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Dennis Kucinich's Fight to Bring Credibility to the Democratic Party

The resilient 2008 candidate attacks the "inside game between competing corporate interests" in U.S. politics.
 
 
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This interview was recently conducted by Chris Hedges at Rep. Dennis Kucinich's Congressional office in Washington.

Chris Hedges: Why has the Democratic Party not done what it should do?

Rep. Dennis Kucinich: Lack of commitment to Democratic principles. No understanding of the period of history we're in. Failure to appreciate the necessity of the coequality of Congress. Unwillingness to assert Congressional authority in key areas which makes the people's House paramount to protecting democracy. The institutionalized influence of corporate America through the Democratic leadership council. Those are just a few.

Hedges: Have we evolved into a corporate state?

Kucinich: I Look at it as the political equivalent of genetic engineering. That we've taken the gene of corporate America and shot it into both political parties. So they both now are growing with that essence within. So what does that mean? It means oil runs our politics. Corrupt Wall Street interests run our politics. Insurance companies run our politics. Arms manufacturers run our politics. And the public interest is being strangled. Fulfilling the practical aspirations of people should be our mission. How do we measure up to providing people with jobs? It was a Democratic president that made it possible for NAFTA to be passed, causing millions of good-paying manufacturing jobs that help support the middle class. . . .

NAFTA, GAT, the WTO, China Trade, and every other trade agreement that's passed in Congress has been passed with the help of either the leadership of or with the help of the Democratic Party, knowing that each and every one of those agreements was devoid of protections for workers, knowing that if you don't have workers' rights put into a trade agreement then workers here in the United States are going to see their own bargaining position undermined because corporations can move jobs out of the country to places where workers don't have any rights. They don't have the right to organize, the right to collective bargaining, the right to strike. So what I see is that the Democratic Party abandoned working people, and paradoxically they're the ones who hoist the flag of workers every two and four years only to engender excitement, and then to turn around and abandon their constituency. This is now on the level of a practiced ritual. At least a biannual ceremony, or every two years. So you can see how pernicious this becomes when the minimum wage increase was tied to funding the war. That, to me, says it all. Because it is inevitably the sons and daughters of working Americans that are the ones who are led to slaughter. Aspirations for health care.

So what I've done in my campaign is to advocate a full-employment economy. How do you do that? A new WPA-type program. We'll rebuild America's bridges, water systems, sewer systems, our libraries, our universities, our mass transit systems. And we do that with a program that I introduced legislation in repeated Congresses with the cosponsorship of a Republican from Ohio by the name of Steven LaTourette and the bill, HR 3400, provides for rebuilding America's infrastructure. And I would put millions of people back to work in good-paying jobs. I would put millions more back to work in new energy policies where we would design, engineer, manufacture, install and maintain wind and solar microtechnologies which would be retrofitted into tens of millions of American homes and businesses, driving down our carbon footprint and dramatically reducing our cost of energy. This would be a major development in America to take us away from a condition where America is leading the way towards the destruction of our global climate. I call this part of it the WG: a Works Green Administration, where we turn government into an engine of sustainability, where the whole government becomes about moving towards green. The transportation plan, mass transit, housing and development - it's about green housing, solar, natural lighting, using recycled material, the energy department stops incentivizing coal and oil and nuclear, and moves toward incentivizing wind and solar, bringing forward a whole generation of entrepreneurs just waiting to get into green energy solutions.

NAFTA becomes about the development of these new technologies at the alpha stage and then licensing them to the beta stage to encourage that entrepreneurial spirit. I mean we could create millions of jobs to prime the pump of the economy - that's the way I think about this. Prime the pump of the economy, get people back to work rebuilding America and creating a transition economy and making us more green in all of our policies. Agriculture, for example: Bring back the concept of parity, work for sustainable practices in agriculture and help protect small farmers, get their products to market, get their price, get a fair price, protect them with local markets, help organic farmers. I could go through every department, and that's what Works Green is about.

Addressing the practical aspirations of people, you're looking for jobs, how to create jobs, how to create movement in the economy that benefits people. And our party just swings around the edges and always makes deals with the idea of protecting the status quo, which is war.

