Serious Questions Raised About Des Moines Register Presidential Debate
DES MOINES, IA - Serious new questions are being raised today about the decision by the Des Moines Register to exclude Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich from today's Democratic Presidential debate, especially after the newspaper's inclusion of non-candidate Alan Keyes in yesterday's Republican debate.
In an "explanation" sent to the Kucinich campaign on Tuesday, the newspaper said the Congressman was not invited to participate because "It was our determination that a person working out of his home did not meet our criteria for a campaign office and full-time paid staff in Iowa." The reference was to Kucinich's full-time Iowa field director who coordinates statewide activities from a home office in Dubuque.
At the same time, while the Register is claiming publicly that Kucinich "did not meet our criteria," it is currently featuring newspaper-produced videos of Kucinich the other recognized Presidential candidates on its You Tube pages. The videos were shot a few months ago by the newspaper, and the segments, each dealing with responses to top campaign issues, have been on the Des Moines Register You Tube site since last month.
Only one "candidate" is not included among the videos: Alan Keyes.
"If Congressman Kucinich was a 'qualified candidate' a few weeks ago when the Des Moines Register posted these videos, how did he become 'unqualified' just a few days ago?" the Kucinich campaign asked in a written statement. "Instead of imposing a poll tax or requiring proof of land ownership to participate in the democratic process, the Des Moines Register has established a new requirement: renting commercial real estate."
It is not clear whether Republican Alan Keyes has a full-time staff or an official office in Iowa. "That's a question that Register Editor Carolyn Washburn will have to answer," said the Kucinich campaign.
What is clear, the Kucinich campaign said, is, "The Des Moines Register, for reasons known only to its top executives, has excluded the candidate who swept 47 of 50 states in the Democracy for America poll, topped all other Democrats in the Progressive Democrats of America poll, and was the runaway winner in a poll by one of the nation's leading political publications, The Nation. His national poll numbers are higher than senators Biden and Dodd - who were deemed 'qualified' by the newspaper - virtually tied with Governor Richardson in some polls, and only a few points behind former Senator Edwards in other polls.
"If the Register based its decision on the fact that this campaign hasn't bought ads in the newspaper, or because its insurance advertisers don't want the public to hear about the Congressman's universal, not-for-profit health insurance plan, or because his positions on Iraq, Iran, impeachment, the Patriot Act, NAFTA, or any other issue may make the other candidates or the newspaper's editor uncomfortable, they should be honest enough to admit that.
"Setting arbitrary Iowa-specific criteria for a debate that will be broadcast all across the nation and around the world is a ruse and a fraud. It is a disservice to the people of Iowa, to voters everywhere, and to the spirit of democracy. The Des Moines Register has imposed itself as the ultimate arbiter of who should be heard, what should be heard, and what is important. This is a disgraceful display of elitist arrogance and journalistic manipulation of the democratic process."