Congressman Dennis Kucinich,
Candidate for the Democratic Presidential Nomination
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW: January 8, 2004
Has BuzzFlash endorsed a candidate for the Democratic nomination?
The answer is "No." We believe our readers have had enough of people telling them what to do and how to vote, so we'll leave the campaign to elect a Democratic candidate up to them. Beginning on January 19th in Iowa, you have a chance to vote for the candidate of your choice. It's your decision, not ours.
So why is BuzzFlash interviewing Dennis Kucinich?
The answer is simple: we sent out invitations for interviews to several of the candidates and Kucinich was the only one who responded -- and his staff was tenacious in ensuring that this interview took place. Hey, we like that kind of treatment!
In fact, we've been trying to get an interview with Dean since he was in the single digits -- and Clark since he declared his candidacy. Kerry and Edwards have also been unresponsive to BuzzFlash requests.
We'll be glad to interview them, Congressman Gephardt, Former Senator Carol Moseley Braun or Rev. Al Sharpton. We'll even interview Senator Joe Lieberman, but he should be prepared for battle.
Our only requirement is that the interviews be conducted on the telephone or in person with the candidate, not in writing or via e-mail. (Frankly, we don't like responses written by a staffer, not that any political campaign would EVER do such a thing!)
So, our thanks to Congressman Kucinich. Maybe some of the other candidates are just afraid that if they interview with BuzzFlash, the RNC might launch a smear campaign against them.
Too bad, they are missing 100,000 progressive activists who turn to BuzzFlash each weekday.
The RNC isn't going to vote in the Democratic primaries, but the BuzzFlash readers are.
* * *
BuzzFlash: Given the capture of Saddam Hussein, if you were President, what would you do next? How would you end the Iraq War?
Rep. Kucinich: Now the focus must be for the U.S. to seize this moment and end the occupation of Iraq. We must reach out to the world community with a new plan to stabilize Iraq, bring U.N. peacekeepers in, and bring U.S. troops home. This is the moment to move forward and to move in a new direction.
BuzzFlash: What actions would you take if you were the President now?
Rep. Kucinich: I would go to the United Nations with a new resolution. The resolution would give up U.S. control or management of the oil aspects of Iraq, and turn it over to the United Nations to be handled on behalf of the Iraqi people until they become self-governing. I would stop any programs that were put in place to privatize the Iraq economy. I would turn over to the U.N. the contracting process and bring an end to the corruption and war profiteering going to Bush Administration favorites or to people who have contributed to the Administration. That whole contract process has to be cleaned up. The only way to do it is to go to the world community and ask them to participate, and to effectively have the U.N. handle the contracting process.
The next thing I would do would be to ask the U.N. to handle the cause of drafting a new Iraq constitution with the Iraqi people, and without the U.S. in any way trying to devise a constitution that is in the interest of the United States. We also are going to have to have the U.N. handle the cause of governance in Iraq. The Iraqi people have already been unhappy with the attempt of this Administration to have the governing council run the country without free and fair elections. I would then have the United States pay a sum of money to the United Nations for the purposes of the peacekeepers to help stabilize Iraq. We'd also pay money to help rebuild the country, to the extent to which we blew it up. And finally, there should be reparations paid to the families of women and children, and innocent civilian non-combatants who perished in the U.S. invasion and occupation.
And so I'd be ready from day one with a plan to bring our troops home. We must move in that direction or else we face the possibility of a deepening conflict with massive casualties and an even greater drain on our national resources.
BuzzFlash: You've been a proponent for quite some time of a Department of Peace. Many commentators say that the Democratic candidates, including yourself, are at a disadvantage because a majority of the American people believe that Bush is making them safer. That's their perception, which, of course, BuzzFlash and you don't agree with. But what are some of your general guidelines to assure Americans, as President, that you indeed can make this a safer world for Americans than George Bush?
Rep. Kucinich: The only way that America can be safe is if we work with the world community. The world is waiting for the next progressive that will step forward and cooperate in the cause of international security. Our presence in Iraq has ended up being the recruiting poster for Al-Qaeda and other opponents of the United States.
