Saturday, September 29, 2007

A 19 Year-Old Kucinich Volunteer Responds to Democratic Candidates in "FANTASYLAND"

By Kevin Gosztola Intro The top Democratic candidates, Obama and Clinton, the two who were the primary focus of the debate yet again (and I make that conclusion by the order that the questions were asked of candidates), proved themselves to be subscribers to faulty logic that involves blaming Republicans and not taking responsibility within the party for failures in the past seven years. Obama used jargon such as “bad options and worse options”, “no promises”, “country at crossroads” and “need someone to bring people together”, “take on special interests”, “telling truth even when it’s tough”, “everything should be on the table”, etc. Clinton used jargon such as “I agree with Barack”, “don’t have votes”, “don’t want to talk about what might or what might not happen” (hypotheticals), “not gonna answer”, “bipartisan commitment”, “fiscal responsibility”, etc. The “top two” candidates, which have been decided to be the “top two” by media coverage and media polls taken, basically spent two hours telling the American people that they will not promise anything, they will not say that change can be made, they will not talk about possibilities even when that may give us insight into the mind of a future leader of America, and they will most certainly avoid answering questions specifically and instead use heavy-handed rhetoric. They will go to Republicans even when president to find out if their plan is acceptable to them or not. In relation to the "top two", the other candidates, appeared to distance themselves from the “top two” and attempt to overhaul their image in the eyes of the American people so they could be more like Kucinich or Gravel. These candidates (Biden, Dodd, Edwards, Richardson) should be thankful that the majority of American people are still unclear on who Gravel or Kucinich is and do not think about them as possiblities for president because they've been blacked out by the media. Through this article, I intend to look at three key elements of this debate that should be focused on. One, I will look at the answers on Iraq. Two, I will look at the health care discussion. And three, I will examine the overall element of corporate power/special interests that Democratic candidates claim to stand against. To help you understand where this article is coming from, understand that this Democratic debate had a high level of tunnel vision preventing it from really discussing the issues, which is what most debates suffer from. It neglected the idea that the two parties are the same and subjecting Americans to a two-party dictatorship. It neglected to look at the fact that Democrats are moving away from progressive and liberal ideas that are supposed to be the crux of the Democratic party. In essence, it neglected to ask if the party is anything more than one whose mascot is a donkey. For with recent failures in Congress and all other candidates (except Kucinich, Gravel, and surprisingly, Richardson) unwilling to go after Senate and Congressional Democrats, what can we really expect from these future leaders of America whom we expect to pummel any Republican opponent because polls show a Democrat will skate in whether a Democratic candidate has good policies or not? Think about that as I move through the three key elements. The Iraq Question Tim Russert’s question went something like this: Will you pledge to have all troops out of Iraq by 2013 at the end of your first term as president? Any American who heard that, myself included, must have been put off by the fact that Russert wasn’t framing the debate around getting troops out in the first months in office. Russert had reframed the question so that Obama and Clinton would not refuse to talk because they cannot give “hypotheticals” or make “promises”. So, to play it safe, he moved the date 5 years ahead so that Obama and Clinton could indeed talk about their policies that they have written out and talked of on the campaign trail. This set the stage for Obama, Clinton, and Edwards to become the “war candidates” and not the anti-war ones they claim to be. Only Kucinich, Gravel, Richardson, and to some extent, Dodd, really said they would be in no way continuing deployment in Iraq until 2013. By some extent, I mean that Dodd kind-of said the troops would be brought home in his first year or second year in office but definitely by 2013. Biden is an exception to the whole 2013 projection because he has a plan for de-facto partitioning of Iraq and federalizing the nation that, according to him, would curb civil warfare and genocide. His plan that I believe few of the top candidates understand but claim to support would mean we stay even further past 2013 if no political reconciliation occurs. This is what Obama is talking about when he calls for a continued military presence. This is why, possibly, Edwards “cannot make that commitment” to end the war. Obama, Edwards, Biden, and even Hillary who spoke out in favor of the Biden Amendment, support Biden whose plan would leave troops in to do what our troops have done in Bosnia for 10 years---“maintain peace.” It was not until Russert had Gravel speak up that sanity was inserted into the discussion on Iraq, which had been regrettably missing. All the other candidates who had spoken prior to Gravel had failed including Kucinich. This is what Gravel brilliantly stated on Russert’s qustion involving what to do to stop the war (and he was asked this because he takes credit for stopping the draft): “By voting every day on cloture 20 days at noon, every single day you vote to override, overcome. Forty days [throughout those] American people weigh in putting pressure. You tell me the votes aren’t there? You go get them by the scruff of the neck.” Russert amplified his remark realizing how important it was to talk about what the candidates thought Congress could do to stop the war. He went and asked Dodd after Gravel said, “If it stops the killing, my God, yes, do it.” Dodd’s response to Gravel’s call to candidates to take action resulted in him saying that this 200 billion dollar request gives Democrats the chance to do what Gravel is asking them to do. What Gravel wants in Dodd’s opinion is unrealistic, but stopping the funding with clarity and leadership is ultimately what needs to be done because this war needs to be halted. It was also at this point in the debate that Gravel boldly went after Hillary for voting for the Iran bill and after Obama for not being there while