Ohio congressman and Democratic presidential candidate. Introduced House measure to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney.
On Tuesday, Dennis Kucinich nearly forced the full House to vote on his measure to impeach Cheney. House Resolution 333 accuses Cheney of deliberately manipulating intelligence and deceiving the public to build support for the invasion of Iraq and now toward a possible attack on Iran. [includes rush transcript]
JUAN GONZALEZ: Despite the best efforts of the Democratic leadership, impeachment was indeed on the table this week in Washington. On Tuesday, congressmember and presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich nearly forced the full House to vote on his measure to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney. House Resolution 333 accuses Cheney of deliberately manipulating intelligence and deceiving the public to build support for the invasion of Iraq and now towards a possible attack on Iran. Twenty-one House Democrats have supported the bill, but it’s met fierce opposition from the Democratic leadership.
Democratic leaders were able to send the bill to the House Judiciary Committee, where they expect it to languish. In a bizarre sequence, Republican lawmakers initially voted against tabling the bill after their leadership apparently decided a House debate would embarrass the Democrats. The bill was eventually sent to committee after a back-and-forth wrangling between Kucinich and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.
AMY GOODMAN: Democratic leaders have famously declared impeachment is off the table. But their view does not fall in line with recent polling figures. An American Research Group poll in July found 54 percent of Americans support beginning impeachment proceedings against Vice President Cheney. Seventy-four percent of Democrats were also in favor.
Congressmember Dennis Kucinich of Ohio introduced the measure. The presidential candidate joins us now from Washington, D.C. We welcome you to Democracy Now!, Congressman Kucinich.
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Good morning. Good morning, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain exactly what you did this week.
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: The articles of impeachment that were introduced under a privileged resolution cite the vice president’s persistent lies relating to Iraq. He claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, that necessitated the U.S. response. He claimed that Iraq somehow was connected to al-Qaeda’s role in 9/11. He has been beating the drums for war against Iran. Those are the elements of the articles of impeachment that were introduced into the House this week.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And why introduce your resolution in regards to Vice President Cheney and not to President Bush?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, certainly President Bush also has to be held accountable. However, I think that any constitutional process that begins for the removal of an official, when you have the vice president, who led the effort to deceive this country with respect to a war against Iraq, it’s appropriate that he be dealt with first, so that you don’t create a condition where you remove the president first and then Mr. Cheney becomes his successor, and then you have to have an impeachment of two presidents consecutively.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain the leadership’s position and why you chose to do what you did this week.
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: I think it’s very difficult to explain their position, because I don’t think their position is defensible. I think when you consider that our whole nation is at risk, our constitutional form of government has been undermined by lies, by illegal war, by massive debt, how can you explain the position of Democratic leaders?
I think that the American people and their response is becoming more and more powerful, and we’re seeing that there being rising discontent among Democrats in Congress about the direction that our leaders have said is not possible. I think that people want to see this administration held accountable. After all, what could be more important than having an opportunity to get to the truth of what happened in Iraq, that the war was based on lies; that over almost 4,000 of our brave young men and women who represent this country have lost their lives because of those lies; that over a million innocent Iraqis, noncombatants, civilians, have lost their lives because of those lies; that we will spend between one and two trillion dollars for this war, even borrowing money from China? And our whole domestic agenda is being capsized by this war. And the administration is preparing still to take us in another war against Iran, similarly lying about a cause for war. So what can be more important? Our country is at risk, and it’s time for our Democratic leaders to take a stand.
JUAN GONZALEZ: What do you say to those who will argue that even though they may agree with you on a lot of your concerns, that the impeachment process itself would drag out for so long that it may as well — people should just move forward toward the elections and elect a new president?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Right, well, you think about that. You know, the administration will be in office for at least 14 more months. They can cause a lot of damage in that time. They’re planning to attack Iran. When you think about the defense authorization budget including a provision that would retrofit Stealth B-2 bombers so they can carry 30,000-pound bombs, which would then be dropped on nuclear research labs, creating an humanitarian and ecological disaster, "What are we waiting for?" is the question, not "Why don’t we wait for the election?"
AMY GOODMAN: The other argument that the leadership has used is that they’re concerned about losing in a landslide vote against them, that that is bad strategically, Congressman Kucinich.
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Since when does it become unfashionable to stand up for the Constitution, to stand up for our nation’s laws, to stand up for international law, to stand up for moral law? Since when does it become inconvenient to take a stand that would help secure our democracy once again? I mean, we’re really — it’s all at risk right now, and it’s time that the Democratic leadership exerted an effective influence. As a coequal branch of government, Congress cannot stand by and let this administration continue to undermine our Constitution. That’s why I introduced those articles of impeachment.
AMY GOODMAN: What happens now? Is it over?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Not at all. I mean, Representative Wexler, who’s a member of the committee, sent a note to the members of the committee two days ago saying that we ought to proceed with hearings. Members have been talking to John Conyers on a regular basis since the impeachment resolution was introduced, asking him to take this up, and I’m hopeful that he will.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you feel Conyers has changed his position from, when he was in the minority, calling for impeachment, and then, when he became head of the House Judiciary Committee, stepping back with pressure from the House leadership?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: I think John Conyers wants to do the right thing, and I’m hopeful that he will.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Congressman, I’d like to ask you, on another matter, a vote this week in Congress over the Peru free trade bill. Many Democrats supported the administration position on this. You’ve been outspoken in your opposition to many of these free trade agreements. Your perspective on this vote?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: It’s a disaster for the people of Peru. It’s a disaster for farmers whose land is being poisoned by gold mining and the cyanide that’s used in that process. And American workers have absolutely no protection about jobs being moved out of this country. It’s basically a modeling of NAFTA sent to Peru. This is really a continuation of the stripping of rights of peoples of both nations. And a reason why NAFTA has to be canceled — and I’ve said that I would do that as President — that we must get out of the WTO — I said that I would withdraw from the WTO — and to have trade that is wholly and solely based on workers’ rights, human rights and environmental quality principles. And it’s time that we recognize that this whole trade model has been about nothing but a race to the bottom for workers. It’s time we stood up for workers, no matter if they’re in Peru or anywhere else in the world, but certainly in the United States. We should have some concern about what the effect of these trade agreements are on American workers.