BuzzFlash: Marshall McLuhan said politics will eventually be replaced by imagery. The politician will only be too happy to abdicate his image because the image will be much more powerful than he could ever be. That seems to us to define the Bush Administration and Mr. Bush in particular. How are you going to communicate to the American people when the power of television is so forceful in conveying that phony image of him?
Rep. Kucinich: First of all, I think that truth penetrates all images and suffuses all images to bring forward the underlying reality. This is an ironclad law of the universe – not even a president is immune from this.
BuzzFlash: You propose cuts in Pentagon spending, and the creation of a cabinet-level Peace Department, whereas George Bush brands himself as a cowboy. But how do you balance your campaign with Americans who rely so much on image, versus the substance of your ideas?
Rep. Kucinich: There's a point at which the rubber meets the road. And that is when you start to see the education budget cut, welfare cut, housing cut, and veterans' benefits cut, all to feed an expanded war effort and a growing Pentagon budget. People have to know that we're making choices here with the direction of our country. And the more we head towards war, the deeper we get into Iraq, the greater the expansion of the Pentagon budget. We're changing what our nation stands for. We're diminishing our capability to be able to take care of things here at home. So we're going to have to make a choice. Do we want to be the policemen of the world, or do we want policemen in our neighborhoods? Because there is a connection, and I'm showing the connection in this campaign.
BuzzFlash: There is a prevailing notion that has been largely manufactured by the media that in the Democratic campaigns there is a frontrunner and a pack, and candidates that don't stand a chance before a single American voter has cast their vote in a primary or caucus. How do you respond to that perception?
Rep. Kucinich: The public is becoming increasingly aware of the attempts of the media to try to declare the election over before it's started, and to do so on the basis of polls, money raised and endorsements. That's an easy way to try to divert the election from critical issues such as our presence in Iraq, the U.S. $55 billion trade deficit, the lack of a universal single payer healthcare plan, and our schools failing to provide opportunities for learning to our children. All these things are issues that need urgent discussion, and yet it's much more convenient for the media to divert attention away from them because all too often the media trivializes the elections.
BuzzFlash: Very basically, how do you differ from George Bush in the ideas that you have to make America stronger?
Rep. Kucinich: I would say in almost every way my campaign represents the best chance of being able for a Democrat to be elected. First of all, on the issue of Iraq, I do not believe in policies of preemption and unilateralism. I think those policies separate us from the world community. My worldview is of a world which is whole, a world which is interconnected and interdependent. In such a world, there's no place for unilateralism or preemption. There's no place for doctrines of nuclear first strike. In such a world, we affirm structures with international law by working to get rid of all nuclear weapons.
As President, I would sign the Biological Weapons Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Small Arms Treaty, and the Land Mine Treaty. America would join the International Criminal Court and lead a global effort to deal with AIDS.
These are the kinds of things that I would do that separates me from not only the incumbent President, but from other candidates as well. I'll move through quickly to get the United States out of Iraq by going to the United Nations and asking the U.N. to help us by handling the oil assets of Iraq on behalf of the Iraqi people until Iraq can be self-governing. I'll work to turn over the contract process to the U.N. so there's no more Halliburton sweetheart deals. There'll be efforts made to create jobs for the people in Iraq in their own country. There'll be no privatization of the Iraq economy. The goal is for the U.N. to play a transition role until the Iraqi people can be self-governing.
These are some of the fundamental ways in which we can bring our troops home. And that's my goal – U.N. peacekeepers in and U.S. troops out. These are just a few of the areas where the incumbent President and I differ greatly. And the candidate the Democrats nominate needs to be someone who can have this kind of a striking difference to the Bush Administration.
BuzzFlash: People have branded you as an idealist whereas many of your supporters would say that you're actually quite pragmatic. For example, giving people universal health care is very practical considering emergency room costs and profits given to HMO's, insurance and pharmaceutical companies. How do you respond when people brand you as an idealist?
Rep. Kucinich: Well it's true, I am an idealist. But why should we assume that our ideals do not have a practical basis? I'm idealistic about peace. But what could be more impractical than war – particularly this war in Iraq? I support health care for all. It's an ideal, but it's very practical too because there's so many people without health care today because of a for-profit system.