Hedges: Because the working class has suffered so grievously, why is it that the only mass movement essentially comes from the right, let's say the Christian Right, in terms of grassroots level? Why aren't we seeing a period like the 1930s, where there is a real kind of outrage on the part of the working class?

Kucinich: I think it'll get to that but it's not there yet. First of all, Eric Hoffer . . . understood the power of dogmatism, in terms of mobilizing people. But one can come from a position of love and compassion in being able to mobilize people as well. On higher principles, not along the narrow path that some on the right have chosen.

Hedges: The corporations control the process of communication. I mean you just got shut out of a [Dec. 13] debate -

Kucinich: Yeah, right.

Hedges: - courtesy of Gannett -

Kucinich: Right, exactly.

Hedges: - and Ralph talks a lot about how he believes that corporate interests were determined that his issues weren't going to be heard. Eighty percent of newspapers are controlled by what? Six or eight corporations? How do you - they've in many ways shut down the ability, I mean they shut you down quite physically in Iowa.

Kucinich: Well, Iowa is a couple of factors that came into play. The American people - I never looked at it as being about me - I mean the American people are entitled to the fullness of the debate. It's not democratic to try and shut one point of view out. And since it's very obvious to anyone watching that my point of view is profoundly different from any other point of view being offered inside the party, what they're actually doing is unwittingly contributing to the destruction of the Democratic Party itself by saying that "these are the only points of view that we will deem acceptable within the Democratic Party." And those points of view are generally reinforcing the corporate mentality inside the party. And that's very destructive of the democracy. It actually contributes to the undermining of the hope for legitimate debate within a democratic society. And one of the major issues that I feel is somehow somewhat linked to what's going on in Iowa, is the issue of health care. I'm the only one in this race who's talked about the necessity of a single-payer, not-for-profit health-care system, Medicare for all. Now this plan would bring health care to those 46 million Americans who don't have any health insurance and the tens of millions of American who are underinsured, who would no longer have to worry about their economic position being undermined by the insurance companies. Insurance companies make money by not providing health care - we all understand that. When you consider that half the bankruptcies in this country are linked directly to people not being able to pay their medical bills, when we consider that the bankruptcy laws were changed so that people would be locked into a sort of debtors' prison for a good part of their lives, you come to understand the imperative of HR 676, the bill that I coauthored, as being the path toward economic self-sufficiency. Many homes in this country are finding that their budgets are totally undermined by their health-care costs. And so my solution is apart from any other candidates. It's very interesting how little, despite a real effort, how little coverage the not-for-profit health-care system receives, how little coverage this proposal receives.

Hedges: Did you see Russell Baker's [note in the Dec. 18, 2003] New York Review of Books . . . he said, [in effect,] "Let's take away health-care coverage for all the reporters in the newspapers, so then we'll get coverage of people who don't get health care."

Kucinich: I hadn't seen that, but it's probably true. And here's the problem. If you were to look at all the debates, is it just coincidental that there's been very little exploration of health care as an issue? Is it just coincidental that the only time that candidates were asked to put themselves on the line as to their position on health care was at the Ark debate in Iowa, where each and every candidate invited, promised, that they would not participate in a single-payer system. Ark being an insurance company, by the way. You know, think about this. An insurance company sponsoring a debate in Des Moines, Iowa. It's no surprise that later on the Des Moines Register, sitting in the middle of a five-county area, where insurance is the main crop, that they would find some lame excuse to try and limit the debate.

Hedges: What's been for you the most frustrating part of your campaign, especially looking at the Democratic Party itself?

Kucinich: You know, I don't look at it as being frustrated, because I don't think in those terms . . . [loud buzzer sounds] . . . Um - that means there's a vote on. I don't think in terms like that.

[A voice announces over the loudspeaker: "This is the House Democratic cloakroom. . . . at 3:21 p.m. Advise members they have 15 minutes to record the vote on suspending the rules on passing the bill HR 2761, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization act . . . thank you.")

OK. So we got a few minutes before I have to go over, and then I'll come back. So. I've written an autobiography of my first 21 years. I don't know if you've had a chance to see it yet. It's called Courage to Survive. And what it makes clear is that perseverance is my strong suit. When I was elected to the House of Representatives I got elected on my fifth try. And my first attempt was in '72. And I lost in '72, and I lost in '74, and I lost in '88, and I lost in '92. And I won in '96 and in '98, and 2000, and 2002, and in 2004, and in 2006. To me, what you do in life is you stand up and you fight for those things you believe in. And you do it without a question or a pause, to take a phrase from one of my favorite songs. And so I don't have any complaints.

