The Indy

Still Candidate Kucinich

This interview with Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) took place on March 14, as he campaigned in Normal, Illinois before the Illinois primary.

The Associated Press is reporting that John Kerry has reached the majority of delegates he needs for the nomination. What do you hope to accomplish by continuing your campaign?

Dennis Kucinich: We know the direction of the nomination, but what remains to be seen is the direction of the Democratic Party. My candidacy is about influencing the direction of the Democratic Party, not just in this election, but long term. To have a party that stands for peace, for workers rights, human rights, and environmental quality in trade, and for universal health care.

Do you think you'll have an influence at the Democratic National Convention?

To me, that's a secondary question right now. I'm in this election all the way through to the convention. We'll take one phase at a time. I'm the only other candidate, I think, who is actively campaigning still. I'm going to continue to campaign.

Do you think the media's going to pay attention to you now that there's not officially a race?

Local media has been covering this campaign, and continues to do so. Whatever the national media does, as far as I'm concerned, is irrelevant. This campaign is continuing. I don't need the permission of the national media to run, I'm not seeking it, I didn't ask them to get in, whether they cover me or not is their problem, not mine.

The mainstream media seems to vacillate between mocking you and ignoring you. How much damage did the media do to your campaign?

I think I'm right on track to be an overnight success.

What do you think of Ralph Nader's independent candidacy?

Ralph Nader and I have known each other for 30 years. We've worked together on a lot of things. Our politics are obviously different. I'm inside the Democratic Party, he's not. I think that my candidacy has the potential to attract people who would otherwise vote for Ralph Nader. People who are concerned about the undue influence of corporate power in our political agenda, people who are concerned about illegal wars, people who are concerned about protecting the environment, people who are concerned about fair trade, all those people who are attracted to Ralph Nader are also attracted to my candidacy. So what I'm doing is keeping the potential alive to bring people inside the Democratic Party.

On the positions you mentioned, you seem to agree with Nader more than Kerry.

But just keep something in mind. The Democratic Party cannot win the White House without that constituency.

What would you say to voters in Illinois, and other safe states where a vote for Nader won't affect the presidential election?

Just about any Democratic nominee can count on 47%-48% of the vote. This election's going to be decided by fractions. The question is, in each state, who has the ability to attract progressive voters and mobilize them, and give them a reason to vote. I don't think people are ready to trade a Republican version of the war in Iraq for a Democratic version of the same. We have a long period of time for this argument to be played out. We're seven and a half months away from the general election. That's an eternity in politics. Anything can happen. So I'm staying on this trail right through to the election. So that takes us to July.

Do you plan to endorse John Kerry?

I'm in an active phase of a candidacy, so it's inappropriate for anyone to ask me that when I'm campaigning.

But all of the Democratic nominees agreed to endorse the winner.

We've already committed for the nominee.

Your home state of Ohio may be decisive in the fall election.

It is.

What do you think are the chances that Kerry can defeat Bush in Ohio?

I'm not going to go there. It's too soon.

What issues will Ohio voters care about for defeating Bush?

I think Bush is vulnerable on the war, because his administration lied to get us into a war. He's vulnerable on trade because we lost three million jobs, and he's actually accelerating these trade agreements. He's vulnerable on health care, with 43 million Americans without health care. He's vulnerable on Social Security. The Democrats are not going to be able to mobilize the support necessary to win the White House unless they have a progressive economic agenda. It's just not going to happen. It's not going to be enough to say, "Get rid of Bush." There's a point at which you have to offer people something. And there it becomes a question of what the Democrats stand for.

What is your argument against the argument of the DLC and pundits that you have to move to the center to win the election?

The center's a mythical place. The center of nowhere is what they're talking about. It's very interesting that the kind of academic political analysis based on ideology is insufficient for being able to guide the outcome of this election, because the essential analysis is an economic one, it's not an ideological one.

