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At DNC, Ex-Presidential Hopefuls Jesse Jackson and Dennis Kucinich on 2012 Race, Obama’s First Term

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Many of the opening night speeches at the Democratic National Convention laid the foundation for a convention designed to remind voters what they liked about Obama when they first supported him in 2008. On the convention floor Tuesday night, we interview two former presidential candidates, Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Rev. Jesse Jackson. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman. Broadcasting from Charlotte, North Carolina, this is “Breaking With Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency,” Democracy Now!’s special two hours of daily coverage from the Democratic National Convention, inside and out. If you miss any part of the two hours, you can go to our website at democracynow.org.

Democrats opened the convention Tuesday night with speeches highlighting President Obama’s achievements on issues ranging from healthcare and women’s rights to immigration and ending the war in Iraq. San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro delivered the keynote address for the hour the networks broadcast in prime time, focusing on the economy. He was followed by first lady Michelle Obama.

MICHELLE OBAMA: When it comes to rebuilding our economy, Barack is thinking about folks like my dad and like his grandmother. He’s thinking about the pride that comes from a hard day’s work. That’s why he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, to help women get equal pay for equal work. That’s why he cut taxes for working families and small businesses and fought to get the auto industry back on its feet. That’s how he brought our economy from the brink of collapse to creating jobs again, jobs you can raise a family on, good jobs right here in the United States of America.

When it comes to the health of our families, Barack refused to listen to all those folks who told him to leave health reform for another day, another president. He didn’t care whether it was the easy thing to do politically—no, that’s not how he was raised—he cared that it was the right thing to do. He did it because he believes that here in America our grandparents should be able to afford their medicine, our kids should be able to see a doctor when they’re sick, and no one in this country should ever go broke because of an accident or an illness. And he believes that women are more than capable of making our own choices about our bodies and our healthcare. That’s what my husband stands for.

AMY GOODMAN: First lady Michelle Obama. Many of the opening night speeches laid the foundation for a convention designed to remind voters what they liked about Obama when they first supported him in 2008. Well, Democracy Now! was on the floor of the convention Tuesday night, where we ran into two former presidential candidates: Ohio Congressmember Dennis Kucinich and the Reverend Jesse Jackson.

REV. JESSE JACKSON: I think what Michelle Obama has to offer is a—two areas of focus of substance, one having to do with the spouses of veterans, many of whom are in a backdoor draft to go to school—go to the military, because they don’t have the money to go to school, and they come back destroyed, trapped with post-traumatic syndrome and many illnesses, and can’t get a job. But focused on a job, a military spouse—military spouse’s security and a job for those who come home is a big deal. And secondly, the issue of childhood obesity is the beginning of a health crisis with diabetes and the like. So, she has grabbed two areas of great substance, I think, that has value. And, of course, given our country’s orientation, for an African-American woman with her children, displaying a motherly advice and support sets the pace for mothers all around the country. So I think it will be an address of substance, not just symbol.

AMY GOODMAN: And your thoughts being here in—back in the Carolinas, where you come from?

REV. JESSE JACKSON: I think the key of being in the Carolinas, the Voting Rights Act, which is now in jeopardy. This new—this new South comes out of the Voting Rights Act. Those girls they displayed down in Tampa, they’re the result of Title IX and affirmative action and the Civil Rights Act. This new South, where you can have the Carolina Panthers and the Charlotte Bobcats, you can have Boeing and Airbus and Toyota, because of our civil rights movement. The civil rights movement made the new South, and they’re attacking it, and we must fight back to protect our growth. As someone said today, we must—we not only must fight for change, we must guard the change we got, but expand upon it, because as he goes to Ohio, there are 33 counties in Ohio that are in Appalachia. This is the time to revisit the issue of the war on poverty, a time to go to University of Athens in Ohio, where Lyndon Johnson initiated it. With 50 million Americans in poverty, poverty can no longer be on the back seat. Poverty must be a factor in the campaign, and violence. And given what’s happening in Chicago, violence, urban reconstruction and poverty—violence, urban reconstruction and poverty must be injected into the campaign. It’s the way to win and to win right.

AMY GOODMAN: And do you think President Obama is addressing the issue of poverty?

REV. JESSE JACKSON: I think our pressure will be a factor in that equation. You know, Dr. King supported Kennedy over Nixon, but it was our creating pressure that built, that bent, that made the bend in the road. [inaudible] supported Johnson over Goldwater. Our actions—so, our action—our lack of action becomes betrayal. When we act, we are part of the equation. We must act to bring about the change we seek. We have the power to affect the president’s choices. We must make—those who are [inaudible] progressive must act progressively and not just believe progressively.

AMY GOODMAN: There are a lot of people who are deeply concerned that President Obama has not been forceful enough in dealing with the financial institutions that brought us into this mess in 2008.