Hedges: Do you know John Ralston Saul? The Unconscious Civilization ?

Kucinich: No.

Hedges: He's a great philosopher. He writes about the corporate state; he's Canadian. He talks about how the whole purpose of the corporate state is to disempower citizens. The government, once it's turned over to corporations, what you then undergo essentially is a coup d'etat in slow motion. Which appears to be what we're undergoing right now. . . .

Kucinich: Are you familiar with what happened to me in Cleveland in 1978?

Hedges: Oh, yeah.

Kucinich: You know the story? I was 30 years old when I was elected mayor of Cleveland, 31 when I took office. And Dec. 15, 1978, I was given an ultimatum by the chairman of the largest bank in Ohio, the 33d largest bank in the country. He told me that I had to sell our city's municipal electrical system, which serviced a third of the city, provided electricity at anywhere from 20 to 30 percent less than private utility - I had to sell that system to the private utility, thereby giving them a monopoly, or the bank was not going to renew the city's credit on loans I hadn't even taken out, $15 million in loans, this was the lead bank. So I was basically being told what the conditions were of my continuing as mayor. I was the youngest person ever elected to be mayor of a big city. And people were predicting all kinds of things for me. I was mayor by the time that Bill Clinton was on his way to becoming governor of Arkansas, youngest governor. So basically they told me, "Look, you sell the system, you're going to get $50 million worth of new credit, you can do anything you want with it. Get all these programs going. If you don't, we're going to put the city in default." The bank, it turned out, and the next bank, owned two percent of the common stock. Which is a large percentage of common stock of utility. Utility had its deposits in a couple of these banks, and there were firm locking directorates between the banks and the utilities. And so I said, "No," and this put the city into default. It was an amazing thing. It has never happened in American history. I lost the next election, and in the middle of that there were a couple of clear assassination attempts and a few other things that happened during this period. There is only one American political figure who came to my defense, and that was Ralph Nader. No one else. He was there. Ralph was able to get a subcommittee of the banking committee to do a staff report, which was pretty damning of the banks, and there was a perfunctory hearing about it.

Hedges: Do you share Nader's pessimism?

Kucinich: I'm not pessimistic.

Hedges: Where is it going to come from? How is the state going to be wrested back?

Kucinich: There has to come a moment of awareness. Something will happen to cause people to become aware of what's happening, of what's happened to the government. This is why impeachment is so important. Impeachment would bring up the whole train of abuses that have caused our government to become less democratic. The lies to take us into wars, the eavesdropping, the wiretapping, the rendition, the torture, I mean it all becomes one piece. If people see the whole thing at once, it then creates a kind of awareness that will create some change. I have no doubt about that at all, none whatsoever. What's happened is that people just see bits and pieces and it is never being tied together. I feel we are losing our democracy to lies that took us into war, lies that caused the destruction of essential civil liberties, lies that are driving us into debt, corruption on Wall Street and a Democratic Party that has lost its will to fight these people.

Hedges: Are we hostage to corporate dollars? Isn't this the only way you can become president?

Kucinich: It would appear that way, although of course I have taken another path. Are they - whoever "they" are - hostage to corporate dollars? I think that's fair. Who are they? Well, you have to get the scorecard. I used to go to baseball games when I was a kid. There was a guy who would run up and down the aisles waving scorecards, saying, "Scorecards, scorecards, can't tell the players without a scorecard." Each player had a number and you knew there position. In order to know people's numbers here you have to go to Open Secrets [ http://www.opensecrets.org] and see who is contributing to them and study their votes. Then you know what position they are playing, and more important than that, you know whose team they are on. To me this is the kind of disclosure that is essential. But let's go way over that and look at it from up here. This is why we need to change the Constitution and provide for public financing for elections. [Knock on the door.] . . . I'll be back.

[Leaves to cast a vote on the House floor. Returns.]

