrassment regarding our president. In my cab life and in the rest of my Bay Area life, there is near-unanimous agreement that Bush should be impeached if he bamboozled us into the Iraq war -- and it’s darn near impossible to find anyone who doesn’t believe that he did lie about that -- and probably about some other things too. But while there are some very loud private conversations about impeachment, no national politician has broached the subject publicly. My intention with this email is to see that change.
It was a gray but warm winter afternoon in northern California. A group of my neighbors and I were sitting on my front porch, watching our kids play and debating the impending invasion of Iraq. My friend Claire said it was wrong, no matter what.
“But, Claire,” I said. “If someone on our block had weapons in his house and was threatening to use them on us or our kids, I know you wouldn’t even hesitate about sending in the cops.”
“But they’re lying,” Claire said. “There are no weapons…”
“Oh, Claire…” Oh, you poor misguided thing. “I really don’t think our government would lie about something that important.”
I actually said that -- just two-plus years ago!
A few weeks after the election, Laurence Tribe settled into the backseat of my taxicab. Tribe is the Harvard Law professor who represented Al Gore in front of the Supreme Court during Bush vs. Gore (2000). He also would have been the attorney to represent John Kerry had there been a Bush vs. Kerry after the 2004 election. I felt that Kerry should not have conceded without a huge fight, and I’m afraid I gave Mr. Tribe a cab driver earful. I even quoted Lincoln:
This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.
Tribe said he was as disappointed as anyone with the way the election went down. (And you gotta believe him -- many people think Tribe would have been Kerry’s go-to Supreme Court nominee.) Tribe said he did not at all doubt the Republicans’ ability and inclination to steal the vote in Ohio, but the evidence was simply not good enough to present to the Supreme Court -- the same Supreme Court, mind you, that had installed Bush just four years earlier! Sure the whole thing stank badly, he said, but he was still choosing to have faith in the greater process, in the American constitutional system. Do you have kids, he asked me? I said I had an eight-year old daughter. Tribe said he had, I think, three daughters, and asked me: If we dismember or overthrow the government, what sort of uncertain world will we be handing to our children? It was a good question, one for which I didn’t have a good answer.
And then came the Downing Street (“fixing the intelligence”) memo. Everything has changed in America in the last several months. The number of people who still believe we were not consciously manipulated into an illegal, discretionary war is now roughly the same as the number of people who still believe in O.J.
Anyone who has driven a San Francisco taxicab for 20 years -- as I have -- comes to understand that he/she is a scout, a forward-positioned listener, an unofficial but accurate monitor of the national mood. Months before the media began to report on the dot-com explosion, we cab drivers were already living in it -- and months before it ended, we knew it was all over. And I promise you, in October 2005 the national mood for impeachment is a growth industry. There is a huge, under-reported sentiment for booting the scoundrel who lured us into war on false pretenses.
For month after month I’ve been hearing a fundamental dismay expressed by the people in my back seat -- and it’s not a bunch of screw-loose Bay Area whackos, either. Off the top of my head: A dentist from Orange County… a Justice Department attorney… a physician from Kansas City… a soon-to-be graduate of Golden Gate University Law School… an IBM executive… two middle-aged women from St. Paul… a grandmother from Dallas, visiting San Francisco to welcome a three-day-old grandchild… a French woman who asked, “Why is this -- every American I meet voted only for Kerry?”… three Manhattan publishing executives speculating on whether or not Bush is drinking again… a 79-year old veteran of Guadalcanal, who when he was sixteen connived his way into the Army so that he could be part of World War II, and who volunteered about our current president: “This boy, he ain’t got it -- he just ain’t got it.”
Each of these customers -- and literally hundreds and hundreds more -- have voiced to me their disgust with the direction in which the Bush administration has misled the country, and horror at the prospect of another three years-plus.
But sometime back in midsummer 2005 I got sick of hearing it all, became ashamed of myself for participating in it. Are we so feeble and weak or fat and happy that we won’t even raise our voices -- except to each other and maybe to our cab drivers? When is someone going to actually do something?
Toward the end of the summer I started to make a pest of myself with phone calls to the office of my congresswoman, Barbara Lee -- the only member of Congress to vote against authorizing Bush to use whatever force he deemed necessary in going after the 9/11 terrorists.
I told Ms. Lee’s aide about the toxic despair spewing from the back of my cab, and asked, “Does Ms. Lee hear the same sorts of things?” Yes, said her aide, Representative Lee indeed hears from a lot of frustrated people. “Well,” I asked, “is anyone talking impeachment? Is Ms. Lee contemplating filing articles?” Ms. Lee has heard quite a bit of impeachment chatter, her aide said, but she does not have an impeachment plan.
During our third conversation, I was invited to call the office of John Conyers, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee -- any impeachment motion will have to go through Conyers. Conyers’ aide told me that Conyers too has heard the chatter: the Democrats in Washington plus many Republicans are as anguished as my San Francisco taxicab customers. But so far, said Conyers’ aide, everyone has been hesitant to introduce articles of impeachment. It’s not that there aren’t good legal and moral grounds for it, but impeachment would probably be defeated by the Republican-controlled Senate. And anyone introducing or voting for impeachment could expect to have their political and economic lifelines chopped off by the Bush administration.
An aide at the office of House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi gave me a similar assessment.
It took a while for this reality to sink in, but finally it did: Our elected representatives are afraid of our government! I realized: “These people need some direction from us -- we the people -- and they need some backup, too. How do we give it to them?”
