Representative Dennis Kucinich
Dear MoveOn.org Sisters and Brothers,
On February 17, 2002, more than a year before the war with Iraq, I sat down and wrote “A Prayer for America,” a speech I delivered later that day to the Southern California ADA, to a rousing reception. If that speech, or this essay, touches or inspires you, volunteer—help us speak truth to power: http://www.kucinich.us/volunteer.php
More than a year before the Bush Administration bombed Baghdad, I spoke of “…the War Games of an unelected President and his unelected Vice President.”
Months before anyone else now running for President, I spoke these words: “Let us pray that our country will stop this war…Because we did not authorize the invasion of Iraq.
It was still early in 2002, but many of us shared a feeling of uneasiness and anger about the Bush Administration’s unilateral foreign policy, and the response to my speech was incredible—thousands of emails, letters, calls. Obviously there was a spirit alive in our nation, waiting to be released. Those of you at MoveOn.org understand that spirit, because you have touched it, too.
Like you, I didn’t just speak against the war, I acted against it—voted against it, organized against it, campaigned against it. As Co-Chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, my friend Barbara Lee and I led the fight against the war resolution, organizing 126 House members to vote no, in just a few weeks. I reintroduced my bill to establish a Cabinet-level Department of Peace and Nonviolence, so that we can promote peacekeeping, conflict resolution, and the nonviolence principles of Gandhi and King. I was even attacked in the mass media for suggesting that the Administration’s obsession with Iraq had a lot to do with its oil reserves. Imagine that…
Then on February 15th, 2003, a new spirit of peace exploded out of millions of hearts, with 15 million marchers, including many of you, in 600 cities around the globe, as the world said no to war. The President was not listening, but the people of the world heard us, for our voice was clear. This war was unnecessary, destabilizing, illegal, immoral. This war was not America at its best. This war would cost us our young soldiers, our children’s treasury, and our moral authority with the rest of the world.
That February Saturday was cold, but our hearts were on fire as I spoke to the half million demonstrating in New York City: “Peaceful coexistence or war. The whole world is watching. A fist or an open hand. The whole world is watching. First use of nuclear weapons or leadership in global disarmament. The whole world is watching. Bombs or bread to the Iraqi people, to the Iranian people, to the North Korean people. The whole world is watching.”
And when the war finally came, like MoveOn.org, I did not flinch from my American duty to dissent. This is what I said, the same night the war started: "This is a sad day for America, the world community, and the people of Iraq. Tonight, President Bush has commanded U.S. forces to go to war in violation of American traditions of defensive war. This war is wrong; it violates the Constitution and international law."
At that point, some politicians backed away from dissent. Some stayed silent, hoping that the national agenda would soon pass on to other issues. But you and I kept fighting, kept calling for the truth, and kept challenging the so-called evidence that was used to sell this war.
And in the last few weeks, day after day I have gone down to the well of the U. S. House to call on the Bush Administration to finally come clean about the pre-war evidence for the weapons of mass destruction. Just last week, I introduced H. Res. 260, a “Resolution of Inquiry” demanding that the Bush Adminstration produce the evidence for their charges about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. I now have 36 co-sponsors, and am adding more every day. We are having an impact, the Administration is beginning to feel the heat, and some in the mass media are finally asking the right questions. I hope you will join me in this effort, which MoveOn.org and TrueMajority.org and Working Assets and Win Without War are also stressing now.
We know the Bush team cheated in Florida in 2000, when Bush Co-Chair Katherine Harris made thousands of false felon purges. We know they manipulated the 2002 elections, using fraudulent charges of an imminent threat from Iraqi WMDs to scare the voters and force a rush to war. If we don’t stand up to them now, they’ll do it again in 2004. Help me expose the truth about the cooked-up intelligence.
Sign our petition to call on George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld to release the evidence.
Email your Congressperson, either to thank them for signing on as a cosponsor, or to urge them to join me on this resolution, H. Res. 260.
Fax the committee, to urge them to hold open, public hearings.
Go to www.kucinich.us and join me in forcing them to come clean.