congratulating Biden and Dodd for voting against the bill which, as he characterized it, is a “fig leaf to let George Bush go to war with Iran.” Richardson went after Hillary for wanting to continue any kind of troop operations because that would “prevent movement forward.” So, it appears that Dodd and Richardson are shifting their position to be more like Dennis Kucinich’s and essentially learning from him. Kucinich again, as he has redundantly stated in all debates or forums since this race started because it is constantly falling on deaf ears or being ignored by the media, said in his statement on Iraq that he has voted 100% of the time against war and all bills to fund the war. He mentioned his plan H.R. 1234, which he has introduced in Congress. And he spoke of how when the Democrats took power in 2006, they were to end the Iraq War and bring the troops home. Kucinich said it is astonishing to hear Democratic candidates stand up here and say this could continue to 2013 and promised that 3 months after taking office he would end the occupation, close bases, bring troops home, set in motion a program of reconciliation (no partition), implement an honest reconstruction program, have a program of reparations, and give Iraq full control over their oil, which currently all the other candidates up on the stage are ignoring. He quoted Lincoln who said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” And indeed, he added, if we continue and divide Iraq, more war will occur. He also flubbed and said he would do this by April 2007 but made a nice recovery saying “he’s ready to be president today.” With the recent protest events this September, with all the hullabaloo concerning MoveOn’s ad and this Iran bill, and with more destruction and death occurring each day, there is no doubt in my mind that the American people will not stand the next president being one who plans to continue this war until 2013---and if the Democratic nominee seriously takes this position, he or she stands to lose against a Republican who will challenge his or her anti-war stance heavily and incessantly. Therefore, the candidate must have Kucinich’s stance if they win. Third party candidates know what it means for other candidates to take their stances and make them their own. It’s an honor. For Nader, it has made him feel good. And I would feel honored to know that Richardson, Dodd, and/or Edwards, whose pretending to be Kucinich lately, would adopt Kucinich’s plan fully and carry it out. It would make me feel better about the upcoming primaries because now there would be three good choices and not just one (or two, if Gravel can keep getting campaign contributions necessary to stay in the race). But Richardson, Dodd, and Edwards do not have the track record or character Kucinich has, which means if they choose to steal Kucinich’s thunder, the American people better damn well be sure either candidate is serious about doing what Kucinich plans to do, which is get us out in 3 months and not more than five years, five years, two to three years, or one year. Health Care The debate last night did not ever hone in on the issue of single-payer health care in America. Russert never stepped in and forced the candidates to clarify what they meant by “universal health care”. In fact, Edward dared to say he had the first plan for universal health care before any of the candidates up here when Kucinich has cosponsored H.R. 676 calling for universal-free single-payer health care in America for quite some time now. As Kucinich could be heard saying in the background, “That’s not true.” All of the candidates except him want this “quality and affordable health care” that private insurance companies have been pushing upon Americans for decades now. They don’t want change---they just want to regulate it better. As Edwards sought to falsely frame himself as the best health care candidate while Hillary tried claiming to be the “health care president”, he said, “I hear a bunch of people talking who have been in Washington a long time and that everything needs to be done there---it’s like the rest of America doesn’t exist.” He went on to highlight that other candidates are “gonna have a bunch of Washington insiders, insurance companies, drug companies, lobbyists” and they will “figure out together” the health care issue while the rest of America is excluded. That’s all well and good, but Edwards is misleading the American people. The report on, ranks John Edwards 6th in campaign contributions from “health care professionals” or what I infer to be health care companies who have a stake in privatized health care (and if this is wrong, readers please help me correct my inference) with $246,926 in campaign contributions from them. Kucinich has only taken $10,500 and is in the bottom five. John Edwards has collected $81,750 from Insurance and ranks 8th here, while Kucinich is last with $500. John Edwards has managed to only collect a small sum from Pharamaceuticals/Health Products thankfully and that total is $5,650. Kucinich is at $1,050. But in regards to Edwards’ statement on lobbyists, he has collected $13,500 while Kucinich has collected none because he, unlike Edwards, believes in refusing money from lobbyists. That makes Kucinich more capable of sticking up for the rest of America. The point of referencing this report is to show that Edwards indeed is allowing health care companies, insurance, pharmaceutical drug companies, and lobbyists to be at the table with him despite what he says. He will be talking to these people when choosing to not support single-payer health care. He cannot stand up here and speak this garbage about Washington excluding Americans when he is actively engaged in the act he's condemning. We Americans call people who do this hypocrites. And while he may have a plan that is expected to have a result like that of the single-payer health care system Kucinich is fighting for, it won’t reform health care. It won’t set America on track and it certainly isn’t the most comprehensive reform out there. A complete revamping through H.R. 676 is more comprehensive than his or any of the candidates’ plans. All the other candidates’ plans emulate Hillary’s plan in that they resemble a past Republican plan for health care, the Lincoln Chafee plan. For as much as we are concerned with Republicans being evil, the fact that the plans resemble each other or are very similar should frighten people and make Americans steer clear of all candidates except Kucinich. Democrats Claim That They Stand Against Corporate Power Every