The economic analysis has to realize that wealth is being redistributed upward at a very quick rate. That the tax cuts have redistributed wealth upwards, that the war in Iraq is a redistribution of wealth upwards, that the $421 billion Pentagon budget is a redistribution of wealth upwards, that global corporate trades facilitates a redistribution of wealth upwards, that concentration of corporate power redistributes wealth upwards, that pollution represents a redistribution of wealth in the society.

The way that you mobilize people is to appeal to their practical aspirations for jobs, for housing, for health care, for education, for retirement security, and for peace. That's the ticket to this election. If the Democrats can do that, we win the White House. If we can't, we won't. There are no guarantees here. None at all. There will be a lot of shadow play and image thrusting, but it's not clear what anyone stands for yet. People really have to know that there's a crystal clear alternative, it's too soon to say if that's going to take shape.

That's why my candidacy gives the Democrats an opportunity, through the debate, an opportunity to assume some clarity about what we stand for. Maybe the Party will decide not to stand for what I'm talking about. But there will be clarity about where they stand because there will be somebody holding up some principles throughout the process of the next three months.

Do you expect John Kerry to continue holding debates with you?

No, I think that part's over. I don't anticipate that. Why would he want to do that?

It seems like this period of time is an opportunity to bring a lot more delegates in.

We're working on it. In the last 30 days, we've actually had one of the largest gains in delegates over the past 30 days.

What issues do you think will bring you more delegates?

The war, health care, trade, Patriot Act. Kerry was for the Patriot Act, and for the war, and for NAFTA, and for this corporate-type trade, and corporate-type health care. This, for me, is a demonstration of my commitment. How committed am I to these principles? There have been seven other candidates who have dropped out of the race. Each person has to demonstrate how committed they are. I'm showing how committed I am.

For the fall election, Noam Chomsky has said that he wouldn't be surprised if Bush pulls Bin Laden out of thin air.

He might pull Bin Laden out of mid-air, but he's never going to pull the truth out of mid-air. Because that's one thing he's not met. And so that's one thing that's quite elusive.

And your intention is to keep your eyes on the prize?


Noam Chomsky Analyzes the Bushies

Radical professor and prominent social critic Noam Chomsky teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is the author of more than 70 books, the most recent being "Rogue State: The Rule of Force in World Affairs." In a recent interview, Chomsky discussed the first Gulf War, Saddam Hussein, the Bush administration's current obsession with Iraq, and the Republican sweep of the midterm elections.

Anthony DiMaggio: I've always believed that the Bush Administration's proposed war on Iraq was for two main reasons: to secure the last oil reserves in the Middle East that are not under U.S. control, and to divert Americans' attention from the policies that Bush is conducting at home against the common worker. In your opinion, how much of the war on Iraq has to do with securing Iraqi oil reserves and how much has to do with diverting American’s attention from the Bush Administration's war on the American people? Is one more of a factor than the other?

Noam Chomsky: It’s quite widely assumed, right within the mainstream, that these are the two primary reasons. I agree. Regaining control over Iraq’s oil resources (not access, but control; a very different matter) is longstanding. 9/11 provided a pretext for the resort to force, not only by the US: also Russia, China, Indonesia, Israel, many others. And the need to divert the attention of the population from what is being done to them accounts for the timing. [It] worked brilliantly in the congressional elections, and by the next presidential elections, it’ll be necessary to have a victory and on to the next campaign.

Do you believe the Gulf War was primarily to secure American access to Kuwaiti oil? Did it also have to do with teaching Saddam a lesson for his aggressive behavior with Kuwait? Do you have any insight into which factor was more of a determinant for the Bush Administration?

I think the main reason for the first Gulf War was what’s called “credibility”: Saddam had defied orders; no one can get away with that. Ask any Mafia Don and you’ll get the explanation. There’s good reason to suppose that a negotiated withdrawal would have been possible, but that wouldn’t make the point; again, ask your favorite Don.