Kucinich: There is no other Democrat who is advocating a not-for-profit system. I am the only one, and I am the only one with a plan and I am the coauthor of the bill and I have been involved in this for years. In 2000 I took this plan to the Democratic Platform Committee with a group of people from California including Gloria Allred, Tom Hayden, Lila Garret. We offered it. But we were asked not to even offer it by the Gore campaign because that it would be a slap in the face to the interests that were helping the campaign. In 2004 I offered the same proposal to the platform committee and it was rejected again. Now, if there is any issue that the Democratic Party could establish itself on, in the same way FDR established the Democratic Party with the New Deal, the Democratic Party as a party could reestablish as a party of workers and small business in a single stroke by standing firmly as a party for single-payer, not-for-profit health care. The party refuses to do it. There are 83 members of the House that have signed onto the bill HR 676, but the fact that the Congress . . . I was the coauthor of the bill . . . Here again this is one of those areas as president my positions run contrary to the rest of the Democratic field, but also my own party.

Hedges: What about the war? This is what gave the Democrats control again.

Kucinich: No question about it.

Hedges: And yet they have failed. That was their mandate.

Kucinich: Look at this: In October of 2002 the Democrats counseled in a telephone conference with our leaders in which we were told that the election of 2006 was about three things: Iraq, Iraq and Iraq. The ads attacking Republicans were replete with references to the war and the Democrats sensed from the polls indicating a shift in public opinion against the war, campaigned against the war, elected House and Senate because of the war, and yet it wasn't one month after that victory was achieved because of the war that the Democrats gathered in a conference and declared that has a party we were going to continue to fund the war.

Hedges: Why?

Kucinich: The ostensible reason given was to support our troops, which is so transparent a dodge that it borders on the obscene. I walked out of that meeting and knew I had to run for president again. I knew it.

Hedges: When was that meeting?

Kucinich: The second week of December, maybe the 6th or the 8th, somewhere in there.

Hedges: To what do you attribute this decision? It has to be counterproductive to Democratic interests.

Kucinich: I think there has been a serious loss of confidence in the Democratic Party over the last year. It has been interpreted as a decline of confidence in Congress, but in truth, since the Democrats took control of Congress, it's a decline of confidence in the Democratic Party itself.

Hedges: Why did they lose their nerve?

Kucinich: One of the things you have to remember, and this is where . . . I don't think anyone has done this research . . . but it is my impression that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the Democratic primaries in 2006 more often than not opted to support candidates who were either neutral or supported the war. You have two waves here. You have the primary, of going for candidates who were either neutral or supported the war. Most of them won their primaries. And then you had the next wave, which was an anti-war wave. . . . [T]he paradox was that a Democratic Congress was elected that was less congenial to ending the war than the Congress before it. Most people don't understand that. How that could happen? Now, that doesn't mean, however, that the leaders would have to follow that direction. The leaders could say, "Look, we are going in a new direction." You have to remember what happened to the Democrats in 2002. It was Dick Gephardt who stood next to George Bush and gave him the OK for war. Most people thought the Democrats OK'd the war. Well, in the House they didn't. Two-thirds of the Democrats in the House voted against the war. I know because I led the effort. In the Senate they could have stopped it because they controlled the Senate. They didn't do it. You had Edwards and Clinton in the Senate at the time and Biden and Dodd. Any one of them could have held up the war. They didn't do it. They all went in with it.

Hedges: Do you think it is because in a presidential election they do not want to appear weak on defense issues?

Kucinich: One does not want to appear weak. That's true. But one should also not want to appear unintelligent. How intelligent was it to send our troops into a war without any proof that Iraq had anything to do with 9/11, al-Qaeda's role in 9/11, the anthrax attacks in the country . . . that Iraq had no intention or capability of attacking the United States? There was no proof that Iraq had been involved in 9/11, had weapons of mass destruction. Why did we do this? So it was thoroughly unintelligent for these leaders - who made the choice to appear tough and turned out to be unintelligent. So now the American people are being given a choice and, really you have candidates who voted for the war when they could have stopped it, or to fund the war and reauthorize it. All of them have voted to fund the war or reauthorize it. The war, you get to the point, where the war in the debates actually was given fours years life by having candidates Obama, Clinton and Edwards all agree that the war could continue to 2013.

Hedges: Why? What is the reason?

