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Matt Gonzalez Interviews Cindy Sheehan
By Matt Gonzalez
1. Your recent announcement that you intended to run against Nancy Pelosi came as a surprise to many who see the Democrats as the leading force against the Bush regime and against the Iraq War. Why are you running against the Speaker?
I am running against Nancy Pelosi because I do not view the Democrats as any force against the Bush regime or the Iraq War. Since the Dems won a majority in both Houses of Congress in November '06, the occupation of Iraq has just become worse. 2007 was the worse year for American casualties and 56,000 Iraqis were fleeing the American induced violence per month. The Democratic House supported the surge and has given George Bush billions of more of our tax dollars to fund the continued mistake.
Additionally, even though Congressman John Conyers literally wrote the book on impeachment, which was a brilliant indictment of the Bush regime, Nancy Pelosi took impeachment "off the table."
Since I announced my candidacy against Ms. Pelosi, the Democratic Congress also expanded the Bush regime's program of domestic warrant-less wiretapping. It is totally unacceptable to me for anyone, but especially the Speaker of the House, to ever take any part of our Constitution "off the table."
Recently, the world has also learned that Ms. Pelosi was one of the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee who was briefed by the CIA on torture procedures in 2002. The committee does take an oath of secrecy, but in a Democracy, potential and intentional war crimes cannot be kept secret. If Ms. Pelosi has taken her first oath to protect and defend the Constitution more seriously, a lot of needless violence and heartache could have been averted. On a very personal and tragic level, the policies of torture at Abu Ghraib was one of the factors that led to a Shi'a uprising that killed my son, Casey, in Sadr City, Baghdad on April 04, 2004. Even with saying all that, my candidacy is not about vengeance, but about justice. Our elected officials from both parties must be held accountable for their crimes against humanity and our democracy.
2. A number of progressives have pointed out how odd it is that a constitutional "tool" such as impeachment can be "taken off the table" when it is designed precisely to remove rogue presidents from office. Can you comment on this? Doesn't Pelosi's unilateral pronouncement likewise undermine our Constitution?
I believe, with all my heart, that the clauses referring to impeachment in our Constitution cannot be removed from the Constitution, but it does not surprise me that Speaker Pelosi has had the nerve to excise them unilaterally because she and Congress have also legitimized Bush's crimes of violating FISA (which really is redundant because of the 4th Amendment that protects us from unreasonable search and seizure) and torture which is in direct violation of the 8th Amendment that protects us from "cruel and unusual" punishment and the "Supremacy Clause" (Article VI, Clause 2) of the Constitution which makes treaties (UN Conventions against pre-emptive war and torture AND the Geneva Conventions) the supreme law of the land.
I believe that not one of our elected representatives can presume to pick and choose which parts of the Constitution that he/she wants to obey: it's not a "cafeteria democracy."
My campaign office has been collecting letters from all over the country addressed to Nancy Pelosi demanding that she at least allow impeachment proceedings to go forward on the Vice President, Dick Cheney, that were introduced by Rep Dennis Kucinich (D-Oh). We delivered over 8000 letters and a petition with over 3000 signatures on it. Drew Hammill (from Pelosis's DC office) had this to say:
"The Speaker understands the frustration many Americans feel about the conduct of this war, but she believes that impeachment would not only divide our country, but distract Congress from the major needs of America's working families."
I don't believe that the Speaker has any idea about the level of frustration in the country over, not only the war, but the impunity with which Bush and Cheney commit their "treason and other high crimes and misdemeanors." The Bush administration has not only divided this country, but has divided families and friends. The policies of BushCo have destroyed two countries and killed/wounded/displaced millions of people.
I believe that one "major need" of America's working families is the need for our elected officials to obey the rule of law; minimum wage increases that don't even increase wages enough to "liveable" for today and allowing the recruiters to prey on our children through the No Child Left Behind act are not helping us at all.
3. Have you heard anything from the leading candidates for President that would cause you to rethink your decision to run?
No, they have just reinforced my decision.
We must have some checks and balances on our Executive Branch and it won't happen with our current crop of Reps---as a matter of fact, with all the "top tier" candidates pledging to keep some level of troops in Iraq for decades and not taking a "nuclear" option off the table for Iran, we need more peace and justice candidates to make challenges to every Representative/Senator.
4. Was there one particular point or moment that you came to realize that the Democrats, despite their many promises, were not committed to ending the war?
I had been suspecting for many years that the Democrats and Republicans were two right wings of the same conservative bird, but when the Democratic-led House gave George Bush nearly 200 billion more dollars to wage his war in May, 2007, I had had enough. That was also when I left the Democratic Party, although at that point, my ties were tenuous to the Party at best.
5. Candidates for political office, who haven't served before, are often not seen as viable. Are you encountering this reaction from prospective voters and how are you responding to it?