candidate claims they will take on special interests and/or that they will work with corporate interests so the American people can have change. What exactly does that mean? Do these candidates really have that capability? With the issue of Social Security privatization, only two candidates, Kucinich and Richardson came out and explicitly stated that privatization should be taken off the table. Clinton was talking corporate rhetoric and calling for “fiscal responsibility”, “bipartisan commitment”, and looking at the context of those to see what else can be done. This would involve leaving “all options on the table”. Obama handled the issue exactly like Hillary seconding all of what Hillary said. Both failed to commit to raising the tax cap to a level above $97, 500 and instead, chose to weigh down the discussion with hubris. Hillary even explicitly stated she would put “nothing” on the table for solving social security during the debate. Biden, Dodd, Richardson, Edwards, and Kucinich all called for raising the taxes because that is what must be done to confront the possibility of cutting benefits or doubling taxes. Others understood, as Dodd referred Obama’s and Hillary’s talk, that we do not have to use “draconian measures.” As Kucinich said “unless we have a president who states very clearly, no privatization” there will be a continuation of problems in America. In short, those who can’t give “hypotheticals” do not deserve to be president. Smoking made it into the debate and all candidates were asked to say if they would support a national law to ban smoking in public places. Obama and Hillary again chose rhetorical hubris. Obama said, “I think local communities are making nice strides.” Hillary said she was not in favor of a national law. Both were not able to support the law. Could campaign contributions from tobacco companies (Clinton- $32,300 or Obama-$7,885) have anything to do with this? After all, every other candidate was in favor of the ban including Dodd (who surprisingly leads the Democrats in campaign contributions from tobacco companies, according to Like Kucinich said, “Wait a minute. I’ve been breathing in a lot of secondhand smoke here tonight. You bet I’ll go for a national law.” Hadn’t we all been breathing in secondhand smoke? Seriously though, he had no problem calling for a ban because he, like Edwards and Gravel, has not accepted campaign contributions from any tobacco company. Kucinich is the only one who can stand up to corporate powers, and the success story he has in his past, which Americans should be impressed by, proves that. Americans should cease upon the chance to vote for a man who “took a stand on behalf of the people of Cleveland” when mayor “to save a muncipal electric system” that was threatened when “the banks, utilities in Cleveland---private utilities---were trying to force” him into selling the system. As Kucinich states, “On December 15, 1978, I told the head of the biggest bank when he told me I had to sell the system in order to get the city’s credit renewed that I wasn’t going to do it.” He explains that he knew where he came from and remembered his parents struggling to pay for utilities and could not allow utility bills to skyrocket. He added that this act showed he had "the ability to stand up for the people.” He campaigned in 1994 with the slogan “Because I Was Right” and won in the state senate race and later. In 1996, he won a congressional seat on the slogan that he would “Light Up Congress” Having saved the municipal electricity system, he got what he deserved, respect. And he should and will continue to gain respect of Americans because no other candidate has a success story like this to show they can stand up to corporate interests or special interests. Conclusion Naturally, this is an extremely biased account of the debate because the entire time I watched it I was looking to see how Kucinich was better than the other candidates. That way I could exploit those pros so that the campaign could make much needed gains on leading candidates. However, Kucinich in a way let me and his supporters down. In the past, Kucinich has chided candidates who speak in “soundbites”. That was essentially what he did for most of the debate. Kucinich was arrogantly crying out responses that sometimes ignored what had been said earlier. Instead of singling out "FANTASYLAND" remarks, Kucinich chose remarks that wreaked of desperation. Sometimes he just responded to questions and what other candidates had said which is what I want him to do. But most of the time especially in the lightning round everything led to that’s what a Kucinich Presidency would be like or this is the program that I propose to do this and this. I also think he has got to mask that smug smile because it’s offensive to people who don’t understand that he’s right. A more humble approach would mean containing that smile, which I love but realize people are put off by it, and just focusing in on how to bring in all of what the candidates have said and respond to it. He should still smile and still charm people---but I wish he would not look like the comedic relief for the debate always. If he could say what he is saying like Obama or Clinton does, that would boost the American people's confidence in him to lead so much. Thankfully, he redeemed himself at one point in the lightning round and so, I have to forgive him for not finding a less arrogant way to talk.” And this is the note I will conclude on, the note where he responded to Russert’s question on Greenspan’s call for a phased in three dollar a gallon gas tax. Kucinich said no and said there’s also something else he said: “He said the Iraq War was about oil something I said on Meet the Press, Tim, on February 23, 2003. I think that we need to make sure that the next president was right about Iraq, was right about the PATRIOT Act. You can have a president who was right about Iraq and voted against it from the beginning and against the funding. You can have a candidate who is for a single-payer health care system, one who would stop the PATRIOT Act, or you can have a president who’s tall.” We all know you can’t teach an old dog to do new tricks. If you feel like I do, than you know you’ve got to take action and stop putting up with Democratic candidates who are in “FANTASYLAND”. Watch the debate here:

This is good.

Hear your name.
It IS good.

Kucinich should win for President.

But he won't. Which to me makes most Democrat voters as pro war as their potential candidates.

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