I interviewed Dennis Kucinich on Jan 30th.
Here's the first half of the transcript
Here's the transcript of the first half of the interview.
Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio
Dennis Kucinich Interview, 1-30-12
Rob Kall: (Station ID) And, this is the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show, WNJC 1360 AM out of Washington Township reaching Metro Philly and south Jersey, sponsored by Opednews.com . My guest today, I'm very excited to say, is Dennis Kucinich! Welcome to the show!
Dennis Kucinich: Rob, it's good to be with you and your considerable listeners. I appreciate the opportunity, and let's have a good discussion.
Rob Kall: All right! Boy, I'm not even sure where to start. First, thank you for your service: for all the years that you've been in Congress, and the leadership that you've played in the Progressive community. You're certainly, among Opednews readers, right at the top of the list of favorite politicians, and people, and activists - so thank you.
Dennis Kucinich: Rob, thank you for saying that, and I take that very seriously, because this is a special community: one which prides itself on being forward looking, one that loves the country, and at the same time isn't afraid to stand up and speak out when they see things that threaten our Constitutional Rights, that cause people to lose their economic status (that they've maybe worked a lifetime for). It's a community that stands for peace; and so I'm very grateful to have the chance to connect with your listenership, again, and let's see how much territory we can cover here.
Rob Kall: OK. So let's start off. You're out of Congress, and you've got an organization now, and tell us about what you're up to. An open-ended question. What are your priorities, now?
Dennis Kucinich: Let's back up just a little bit. From the November election, my organization, "Kucinich Action," was involved in dozens of Congressional races in which we maxed out the resources that we could give the individual candidates, and we helped a number of candidates get elected. Not by any means in this era were we decisive, but we participated. And it's a new organization, Kucinich Action, and it's a PAC. It's really geared more than anything to election cycles. We're now involved in some other things; we sent out a notice yesterday asking people to sign a petition to encourage the President to appoint Raul Grijalva to the position of Interior Secretary. Raul has a tremendous background as an environmental advocate, as someone who is very sensitive to the issues that deal with Interior, and so I wanted to move forward to urge people to sign the petition, which is at our website at Kucinich Action.
Rob Kall: What's the website for Kucinich Action?
Dennis Kucinich: It's Kucinichaction.com .
Rob Kall: OK.
Dennis Kucinich: From the time of the November election, right up until January 3rd when the Congress went from the 112th to 113th, I poured myself into the job. I spent every waking moment, eighteen  hours a day, doing everything I could to be heard and felt on all those issues that our important to us - matters of war and peace, matters of the economy, Healthcare, Social Security - and I did it with a single-minded intensity, so much so that there are some who wondered what happened to me. They hadn't heard from me, didn't get regular emails; I just focused on my job, completing my work in Congress.
So when the new Congress began on the 3rd of January, that's what I stated to think "Well, what am I going to be doing with my time and effort right now?" So I've been working on a writing project for some time now, and I'm devoting more and more time to that. And I got this offer, which I accepted, to be a part-time contributor on Fox News. I'm somebody who has never hesitated to communicate with people with whom I disagree. I've been on Fox many times over the years, and so I thought it would be a great opportunity to continue to carry a message of a different way of looking at the world to a very large audience that hopefully will appreciate the views that I'm offering.
Rob Kall: Fox has, in the last month, just seen the biggest drop in audience. I see that they're letting Sarah Palin go -- it looks like you've replaced her!
Dennis Kucinich: Well, I don't know if anybody can really replace Sarah Palin.
Rob Kall: (laughs)
Dennis Kucinich: But I'm, in my own way, given the opportunity to reach out and to talk about the importance of a new direction for America in the world, away from war, away from these drone attacks; of a new direction for America at home, rebuilding America, and protecting the benefits of people who've worked for it for a lifetime -- Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. Also, I'm protecting our civil liberties. I'm in a position where - all of the years of work that have permitted me to be a spokesperson and an activist - I can continue to do that. So, I'm grateful for that opportunity, but I'm involved in many different things, and I'm, at this point, continuing to consider other offers for involvement that are coming around, and I'm also on a speaking tour. Next week, on February 7th I'll be giving the Kelly Lecture in Santa Barbara. A few days later I'll be the speaker at the Western States Legal Foundation's 30th Anniversary in Oakland. A few days later I'll be speaking at a major labor rally in Wisconsin. So I'm continuing to stay active, and to advance those things that I've been talking about for my entire life, and in particular, the last sixteen  years in the United States Congress.
