I spent the night of Aug. 11th in jail in South L.A. because Speaker Nancy Pelosi didn’t want to read Vincent Bugliosi’s book The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder. Or she didn’t want to be seen accepting it, because then she couldn’t feign ignorance. She had stated on ABC’s The View just a couple of weeks before “If somebody had a crime that the President had committed, that would be a different story”, so I waited in line at her book-signing (for her ironically-titled memoir Know Your Power) and gently laid former L.A. District Attorney Bugliosi’s book on the table in front of her. But as soon as I tried to tell her – very politely – that it proved how Bush had committed the crime of fraud by taking us to war on a “false premise” (the two words she herself has used), her smile dropped, she turned from me, and I was instantly surrounded by shouting secret service, police, and security guards. Do I think her desire to hide in an opaque bubble justifies my being arrested and placed in custody for 13 hours? I sure don’t, and though my charges were dropped, oh, how I’ve considered moving back to the Bay Area to vote for her opponent, Independent candidate Cindy Sheehan.
With a fraction of Pelosi’s formal power, Sheehan challenged Bush a hundred times more powerfully. Sheehan confronted him overtly, camped outside his ranch during his 5-week vacation. Contrast that with Pelosi, who’s on video laughing at Bush’s correspondents’ dinner joke-slideshow about vanished WMDs, even though she claims she knew the intel didn’t support the war. Pelosi has also repeatedly re-funded the war while muttering “Let’s hope this is the last time”; she has put up with the White House obstructing congress and sneering at subpoenas while wishing that Bush would be “more co-operative”; and she was ready to fork over $700 billion with just a little bit of griping – unaware that others in her party actually listen to their constituents and didn’t immediately want to come along. When it comes to knowing her power, Pelosi seems to be mainly aware of the power she can wield against those who would seek to impeach — she even intervened in an effort in L.A. City Council to pass a purely symbolic resolution for impeachment, I’m told by one of the councilmembers. Her team’s insistence throughout her book tour this summer on shielding her from citizens’ questions as well as from pieces of paper citizens might want to hand to her — the staff at the L.A. book-signing even rifled through the books people held in line “to make sure there are no pictures” — is certainly a display of power.
And since the stories from activists who tried to approach her at her alleged meet-and-greet book-signings all over America tell of similar strict and aggressive barriers, it sure seems like deliberate policy. (Moreover, the L.A. venue that co-operated with her in this, the American Jewish University, doesn’t seem to mind Vincent Bugliosi’s book when she’s not around. He is giving a talk on The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder there this month.) She won’t even respond to questions from Cindy Sheehan’s campaign about why she won’t debate her opponent.
It’s much like what happens when voters call Pelosi’s office — we’re cut off as soon as we reveal we have an issue to weigh in on, and we’re directed to the black hole of voicemail.
Contrast this with the accessibility, the passion for democracy and the respect for the Constitution, that we’ve seen from Cindy Sheehan. Sheehan, a Nobel Peace Prize-nominee in 2005, has been much more than a traveling keynote speaker for peace, though she has done that extensively despite much harassment. She has also shown bravery by frequently risking arrest, and true leadership by creating “Camp Casey” and by co-founding, for bereaved military parents, Gold Star Families for Peace. She has also gone on diplomatic missions to over 13 countries, for which she was recognized by congress and the Canadian, Scottish, and South Korean governments.
The trigger for Sheehan’s decision to run against Pelosi came in July 2007 when Bush commuted convicted Cheney aide “Scooter” Libby’s prison sentence. Sheehan labeled Bush’s act “treason”. By contrast, the Speaker, with the power of impeachment in the palm of her hand, merely wagged her finger. Pelosi’s refusal to impeach Bush, Cheney, or others has not only betrayed Valerie Plame and Joseph Wilson, or other high-profile insiders like Richard Clarke and Paul O’Neill, but has betrayed the sacrifices of many other valiant whistleblowers who risked career, reputation, and freedom to bring Bush crimes to light.
People like Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D., who exposed the neocon intel distortion; Sgt. Joe Darby, who broke the Abu Ghraib story and faced death threats; Matthew Diaz, Geneva Convention-defender who got a 6-month sentence for sending the names of 551 Guantanamo detainees to a human rights group; Stephen Heller, who warned of Diebold’s plan to skirt the law in California voting machines and got 3 years probation and a $10,000 fine; Bunnatine Greenhouse, who exposed Pentagon favoring of Halliburton and was demoted; Rick Plitz, who resigned as a government scientist over the alteration of research papers on climate change; Mark Klein, telecom whistleblower; and Sibel Edmonds, who is under a gag order to keep from telling what she knows, which she hints includes spying on Congress.
How great it would be if the first woman Speaker didn’t go down in history for doing her job so badly that she allowed a dictatorial president to hold the country hostage. But she was handed her mission in Nov. 2006 and chose not to accept it. Instead of stopping the war, repealing the Patriot Act, curbing global warming, protecting our privacy, ensuring the integrity of elections or passing other important legislation – despite her frequent claim legislative “priorities” left no time for impeachment – she seems to have been principally devoted to letting things get as bad as possible so a Democrat would win. But if Obama makes it through the rampant election fraud we’re already seeing, and does try to reverse the radical right-wing damage to the country of the last eight years without Congress first clearing up the matter of how criminal it all was, he’s going to have a hell of a battle. And he’s going to need a much stronger ally in the House. Voting for Sheehan in San Francisco would mean the House could choose a replacement for Pelosi as their leader — Kucinich is my personal favorite, of course, but I’m not picky.
California’s 8th district has the chance to vote for a feminist who is pro-labor and anti-corporate, who will push for assistance for people losing their homes, increased regulation for key industries, and the repeal of No Child Left Behind; who will advocate for civil liberties, immigrant rights, gay rights, single-payer health care, a national energy system, a mass transit system, fair trade, free higher education, and an end to jailing millions of non-violent offenders. Or if they don’t like any of that, they could just stick with Pelosi.
But I’m all in favor of giving Madame Speaker a nice long vacation so she can read that Bugliosi book.