Friday, August 15, 2008

Pelosi meets some of her constituents

Last night Congresswoman and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a book promotion event at Cowell Theater in Fort Mason in San Francisco. It was the only one of a series of these book events held in her Congressional district. Though despite Cindy Sheehan's challenge there's no real possibility that Pelosi will not be reelected, San Francisco is not very happy with its Congresscritter. This is not very surprising, since in general, most people are very pissed off with Congress. And Democrats, which is all we have here, are among the most pissed off. In July,

just 9 percent say Congress is doing a good or excellent job. Most voters (52 percent) say Congress is doing a poor job, which ties the record high in that dubious category.

Last month, 11 percent of voters gave the legislature good or excellent ratings. Congress has not received higher than a 15 percent approval rating since the beginning of 2008.

The percentage of Democrats who give Congress positive ratings fell from 17 percent last month to 13 percent this month.

Rasmussen Reports

Naturally Madame Speaker catches lots of this disaffection, especially from the local left whose core complaint is her undermining of Constitutional checks and balances by "taking impeachment off the table." A few protesters stood outside before the event.

Code Pink was on hand.

Some carried a bill of particulars of the crimes facilitated by the do-nothing Democratic Congress.

Interestingly, the regular organization Democrats who shared the line for admittance to the event with the protesters did not seem in the least put out by the dissent. In fact, to judge from the ones several of us talked with, they too feel frustrated with the Speaker.

The media were happy to get an explanation from articulate pro-impeachment cab driver Brad Newsham who has been expressing himself at several of the Pelosi book events. This is his account of being (gently) thrown out in San Rafael.

My moment with Pelosi -- non-intellectual but, thank goodness, non-arresting

I love the San Rafael Police. But I think I may now have a "personal thing" going with Nancy Pelosi.

I honestly didn't plan to get myself escorted out of the auditorium tonight. I was told by the organizers that the event was sold out and that I was #25 on the waiting list and I should definitely not expect to get a ticket. But on Tuesday morning I made myself a banner (a one-foot by six-foot strip of white sheet, with "IMPEACH" spelled out in blood-red paint), and in the evening I drove over to San Rafael anyway, to participate in the protest outside. For about half an hour prior to the event I positioned myself so that incoming traffic could see me holding my banner aloft -- lots of honks and waves and thumbs-ups. ...

At the start time for the event I folded up my banner and stuffed it into my backpack and joined the 50 or so protesters from Marin Peace and Justice who were gathered in front of the auditorium. Ted Newman, who ran in the June Democratic primary as a write-in impeachment candidate from Marin, told me that there were still some tickets available. At the door, I paid my $26, got my copy of Pelosi's book, and the next thing I knew I was walking into the auditorium.

The place was full -- not a single vacant seat. I sat on the floor in the aisle toward the back. No one bothered me. For 30-45 minutes I listened to Pelosi answer softball questions lobbed to her by Elaine Petrocelli, owner of Book Passage. As I listened to Pelosi's answers, I kept thinking: "This is unreal. You'd think that the only things in life that mattered were that a woman was Speaker of the House and that Democrats were gaining ground." ...

Petrocelli told Pelosi that there had been many cards passed in by people who were distressed about the damage to the Constitution. And when Pelosi started a long rambling non-answer -- something about the judiciary and the Supreme Court -- I suddenly was removing my banner and unfolding it in my lap. I sat looking down at the ground for 15 seconds listening to my heart thump-thump-thump-thump and thinking, "So this is how it is..." while Pelosi's voice droned on in the background. And then I was slipping my pack over my shoulders, pushing myself to my feet, grasping the corners of my banner, extending it over my head, and walking slowly down the aisle toward the stage. The Secret Service agent (?) near the stage headed my way. I turned toward Pelosi -- I was maybe 40 feet away. I turned toward the audience so they could read the banner. There was applause -- not overwhelming, and far from unanimous, but while I was in the room, the people who were clapping did not stop. I turned again. Then again. The Secret Service agent poked something (I think it was a finger) in my back. Four people in blue uniforms surrounded me. As the police herded me toward the back, I heard Pelosi call out to me, "Thank you for your passion." She said it in that politician voice -- you know the one. And if she'd left it at that, maybe I wouldn't be feeling the things I'm feeling right now. But she didn't leave it at that. She waited a beat, and brought the snitty back into her tone: "And for your intellect." There were a lot of Pelosi supporters in the room. One might have expected to hear a wave of laughter. I did not hear one. All I heard was clapping.

And then I was out on the front steps, showing the police my driver's license. They quoted the code for "disrupting a meeting." I said, "Was I disrupting?" They said, "You were."

They were always respectful to me. The sergeant said, "We have to talk to the agent." Over a walkie-talkie he asked, "Should we arrest him, or release him?" He told the agent: "Clean record." He said: "He's a good guy." Finally, to me: "If you leave the premises we won't have to arrest you."

I made it home in time to watch some of the Olympics with my family.

You can get on this cheerful agitator's email list via his Beach Impeach website.

I didn't go into Cowell Theater last night, but I've heard some protesters were ejected there. Our Congressperson has to expect protest on the rare occasions she shows her face in San Francisco.

Update: Not long after I posted this, I heard more from Brad about the inside festivities:

Toward the start time, everyone filed into the auditorium, which holds 400 and was maybe 80% full. Pelosi and her interviewer, Michael Krasny of KQED "Forum," came on stage to much applause and a few scattered boos and hisses. Early on, someone near me hummed "Nah-nah-nah-nah, hey-hey, good-bye" and I hummed it back, but that was the last time I heard it during the evening. I don't personally know all the activists who were there, so it's really hard to give an accurate count, but we were scattered individually and in clusters throughout the crowd, and a few minutes into Pelosi's talk someone, not me, yelled "Impeach" or something, and the cry was echoed by other people around the auditorium, then it stopped, and Pelosi droned on. She told a lot of stories about her start in politics, most of which are from her book. And every now and then, someone in the crowd, not me, would scream, "Iraq!" Or "Torture!" Or "Impeach!" And pretty soon I was screaming right along with everyone.

When she scolded us all, "You're just being silly now! If you want the Iraq war to end, you should put all this wonderful energy into electing Barack Obama!" At which point I found myself pointing my finger at her and screaming, "We elected YOU to do that..." My cry was drowned out by a chorus of others: "Do your job!" "IMPEACH!" "War CRIMINAL!"

It went on like this for quite a while, causing several stoppages. Soon there were security people running up and down the aisles like ballpark popcorn vendors, trying to identify who was screaming, but it was so spread out, and so loud, that they really couldn't do much. If they went to one area of the crowd, protesters in another area shouted out, and if they surrounded someone, protesters yelled, "Leave her/him alone!" Pelosi and Krasny several times stopped and pleased with us to stop. The crowd was, numerically, mostly in Pelosi's corner, screaming at all of us screamers to stop.

And on it went... I have to say that Pelosi was pretty much unflappable -- I don't think we caused her any big reconsiderations, don't think we did anything to budge her, but you never know. In the film "The Fog of War," former head of the US Department of Defense, Robert McNamara, said that it was the demonstrators, particularly the one who set himself afire right outside McNamara's office, that got him to question what he was doing in regards to the Vietnam War.

... I came away from the evening with the sense of having screamed at the Speaker of the House for about an hour -- and even though I don't kid myself that it accomplished anything, it FELT good, it felt RIGHT. She has so choked off debate on the subject of impeachment, and anything else she doesn't want to talk about, that this kind of thing is about the only avenue of protest we have left, and it felt absolutely fair to me that we took that avenue.

I love that we are irrepressible around here.

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