When the Progressive magazine calls me “the Peace candidate,” I accept that label with pride. Like MoveOn.org, I am not afraid of the names we are called for upholding the best traditions of Jefferson, Paine, Lincoln, and Dr. King. Like you, I understand that America’s roots are in dissent, change, reform—and that change agents are always attacked as threats to the established order.
My political career has been built on big ideas, fighting for them, and winning. I have a history of defeating entrenched Republican incumbents. And in this Presidential race, I still have the big vision. When I was interviewed by Bob Edwards on NPR, he asked me if I was running to win, or just to raise issues. I told him: by raising these issues, I’m going to win.
(link to NPR interview, http://www.kucinich.us/npr_transcript.htm)
Of MoveOn’s top tier, I’m the only one who will cut the bloated Pentagon budget. With George W. Bush’s proposed increases for next year, the U.S. military budget will just about equal the military budgets of all other nations in the world combined. That’s too big. America is not supposed to be an Empire; we are supposed to be a Democracy.
As the ranking Democrat on the House Reform Subcommittee on National Security, I know about wasteful Pentagon spending firsthand. I will cut the military budget, because we have to cut it, in order to have real money to spend on education. More money is desperately needed to rebuild our schools; to pay our teachers; to allow our children to be taught in smaller classes; to wire our older schools for the internet, and help bridge the “digital divide;” to at long last fully fund Head Start. Without cuts in the Pentagon budget, there will not be enough money for education, much less health care, environmental cleanup, and other needed domestic programs. Among the people of America, this is a common sense position; but among the MoveOn top tier candidates, I stand alone on this issue.
The military budget is not the only issue on which I stand apart. I am the only Presidential candidate who voted against the civil-liberties-shredding Patriot Act. From nuclear weapons in space, to nuclear disarmament, to medical marijuana, to the role of the W.T.O. in the too-fast expansion of genetically-modified foods, to opposition to the death penalty, to Canadian-style national health care, my position is the progressive position, the standard that other candidates will not match.
On core Democratic issues, I stand with progressives on the fundamental positions of our party—I am for more money for social safety net programs; I am for a total, not partial, rollback of the extravagant Bush tax cuts for the rich; I am pro-choice, and will not appoint any Supreme Court justices who do not affirm Roe v. Wade; I strongly support clean air and clean water, affirmative action, tough civil rights and voting rights enforcement, strengthening OSHA and the rights of workers to organize, gay and lesbian equality, Title IX protection, affordable housing, living wages, and signing the many treaties that the Bush Administration has rejected, including the Kyoto global warming treaty and the land mine ban treaty. I will fight hard to get private insurance companies and their bureaucracies out of health care, and to keep your Social Security retirement safe for Main Street, rather than privatize it for Wall Street.
I will fight against sweatshops and child labor worldwide; to thwart the takeover of family farmers by agribusiness giants; to return the Social Security retirement age back to 65, as our elders were promised; to pass a massive renewable energy program that provides jobs to Americans, renewable power for the world, and “small-is-beautiful” technologies to developing nations.
I am committed to international cooperation, to working with the U.N. and our historic allies. I want to help build a world where billions of people do not have to try to survive by living on $1 or $2 per day, by cutting down their forests for heat, or by giving away their national resources in order to repay debts that were previously incurred by dictatorial regimes, often supported by our government. I am committed to fair trade practices that provide a higher quality standard of living in the developing world without unsustainable consumption; to providing clean water to the entire world; to placing children into schools rather than into child labor; and to joining Brazil’s new President, Lula da Silva, as he seeks to eliminate hunger in a world of plenty.
In short, I am a leader in the “Wellstone wing of the Democratic Party,” and like most MoveOn.org members, I’m proud of it. Maybe that’s why Paul Wellstone was the lone Senator who joined the Progressive Caucus that I co-chair (with that brave peace advocate, Barbara Lee).
Like Paul, I am a passionate, populist advocate of principled politics. Like Paul, I believe in organizing as well as legislating. And like Senator Wellstone, I won my seat by defeating an incumbent conservative Republican, thanks to a volunteer-based grassroots campaign that united Democrats, Greens, independents, and former “Reagan Democrats” into a winning coalition.
