Last Monday evening, in the plush environs of Los Angeles' American Jewish University, a dedicated group of pro-peace, Pro-Constitution patriots "booked" Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. No, I don't mean "booked" as in charged her with a crime and jailed her. In this scenario, "booked" is more akin to "punked" - in which case we surprised Madam Pelosi by revising her new book, and then forced her to read our revisions. Tuh-Dah!!
It happened like this:
Madam Speaker of the House Pelosi, second in line to the Presidency, appeared at a book signing for her ironically titled new tome, "Know Your Power." Since Madam Pelosi has not used her power as Speaker to hold impeachment hearings against George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, as prescribed by Article 1 Section 2 of the Constitution, we pro-Constitution patriots held her to task. We took her new book and scrawled our personalized imperatives and questions within it. I wrote "Honor Your Oath" on side-by side blank pages in the book and "Debate Cindy Sheehan" on the blank side of the book jacket. See below:
Incomparable activist and former Congressional candidate, Marcy Winograd, who sat on my right in the second row of the auditorium, asked how much Pelosi knew about torture. She wrote: "Nancy? Torture? Torture? Torture?" On my left, Jodie Evans, activist par excellence and co-founder of CODEPINK, wrote "Do Your Job!" Eight of us, who sat squarely in Pelosi's line of vision, including environmental attorney, Sara Nichols, and CODEPINK organizer, Tighe Barry, held up our copies of her book to show her our bold edits. Madam Speaker was so flustered by our efforts that she barely made a cogent remark for her whole "Know Your Power" talk. Our peaceful action had impact. The truth is a powerful tool. But if only our actions weren't necessary. If only, as Jodie Evans suggested, Madam Speaker would do her job!
For me, as an Italian American woman who wants Pelosi to succeed, watching her in action was difficult. She's sweet and congenial and inherently likable. But those positives pale when compared to her tragic misdeeds. Those of us who value our democracy and our Constitution are too patriotic to succumb to her charm. If only her valor, her love of nation, and her observance of the rule of law matched her likability. But they don't. Saddest of all is the contrast of who Pelosi once was to who she his now. For a woman who was once at the cutting edge of social progressivism, Nancy Pelosi has lost her way. She has strayed from her former social consciousness into the malaise of power. A sorry state for a woman who 32 years ago was a pivotal player in the 1976 Presidential campaign of radically progressive California Governor, Jerry Brown. In that critically important campaign, known as "The People's campaign," Pelosi helped Brown push hard for social values. She was instrumental in his win in the Maryland primary. Who would believe that 30 years later, Nancy Pelosi, who'd fought so hard for social change, would subvert the Constitution and enable the crimes of George Bush and Dick Cheney?
In 1976, Nancy Pelosi was a well connected political volunteer and social justice activist. She maximized her minimal power to promote a grassroots Presidential campaign. Today, that same Nancy Pelosi, with exponentially more power, turns a deaf ear to "The People" and quashes their dissent. How troubling that a once valiant activist, at the forefront of social causes, is now a tool of the administration and an adversary of participatory democracy.
Since January of last year, members of peace and justice organizations across the nation, not to mention her own San Francisco constituents, have been begging Pelosi to meet with them to discuss defunding and ending the war in Iraq and impeaching George Bush and Dick Cheney. Pelosi has refused their requests. The only opportune venues since that time, where "The People" could challenge the Speaker, are the stops along this tour. "The People" have seized the opportunity and have been confounded every step of the way by Pelosi's bewilderment at their disfavor. Indeed, the mere fact that she scheduled this tour without anticipating the chilly receptions shows she's impervious to her own folly. It's a similar fantasy to the one the Administration held that it would be greeted by Iraqis with flowers. Pelosi is either clueless or delusional. It's inconceivable that after countless refusals to meet with the public that she'd not expect a verbal flogging. Yet all along her ill-fated tour, although she is the culprit, "The People" bear the brunt of her malfeasance by being ejected and even arrested.
