By Candace Goldman

Rep. Barbara Lee, John Dean (White House counsel in the Watergate era) and Malcolm Nance (security and terrorism expert) on stage at the same time – now there’s an interesting powerhouse mix! Yesterday (5/21), several hundred of Rep. Lee’s constituents came to King Middle School in Berkeley to hear these three titans discuss presidential accountability and respond to questions.

The program began with energetic music from members of the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir and an intro from Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin.  Rep. Lee spoke briefly, encouraging continued resistance.   During the program she interjected a few comments, but mostly turned the floor over to Mssrs. Dean and Nance.  In response to questions whether she would consider either a senatorial or presidential run, Rep. Lee demurred with a gentle smile.

John Dean focused on understanding and working around authoritarianism and those who support it. He cautioned, however, that while impeachment procedures and implementation of the 25th Amendment are fairly straightforward, the current political complexities make it difficult for either to gain real traction.  Rep. Lee concurred but noted that there is an effort afoot to update the 25th Amendment for today’s world.

Mr. Nance provided cogent analysis of Russian cyber-sleuthing and interference, both in our elections and in other settings here and around the world.  He compared Russian cyber capacity in a dictatorship with the s-l-o-w-n-e-s-s of using such measures in a democracy, with the implication that we need to be far more savvy and rapid-fire in our intelligence efforts.

What about Trump having his hand on the nuclear button?  All three thought we need more fail safe mechanisms; absent that, Malcolm Nance reminded the audience that:

  1. The military is opposed to the use of nukes (they understand the consequences)
  2. When people have expressed concern about a president who might go off half-cocked about using nukes and asked how the Sec. of Defense and military would respond, the answer is, ”Tackle him.”

       I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I want to have to rely on a fleet-footed linebacker Lt. Col. to keep us from nuclear disaster.  

Throughout the program, the drum beat behind the discussion was VOTE.  Get everyone you know in every state you know to VOTE.  VOTE so we can stop voter suppression and gerrymandering.  Get your legislators to VOTE to do the same.  When half of eligible voters are not bothering to go to the polls, Mr. Nance said (in essence) very forcefully, that if you value your civil liberties and your democracy, if you honor those who fought for and created this country, if you DON’T want an autocracy, if you want better government and policies that serve the people and not special interests, your job as a resister is to get out the VOTE.  Protest is good and has its place, but carry it into the ballot box.  Capisce?  “You know what to do,” Nance said.  “Now go do it.”

Personal note:  After the program, a man in a wheelchair, a quadriplegic, approached the stage.  He struggled to tap out a message to John Dean on a pad fixed to his wheelchair; a guy trying to help couldn’t follow the taps.  It was frustrating for both and taking forever.  I finally stepped in and luckily, got it.  The message?  “It is an honor to meet you.”  John Dean was very gracious in response.  This man had made so much effort to deliver that one simple sentence.  I think he’s an inspiration to us all to do what we can do, because the effort is worth it.

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