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Kucinich has also criticized Dean for his view that the bloated Pentagon budget — which represents half of all federal discretionary spending — is sacrosanct and can’t be touched, calling Dean’s position “voodoo budgeting.” With a half-a-trillion-dollar, Bush-created deficit weakening the economy, Kucinich has proposed cutting expensive, unworkable, boondoggling weapons systems like Star Wars, the F22s and the V22s, which are useless in the war on terror.
A lot of mainstream commentators — particularly TV’s chattering heads — have made fun of Kucinich for proposing the creation of a federal Department of Peace. Well, the first president to do so was John F. Kennedy, who created the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (abolished under Bill Clinton) to fight weapons proliferation and serve as a counterweight think tank to the Pentagon’s expansionist-policy propagandists. As more American men and women come home from Iraq in body bags, the notion of once again having a federal agency to seek nonviolent ways of resolving the mushrooming number of international and regional conflicts — like those between nuke powers India and Pakistan, not to mention North Korea — doesn’t seem so silly.
Kucinich is, in fact, an ambulant index of the progressive agenda. He’s the only presidential candidate to have voted against the civil-liberties-shredding PATRIOT Act, which he would like to see repealed. In fact, he offers the strongest defense of constitutionally protected rights of any candidate, proclaiming: “We cannot justify widespread wiretaps and Internet surveillance without judicial supervision, let alone with it. We cannot justify secret searches without a warrant. We cannot justify giving the attorney general the ability to designate domestic terror groups. We cannot justify giving the FBI total access to any type of data that may exist in any system anywhere, such as medical records and financial records. We cannot justify giving the CIA the ability to target people in this country for intelligence surveillance. We cannot justify a government that takes from the people our right to privacy and then assumes for its own operations a right to total secrecy.”
Even though he comes from a conservative state, Kucinich hasn’t been afraid to take on issues the front-runners duck. For example, he’s flat out for gay marriage and made a point in the last televised debate of his support for decriminalizing marijuana.
All that’s the kind of talk that brings liberal audiences to their feet.
With employment figures still stagnant, and the blackout having underscored the rotting of our nation’s infrastructure, Kucinich has put forward a common-sense plan he says could return 2 million Americans to the work force. It calls for creating $50 billion annually in interest-free loans to states and localities for infrastructure repair to outdated, polluting sewer and water-delivery systems, dilapidated schools and the like. The federal government, through the Federal Bank for Infrastructure Modernization, would buy from localities the bonds to finance these loans. The Federal Reserve System currently holds some $300 billion in Treasury securities; instead of buying those securities, the Federal Reserve would take a portion of that money to buy the mortgage loans of the states. The risk is slight: A similar proposal was supported by Fed Chair Alan Greenspan in February 2001 congressional testimony.
There really isn’t much to criticize from a progressive perspective in Kucinich’s record. Even his election-year conversion to full-throated support of Roe v. Wadeand a woman’s right to choose (after years of voting against federal funding of abortions in the House) has been accepted by a growing roster of Feminists for Kucinich, led by such unimpeachable icons of the women’s movement as Barbara Ehrenreich, Grace Paley, Meredith Tax and Eleanor Roosevelt biographer Blanche Wiesen Cook.
But it’s the Cleveland crusader’s unrivaled record of opposing the war in Iraq that has been the centerpiece of his candidacy. It was little Dennis Kucinich, chair of the House Progressive Caucus, who — starting with just 19 members of Congress behind him — led the anti-war crusade that eventually corralled nearly two-thirds of House Democrats to oppose a war based on lies. And it was Kucinich who denounced those lies then (long before Dean did) and who — in a series of sharp-minded, ad-libbed floor speeches carried on C-SPAN — helped rally a large chunk of the country to oppose the new Bush doctrine of “pre-emptive” military first strikes (or, in plain English, aggressions) anywhere and anytime the president thinks they’re necessary (a Bush policy which Dean endorsed). In every debate, Kucinich points out that he’s the only one of the Capitol Hill candidates to have actually voted against the Bush-Gephardt-Lieberman blank-check resolution for an invasion of Iraq. Not only that, he filed a lawsuit to try to stop the invasion as unconstitutional without a formal declaration of war by the Congress.
His anti-war sincerity is the major reason Kucinich has a lot of friends in Hollywood, too. According to the Associated Press, “The Ohio congressman . . . outpaces his eight rivals in endorsements from the entertainment industry” — from Joaquin Phoenix, Danny Glover, Shelley Morrison (of Will & Grace), Hector Elizondo, Ani DiFranco, Roy Scheider, Ed Asner, Ed Begley Jr., James Cromwell, Peter Coyote, Elliott Gould, Eric Roberts, director Haskell Wexler, Pete Seeger, and the entire Dave Matthews Band. Casey Affleck says he’s “leaning” toward Kucinich. Other prominent Californians who’ve signed on with Kucinich are Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, who represents Marin and Sonoma counties, liberal powerhouse Stanley Scheinbaum, and Tom Hayden. Kucinich has even made a groupie out of the wife of one of his competitors: According to ABC’s Kucinich campaign embed, “John Edwards’ wife, Elizabeth, counts herself as a Kucinich fan and has made a special effort to seek him out at debates to say hello.”