Rob Kall: Now, one of the reasons you're not in Congress is gerrymandering. We now have a Congress that the minority of Americans voted for, but it is solidly controlled because of gerrymandering. Is there any hope that we can do anything about this?
Dennis Kucinich: First of all, let's look at it at a couple different levels, and it's an important question that you're raising. I was doing some research on this, this morning as a matter of fact. The New York times says that there's one hundred and ninety-nine  solid Republican districts. That has a lot to do with gerrymandering. One hundred and fifty two  solid Democratic districts. It's important to know that gerrymandering was done at a state level, and can have a tremendous impact in describing the contours of a district, and in determining if there's going to be a lot of Democrats or a lot of Republicans in it. And wherever there is a Republican legislature, they did their best to try to make sure that there were solid Republican districts.
But there is something that you need to keep in mind. There's a website, I think it's called "Ballotpedia," or something like that, where they analyze races. I want to share some numbers with you and your listeners, because this shows you that this deck isn't irretrievably stacked, by any means. They point out that there were thirty  races in 2012 that had a margin of victory of less than five [5%], and in those races eighteen  winners were Democrats, twelve  were Republicans. There were thirty-three races  where the margin of victory was between five and ten percent [5-10%], and fifteen  of those winners were Democrats, eighteen  Republicans. Here's something that's worth thinking about: eighty-seven  races had a margin of victory between ten and twenty percent [10-20%], and of those eighty-seven races, twenty-three  were Democrats and sixty-four  were Republicans. It's in those districts that if you have Republicans who are not responding to the practical aspirations of people, districts like that can flip.
Look, I took a district, years ago, from a Republican member of Newt Gingrich's leadership team, and I did it running on a Progressive program of jobs for all, Healthcare for all, Education for all, and peace. So even though it is true that gerrymandering has produced a solid bloc of Republicans towards a Republican majority, it is not true that it's always going to stay that way. And Republicans are aware of that; because of the changes that happened to the party at the primary level with the Tea Party, and also because of the changes that are happening in national politics. You look at issues that deal with the debt, spending; there is some apprehension out there among Republicans about whether or not they're meeting the needs of their constituents, and I think that you're going to see, that notwithstanding the obvious advantage that Republicans have at the Congressional district level, that the electorate in many cases still remains up for grab in those areas where there still can be challengers within striking distance. Again, I will point to those eighty-seven  districts in 2012 where the margin of victory was between 10 and twenty percent [10-20%], and the Republicans had a very strong advantage - but frankly, you know what? Nothing is guaranteed. We have a volatile electorate, volatile politics, and with the right issues expressed (and I think they're economic, primarily), things can change.
Rob Kall: It looks like there's this immigration reform in the Senate happening. Is that legit, or are they just trying to put the Republicans in a position where they're forced to show their true colors?
Dennis Kucinich: Well there has to be a path towards legalization. I don't think it's about true colors as much as it's about the reality of where we are in America today. About how people who have come from other countries - in many cases we're talking about people who've come over the border from Mexico or Central America -- they're part of the economy, and their children are here. This is why the DREAM Act was important. But what we need to do is look at a broad area of immigration, and understand that we should not have policies that split families, we should have policies that get people back to legalization. This has been true for many years. Republicans are very aware that there is a massive constituency of immigrants, notably Spanish-speaking people, who are not going to be denied, and who do not want to be discriminated against, or their family members discriminated against. So, I think we're actually going to see some changes in immigration policy. How that's going to work out of the Senate, I can't predict, but I think we are headed in that direction. There are demographic realities there, political realities, economic realities, and I think the politics and the legal framework is going to have to catch up with those realities.
Rob Kall: You know, it's not just the Latino community that voted Democratic in the last election, it was Asians, and Islamists; it was amazing how many different demographic groups went seventy percent [70%] or more for Obama. Where do the Progressives fit into that equation? Is this about Obama, who is certainly not Progressive? How do you see the future of Progressives, to the left of the Democrats frankly, I think -- where do you stand?