Kucinich: I think there is a mindset that comes from a complex of an implicit understanding of the power of those interests who profit from war and of the power of war as an idea and of being unwilling to challenge the status quo. A president has to represent the status quo, but what do you do if the status quo is corrupt? So they certainly know by now the war was wrong. If the war was based on lies, you tell the truth. You take the plan to get out. They are not talking about that. They are talking about a long-term occupation. There is no question about it: Everything speaks to a long-term occupation. If the Republicans win, we stay in Iraq. If the Democrats win, we stay in Iraq, unless I am the one who gets nominated. I put the plan out there to bring our troops home immediately, HR 4232. You have to keep in mind [that] if you want to know where people stand today, you have to look not at the broad brush of where the Democrats are, but at the individuals. Sen. Clinton took a hard-line position against Iraq, and she voted 100 percent of the time to fund the war until the last vote. Sen. Edwards took a hard-line position to attack Iraq. He voted all except one time to keep funding the war. Sen. Obama said he opposed the war before it started. He gave one, single speech, got elected - and his voting record is identical to Sen. Clinton's in voting to support the war. How can you expect anything different? Even if Sen. Edwards says he made a mistake, if you look at the track of preparing for another war against Iran the same people - Sens. Clinton, Edwards and Obama - all said of Iran that "all options are on the table," licensing George Bush's aggressive rhetoric and preparations against Iran. They said that, each one of them.

Hedges: Can they use the Congressional authorization for Afghanistan and Iraq? Can the Bush White House interpret that in such a way that they can carry out a strike on Iran without going back to Congress?

Kucinich: Well, Congress actually had an opportunity to pass a resolution that would have forced the administration to come back in the form of an amendment. They rejected it. This Congress has, unfortunately, licensed the administration's aggression, first by not holding them accountable for lying to Congress in the resolution that was brought before the Congress in October 2002. You may be familiar, Chris, with the dissection I did of that resolution, the Iraq war analysis of 2002. . . . [Y]ou will see, what I did was dissect the thing draft by draft, statement by statement, and this was before Congress voted. If I can do this, why couldn't have any of the others running for president today? This is when it counted. This the moment of maximum peril. This is the moment that America was about to go and launch a war of aggression against another nation. When I started challenging this, I was alone. Then there were six members, then 10 and then it grew to 125.

Hedges: How much is the reluctance on the part of the other candidates to address the Iran issue an Israeli issue?

Kucinich: Sen. Edwards spoke [at the] Herzliya [conference, and] three times in one speech he said all options are on the table. Everyone understood what that meant. It is a metaphor for the use of nuclear weapons. It is unambiguous. Sens. Obama and Clinton at various times said the same thing. Anyone who is really supportive of Israel - and I consider myself supportive of Israel - would recoil in horror over the thought of the United States attacking Iran, because it is Israel that would end up paying the price. Anyone with an ounce of common sense understands that, which is why we have an obligation to move towards creating peace in the region, engaging Iran in diplomacy. I had an ongoing discussion with the Iranian ambassador [Javad] Zarif. I found out that an effort was made three years ago by the previous Iranian administration, [that of president Mohammad] Hatami, to settle the issues that were outstanding between Iran and the United States. It was thrown in the wastebasket by the Bush administration. There have been numerous efforts to try and build relations, and they all came from Iran. They were immediately, each and every one of them, rejected because the administration was determined to go on a course of action of aggression. [The November 2007] National Intelligence Estimate could have been much more severe in its judgment of the administration. It served a purpose in slowing down the movement towards war, but it does not totally stop it by any means because this administration is absolutely devoted to war as an instrument of policy.

Hedges: If this administration carried out a strike on Iran, would you predict that the Democratic leadership would support it?

Kucinich: I think you have to look at the sweep of legislation in the last year and a half. Anyone who looks at that could not conclude otherwise. It would just be a continuation of licensing of aggression against Iran. There is nothing that indicates they would do anything other than that because of the bills we have passed. I was often the only one, or one of two, who consistently challenged what we are doing with respect to Iran, voting against legislation that I knew was being used to lay the groundwork for war. It was very clear. There were maybe 14 different resolutions that were out there, and each time I went to the floor and I rose and I spoke against them. I said, "What are we doing?"

Hedges: What happens if we do not begin impeachment proceedings?