I haven't really encountered this problem, but even though I haven't held a governmental elected position, I have worked a lot with Members of Congress and I have traveled the world and have met with politicians such as the President of Venezuela, the Foreign Minister of Ireland, the Mayor of London, the president of the Cuban Parliament, and the Vice President of Spain. I had a high level meeting with members of the Bloc Quebequois in Canada who changed their party's position on US Soldiers receiving amnesty (after our meeting) in Canada if the soldiers want to resist the war by going there as during Vietnam.
In South Korea I met with many members of Parliament and after our meeting and visits supporting the residents of Daechuri, the US military indefinitely halted their expansion of Camp Humphries which was encroaching on the villager's lands.
I would like to remind the readers, also, that Nancy Pelosi had never held an elected office before she became the Rep to the 8th District.
6. How do you think your activism and notoriety as a leader of the anti war movement helps you in this race against Pelosi? Does it give you any advantages?
I think I do start with a slight advantage because I believe many people in the 8th District already know who I am and know what I stand for and that I am wholly committed to peace and accountability. I believe I have demonstrated my deep love and commitment to, not only the people of this country, but for the citizens of the world.
7. How will you handle criticism that if successful, you will have unseated the first woman Speaker in US history?
Of course, I believe that Nancy Pelosi has partnered with the Bush Regime to keep our troops in the Middle East and her recent incredibly inept handling of the Armenian genocide question was not only horrible timing, but shows an incredible lack of knowledge of Middle Eastern political realities and an evidence of pushing Turkey closer to Iran and further de-stablizing the region Recently, with the help of the American military, Turkey has been bombing our allies in Kurdistan. It seems like she is supporting an invasion of Iran by the Bush regime. The previous Turkish regime did commit horrible crimes against the Armenian people and it was a genocide that occurred almost 100 years ago. BushCo with the bankrolling of Pelosi's Congress is committing a genocide in Iraq right now while also ignoring the genocide in the Sudan.
The time was way over due for a female Speaker of the House, and indeed a female president, but in my opinion, male or female, Pelosi has been a failure.
I also believe if the Congress cared about our Representative Democracy, their oaths of office, and peace for all peoples, they would be re-evaluating their choice of Speaker of the House to put in place someone more competent and more responsive to the will of the people. I don't hold much hope out for this though, as it seems most of the Members of Congress are more interested in consolidating their own power and putting their own and the special interest's priorities above the good of our country.
It is also my opinion that when Nancy Pelosi took the impeachment clauses of our Constitution "off the table" her actions bordered on treasonous.
8. What are the primary issues you are going to run on?
Of course, my main issues are troops immediately out of Iraq; reparations for the people of Iraq and making sure our Vets have easy and full access to education/job training and health care. I am also running on accountability: holding Ms. Pelosi accountable for not holding George Bush and Dick Cheney accountable.
I care about many other issues: Even thought the people of San Francisco are committed to a greening of the earth, Pelosi only cares about greening the cafeterias on Capitol Hill while I have formed an alliance with the residents of Bayview Hunter's Point to help get their community decontaminated and fair treatment by police to all citizens regardless of race and to also stop the gentrification that kills the diversity and vibrancy of our community; free trade unions agreements that send our good jobs overseas and enslave our brothers and sisters in other countries must be repealed along with Taft-Hartley so workers can have the strong protection of unions; helping put transgender citizens into the ENDA Fair Employment Act; urgently stopping the degradation of our environment; advocating for single-payer and universal health care; insisting on free and good educations for students from pre-school to university; making sure Social Security is not privatized and is available to all Americans when we retire; and making sure that rent control is kept in place, etc. I realize, however that a fair and ambitious domestic agenda is not possible with billions of dollars a week being poured into the sands of the Middle East.
9. These are all such important issues. I attended your campaign kickoff December 8th and was shocked that the SF Chronicle didn't run a single story about the launching of your campaign. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the establishment here isn't going to promote your ideas. Were you surprised by the media blackout?
Were you really shocked? I wasn't because the Chronicle alternately slams me or ignores me. They have printed a couple of my op-eds in the past, so I shouldn't complain and after the Chronicle did a nasty hit piece on me in March of 2006, I haven't been very cooperative with them, either.
We had some good coverage from a couple of local TV networks. Fox News had a good report.
All I can say is "Thank God" for Indy Media and the Internet. It is much easier to spread our message without having to rely on the corporate mouthpieces of the establishment.
10. I know that you have declined to affiliate with any party, including the Green Party. Can you say something about this?
Even though I resonate with many of the issues of the Green Party, I am running as "Decline to State" because I don't want to be tied to the ideologies of any party. I am definitely not running as a Democrat because I believe the stranglehold that the "two" party duopoly has on our government is destroying our Representative Republic and more people care about the Democrats than Democracy.
I would be very amenable at some point to starting or joining a 3rd party movement to really represent the people of our nation and not the corporations or special interests'
11. Where do you think your support is going to come from? Who are your main supporters at this point? And how are you going to fund your campaign?
I have been amazed at the outpouring of support. We have seen people stepping forward from the community leaders of Bayview Hunter's Point, the LGBT community, of course peace activists, Greens, Libertarians, Progressive Democrats, Impeachment activists, and even some Republicans ,so far. Our campaign is truly a rainbow coalition!