Dennis Kucinich: Well first, Progressives -- first of all, you made a characterization there that ought to be looked at. You said "To the left of the Democrats." It's presumed by some, that, because you're a Democrat, you're a Liberal, you're "Left"; the Democratic party hasn't necessarily moved in that direction, all the way back to Jimmy Carter - you can go forty  years here. But we have the potential to do that, because we have a constituency that will promote full employment, that will stand by those who want a single-payer Healthcare System, that will stand up for people who want peace, and so here is the challenge for the Democratic Party: it has to refashion itself. Not in the image in whoever the current President is, as happened with President Clinton and trade, as has happened with President Obama and international policy. But, the Democratic Party has to realign itself to the practical aspirations of the American People: for jobs, for healthcare, for Education, for retirement security, for peace, for a clean environment and protecting the environment.
And if we do that, we can regain the support of people at the district level. And if we fail to do that (and frankly, I think that it's not a shocking statement to say that people have lost confidence in both parties to deliver), there's an opening in American politics. The opening relates to a kind of economics that'll rebuild America; that'll put millions of people back to work, that'll enable people to have the dream of housing again, where they may have lost it; that will help small businesses; that will make education a top priority, higher education a top priority, as well as funding elementary and secondary education. The American people, we have this binary choice, Democrat or Republican. But, if the parties do not produce, if this system doesn't work (it breaks down), people will start to look outside for other options; and they should!
Rob Kall: Well, frankly, my readers at Opednews, I'd say maybe forty percent [40%] of them are Democrats; the rest of them are Independents, and I'd say to the left of Democrats, and that's getting easier and easier. Look, they threw you out! You, you... I don't know -- I guess it's that - Ohio did it, but it's not just you. Gradually, the Progressives in Congress are disappearing. Or maybe I'm wrong. Am I?
Dennis Kucinich: (emphatically) No, you're not wrong. Actually, membership in the Progressive Caucus does not necessarily mean a member is Progressive. It means that they want to check that box off on their resume politically. But it doesn't necessarily mean that their votes are going to be aligned with the aspirations of people who identify themselves with Progressives across the country. And so, It also means that people have to look at how individuals vote, and where they stand, and where they would take the country.
One of the problems, Rob, that I see today is our politics is so heavily polarized. You can take an position on an issue, you can disagree with someone. That's fine. But the polarization is causing people not to listen to each other. There's almost automatic responses. There's a lack of communication. And we're losing the ability to unify the country as a result, and that really concerns me; because the underlying strength of America is to express the unity that was implicit in our founding, in the naming of the United States. And it wasn't just about the unity of geographical territories, it's about the unity of people.
So we have to find ways to unite again; and actually, that goes beyond party labels. It actually goes beyond ideological labels. Because while I've been described as Liberal, Left, Progressive, I also believe that labels do not really describe who we are, nor do they necessarily determine the direction we want the country to go in. And so it's more important to ask people where they stand on things, and where they would take the country, and "How can we get out of this polarity that is causing signal reactions in our politics which are generally devoid of thought?"
Rob Kall: Yeah, I've kind of thought of that as the "reptilian brain response." (laughs) There's a lot of that.
Dennis Kucinich: Well, you know what? (laughs) It's interesting the way you put it, but, we're too quick to create a conceptional, analytical framework that is based on single words: you say "Democrat," okay, you've got one; "Republican," another. Right, Left; Progressive, Liberal, Conservative - do not necessarily describe our dilemma, the challenges we face, the future we need to work together to chart. That's why, what I try to do in my own way, Rob, is, throughout my time in Congress, find ways to build bridges so you can talk to people. So that you keep open lines of communication. You can actually learn by listening to what the other person thinks, and then trying to find ways of using language and expanded thinking to build bridges so you can communicate with people.
Rob Kall: OK. Let's get back to Fox News, then. Maybe this is an example of it, and I really wanted to get into hearing a little bit more about what your goals are for participating on Fox. I know I have a hard time even just leaving the channel on for too long, because it just gets so abrasive and irritating. What do you think you can accomplish by being a commentator there? Do you have goals?
Dennis Kucinich: Well, in accepting, sure. You have to realize that Fox, perhaps more than any network, over a period of sixteen  years, created opportunities for me to come forward to challenge the War in Iraq, the War in Afghanistan, the National Security State, the hegemony of Wall Street over our politics; Fox created those openings so that I could do that. Now, maybe they wanted me there so that I could be a left foil to a more conservative commentator, but I took the opportunity.
