As some pundits and a New York Times editorial call for Rep. Dennis Kucinich and the Rev. Al Sharpton to be excluded from future debates we play an extended interview with Kucinich discussing the occupation of Iraq and the corporate media’s coverage of his campaign.
As voters in seven states are set to cast their ballots in tomorrow’s primaries, some pundits are calling for the two staunchest opponents of the invasion and occupation of Iraq to be excluded from future debates–Dennis Kucinich and the Reverend Al Sharpton. In a January 28 editorial, called "Defrosting the Primaries", the New York Times editors wrote "Representative Dennis Kucinich has every right to keep campaigning despite his minuscule vote tallies, but he should not be allowed to take up time in future candidate debates. Neither should the Rev. Al Sharpton, who is running to continue running, not to win."
Kucinich has said that he will continue his campaign all the way to the Democratic convention in August. Sharpton has not indicated how long he will remain in the race, but he is hoping for a strong showing in South Carolina tomorrow where some polls predict he will get up to half of the state’s African-American votes.
Last week in New Hampshire, we had a chance to talk extensively to one of the people the New York Times doesn’t want in the debates—Congressmember Dennis Kucinich
- Rep Dennis Kucinich, Democratic presidential candidate.
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AMY GOODMAN: Well, what does it feel like to be the most loved candidate by the peace movement in this country, yet perhaps the least supported?
DENNIS KUCINICH: I think it’s inevitable that people are going to be supporting this campaign because it is the only campaign that is going to achieve an end to the war in Iraq and redirection of this country’s resources away from military buildups and away from war to a culture of peace and a culture where we can really work with the world community in recreating a sustainable system of peace in the world.
AMY GOODMAN: I think your message is being heard, but people are simply saying they’re making strategic decisions like Michael Moore encouraging people to vote for Wesley Clark. Your response to that?
DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, let’s look at that, imagine the general election, the debate, President Bush, the Democratic nominee. Let’s suppose that the Democratic nominee is someone who voted for the invasion. Well, the president will just tell them, well, look, you supported it, where is your objection. Let’s suppose the Democratic nominee is someone who has supported verbally, the continued occupation of Iraq and the continued war. The president can turn to them and say, well, you supported the occupation and the continued presence of the United States in this war. If someone supported either the invasion or supports the occupation, they have nullified their ability to be able to successfully contest this president, who is running for re-election on his policies in Iraq. I stand alone as the person who not only voted against this war as a member of Congress, and continues to oppose it, and the occupation, but who has a plan to bring in UN peacekeepers, and to bring our troops home. So I’m in a singular position and if you want to talk strategy and if you are really thinking strategically, then people will know why I’m the only candidate that they should be voting for to achieve not only a victory, but peace as well.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Democratic presidential candidate, Dennis Kucinich. Then why in Iowa did you and Senator John Edwards make a kind of deal, John Edwards, of all people, who did support the invasion?
DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, you know, a lot has been made of that, but let me tell you something. Everyone on that stage in Iowa, I had disagreements with on the war. Period. And everyone on that stage I had disagreements with on health care and trade. So I was going to either have my supporters be standing there with no delegates at all when they had 10% or 12% of the vote with no one left to add us another three points where or I was going to be in a position where I was going to say, well we agree on one thing, we going to have more delegates. So, I maintain the differences of opinion I have with senator Edwards on all of those issues. But anyone who is familiar with the Iowa caucus system knows that if you do not reach 15% of the people at the meeting and you need a couple of extra points, you need someone to pair up with. Nobody has complained with Gephardt delegates who may have gone to Kerry. No one has complained about Dean delegates who may have gone with another candidate or another candidate gone with Dean’s. They have only complained about the Edwards’ delegates who may have gone to Kucinich in a few instances and Kucinich delegates who may have gone to Edwards in a few places. So this is the Iowa caucus system. It changes nothing in terms of this campaign and my position as the leader of the effort to not only to stop the war but change America’s direction.