The gatekeepers of conventional wisdom would like you to believe that I cannot win. These big shot media types, of course, are the same crowd that didn’t understand the worldwide web, thought the Beatles were a fad, never believed Jerry Brown, Jesse Jackson or George McGovern would win any primaries, and laughed when a rumpled, unknown, progressive college professor climbed onto a green bus in Minnesota to challenge a popular, well-funded, experienced conservative incumbent. They laughed; but the voters responded—and Paul Wellstone won the upset victory of 1990 to take his place in United States Senate history.
The fact is, like Paul, most of the base of the Democratic Party is both antiwar and opposed to corporate-dictated trade deals. That’s why, with your help and your passion, I can win this nomination. My principles, and MoveOn.org’s principles, are those of most Democratic Party primary voters.
When we do win, the gatekeepers of conventional wisdom will then try to tell you that George W. Bush cannot be beaten. Of course, they said that about his father, too.
Once it is clear that George W. Bush’s credibility gap has grown to Nixon-like proportions, his Teflon shield will be cracked, and his reckless mishandling of the economy will send him back to Texas.
The big pundits will also tell us that the only way we can win is to be cautious, to run to the middle. But that’s not what the Right wing did—when they were in trouble, they turned to their champion, Ronald Reagan. The conservatives ran on their issues, stood fast on their principles and ideas, and triumphed. Now it’s our turn.
The truth is, the so-called experts never see the change coming beforehand. They never see the paradigm shift. They’re too busy explaining the old habits, while a new world is being born.
A year ago, they would have told you MoveOn.org was declining. A year ago, they would have told you there was no peace movement in America.
The pundits never saw the “Teamsters & turtles” coalition coming together against the WTO in Seattle in 1999; but I was there with 50,000 blue/green protesters as we changed the way the world looked at corporate globalization.
And the pundits never, ever predicted that on a cold Saturday in February of this year, millions and millions of people around the world would gather together at one time, to speak in one voice, to say no to a destabilizing, aggressive, unjust war.
You know how that massive demonstration came together, because you and I helped build it. We organized using the internet, creating a new model of localized, principled, non-hierarchical action. We created, in the words of the New York Times, a new global superpower—world popular opinion.
And we can do it again in 2004—only bigger and stronger. Together, we can win this next election. Together, we can put the brakes on the war machine. Together, we can take our country back from the would-be empire-builders, and come home to democracy. Together, we can build a world of peace and prosperity and unity.
One final point—if you help my campaign strike a strong blow for peace and justice, you will not just gain a candidate for a year—you will gain an ally for your causes for a lifetime.
I am running to be President, but I intend to struggle for a better world for the rest of my life. I think those of you in MoveOn.org and my growing network can work together as a formidable team, as we did in the days leading into February 15th, and as we are doing even today in our battle to force the Bush Administration to come clean on its pre-war claims about the weapons of mass destruction.
Join me, at www.kucinich.us.
A better world is possible.
June 17, 2003
These seven questions were among the most popular of over 1,800 posted and rated by MoveOn members on a MoveOn ActionForum. You can also read all of the interview responses on a single page.
1. PEACE (see what other candidates said)
The Bush administration has established the pre-emptive war doctrine as a cornerstone of its foreign policy. There is no end in sight to the ways in which this doctrine can be misused -- simply observe the lack of evidence to support the case for war in Iraq. In other words, barring a change in policy, any country can become the target of our military might. Furthermore, pre-emptive war only legitimizes military aggression by other nations as well. Will you repeal Bush's pre-emptive war doctrine? -
--Ricardo Cisternas, Engineer (June 12, 2003; Carlsbad, CA)
As President, I will repeal the preemptive war doctrine. In Congress, I marshaled opposition to this doctrine before, during and after the Iraq war. It is a centerpiece of my campaign. When the President arrogates to himself the right to wage wars to "prevent" wars, as President Bush has done, he opens the door to aggression against any nation, for practically any reason he wants, and without evidence of a threat. On Capitol Hill today, I am continuing my 9-month battle for the evidence that Iraq represented an "imminent threat" requiring "preemption." President Bush is going beyond even the most aggressive episodes of U.S. history -- and is providing a reckless doctrine that other nations can use against their weaker neighbors.
