Meeting with Kimberly Panicek (Senator Murray's King County Director)
I dressed up a bit from my usual T-shirt and old sneakers. I had no trouble finding the place, because it was in the same building as a physical therapist that senssuzy used to see.
I arrived a few minutes early, just before Ms. Panicek showed up. She turned out to be friendly, receptive, easy to talk to, well-versed on the issue, and sympathetic to my concerns*. Of course, I realize it's part of her job to make constituents feel that way, but she came across as sincerely interested in what I had to say. We talked for an hour, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. As, apparently, did she--she mentioned that in her work, she rarely has an opportunity to discuss the wider issues.
She conveyed Senator Murray's view on the impeachment issue, and (filtered through my own understanding) it boils down to this: The Senator's first priority is to the people of the State of Washington, and to addressing their concerns at the Federal level. People have a lot of concerns, and the ones they voice are mainly the ones that affect them directly. Her priorities are set mainly based on what concerns are voiced most loudly, and impeachment has not--so far--been near the top of that list.
In addition, the political landscape makes impeachment a tricky issue. The Senator has to work with elected and appointed officials at various levels, many of them sworn to Bush's side, and leery of Democrats. She has to work hard to maintain their trust. Going for the Bush Administration's throat would make it harder to achieve her goals for the state.
On the other hand, Panicek expressed--repeatedly--that Senator Murray recognizes, and experiences herself, the frustration with the Bush Administration over their many impeachable offenses. If a motion to investigate were to make it to the floor, Murray would vote in favor.
I grasp that she's in a difficult position. Murray has been arguing against my beloved SJM 8016, the state resolution introduced by Eric Oemig that would, if passed, force the impeachment issue into the limelight at the Federal level. Why? Because she's concerned that such a measure would leave Washington State in a vulnerable position--which I interpret to mean "subject to reprisals". Murray is putting Washington State first, so she isn't willing to stick her neck out to get the impeachment process started. I suspect a lot of Senators and Representatives feel the same way.
I did bring up the counter-argument, that sometimes it is necessary to do something for moral reasons, despite the political costs to one's own career. Ms. Panicek was quick to point out that Senator Murray has been led by principle to make unpopular decisions in the past. I was well aware of that already, of course. Senator Murray was willing to vote against the Patriot Act when many others (including Senator Cantwell, also of Washington State) were not. That's why I thought she was the ideal person to approach on this issue.
So, if this is to go forward--if we're to change the Senator's mind--we have to do more of the same. We have to turn out in droves, announcing our desire to hold these criminals accountable. If my meeting achieved nothing else, it is sure to register on the Senator's radar. As zaratyst mentioned and as Ms. Panicek confirmed, a visit in person is worth hundreds of impersonal emails.
Ms. Panicek recommended I get in touch with other activist organizations. I told her I already was (I receive a lot of political email), and mentioned Impeach07, the campaign that is combining the efforts of many of them under a single banner. She wasn't aware of it, so I promised to follow up with an email about it. (I did so this evening.) One idea might be to ask Impeach07 to organize an event around camping out on the doorstep of the Senator's office at the Federal Building in Seattle. (Could do the Bellevue office, for that matter--but Ms. Panicek might not forgive me.)
The other thing she didn't know about (and as I said, she was quite well-versed and almost nothing else I said came as a surprise to her) was the idea of "Do-It-Yourself Impeachment". I asked her about it right at the end. She noted that they have access to legal counsel who could explore the idea further, and explain how it might work. I pointed her to my post about it, and she said she would look into it.
Senator Murray herself won't be available for meetings in Washington State until August. If I want to meet with her in person before that, I'll have to get myself to Washington, D.C. That's no small expense. Need to think further about that.
* And did I mention young? Yeah, youthful and attractive, but I did my best not to focus on that aspect.