Kucinich: We haven't proceeded with impeachment because the leadership says impeachment is off the table. Effectively, what they have done is to nullify the one provision of the Constitution that protects the American people from the presidency turning into a monarchy. Congress' co-equality depends upon impeachment. Our democracy depends on the president and the vice-president being held accountable for the crimes they have committed against the American people. It is about lying, weapons of mass destruction, lying about Iraq's so-called alleged connection to al-Qaeda and 9/11, trying to conflate Iraq with 9/11, trying to imply that Iraq had some ability to attack the United States or the intention to do so - in Cheney's case, trying to build a similar case for a war against Iran based on lies again. But it is much more than that. It is responsibility for the deaths and injuries of thousands of American troops and over a million innocent Iraqis, the destruction of our domestic agenda by borrowing $1-2 trillion from China for the war, the ruining of America's reputation, the wiretapping, the eavesdropping, the rendition, the torture, the suspension of habeas corpus -

Hedges: None of which the Democratic Party has rolled back.

Kucinich: None. Zero. I have to tell you, one of the things I was greatly concerned about is when I read that our Democratic leaders have been thoroughly briefed on torture, on waterboarding, as the Washington Post reported a few weeks ago. If you are silent, when you hear that, if you say nothing about it, silence becomes complicity.

Hedges: Is this because people like Hillary Clinton want to inherit an imperial presidency?

Kucinich: I don't know about that. That becomes a consequence of not taking action. There might be something in that the American people would be so fed up with the Bush administration that they would once again take it out on the Republicans. But I frankly don't think that will happen. I think what is more likely to happen is that people will become so disenchanted with the Democrats for not taking action that they won't vote. People will just say there is no difference. They have not done what they said they would do. There is a loss of confidence. And so people will not vote. When we show up as a party with the full power of the Constitution behind us, the people will show us, too. They will show up.

Hedges: How do you feel about citizens' movements, such as Code Pink, calling on people not to pay their taxes? It is built out of that frustration.

Kucinich: I understand that. That is a civil disobedience tactic. It also invites scrutiny by the IRS, which doesn't really care about anyone's politics. They just care about getting the money they are owed. It is a brave thing for people to do because there is a degree of risk in doing that. Why should people have to do this?

Hedges: Because the Democratic Party isn't doing anything.

Kucinich: I understand. I am asking a rhetorical question. People are feeling they have to do something.

Hedges: When you confront the Democratic leadership, do they hear you?

Kucinich: They console themselves on the myth that they do not have the votes, when all they have to do is tell the president, "We are not going to give you any more money." This is a basic civics lesson. The bill is made, introduced, it goes into committee, it comes back out, it goes to the floor, you know, eventually it can be passed. I will tell you how a bill isn't made. It is not introduced. It doesn't get to the floor. Since appropriations bills begin in the House, by the Constitution we can tell the president we are not going to give him any more money. He . . . has to use the money he has that is available to take a new direction that will result in ending the war. We can box the president in on this. If he fails, if he refuses to bring the troops home, then we turn to impeachment. It isn't as though the president has the right to just keep the troops there. You can't blame the president. The Congress has the right to fund the war or not to fund the war. Every time you fund the war, you vote to authorize it all over again. The showdown that needs to happen - and this is the way Vietnam ended - we basically told the president we would stop the funding. You don't need a vote to do that. The president would be similarly faced with having to then go to the nations of the region and say, "We are going to leave," and that is the only responsible course of action we can take, and the course of action I recommend anyway. So why should we have to force him to do that? Why don't we just go to him and say, "Look, this is the plan: We want the troops brought home, and we are not going to give you any more money. We will support you if you take these steps. If you don't, it will be very tough"? They are refusing to confront him. Considering the fact that the whole war is based on lies, what are we doing here? History may well look back at this time and ask why was American sleeping while their leaders were engaging in aggressive war? They are going to know there was one person who was awake. I call it for what it is: a war crime.

Hedges: What happens if the Democratic nomination goes to someone who will not confront these issues?