Not only will I repeal this doctrine, but I will work to establish a cabinet-level Department of Peace and Nonviolence, to develop nonviolent approaches to domestic and international problems. The only preventive "wars" I want to wage are against world hunger, disease, dirty water and air, homelessness, and the shortage of schools. It's time for America to tell the world we wish to be their partner in peace, not their leader in war.
2. FREEDOM (see what other candidates said)
The enactment of Patriot Act I is a dangerous erosion of civil liberties in the United States. The proposed Patriot Act II is even more frightening. The purpose of both pieces of legislations seems to be the stifling of dissent rather than improving security in the U.S. If elected would you revisit the Patriot Act with the view of revising or repealing it? If we cannot speak without fear, we aren't living in a democracy.
--Bonnie Mulligan, Supervisor (June 11, 2003; Lanham, MD)
I am the only presidential candidate to vote against the misnamed "Patriot Act." I am proud of that vote. As President, I will push to revoke it. And I will challenge any Patriot II sequel, because I know that America is a great country when Americans feel free to dissent, to advocate for reform -- Americans like Tom Paine, the abolitionists, the suffragists, the early union organizers, Cesar Chavez, Rachel Carson, the women’s movement, Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, America appropriately mobilized and increased security. But we must never repeal our precious Bill of Rights, or hand the Attorney General unfettered power to jail, wiretap and monitor our private communications and personal records. In a December 2001 speech, I argued that the "Patriot Act" and related measures had effectively revoked half of the ten amendments in the Bill of Rights: the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments. In Congress, I am now drafting a bill to repeal the "Patriot Act" and restore civil liberties essential to a functioning democracy. As someone who participated with MoveOn in building the current antiwar movement, I couldn't agree with you more that "if we cannot speak without fear, we aren't living in a democracy."
3. RELEVANCE (see what other candidates said)
I think many people using MoveOn.org are concerned with the disastrous effects of the current administration. However, my sense is that most of mainstream America either does not see the faults or is too scared, for reasons related to Homeland and economic security, to question Bush's authority. How will you, the candidate, frame your message and reach out to mainstream America to show how the upcoming presidential election is relevant to their situation and demonstrate how the actions, policies, corporate influence and diplomatic laissez-faire of Team Bush is unhealthy for our country and our future?
--Karen Zgoda, (June 12, 2003; Brighton, MA)
I am a heartland politician from Ohio who knows how to win over mainstream voters and so-called "Reagan Democrats." My populist message will emphasize placing the federal government on the side of Middle America -- not the Enrons, Bechtels, Halliburtons and Clear Channels. I will emphasize my battles against unfair, corporate-friendly trade deals that threaten workers, family farmers and the environment. By November 2004, few Americans will confuse this Administration's tax breaks for the rich with a jobs or stimulus program. I will compare the billions given to the President's wealthy and corporate cronies to what could be done instead for job creation, universal healthcare and education. By drawing such a contrast, I will help working Americans understand that while the Bush White House delivered for the top 1 percent, what we really need is a Kucinich White House to fight for a robust, sustainable economy for the other 250 million Americans.
Only a total challenge to this Administration's reckless policies -- both at home and abroad -- will defeat George Bush. Half-way challenges, where Democrats concede to him on war and defense policy, will fail miserably -- as they did in November 2002. I will win by stressing that this Administration's aggressive, unilateral foreign policy makes Americans less secure, not more, and that destabilizing wars like the one in Iraq isolate our country more than the terrorists who seek to attack us.
One of our greatest Presidents taught us, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." As fear increases, it becomes an effective tool for the would-be empire-makers now running U.S. foreign policy. Using fear, they can intimidate opponents and restrict free speech. But I am not intimidated, as I know those of you in MoveOn are not. A Kucinich White House will govern with hope, not fear. And my campaign will challenge Americans to choose between a foreign policy based on aggressive bullying tactics or peaceful humanitarian help. I believe most Americans will choose democracy and peace over empire and perpetual war.
4. TRUTH (see what other candidates said)
I would like to know when a Democratic candidate will summon the courage to publicly question the honesty and truthfulness of President Bush. The barrage of spin alluding to intelligence failures and misleading advice of Bush's confidants belies the fact that he alone is ultimately responsible for his words and decisions. Will any candidate demand the truth and an end to this conspiracy of deceit?