AMY GOODMAN: I think the question is more why did you choose Edwards of any of the candidates. Dean has expressed his opposition to war, Kerry supported it, Sharpton has expressed his opposition. He didn’t participate. Braun has pulled out.
DENNIS KUCINICH: We are talking about the war then, what we should be talking about the fact that Howard Dean has made many statements that he supports the continuation of the occupation. He has said publicly, we’re stuck. We’re going to be there. I disagree with him strongly. That kind of thinking will keep America in Iraq indefinitely. And that’s why I presented a plan which indicates that the UN can be brought in, if the U.S. is willing to give up the control of the oil and the control of the contracts and doesn’t privatize and doesn’t try to run the government of Iraq by remote control, that there is a path towards peace. Governor Dean has not pursued it. I have been very firm and consistent with my challenge and so, as far as I was concerned, there wasn’t anyone to pair up with in Iowa, and if I was going to do it on the base of where they stood on Iraq.
AMY GOODMAN: Congressman Kucinich, what about that March 21st vote where you abstained, the vote that many took to be a vote that legitimized the invasion right after the bombing? You, along with I think it was something like 21 other Congress members, 11 of them said no, like Conyers, like Barbara Lee, like Maxine Waters?
DENNIS KUCINICH: To put that in the context of a vote in support of the war is fallacious. I believe I voted present because the question that was being put was do you support the troops. Look, I support the troops right now. I say support the troops, bring them home. That’s been my message. But the resolution itself was really about supporting George Bush. And so, there were two questions there posed simultaneously in the same question, one support for George Bush, two support for the troops. And so recognizing that it was a trick question, I voted present.
AMY GOODMAN: Why not vote no like the others?
DENNIS KUCINICH: Because I support the troops. I have always said, let’s support the troops, bring them home. Look, I come from Cleveland, Ohio. There’s a lot of people from my community serving out there. I want to bring them home. I felt this thing was wrong from the beginning. We never want to be put in a position where we cause the people who serve this country to believe they’re not appreciated, to believe they’re pawns. I know that they should be brought home. And I will never be in a position of having anyone, George Bush or anyone try to wrap their arms around the troops and keep them at war.
AMY GOODMAN: Congressman Kucinich, you talk about UN in, U.S. out. Explain exactly how that would happen if you became president today?
DENNIS KUCINICH: As president of the United States, I’ll move quickly to repair the kind of breach which this Nation created at the United Nations. We swept aside the UN process when we stopped the inspections. How much better would it have been for this country, if we would have proceeded with the UN inspections. We would have saved the lives of over 500 American men and women. We would have saved the taxpayers of this country over $200 billion by the time the President gets his next appropriation. And we would save the lives of countless citizens of Iraq, who are innocent people. So, my approach is this: I intend to go to the United Nations with a whole new plan, which sets aside Americans policies of preemption and unilateralism, a new plan, which will demonstrate to the world community that we intend to stabilize Iraq through international cooperation. I will ask the UN to handle the oil assets of Iraq on an interim basis on behalf of the Iraqi people until the Iraqi people become self-governing. I’ll ask the UN to handle the contract process on behalf of the Iraqi people until the Iraqi people can handle their own affairs. That means no more Halliburton sweetheart deals. It means the contracts will be open, a transparent process. There will be competitive bidding. The Iraqis will be able to get jobs, which they currently do not have under the contract process. I will announce to the world community that the United States renounces any privatization plans in Iraq, that privatization is illegal. It’s a violation of the Geneva and De Hague convention. And I will put an end to it, because the Iraqi people have the right in self-determination to determine what should be done with the assets of their country, including protecting and keeping those assets for the people. And finally, I expect that the United States will meet success in going to the UN with a plan to have the United Nations develop a constitution and a cause of governance elections in Iraq. Because the process that’s happening right now, will lead to violence since this administration is insisting on a caucus-type election strategy that’s aimed at trying to thwart the participation of a majority of Iraqis in their own future. That’s going to lead to violence. 100,000 people marched in the streets of Baghdad less than a week ago in protest to the United States plan. We need to listen carefully or we’re putting 130,000 troops at risk. The United States can help seal the deal with paying for a UN peacekeeping mission, with paying for reparations for the families of innocent civilian non-combatants who lost their lifes and paying for the repair of Iraq to the extent that we destroyed it. So my plan, the seven point plan, will accomplish the conditions under which UN peacekeepers can come in and we can bring our troops home. It’s the only plan out there like that. No other candidate has a plan. The president doesn’t have a plan. I have a plan, and I will end this war and I will reconnect America with the world community by telling the truth about Iraq and by stopping this preemptive unilateral approach to world affairs.