Within a couple of weeks I came up with a plan. The first four people to whom I outlined it said, unasked: “I’m in.”
What would it be worth to you to see the whole Bush administration pack up and leave before their scheduled departure -- in January 2009!
If on the glorious morning in America when you switch on your computer and learn that articles of impeachment have been filed, or on the sobering day that Bush and his whole crew file out of Washington, would you perhaps feel some shock, some awe, and maybe a tingly sense that justice and the right thing had been finally been done?
When your grandkids ask you if you were part of the revolution that turned around the American government (stopped the corporate blitzkrieg on our environment, preserved the right to choose, rekindled the idea of separation of church and state, stopped the substitution of faith for science …), what would it be worth to you to be able to tell them, “Yes -- I damn sure was!”
During my monthly chat with my therapist, I outlined my idea. And I asked if in her professional opinion I was suffering some sort of psychotic break -- thinking I had a plan to impeach the president! “Do you think I’m in for the biggest embarrassment of my life here?”
Shellie said: “I know who you are, and no, you’re not delusional, you’re not suffering grandiosity… You’re excited, you’re passionate. And I’ll tell you: My entire practice would want to know about this. I spend at least five minutes of every session listening to people despair over this administration.”
On a recent morning at the cab lot I saw my old friend Richard, owner of the taxicab company where I work. Richard told me about some of the machinations going on in the world of San Francisco taxicab politics. I told him I was working on a plan to impeach the President and sweep his administration out of office.
He smiled. “You know you don’t have a prayer, don’t you?”
I told him the plan.
As I was heading for my taxi, Richard called me back. “I’m not saying I’m in,” he said… “but I’m saying I’m probably in…”
My plan, my pledge:
On October 15, I opened a new $1,000 account in my own name at Bank of America. When Bush is impeached -- but not before -- I will determine just who, in my opinion, were the party or parties or politician(s) most responsible for having caused that, and I will donate every penny to them.
Impeachment has a broad definition, and I’m not sure at exactly which point I’ll donate my money. It might be when articles of impeachment are filed. Or when the Senate votes for Bush’s censure or ouster. Or the day the whole administration is overturned. But in any case, whoever has done the hard work involved -- work that is far beyond my and probably your capabilities -- will certainly have earned my money.
If you feel as strongly as I do, please step forward. Open a $1,000 account in your own name at any bank convenient to you, and pledge to distribute it, in proportions of your own choosing, to whatever party (or parties) you determine has caused the departure of the Bush administration -- if and when it happens. The money never leaves your control until Bush is impeached. If Bush is not impeached I think the country will be the poorer for it, but your $1,000 will still be in your own account in your own name. It’s a better-than-foolproof, money-back guarantee.
When you have opened an account, please send me an email. I will want to have a conversation with each of the first 100 people who take this leap -- to determine that you’re serious. (Note: PLEASE DO NOT PARTICIPATE if you are not serious about donating your money upon impeachment. Let’s not falsify our data -- it’s terrible karma.)
Short term strategy:
I will not fully implement this plan until 100 people have pledged their money and opened their own accounts. If before 100 accounts are opened, something unforseen triggers a rush to impeach in the Congress -- one more outrageous revelation or maybe a great big batch of indictments from the special prosecutor -- I’ll probably simply drop this.
But if 100 accounts are opened, and there is still no credible, national move to impeach, two things will happen:
1. Within days I will organize a press conference in front of Barbara Lee’s office in Oakland or Nancy Pelosi’s office in San Francisco (or somewhere else appropriate), where I, and as many other pledgers as can join me, will invite the rest of America to join us. Fifty million people voted -- often vehemently -- against Bush (even before the Downing Street memo). If only one out of fifty feel as strongly as I think they do, there will be $1 billion sitting there, waiting to support whatever entities or parties or politicians rise to this historic occasion.
2. The national group www.afterdowningstreet.org has agreed to help track the number of people and the amount of money pledged. At that point anyone in the world will be able to log onto the internet and see just how many people have pledged exactly how much money. (The leaders of After Downing Street have been very helpful and encouraging, but are nonetheless skeptical that even a handful of people will make this pledge. But they also say that 100 people opening $1,000 accounts will turn them into believers.)
1. November 2 has been selected as a national day of protest (see www.worldcantwait.org). I expect this plan to have been widely distributed by then. If you know anyone you think would be interested in seeing it, please forward the link to them.
2. By November 15 I expect to have 100 co-pledgers who have opened accounts (as of October 26, seventeen people have promised to open accounts and I know of four who have actually done so), and to hold a press conference within a day or two of that date.
3. I expect that by Thanksgiving we’ll have heard at least one national politician utter the I-word in public. A single member of the House of Representatives can cause the filing of impeachment charges. If even a few thousand of us -- we the outraged -- put our money where our mouths are, do you not think at least one of our elected representatives will finally feel empowered to do what she or he has wanted to do for years? Who do you suppose it will be? Or who’s to say this won’t trigger a stampede?
4. After that, I expect the impeachment process to run its just course, and for the whole miserable Bush cabal to be run out of power.
If Laurence Tribe ever climbs into my cab again, I’m ready to turn his question back around: “What do you think today ? If we don’t get rid of this government now, what kind of country and what kind of world will be left to hand to our kids?”
THE IMPEACHMENT PLEDGE: I have opened a $1,000 bank account in my own name, and when Bush is impeached I will donate all of that money to the parties or politician(s) I deem most responsible for having caused that.