I will fund my campaign by grassroots donations and I have had support pouring in from all over the country.
I will accept no donations from corporations that make money off of war or oppressing anyone from anywhere in the world. I won't accept money from any lobbyists who attempt to influence me to vote against the best interests of my constituents.
12. Can you share some of the specifics of the campaign? Do you have a campaign manager, an office, and things of that nature?
I am going to try and meet and talk to as many people as I can in the 8th District. I plan on spending almost 100% of my time in the district. I moved to San Francisco in the Mission District on January 1st…just being here a lot and having my office here has made a tremendous difference to me. I can breathe here and feel like I am finally 'home" in a place that embraces and encourages diversity and independent thinking.
We are going to do a lot of rallies for voter registration and I want to make people who have felt that they have been disenfranchised from the system due to lack of having their concerns and values represented feel like they will have a profound say in what happens in their community and country.
We have been in the City consolidating support and getting our campaign materials ready. Our office is off 9th and Mission on the corner of Laskie and Mission.
Our official kick-off for the November 08 election will be a concert/rally after the California Presidential Primary in February. We will need to collect 10,000 signatures between April 26th and August 8th to get me on the ballot for November, so we are organizing massive efforts around that.
I am so excited to have this opportunity to be a part of not only San Francisco, but to be a part of bringing our House of Representatives back where it was meant to be: at the level of the constituents.
My campaign team is really coming together! We have some amazing San Francisco politicos and brilliant strategists on board working closely with my staff which includes my Campaign Manager Tiffany Burns, who has a brilliant creative mind and has worked with me for the last two years and of course my sister, close confidante, and awesome-Auntie to my children, Dede who has taken on the role of Administrative Director. It was important to me to be guided by people that understand my vision; I have intentionally put together a team that is led by women and people that reflect my values and convictions. I’m confident our experience and diversity will be a huge challenge to Pelosi’s traditional approach from the tired DNC models of running a campaign.
13. How can people help? Is there something that supporters can do right now?
People who want to help or donate to the campaign can go to:
www.CindyforCongress.org or drop in at our campaign office at
1260 Mission St
(between 8th and 9th)
At this point, we are having bi-monthly volunteer meetings that will increase in frequency, as the election gets closer.
14. It's likely that Nancy Pelosi will shift to the left once your campaign is up and running. Just the threat is probably causing her rhetoric to be more liberal. How will you keep activists committed to your campaign if Pelosi shifts to the left?
I hope she shifts to the left and does her job, but rhetoric does not bring the troops home or hold BushCo accountable. Rhetoric does not give health care to children or make our communities safe or sustainable.
We will just have to reinforce that her rhetoric (except when she promised not to impeach George Bush or Dick Cheney, which is a promise she has kept) has not matched her actions.
There was a Supreme Court case in 1999, Campbell v. Clinton. A group of Congress Reps (Campbell being the main complainant) sued President Clinton to stop the military action in the Balkans and the Supreme Court ruled that because Congress appropriated money for the action that Congress was giving "explicit" approval. So Ms. Pelosi can say she is against the occupation of Iraq all she wants but if she allows the funding bills to go forward (even though she can give a symbolic "nay" vote), she is giving explicit approval for the war.
15. Would you join the impeachment effort, if elected?
I will work diligently to impeach George Bush and Dick Cheney even when they are out of office. As long as a President, or Vice President takes any Federal help, such as a pension, or Secret Service protection he can be impeached. I will also co-operate with world leaders to file war crimes' charges. It is an uphill fight, but I think American leaders should also be held accountable for war crimes and our leaders should know that they cannot kill our own children and other nations; children for greed of money and power.
16. My final question for now is what would your campaign material look like after your first term in office as the Congresswoman from the 8th Congressional District? What would you be proud to have accomplished in your first term?
I will be proud to be a brave, relentless and compassionate voice for many people of the 8th District who have been voiceless for too many years.
I hope to celebrate the return of our troops from the Middle East and a restoration of our Republic and a reduction of the Empire. I know I will be an active participant in reconciliation and a human-based foreign and domestic policy, not profit-based politics.
I am convinced that the people of the 8th District will elect me to be their representative to Congress in November '08, and I can guarantee everyone that they will not be sorry for a vote cast for me.
Whatever happens though, I can always look straight at myself in the mirror every evening knowing that every decision that I made that day, I made for the betterment of humanity; not stopping to account for the costs to myself, or having to worry about toeing a corrupt party-line or making a lobbyist happy.
I want to help us get our country escape from the stranglehold of the two party duopoly and its puppeteers, the corporate special interests.
Matt Gonzalez is a former president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He now practices law in a 7-member progressive law firm he co-founded, Gonzalez & Leigh LLP. (He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Cindy Sheehan is the mother of Spc. Casey Austin Sheehan who was killed in Iraq on April 04, 2004. She is the author of three books and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. Her stand at George Bush's ranch in August of 2005 garnered international attention for the American anti-war movement and she has been dubbed the "Peace Mom." She is currently an Independent Candidate for Congress in San Fancisco.
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