AMY GOODMAN: The other Democratic candidates, when it comes to the invasion each of them said, they believe that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction based on the evidence presented. You never did. Sharpton never did. But on that issue, what is the information that they had? Do you know — what information was presented to them?
DENNIS KUCINICH: Fear. That’s what they had. They had fear.
AMY GOODMAN: Given that you did not believe, based on the information that you assessed, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, why not come out more forcefully, attacking the other candidates on the fact that they said that they did believe based on this information, and then go a step further and that is called for the impeachment of the president?
DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, first of all, I find it — if you will check, your own files, you will see that I have been pretty consistent in challenging all of the Democrats who have failed to recognize that there was no basis for the United States to attack Iraq. Remember, I led the effort in the House of Representatives in challenging the Bush administration. If you remember it, was in the presidential debate that I challenged Dick Gephardt directly when he said that he gave the president some advice. And I asked him, you know, it’s too bad you didn’t tell him not to invade. See, So I have met that test of challenging the other candidates. Now, you raised the question — and my presence challenges them. The reason why I’m going to be the nominee of this party is because as this Iraq thing continues to deteriorate, my candidacy stands alone as the one with the way out, and as the one with the credibility and the integrity for having taken a stand more counted inside the House of Representatives. Now, let’s talk about impeachment. Impeachment is a sideshow. This is the big event, the election. An impeachment right now, would only end up getting President Bush sympathy. It would be the politically dumbest thing, which anyone could ever and should ever do. He’s up for election. Impeachment lets the House or the Senate be the judge of a president. The American people are going to be the judge of this president. He wants to run for re-election. Based on his position on Iraq, I’m in the perfect position to defeat him over the Iraq issue, specifically because I can challenge him based on the credibility of my positions throughout this whole issue.
AMY GOODMAN: What about the media coverage of your campaign? We last spoke you to when ABC — it was the day after Ted Koppel in the presidential debate asked you and Moseley-Braun and Sharpton about your campaigns. Weren’t these, i think he said, vanity campaigns or were you really electable. The next day it was announced that the reporter who is covering your campaign and Moseley-Braun’s campaign will be pulled out at least from being following you on the campaign trail.
DENNIS KUCINICH: It is a great burden for a media executive to be charged with the responsibility of picking the next president of the United States. I mean, think how ponderous a decision that is, being head of a network and deciding, who the president should be. While you have to look at the Person’s peerage, at their financial background, at the clubs they belong to, at the fraternities they have joined, at the reliability on the corporate issues. I mean, these are all things that weigh heavily on the decision-making process. I’m proud that I don’t meet their test.
AMY GOODMAN: What about the coverage here right now? What about the coverage in New Hampshire that you are getting?
DENNIS KUCINICH: I think the local media have done a great job.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you have any demands for the national media in this country?
DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, this isn’t so much about me as it is about the — I would say obligation of the mass media, broadcast media, in a democratic society, and I think it’s important to have a perspective that goes back right to the beginning. First principles. First principles in electronic broadcasting in the United States begin with the federal communications act of 1934, which made it abundantly clear that the electronic media is to serve in the public interest, convenience, and necessity. That was the test in the formation of electronic media, and the licensing of broadcast media. We need to have a discussion in our country, in all communities, as to whether or not both local and national broadcast media meet the tests of the public interests.
AMY GOODMAN: Congress member Dennis Kucinich, Democratic president — Democratic candidate for president.