We could turn this around and say that war is cynical, and that war profiteering is cynical, that unemployment is cynical, and all these things lead to despair. My candidacy is about a celebration of hope. It's about an end to cynicism, an end of despair, an end to fear and the beginning of hope. We have to have confidence in the authenticity of our ideals. We have to have confidence that we can make those ideals part of the life of our nation.
What did our fathers do except to take an ideal of independence, and liberty, and justice, and make it into a Constitution? But we're forgetting the basis by which our nation was formed. We're forgetting the cause of nationhood, which is to create a more perfect union. And what was the Preamble of the Constitution except a recitation of ideals? What was the Declaration of Independence except a statement of ideals? What's the Constitution about except a structure that reflects and embodies our ideals? So, yes, I'm an idealistic person. I think the ideal of the United States as a nation among nations, a nation that stands for liberty and justice is something that we can live and fight for. And that's what my Presidency will be about. It will be about a living testament to the ideals for social and economic justice.
BuzzFlash: You stand in contrast to many other candidates in your position on free trade and jobs. Could you tell our readers what your position is on NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and free trade, and how your presidency would create more American jobs and keep jobs here at home?
Rep. Kucinich: We have to recognize that we've lost 3 million jobs since July of the year 2000 and there are several reasons why. NAFTA and the WTO (World Trade Organization) were chief among them. NAFTA has produced a system that enables corporations to set lower wages in other countries and make a profit by moving jobs out of this country - into Mexico in particular - and where they pay Mexican workers even less. And the WTO was set up to facilitate global trade without regard to workers' rights and human rights, and environmental quality principles.
I stand for global commerce, but global commerce that's based on morality, based on the rights of workers to organize, to bargain collectively, to strike, to have decent wages, to have a safe workplace, and to have a secure retirement. It's based on human rights, on protecting people from being exploited, on prohibitions on slave labor, child labor and prison labor. My trade policies will be based on protecting the environment, protecting the quality of our air and our water and our land. Until we cancel NAFTA and the WTO, and return to bilateral trade, conditioned on workers' rights, human rights and environmental quality principles we'll never be able to reclaim the essence of morality in our commerce because global corporations are setting the rules. And they're setting the rules without regard to the interest of people or countries. And that's why my presidency will return to bilateral trade, where we'll set the conditions. And this way, we can elevate the cause of workers not only in this country but everywhere.
We can also create jobs by moving quickly to rebuild America with a WPA-type program – the sort that Franklin Roosevelt sponsored. We can rebuild our cities, our suburbs, and our rural areas. We can build new water systems and sewer systems, and bridges and roads and ports. We can create conditions where we can put millions of people back to work. We can rebuild America and help create investments for business. My plan to build new technologies to help create the jobs of the 21st Century in energy and the environment will help lead to a more sustainable America. And my plan to help create universal, single-payer health care will create not only more jobs, but we will have a healthier America and a healthier workforce. So there's so many ways in which we can restore America's economic vitality.
We must end the tax cuts that are going to people in the top brackets. We have to end this war in Iraq, which is sapping our national economic vitality. We have to end our commitment to the Pentagon, with higher and higher amounts of our resources going for this war machine. We can be safe as a nation, but we have to also take care of our basic concerns of health, education, jobs, and our veterans. That's what I stand for.
BuzzFlash: What is the future of your campaign? Do you have an end point that, unless you pick up some votes in some primaries, that you will exit the campaign?
Rep. Kucinich: I'm in this race for 50 states.
BuzzFlash: Do you foresee a united Democratic Party against Bush by next November, regardless who the candidate is?
Rep. Kucinich: You know it's easy to call for unity. It's hard to achieve it if you have candidates who want to keep us in Iraq, who want to maintain a for-profit healthcare system, and who are going to continue on this path of corporate globalization. We could all celebrate party unity but it's going to be hard to mobilize people if this Democratic Party ends up being a pathetic mimicry of the Republican Party.
BuzzFlash: Congressman Kucinich, thank you for speaking with us.
Rep. Kucinich: Thank you.
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
* * *
Official Dennis Kucinich Campaign Site
BuzzFlash Interview with Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich, Who Advocates Creating A Department Of Peace - April 2, 2002