Now some told me back then, "Why are you doing it? Why are you going on Fox?" Look. It's a reality. They have a huge following, and it's important to be able to communicate with people who may not exactly agree with your point of view, but they have the chance to share your point of view. I will tell you, more so than any other network, they created the opening. So, as a member of Congress, I took that. Now, when I left Congress and I was invited to come to New York to discuss the potential of being a part-time contributor, I approached it with the same experience that I had over that period of time, for a period of sixteen years. As a member of Congress, I had energetic exchanges with Fox hosts? Absolutely! Do I think that will continue to happen? Yeah! Sure. Is Fox bringing me on to convert me to a more Conservative point of view? Well, that's not why they wanted me! They wanted me on so that they could give me a chance to present the same side and position that I've done before. And I think it's important to do that.
If you want to change peoples' minds, you've got to communicate with them; So to me, that's a significant forum. I'm well aware of the challenges, but also I think that if someone aspires to be a leader, you can not shy away from such challenges.
Rob Kall: So do you have any specific goals in terms of the message you want to communicate to the listeners and viewers on Fox?
Dennis Kucinich: Just so you know, I don't have my own show. People need to know that. This isn't a case where I've been given my own show. I have been invited to be a contributor on the Fox News channel across the board, on a whole range of programs.
Rob Kall: So that means, basically, that they call you or they email you and say "Hey, we're going to have you on this show, here are the topics, be ready to discuss them." Something like that.
Dennis Kucinich: Yes, Exactly. So, you know, it keeps me on my toes, but I'm there to make a forthright presentation that is fact-based, and also to engage in a give and take which is characteristic of the network. To me, it's important to be able to communicate with people who may not agree with you. I've done that throughout my career; and in doing that, I've been able to achieve some real advances in Congress, because I communicated with the Conservatives in Congress. We almost stopped the war in Libya. We put together a coalition that, for the first time, began to challenge U.S. foreign policy that's actually working to undermine our country instead of advancing our security interests. That was a huge development that happened!
Rob Kall: I think that was the last time we spoke.
Dennis Kucinich: Yeah, it was. But if you don't have the ability to communicate with people with whom you disagree, how are you [signal lapse]? See, that's the way I look at it. And again, I am grateful for the opportunity to do so.
Rob Kall: Let's take that example you just gave, Libya. Now, Hillary Clinton just stepped down. What was your impression of the job she did? You just criticized the department that she ran.
Dennis Kucinich: I know Hillary Clinton. She and I campaigned together. I like her, and at the same time, she was very instrumental in convincing President Obama to go into Libya, and as such has to take responsibility for what followed. The events in Benghazi were a triple disaster: first of all, if Benghazi fell, and the al Qaeda flag flew over their public buildings immediately after it fell - during the Gaddafi era, someone should have understood that "Look, there is a different kind of ballgame here than anyone had thought about." It actually created an opening for al Qaeda and for Radical Fundamentalists. It was well known that there was very little control that the "government" of Libya had in Benghazi. So therefore, the State Department, notwithstanding whatever the Ambassador wanted to do, the State Department in Washington had an obligation to have a very powerful ring of security. They didn't do that! And not only that, they were slow to respond when the problems were first notified. I mean, when people are killed, it breaks your heart, it's a tragedy. The Ambassador was a very good man who did not deserve to die the way he did.
Rob Kall: I'm going to interrupt because I had a different question in mind. I know that Congress, the House, is obsessed with Benghazi, but I was really more talking about, in general, how Hillary did. She brought the war, like you said, to Libya. Overall, as the Secretary of State, what was your impression of the job she did?
Dennis Kucinich: Well, she didn't work independently of Barack Obama. The fact of the matter is that the United States has extended aggression into many countries: into Pakistan, into Libya, into Somalia and other countries; and that's through the cooperation of the State Department, the Department of Defense, and the CIA. Do I, Did I support that policy? No! Absolutely not. But this is a policy that's set by the Obama administration, together with the State Department, the Central Intelligence, and the Department of Defense.
Rob Kall: (interjects) So...
Dennis Kucinich: I want to point something out Rob. (continues) And in some cases, if you take Libya for example, DoD, through Secretary Gates, opposed it. He opposed it. So, the policy is still going to be set by the White House and the Secretary of State is going to carry it out. She doesn't work independently, but she did have great influence. No question about it.
Rob Kall: So basically, when people say, "She's been an incredible Secretary of State," she's basically been graded following Obama's war orders, and what have you.
Dennis Kucinich: That's what a cabinet member does!
Rob Kall: Yeah, yeah.