Berkeley Considers First Ballot Initiative to Call for Presidential Impeachment

6-27-06, 9:11 am

Constitution Summer

June 26, 2006, FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE. CONTACT: Abraham Kneisley, 510.816.0563,

Can ‘We The People’ Impeach? Berkeley Considers First Ballot Initiative to Call for Presidential Impeachment

BERKELEY, CA – The Berkeley City Council will vote tomorrow [June 27] on whether to include an initiative advocating the impeachment of George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney on the Berkeley municipal ballot in November. If passed, the initiative will be the first of its kind and will allow Berkeley’s 74,836 registered voters to decide if there is sufficient cause for the impeachment and removal of President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

Several resolutions calling for impeachment have passed in cities around the country, but a ballot initiative allowing voters to weigh in on the issue would be unique. Constitution Summer, a coalition of student activists from more than a dozen universities, believes that Congress’ reluctance to investigate the merits of impeachment justifies taking the question to the people. True to the roots of the Free Speech Movement that still informs the culture of Berkeley, the group feels it is simply exercising its constitutional right to redress of grievances under the First Amendment.

Geoffrey King, a Democrat and President of Constitution Summer, sees impeachment as a non-partisan concern. According to King, it is not a question of whether the President should be impeached, but why he hasn’t been. “President Bush has arrogated unto himself powers that in some cases went out of fashion in 1215, and in any event, in 1776. He has shown a wish and a willingness to corrupt our representative system of government by tracking the calls of and wiretapping Americans despite a federal statute that makes doing so a felony; by normalizing torture; and by revoking the right of Americans not to be disappeared and held indefinitely without charge or trial. These abuses fit perfectly with what the Framers intended the impeachment power to address. It is time to use it.”

Saba Sahouria, a Republican and Treasurer of Constitution Summer, added, “The President says we must give up essential liberty to defeat al Qaeda, and yet, we are inexplicably embroiled in an unnecessary war that diverted CIA agents, Special Forces commandos, money, and ground troops from crushing the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan in order to invade Iraq, which had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and which had no operational links to al Qaeda. By invading Iraq, the President has undermined our long-term security. There is no other way to describe the President’s actions but as a radical, extreme, and legally baseless power grab, because they make little sense in any other context.”

The current proposed ballot initiative was introduced by Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates. Citing the High Crimes listed above, the ballot initiative calls on the City of Berkeley to petition all members of the United States House of Representatives and all members of the California State Legislature to bring articles of impeachment against the President and Vice President. State legislatures may send articles of impeachment to the House of Representatives via Rule 603 of Thomas Jefferson’s Rules of Parliamentary Procedure.

Critics of the impeachment movement, such as Rush Limbaugh, have said that it would be a gift to Republicans to push for impeachment because it would drive the Republican base to the polls and affect the mid-term elections in November. Others have noted that the Republican base includes many people mindful of liberty under law, and that a level-headed and realistic campaign to impeach would drive independents, progressives, liberals and libertarians to cast their votes as well.

In any case, King is unapologetic. 'Our country is in a constitutional crisis. The President and Vice President are making claims to power that would have terrible implications for the American ideal of liberty if left unchecked.'

'They have tricked, threatened, and spied on all of us. They have tried to pit Americans against each other by politicizing security, all while making us less safe by invading Iraq.'

'In doing these things, they have forced Americans to choose between loyalty to them and loyalty to the country. They do not understand the character of the American people. It is coming time to remind them.'

WHAT: Berkeley City Council will consider an initiative for the November ballot that would allow Berkley’s 74,836 registered voters to decide the merits of impeaching President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard B. Cheney.

WHO: Constitution Summer represents a coalition of students and young people dedicated to defending the Constitution and its Bill of Rights. Constitution Summer helped to draft the language of the ballot initiative, and has advocated for its elevation to the Berkley City Ballot. President Geoffrey King, Treasurer Saba Sahouria, and advisory board member Daniel Ellsberg will attend the meeting and answer questions. Other, non-officer members of Constitution Summer will attend the meeting, as well.

WHY: If passed by the City Council, a ballot initiative allowing voters to decide the merits of impeaching the President and Vice President may be the first and only expression by popular vote of the desire to impeach the President and Vice President.

WHERE: Berkeley City Council Chambers 2134 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way Berkeley, CA 94704

WHEN: June 27, 2006 at 7:00pm