REV. JESSE JACKSON: We bailed out the banks—maybe we had to at that time—but not linked in lending of the reinvestment. We bailed out the banks without changing the Glass-Steagall Act. We bailed the banks without putting in oversight to stop them from doing what they did again. Now there are fewer bigger banks. We are even more subject to their tyranny now. So there must be some real renewed focus on bankster behavior and bankster life options.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you—what do you think of the Democrats renaming the stadium Panthers Stadium because, well, Bank of America Stadium doesn’t look so good?

REV. JESSE JACKSON: How long will it be renamed?

AMY GOODMAN: I guess for Thursday night. It’s really Bank of America Stadium, but they’re just calling it Panthers Stadium.

REV. JESSE JACKSON: Right. I have nothing more to say. Honorary Panthers Stadium. The fact of the matter, it is—it is Bank of America Stadium, and it’s not just a name change. It’s the legal changes. I think that even Wall Street bankers are now saying the Glass-Steagall Act—that Glass-Steagall should be revived. If you have an option to lend and invest under the same roof, you will choose risky lending over—risky investment over lending. That has to change, that the congressional oversight committees cannot be on the committee and raising money from Wall Street at the same time. What happened, the congressional oversight was corrupted, and the Glass-Steagall Act was a leverage that they employed. And as someone said, the banks got what they wanted, and they didn’t want what they got. Too few banks control too much capital, and they are holding—they are holding captive our political order. That, plus super PACs, is corrupting our process, political process, in absolute terms.

AMY GOODMAN: Last question: how is your son, Congressman Jesse Jackson?

REV. JESSE JACKSON: You know, he is getting better. He is regaining his strength. But there is no timetable for it. And I hope his priority remains his health recovery above all. And so many people have reached out to him, prayed for him—Dennis Kucinich and Patrick Kennedy. And we are—we’re so grateful for people reaching out.

AMY GOODMAN: Does he want to remain a congressman?

REV. JESSE JACKSON: Well, that’s a health issue. And I would rather wait for him, his family and the doctors to make the termination at the right time.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressman Kucinich—

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Hi, Amy. How are you doing?

AMY GOODMAN: How are you?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Good to see you.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to see you. So, what are your thoughts on this first day of the Democratic convention?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: I think people want to unite, and they know how important it is for America to be given an opportunity to continue in a direction of economic progress. We have a lot of work to do. There’s 10 million people out of work. And there’s many people who are losing their homes. The American people are waiting for a signal from the president that he’s ready to run right up the hill and plant that flag of economic justice right on top of it. And this convention is going to be important to send a message out, to motivate people, not just to vote, but to vote in big numbers. I mean, here—people here are convinced. The work that has to be done is back home. We’ve got to get 10 million people back to work. We’ve got to have millions of people save their home. That’s part of what our mission has to be. And we’ve got to—and we have to bring our troops home. We’ll be listening for that.

AMY GOODMAN: What about what’s happening, the longest war, that hasn’t ended still, in Afghanistan, the highest suicide rate of soldiers in history?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: A little bit of America dies every time one of those soldiers commits suicide, because those wars were not necessary. The war in Iraq was based on lies, the war in Afghanistan based on a total misunderstanding of history. Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, maybe Iran—what are we doing with this country? We’ve got to stop these imperialistic intentions and bring—take care of things here at home, stop trying to run the world, stop trying to pretend that we can pick the leaders of other nations. We do a—we should focus on our leadership here and support America’s effort to unite, have a domestic agenda. We really have to reclaim our country.

AMY GOODMAN: A young man named Khan, who came from Charlotte, is one of the four who were killed in a drone attack that killed Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. Today there was a protest, and people were holding up his picture. What about these drone attacks?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Listen, I have been one of the strongest spokespersons in Congress to end the drone attacks, right when I heard about the first one in a little town called Damadola in Pakistan, where there were a number of people who were killed in a drone attack. Listen, everything about the drones, drone attacks, wrong. It’s unconstitutional. It’s extralegal, extrajudicial killings, creates more enemies. It makes it easy to go to war. We have to stop it. And it’s part—and what we have to do is change the policies that are underneath the drones, the idea that somehow America has a right to extend its force everywhere in the world. No, we don’t.

AMY GOODMAN: And yet, President Obama has said he personally maintains a kill list.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Yeah, well, you know, I object to that. I mean, I can support the president, but I can object to those programs. And I do. Thanks.

AMY GOODMAN: Ohio Congressmember Dennis Kucinich—but not for long. He was redistricted and recently lost the Democratic primary to his fellow congressmember, Marcy Kaptur. Oh, on the issue of drones, a U.S. drone strike killed 13 civilians in Yemen on Sunday. Yemeni government officials have confirmed the toll, saying the intended target of the strike was completely missed. According to CNN, outraged family members attempted to deliver the victims’ bodies to the residence of the Yemeni president, Abdu Rabu Hadi, but were denied entry. The Yemeni government says it’s investigating.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, “Breaking With Convention.” When we come back, we look at the last day of the Republican convention. A reporter got inside one of Karl Rove’s super PAC parties, and she reports what he says. And then we stay here in North Carolina and look at the South. Stay with us.

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