AMY GOODMAN: Congressman Kucinich, you are head of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee, which has oversight over the FCC. Today in Seattle, there is going to be the last of the FCC hearings, as Kevin Martin, the chair, wants to expedite media consolidation. He says perhaps they’ll be taking a vote around December 18th. What control do you have over this?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, as the chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee, I can and will hold hearings on the FCC’s decision-making process. I think that we are in a time when media consolidation is having a material and adverse impact on our exercise of First Amendment rights in a democratic society. The public may be largely unaware that the electronic media are regulated because the airwaves belong to the people. And the Federal Communications Act of 1934 said that the electronic broadcast media must serve in the public interest, convenience and necessity. And the more monopolization that happens, the less likely it is that the public interest is going to be protected. So there is a long and historic train here of thought that says that media consolidation is a danger to our democracy and that, notwithstanding what the FCC does, Congress should intervene to block any effort that would enable further media consolidation.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And the argument of those who say that the advances, the technological advances in communications, the development of the Internet, basically has made — outmoded a lot of the regulations that the FCC operates now to regulate media ownership.
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: There’s a lot of people who think the Constitution is outmoded, too. I think that when we realize the concentration of wealth in our society has accelerated wealth to the top, the concentration of information in our society and control over information accelerates the intellectual wealth of the country and the First Amendment rights of the country into the hands of fewer and fewer.
You know, A.J. Liebling years ago famously said freedom of the press belongs to the man who owns one. But when you’re talking about electronic broadcast media, the people own the airwaves. I mean, that is the fundamental understanding that the American people should have. Those airwaves do not belong to those networks or to those big media companies. The airwaves belong to the public, and they’re supposed to serve in the public interest.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Congressmember Dennis Kucinich, not only a congressmember from Ohio, but Democratic presidential candidate. I wanted to ask you about the issue of exclusion of presidential candidates from various debates, most recently Mike Gravel, the former Alaska senator. You weren’t invited to the Democratic Party’s Jefferson Jackson dinner in Des Moines, that the six other Democratic contenders are. Your response?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, it’s pretty interesting when you consider the fact that I’ve been running consistently fourth in a number of national polls, ahead of three of the candidates who have been invited. So what does that say? It says that there’s an attempt to rig the presidential election, using the Iowa Democratic Party as an accomplice. That’s not acceptable. This election doesn’t belong to one state or, for that matter, to one party. And so, you know, look of the national polls, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Amy, while we’re still on the air, there’s something I want to mention to you that I think is really important. Last night I was reading the Defense Authorization Bill, and there is a section in the bill that I want to read to you: Section 1615 requires the secretary of defense to, one, "determine the military-unique capabilities needed to be provided by the Department of Defense to support civil authorities in an incident of national significance or a catastrophic incident." And then it goes on to say provide funds to develop a plan. What’s going on in this country? How can we stand by and see our basic liberties undermined?
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Congressmember Dennis Kucinich in Washington, D.C., running for president. I wanted to ask you about the comment you made during one of the presidential debates, that issue of seeing an unidentified flying object. Can you explain what it is that you saw?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, first of all, you know, I was kind of taken aback when I was asked that question, but I understand in Washington the truth is an unidentified flying object, so I guess I could admit that I saw something, found out later that Ronald Reagan on two occasions was said to have seen a UFO, that Jimmy Carter was said to have seen a UFO. So I’m assuming that now becomes a prerequisite for becoming president of the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: Final comment on media coverage right now of the presidential race that you’re a part of.
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, you know, I mean, The New York Times has yet to discover that I’m a candidate. I could — if I suddenly catch fire in New Hampshire, where we’re running fourth and closing in on third place, I would imagine that I could even win the election, and The New York Times would have a big story about second, third, and fourth place and fail to mention that I won.
There is an attempt by the media to manage this election, to try to determine the outcome of the election prior to the people casting votes. It’s just another way to try to defeat the public interest and to make of the election a kind of a farce.
You know, all I need is an opportunity to debate Senator Clinton on the war. She has voted for the war. She voted to fund the war. She wants to stay in Iraq through 2013. And, frankly, her positions aren’t much different than Barack Obama’s, John Edwards’s. I mean, when I break into the top three, the whole election changes. And I’m working on that.
I realize I’m a long shot. I don’t have any delusions about that. But I also know that right now democracy is a long shot in America, and I realize that our constitutional protections are kind of a long shot. So I’m willing to take that stand, and I think that the people of New Hampshire are going to have an opportunity to append the political process by voting for my candidacy, which will give them a chance to have a voice and a consistent supporter, not just of peace and workers’ rights and healthcare for all, but of the basic constitutional principles that brought us together to form a nation so many years ago.
AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Kucinich, I want to thank you very much for being with us, congressmember from Ohio and Democratic presidential candidate.