I interviewed congressman Dennis Kucinich and other progressive leaders in health care reform to get his response to recent attacks
and to find out his motivation and what would move him to change his
vote. While Markos "Kos" Moulitsas attacks Kucinich, other progressives see him as a hero and saint.
Dennis Kucinich, an unwavering progressive Democrat, is saying that he will vote against the the Health Reform bill, as it stands in the Senate. That stance has led to him being attacked by fellow Democrats and some "progressive" pundits, particularly Markos Moulitsas, who are backing the existing senate and house health reform bills WITHOUT the public option or cover for state efforts to pursue single payer. Responding to me asking his take on Moulitsas attack on Kucinich, progressive talk radio host Thom Hartmann replied, " Progressives attacking Dennis Kucinich is the circular firing squad on steroids.
Photos by Rob Kall
First, here's some background. Markos Moulitsas, founder and owner of Dailykos.com attacked Kucinich on the Keith Olbermann show, hosted by fill-in host Lawrence O'Donnell, saying that the response to Kucinich's position might be to "primary" him. The same day, Moulitsas said on his blog, "Dennis Kucinich has always been a little prick, and that hasn't changed. He's someone who deserves a real primary."
Sam Stein of huffingtonpost.com, detailed the conversation between O'Donnel and Moulitsas, in his article, Markos Moulitsas To Kucinich: You'll Be Primaried If You Kill Reform
"The fact is this is a good first step and he is elected not to run for president, which he seems to do every four years," he said.The primary threat is an empty one. It's too late, at least for the 2010 elections. But what a waste, to go after a progressive when there are so many bluedogs to take on. More on that later.
"[Kucinich] is not elected to grandstand and to give us this ideal utopian society. He is elected to represent the people of his district and he is not representing the uninsured constituents in his district by pretending to take the high ground here."
Pressed by fill-in host Lawrence O'Donnell as to whether a Kucinich would get a Democratic challenger for his seat if he didn't support health care legislation -- and in the process kill it -- Moulitsas replied, "Yeah, absolutely."
What he is doing is undermining this reform," he added. "He is making common cause with Republicans. And I think that is a perfect excuse and a rational one for a primary challenge."
At Salon.com, Alex Koppelman writes, in an article, The liberal case against Dennis Kucinich, about how, on Twitter, Moulitsas said, "No one could point to a single Kucinich legislative accomplishment. And of course they couldn't. He has none." Then, Koppelman goes on to agree with Moulitsas.
The fact is, Kucinich is keeping a promise that 77 "progressive" House Democrats signed onto, insisting on a public option. It looks like, at this point, he's the only one left, the only one who has stood up to Obama, Rahm Emanuel and the small state bluedogs who sold out to the insurance companies (and the CT independent senator whose name is not said.
House progressives who signed off on that promise have, apparently broken it. Not cool. One man has the courage to keep his promise and to stand up for what every Democrat knows to be true. The current bill is a sell-out, a gift, as former Cigna communications Director Wendell Potter has told me and repeated over and over again, to the health insurers.
I asked former Cigna Communications director turned health care reform activist Wendell Potter, his take on Kucinich's stand, pointing out that Kucinich isn't calling for single payer. He wants public option-- a robust public option. Potter replied, "Well so do I. I absolutely agree with him. I don't fault him at all for trying. And I think that's a worthy goal. And I hope he has success here. But he might fall short. I don't know if he's going to succeed or not... I think it's wonderful that he's trying it. I hope he succeeds. But if he doesn't succeed, that doesn't mean that this legislation should fail.
There are over 1500 comments on Sam Stein's article at the time I'm writing this. Looking at the most recent page, 48 out of 50 either defend and support Kucinich or attack his attackers. There's a link to a facebook page supporting Kucinich and some of the members of the page include Tim Carpenter, leader of Progressive Democrats of America (100,000+ supporters) and Medea Benjamin, cofounder of Code Pink.
I'ts a bit ironic to consider what Moulitsas has said recently. Moulitsas, using his dailykos.com pseudoym of Kos, reported that Ezra Klein cited him, "Insurance companies win," Markos Moulitsas tweeted last night. "Time to kill this monstrosity coming out of the Senate." And on Meet the Press, in mid December 2009, he told David Gregory, "I don't think this is a reform bill. I mean, I think it's very clear, this is not insurance or healthcare reform. What it is, it's allowing more people, 30 million people, to buy into the existing broken system..." and "Well, we're still fighting this thing. This, this is not a done deal..."
Well, Dennis Kucinich is STILL fighting.
Tim Carpenter, responding to my question about whether Kucinich's runs for president were of value, told me that they have helped raise awareness of progressive issues and in some cases, helped move the political center of the party to the left.