In Washington, DC, people were discouraged from asking questions. In Philadelphia, people were whisked off if they tried to ask a question. In San Francisco, people were pushed away if they tried to ask a question. In Los Angeles, attorney Peter Thottam, founder of the Los Angeles National Impeachment Center, was hauled off and arrested after he stood up in the front row and shouted:
I'm going to vomit. Who gave you the right to take the Constitution and shove it down the toilet? Who gave you the right to take impeachment off the table? Stop talking to us like we're children. One million Iraqis are dead, 5000 Americans are dead. You have destroyed the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th and 8th Amendments.
A second impeachment activist, Jennifer Epps, was also arrested after attempting to question Pelosi at the book signing table. Epps and Thottam both spent 13 hours in jail and were released the next morning. They have court dates in the beginning of September.
The most telling exchange of the evening was between CODEPINK cofounder, Jodie Evans, who has known Nancy Pelosi for over 30 years. Evans stood up to Pelosi in frustration after Pelosi said:
I completely agree the Constitution is challenged by these people [Bush administration]. That's why we have passed over and over again Contempt of Congress resolutions in subcommittee and full committee and even on the floor of the House holding the Administration in contempt for not honoring the checks and balances.
The following exchange ensued:
Evans: But Nancy, you swore to uphold the Constitution.
Pelosi: (recognizing Evans) You can ask me any question you want.
Evans: I brought 2 books because you said if there was proof that Bush...
(Pelosi rescinds Evans permission to question her)
Evans: You said that you would answer the question.
Pelosi: I said that if you hand it [the question] to me I would answer it for you but I'm not interrupting the program.
(Evans holds out Vincent Bugliosi's book, "The Prosecution Of George W. Bush For Murder"and Ron Suskind's book, "The Way Of The World" to Security to give to Pelosi)
Evans: (to Security) So you want to hand her this?
Evans: (to Pelosi) But if you're going to talk about upholding the Constitution and you're not upholding the Constitution..
Pelosi: Let me just say this to you. I take an oath of office to uphold the Constitution. Don't dare tell me that I don't do that.
Evans: That's what I just said.
At that point Evans was hauled away by Security and driven off the property of American Jewish University. She was spared arrest because Security heard Pelosi grant her permission to ask a question. Below is a photo of Jodie Evans attempting to hand the books to Pelosi. It was shot by Jason Leopold and Alan Breslauer who were seated in the rear of the auditorium. In this photo, Evans' similarity to the Statue of Liberty is eerie, as are the books' resemblance to the torch. A transcendent moment as Jodie tried to light Nancy's way.
Watching these two old friends and current political opponents square off in a public arena was a powerful moment for those who know their history. In 1976, when Pelosi was working on Jerry Brown's Presidential campaign, Jodie Evans, just 22 years old at the time, was Governor Brown's Director of Administration. The two women worked closely together. Pelosi, an ardent progressive, had been Evans' mentor. As Jodie has told me:
Nancy loved me. She taught me everything she knew.
How sad that these former allies have hit such a dismal impasse. How far apart they have grown. Evans has been a political powerhouse on the national scene for over three decades. She ran Jerry Brown's 1991 Presidential campaign in which she instituted campaign finance limits and the first electronic fundraising effort that inspires grassroots fundraising today. Unlike Pelosi, who succumbed to the pitfalls of elected office, Evans has remained true to her progressive values. Evans tells me:
Nancy has fallen prey to her hunger for more power and doesn't honorably use the power that she has.
A few nights prior to the book event, knowing Evans would be challenging Pelosi, I asked Evans how she would feel publicly confronting her friend. I told her I thought it would be painful. Evans' response was simplistic, yet profound. She said:
Friends don't let friends do the wrong thing.
It doesn't get much clearer than that. In fact, that's the sentiment that drives most activists who push for impeachment, an end to the war, an end to corporate influence over government, an end to the military industrial complex and the prison industrial complex and an end to the disparity between rich and poor.
Patriots don't let their governments do the wrong thing!
That's the message we'll be bringing to Denver and to St. Paul.
Patriots don't let their governments do the wrong thing!
Say it loud! Say it proud! Say it loud! Say it proud! Say it loud! Say it proud!
Note: Here's the video of Peter Thottam and Jodie Evans addressing Nancy Pelosi at American Jewish University on Monday night - courtesy of Jason Leopold and Alan Breslauer: