Congressman John Conyers, Jr.
2005 Person of the Year
We need more people speaking out. This country is not overrun with rebels and free thinkers. It's overrun with sheep and conformists: Bill Maher
He is not a boisterous man at all. On the contrary, he’s soft spoken, rather thoughtful, and quietly direct. Chances are, if you didn’t know who he was, you’d never in a million years have him pegged for a politician. Chances are even greater that you’d never guess that John Conyers was as fierce a fighter for his nation as they come.
As a class, members of Congress aren’t doing too well nowadays. As a class, they are not held in very high regard by large numbers of Americans. As a class, they have failed to earn the respect or trust of their constituents. And as a class, the men and women who represent us in Washington, DC, have done little or nothing to gain our approval.
How fortunate, then, that John Conyers is in a class by himself.
And how proud we are to name Representative John Conyers, Jr. our 2005 Person of the Year!
No, John Conyers is not entirely alone. The US Congress currently is graced by a handful of very special and very honorable legislators who have worked diligently and bravely in very difficult times. This small group of Senators and Representatives has been distinguished by their independence, their courage, and their refusal to be silenced.
In the company of that small, yet resolute group of stalwart colleagues, John Conyers has risen to the top. We believe that he has proved himself as a most distinguished and indefatigable leader and a tireless and intrepid fighter against the abuses of power by the present administration. In that role, we believe that John Conyers, in his dignified and determined way, also has become the voice of the people.
John Conyers has served the people of Detroit’s 14th District with distinction for nineteen consecutive terms. Presently, he serves as Dean to the Congressional Black Caucus, which he helped to organize in 1969. Mr. Conyers also is the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.
For more than 39 years John Conyers has fought to improve the lives of the working people he has represented. His struggles for a higher minimum wage, for safety standards at the workplace, and for affordable health care are well documented. He also has worked arduously to protect the rights of women and other minorities in this country.
John Conyers has never remained silent in the face of wrongdoing. But his dedication to his country faced a serious challenge after 9/11, when all Americans were being pressured to refrain from criticizing their government. From that day to this, lawmakers have been expected to show their patriotism by rubber stamping the policies of the Bush administration.
Not so, this man of honor. John Conyers would not be intimidated or stifled at a time when so many other legislators rolled over and played dead and when so much needed to be challenged. Along with the few people in Congress who shared his strength and conviction, John Conyers took on the United States government.
He has kept vital issues before the American public that few people would even dare to acknowledge, and that otherwise might have disappeared in the haze of political distraction. In his measured and calming way, John Conyers has chosen to fight back rather than capitulate to the pressures and powers that have turned so many in Congress into shameful sycophants.
At TVNL, we view 2005 as John Conyers’ crowning year. We chose to highlight only three of his many activities during this year to illustrate Mr. Conyers’ unique contribution to the democratic ideals of this nation. Each endeavor involved an issue of major relevance to the lives of the American people, and each issue was in grave danger of being swept aside in the post 9/11 reign of terror.
In the year 2005, John Conyers has been the leading force behind each of the following:
- Exposing Election Fraud in the Ohio
As early as January of 2005, John Conyers challenged Congress to fix what he saw to be a broken election system. Citing voting irregularities in many Ohio counties, he called for, “true bipartisan hearings to get to the bottom of what went wrong in Ohio and the nation on election day.”
That same month, Mr. Conyers asked the Democratic staff of the House Judiciary Committee to conduct an investigation into irregularities reported in the Ohio presidential election. The resulting Status Report, titled What Went Wrong in Ohio, included detailed findings about the election process and offered a legal analysis of the egregious violations and irregularities that “disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of Ohio citizens.”
The report was a damning indictment of voting and tallying procedures in the very state that determined the outcome of the 2004 presidential election. It was prepared before the Electoral College met to cast its deciding votes, but in the end, to no one’s great surprise, the report had little effect on the eventual outcome.
The travesty in Ohio, largely ignored by the media, has faded from public view. Still, the work of John Conyers and his staff stands as a precedent in American history. Thanks to their diligence there is now a document whose recommendations for reform can act as a guide for all future elections.
What Went Wrong in Ohio, now in book form, has alerted millions of Americans to the abuses of electronic voting machines and the illegal acts of election officials. Mr. Conyers’ efforts may prove to be invaluable in restoring integrity to the American election process.
- Holding the Downing Street Hearings:
In June of 2005, John Conyers took on the US government and its complicit media lapdogs. For weeks, a media blackout had suppressed any serious coverage of the so-called Downing Street Minutes that implicated both George Bush and Tony Blair in a pre-war plot to sell their plans to invade Iraq. John Conyers took it upon himself to hold an extraordinary public hearing that would offer evidence of the Bush administration's "efforts to cook the books on pre-war intelligence.
The Downing Street Minutes had been published weeks before in the foreign press, yet the news media in the US paid little attention to the story or its importance. Despite being relegated to a tiny basement room for his hearing by the GOP leadership, Mr. Conyers refused to be deterred. He chaired a most dignified and memorable conference that included a small number of other courageous Congress persons and an array of concerned speakers.
Under the leadership of John Conyers, these true patriots brought the message of the Downing Street Minutes to the American public.
- Releasing “The Constitution in Crisis.”
The year 2005 came to a close with a bang, not a whimper. At the end of December, John Conyers released an explosive document aimed at exposing a number of very serious federal violations by the Bush administration. The document, entitled The Constitution in Crisis, is an eagerly awaited indictment of George W, Bush, Dick Cheney, and other high level government officials.
Mr. Conyers took this action after President Bush ignored a letter signed by 122 members of Congress and a half million Americans asking whether or not the information in the Downing Street Minutes was accurate. It was time, he said, to expose the, “arrogance, hubris and wrong-headedness,” of this administration. In his carefully detailed document, Mr. Conyers asks for a Select Committee with subpoena power to investigate the leaders of his government.
In a time when any criticism at all of the President or his policies has been a rarity, John Conyers has thrown down the proverbial gauntlet in defiance of the Bush administration. That this challenge comes from John Conyers is neither unexpected nor surprising. Mr. Conyers has long led the battle against the usurpation of executive power and has steadfastly refused to kowtow to pressures that would silence him.
John Conyers is not playing political games here. His document includes, “evidence of WMD intelligence cover-ups, deception, manipulation, retribution and torture concerning the Iraqi War,” and speaks of both Congressional censure and impeachment. With the recent revelations about warrantless wiretaps, perhaps this extraordinary move by John Conyers comes at a most appropriate time.
Whatever the long term results, A Constitution in Crisis is destined to become a major part of the legacy that John Conyers has amassed. There are very few elected officials who would have dared to accuse the Bush government of the violations included in this document. There are also too few members of government who understand that they have an obligation to the public trust. How fortunate for us all that John Conyers does.
It is for all these reasons, as well as his many years of service to this country, that TvNewsLIES has selected Congressman John Conyers, Jr. as its 2005 Person of the Year.
We make the selection with a focus on the impact someone has had on the lives of others. There is no doubt that Mr. Conyers has had a most positive influence on the democracy he has championed throughout his political career.
As we stated earlier, he is not alone. There is a cadre of honest men and women in elected office who work every day to restore our nation to its former dignity. We salute them all.
But certainly, John Conyers, Jr. stands just a bit above the crowd. He has been relentless in his dedication to the Constitution, and in his willingness to stand up and be counted when the going got tough. For it was exactly when the going got really tough that John Conyers, Jr. really got going.