The reason for leaving Saddam in place was explained very openly and frankly: As the diplomatic correspondent of the New York Times, Thomas Friedman, explained when the US backed Saddam’s crushing of the Kurds, “the best of all worlds” for Washington would be an “iron-fisted junta” ruling Iraq just as Saddam did, but with a different name, because his is now embarrassing, and since no one like that seemed to be around, they’d have to settle with second-best, their old friend and ally the butcher of Baghdad himself. You can find plenty of material about all of this in what I wrote at the time, reprinted in "Deterring Democracy"; more has appeared since.

What makes the current Administration think they can secure Iraqi oil now as compared to 10 years ago? It seems that the country is just as unstable now as it was then. What’s changed in the minds of the members of the Bush Administration since the Gulf War?

Rogue StatesAt the time, the US was unwilling to risk taking over Iraq. It has nothing to do with stability. The Iraqi dictatorship is very stable. It had to do with the coalition and domestic support, not willing then for a conquest, and as noted, there was no suitable replacement in sight. Now it’s different.

I’ve heard that during the original Gulf War, George Bush had Colin Powell draw up plans to nuke Baghdad. If it is true, how could Americans not realize that American foreign policy doesn’t have even a small concern for humanitarian democratic principles espoused by our “leaders?”

There are no known plans for nuclear bombing, and it wouldn’t have made sense. It was known in advance that Iraq was virtually defenseless. The US preferred biological warfare (what do you think would happen in Chicago if someone destroyed the power, water, and sewage systems?), which is easier for editors and intellectuals to pretend not to see.

Do you think that members of the Bush Administration really are concerned that Saddam may have weapons of mass destruction/chemical/nuclear weapons? Are they legitimately threatened (in their minds at least) by Iraq?

I have no idea what Bush believes, if anything, but Cheney and Rumsfeld know that the external world is really there, and they understand very well why people and governments of the region, though they despise Saddam Hussein, don’t fear him; even Iran and Kuwait, which were invaded by Saddam when he was a favored US friend and ally. No one wants Iraq to have weapons of mass destruction; and no one sane wants Israel, Pakistan, India, the US, Russia, etc. to have them either.

The best way to deal with it is to implement Resolution 687, which calls for disarming Iraq through inspections (which the US has been desperately seeking to block), and also for implementing Article 14, always excised when the resolution is brought up: It calls for moves towards disarmament in the region, a code word for Israel’s huge arsenal of Weapons of Mass Destruction, which frightens everyone, including the US Strategic Command.

It seems Bush’s pretexts must be a fraud if control of oil is the real motivation. If this is the case, how can Bush believe he has the right to claim the moral highroad?

Bush is probably irrelevant. But the people around him have a record: They are recycled Reaganites. That’s why media and intellectuals so scrupulously ignore what they did when they were running the first “war on terror” that they declared 20 years ago. Better not to remember the horror stories for which they were responsible.

On human behavior, it’s not hard to figure out what’s going on. Unless you’re an unusually saintly figure, you’ve done things in your life that you knew were wrong. Maybe when you were 7 years old you took a toy from your younger brother, and when he ran crying to your mother, you told her -- believing every word -- that it was really yours, and he’d taken it from you, and he didn’t want it anyway, etc. Did you tell yourself that you’re stronger than he is so you could take it and get away with it?

It’s the same when you’re running a country in the world. It’s interesting to read the archives of Nazi Germany, fascist Japan, the Soviet Union. The leaders are acting from the highest imaginable motives, and probably believed it. It is remarkably easy to come to believe what it is convenient to believe. That’s the secret of being a “responsible intellectual,” someone who serves power abjectly while believing oneself to be an independent thinker.

Do you think the Bush Administration is bluffing about attacking Iraq?

Not at all. I think they are desperately eager to win an easy victory over a defenseless enemy, so they can strut around as heroes and liberators, to the rousing cheers of the educated classes. It’s as old as history.

Bush gave his state of the union address over half a year ago talking about Iraq. Why has it taken him so long to move?

Iraq wasn’t brought up as a matter of immediate significance until September of this year, when the election season started. In the State of the Union it was remote, along with Iran and North Korea and the “world terrorist threat.”

Anthony DiMaggio is a junior at Illinois State University and a writer for the Indy, an alternative weekly publication in Normal, Illinois.