Kucinich: Let me tell you what happens when it goes to me. We take steps not just to get out of Iraq, but to go to the nations of the region and put together an international security and peacekeeping force that moves in as our troops leave. I go to Syria. I go to Iran. I tell them it is a new day. I also start a process of peace in the Middle East . . . bringing people together to get guarantees for the security of Israel. At the same time you work to provide for a true Palestinian homeland with full rights for the Palestinians. The door to peace in the world goes through Jerusalem. I would also work to change the U.S. policy with respect to arms manufacturing. We are the arms merchants of the world. We are fueling wars everywhere around the world. We have got to change direction. I would start to systematically pull back America's presence from its global bases around the world. We don't need to do that, not in today's world. That is a throwback to the 19th century or maybe even the 18th century. It is not germane to a modern world. The problems today are non-state actors. I would move to make, as a matter of national security, a new energy policy that was carbon-free and nuclear-free. I would counsel the other nations of the world that the long-term economic and security interests will be to get away from nuclear power, which is the basis at some point, for not only the enrichment of uranium but the production of plutonium. We need to go away from that direction. We would have a strong military that would be mobilized to protect this country, but the policies of aggressive war would end. My doctrine would be strength through peace, the end of the neoconservative approach of unilateralism and first strike, and the beginning of the end of war as an instrument of policy, the beginning of transparency, open dialogue, direct contact, leader to leader, real diplomacy - the science of human relations, whatever you want to call it - it's a new day. I will work to get rid of all nuclear weapons by enforcing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. I will enforce the Biological Weapons Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Small Arms Treaty, the Land Mines Treaty. And America will join the International Criminal Court. Frankly, every official of the Bush administration who was involved in the execution of an aggressive war would be held accountable under the laws of this country. There are provisions within our current laws. The laws of the United States incorporate under article six of the Constitution all treaties. Our leaders do not have the right to make a war of aggression. They have to abide by the Geneva Convention and by international law. I see a different security posture and a different energy and economic policy for this country. The Patriot Act would be cancelled, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, the Homegrown Terrorism Act. I would send the justice department into federal court and knock down each and every provision of law that was put up during the time of the Bush administration, either with the help of Congress or through signing statements, that compromised First Amendment rights, Fourth Amendment rights, Fifth Amendment rights, Eighth Amendment, 14th Amendment rights or any other amendment rights. Those are the one that immediately come to mind.

Hedges: Would you consider running as a third-party candidate?

Kucinich: I have been trying to make the Democrats an effective second party. This is my second effort at doing that. I am still in the process of doing that. My answer is that I am still in the process of trying to make the Democrats a credible second party.

Hedges: Nader felt the Democratic Party actively tried to sabotage his campaign. What about you? Do you feel the Democratic establishment is in any way undermining your campaign.

Kucinich: I don't think about that. I would hope they have better things to do with their time. I can't be intimidated. I can't be bought. I can't be bossed. It would be shame for them to waste their time doing that. It is not going to change; it's not going to affect me one bit. They should spend their energy on the war, health care, creating jobs, trying to find a way to give people a reason to vote Democratic. I have been doing this for 40 years. I have more experience in politics than most people on the American political scene on so many different levels. I am sure there are some people who have been in local politics for 50 years and are just wonderful. My experience has been at a local, state and federal level in judicial and executive offices. I can tell you that we are at a moment in American history where we are in danger of losing our country. That is what causes me to defend the Constitution. It is what causes me to seek strength through peace, to propose peace for the violence in our own society, domestic violence, spousal abuse, child abuse, violence in the schools. I do not only reject war as an instrument of policy. I reject the inevitability of war. I believe peace is inevitable if you are ready to work for it. If you examine the underlying structures in our society, they have not really challenged this notion of the inevitability of violence, whether it is domestic violence, child abuse, spousal abuse, violence in the schools, gun violence, gang violence, racial violence, violence against gays, police/community clashes. It is as if we don't believe that our culture be non-violent. Violence is learned; so is nonviolence. I am looking at helping to create a social transformation here. This isn't just about winning an election. Elections come and go. Where is the country? What happens to our nation? What happens to the people? Politics cannot just be an inside game between competing corporate interests. It amounts to the condition under which people live and survive. I see a much higher purpose to what it is we do. That is why I continue to participate.

Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer prize-winning reporter, was the Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times. He spent seven years in the Middle East and reported frequently from Iran. His latest book is American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. He is currently preparing a book titled "I Don't Believe in Atheists."

 
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