Jewish World Review Oct. 24, 2003/ 28 Tishrei 5764


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Kucinich's Third-Party Bid? He's green enough, that's for sure | There's currently a poll on the Weekly Standard's website asking, "Who will be the next Democrat to drop out of the 2004 race?" I clicked for the increasingly desperate Sen. John Edwards and then read the results (as of Monday morning): Carol Moseley Braun was first with 44 percent, followed by Rep. Dennis Kucinich at 19 percent and Edwards just a point behind.

I doubt if Braun or Kucinich will pack up before better-financed candidates like Edwards or Sen. Joe Lieberman, who are running traditional campaigns, relying on fundraising, an infrastructure of well-paid jackals (consultants) and vacuous television advertisements. Braun is probably the most brain-impaired contender, but she's hoodwinked groups of women like NOW to endorse her candidacy and will trudge on. Kucinich, on the other hand, is smart, passionate and driven and doesn't need a ton of money to stay on past the first round of primaries.

Like Jerry Brown in '92, Kucinich will sleep on floors, doesn't need to hire pollsters and will pester the likes of Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt for many months to come. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see Kucinich wind up as the Green Party candidate next fall, which would be dandy by me, taking away votes from whatever stiff the Democrats eventually nominate. I don't agree with virtually any of Kucinich's views (extreme protectionism, immediate pullout from Iraq, single-payer healthcare, etc.) but I'd love to see him debate President Bush and the Democratic nominee in the general election. (It was absurd that Ralph Nader was excluded in 2000; he'd have made mincemeat of both Bush and Al Gore.)

Matt Taibbi wrote an excellent article about Kucinich's quixotic campaign in the Oct. 27 Nation, probably the first I've read that really explains why the onetime mayor of Cleveland is running for president, and the mainstream media's prejudice against a troublemaker like him. Taibbi tees off on Edwards to open his piece, "Who's Afraid of Dennis Kucinich?" and it's an artful beginning.

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He writes: "The parallel movements of the Southern Senator are a powerful leitmotif in the Kucinich campaign. In the epic novel of this election, whose tragic theme is the unavoidable humiliation of the sane in a kingdom of idiots, Edwards appears as Kucinich's foil, his Dostoyevskian opposite. For every step Kucinich takes, Edwards is seemingly there to remind him that a man cannot succeed in a world designed for children. The Southern Senator is a kind of anti-Kucinich: tall, handsome, bubbly, seemingly not sure why he is running for President. The ideas that drive his candidacy seem like items from a sales-drive PowerPoint presentation, or frat dares."

I think Taibbi's wrong on why Beltway pundits dismiss Kucinich, claiming that it's because he's short and not particularly attractive (like most Americans), when it's probably the congressman's refusal to schmooze with reporters, practice soundbites and lay out a decent buffet at campaign events that turns them off. And even the reporters covering the various campaigns and debates, most of whom will vote for the Democratic nominee, aren't ready for Kucinich's barely disguised call for at least a moderate policy of socialism. Not when these Beltway creatures are affluent, have kids in private school and already receive excellent health benefits from their employers.

Taibbi describes a rapturous reception Kucinich received at the University of New Hampshire last month, at which numerous students signed up for the campaign. Admittedly, the author is smitten, but what other writer has come with a description of Kucinich like this: "He outlines a revolutionary plan, centered in his creation of a Department of Peace, that would 'make nonviolence an organizing principle of society.' He quotes from Jung, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Thomas Berry, Morris Berman. Dennis Kucinich is the only presidential candidate whose speeches need to be annotated."

That's a stretch, but Taibbi's made his point rather eloquently. It'd be productive to have a bona-fide left-wing candidate running for president to present a clear alternative to Bush. As I've written in the past, the ideal Democrat, one the media might take more seriously than Kucinich, is Russell Feingold, but the principled senator from Wisconsin just didn't have the stomach to be on the same stage, week after week, with the likes of John Kerry, Al Sharpton, Edwards and Wesley Clark.

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JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press ( Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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