By Katelyn Harding
11/13/2007 — During a forum on Global Warming Energy Solutions in
Manchester, N.H. last month, Rep. Dennis Kucinich couldn’t resist
bringing the conversation back to the issue for which he holds the
most passion: the Iraq War.
“We cannot talk about global warming without talking about global
warring,” said the Ohio Democrat, who has made the war the centerpiece
of his campaign for the Democratic nomination.
“Why are we in Iraq after all?” he asked, leaving no doubt he believes
the answer is oil.
For Susan Bruce, Kucinich’s New Hampshire campaign manager, it is the
consistency of his answers, particularly about the Iraq War, that
stands out in his campaign.
“For starters, he’s the only candidate who read the National
Intelligence Estimate that was used as one of the reasons for going to
war,” she said, perhaps in a veiled reference to Democratic
front-runner Hillary Clinton, who has acknowledged she did not read it
before the House
and Senate vote authorizing the war
. “He read it then voted
against it. He’s been consistent in his opposition to the war, in ways
some candidates have not. For example, he’s voted every single time
against any funding for it.”
But it’s not only his votes that make Kucinich consistent. He also
always seems to find a way to bring a discussion of other issues back
to Iraq, as he did at the global warming speech.
But then, he’s been writing and talking about the war for a long time.
In 2002, Kucinich was the only presidential candidate then in office
to oppose authorization. Democratic senators Hillary Clinton, Chris
Dodd, and Joe Biden all voted to authorize the war. So did Democrat
John Edwards, who at the time was serving as a senator from North
Carolina. On the Republican side, John McCain supported the war — and
still does.
Kucinich’s Democratic opponents have since changed their mind. But to
varying degrees, their approach is more nuanced than his. None, for
example, have voted to cut off funds, the most direct power Congress
could exercise in forcing troop withdrawals.
Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who was not in office in 2002 but also
opposed the war from the start, says America needs to be “as careful
getting out of Iraq as we were careless going in.” Edwards is pushing
a plan to immediately withdraw 40,000 to 50,000 troops from Iraq.
Biden, who is also chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
has drafted a plan that would withdraw all troops by the summer of
2008.
And Clinton, who has yet to apologize for voting to authorize the war,
won’t even say she would pull troops out of Iraq immediately, even
though it’s what the majority of Americans want to hear. Alison King,
New England Cable News’ veteran political correspondent suggests
Clinton wants to avoid turning away Republican votes in the general
election in that most Republicans tend to agree with the war and
believe the troops should stay until the job is done.
Bruce said Kucinich has put a lot of thought into the Iraq War and
thinks not only of its effect on the United States, but all over the
globe. His opposition is part of a broader world view that questions
the extent of American militarization.
“Spending $400 billion a year for defense is a political decision,” he
wrote in a 2002 speech titled Peace and Nuclear Disarmament: A
call to Action. “
“Committing troops abroad is a political
decision. War is a political decision. When men and woman die on the
battlefield that is the result of a political decision. In a
democracy, all decisions are political, in that they derive from the
consent of all the governed.”
On Iraq itself, he has issued a 12-point plan that begins with
immediate troops withdrawal.
“That doesn’t mean he thinks we should just abandon country,” Bruce
said. “He understands that we certainly have an obligation to the
people of Iraq, to straighten out at least try as much as the mess
that we’ve made there as we can.”
She added that Kucinich believes the insurgency in Iraq is fueled by
America’s presence and that the withdrawal of troops would convince
Iraqis that “we are not planning on staying and occupying forever.”
Kucinich’s plan includes setting up a regional conference to develop
security for Iraq, replacing troops with a peacekeeping force and
bringing them home.
“I would put in motion plans to immediately end the war in Iraq by
ending the occupation and bringing the troops home,” he said during
New Hampshire campaign stop in October. “I would set up simultaneous
peace-keeping forces throughout the region and stabilize all the
Muslim nations. I would try to repair the breach between our nation
and the Iraqi people and let the nation of Iraq know that it’s going
to have to make its own decisions with oil. This is just the
beginning. I know exactly what I intend to do on my first few days in
office.”
But that first requires getting elected to office. And such confidence
aside, Kucinich continues to languish in single digits toward the back
of the pack in the Democratic primaries – even as polls show a
majority of Americans want to at least begin the process of
withdrawing American troops.
King, of NECN, said Kucinich’s campaign seems to hang in a sort of limbo.
“He can’t get rolling or foster support, and for these reasons he’s
kind of been hanging out at the bottom,” she said. “This isn’t his
first time running for president, and once you’ve kind of proven
yourself as not successful, people don’t necessarily get rallied
around you.”
David Paleologos of Suffolk University’s Political Research Center
suggested that one issue is not always enough to win support even if
Kucinich as a staunch anti-war candidate might be in sync with a
growing percentage of the public in what has become an increasingly
unpopular war.
“When people vote for president they vote for the whole umbrella of
issues, this example with Iraq being a big vein in that umbrella,” he
said. “If you don’t have other parts of that umbrella, you get wet
when it rains. Kucinich may be right on this issue, but that doesn’t
mean he’s right on everything.”
King said Kucinich will have to broaden his appeal to Republicans if
he hopes to win the nomination.
“Kucinich is someone Americans tend to not really go for, because I
don’t think the country is ready to go as far to the left [as Kucinich
is],” she said. “He’s not electable. Since the Bush Administration has
been so super far to the right, we need a candidate who is a little
bit more to the center line.”