--John Kowalko, Machinist (June 12, 2003; Newark, De.)
I am your candidate. I have been publicly questioning the truthfulness of President Bush and his Administration on Iraq day after day on the House floor, on national TV and on the campaign trail across the country. Two weeks ago, I made use of a rare Congressional procedure -- a "Resolution of Inquiry" -- to force the Bush Administration to turn over its "evidence" that Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction posed an "imminent threat" to America. Over 36 Democrats joined, but I'm the only presidential candidate who has fought on this issue unrelentingly.
It is clear that the Administration led this nation to war (and manipulated the 2002 elections) on the basis of a pretext. I believe this deception exceeds the magnitude of Watergate, and if driven home by the Democratic nominee, could defeat Bush and usher in a Democratic tidal wave. Eventually, if we keep fighting for it, the truth will come out. I promise you that I will continue to speak truth to power, day after day. If we do not unmask the Iraq deception, they will do it again.
-- Dennis Kucinich
5. SOCIAL PAIN (see what other candidates said)
The present Administration and Congress have enacted huge tax cuts and extreme military spending which may well limit the ability of government to address social needs (health care, education, affordable housing, poverty reduction, etc) for some time to come, as well as entrap future generations in debt. Meanwhile, social ills become more acute. How will you balance fiscal responsibility with the growing needs for health care reform, reinvestment in education and affordable housing, etc?
--Cindy Maxey, organizer, health care justice organization (June 11, 2003; Cleveland, OH)
Maybe it's because you're a fellow Clevelander that you've asked just the question I was hoping MoveOn would ask me -- because I have made cutting the Pentagon budget a campaign priority, when others have not. A Kucinich White House will repeal -- totally, not just partially -- the tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. But the only way to meet pressing social needs and be fiscally responsible is to cut the runaway Pentagon
budget, which now almost equals the military spending of all other countries in the world combined. Any candidate who promises to be fiscally responsible while enhancing our domestic agenda without cutting the military is not telling the truth. The Pentagon is more than half of federal discretionary spending. This issue should be a litmus test for anyone who calls themselves a peace candidate, because a soaring Pentagon budget becomes a rationale for war and empire.
I am the candidate telling it like it is: The Pentagon budget must be cut so we can invest in people. My Administration would eliminate the Star Wars National Missile Defense system, the profligate F-22 and Joint Strike Fighter and other expensive, unworkable and unnecessary weapons systems. Plus, I would ban weapons in space. We need the savings from tax cut repeal and a more efficient military to pay for national health insurance for all, jobs and anti-poverty programs, education, environmental cleanup and other domestic needs.
6. ENERGY (see what other candidates said)
Without dependence on fossil fuels, the air and water would be cleaner and we could free ourselves from our poisonous and deadly entanglements with Middle-Eastern oil dictators. What is your view? Can you show the imagination, innovation and determination needed to serve our country through serving the environment?
--Hilary Jirka, Merchandiser (June 12, 2003; Chicago, IL)
Thanks to advances in renewables, there are fewer technical obstacles to energy independence for our country. There are many political obstacles -- but the oil, auto and electric utility corporations won't be directing energy policy in a Kucinich White House. I will spur research and investment in "alternative" energy sources -- hydrogen, solar, wind and ocean -- and make them mainstream. Clean energy technologies will produce new jobs. We can easily double our energy from renewable sources by 2010. And we can soon have hybrid and fuel cell cars dominating the market. When I was Mayor of Cleveland, I defended public ownership of utilities; when I’m President, I will expand it.
As a peace advocate, I will launch a major renewables effort because then Middle East oil fields will not loom so large as strategic or military targets. As an environmentalist, my view is always holistic and global: a Kucinich Administration will launch a "Global Green Deal" -- a major initiative to use our country's leadership in sustainable energy production to provide jobs to Americans, to reduce energy use here at home, and to partner with developing nations to provide their people with inexpensive, local renewable energy technologies. As a citizen of Planet Earth, I want this project for the same reason I will sign the Kyoto climate change treaty -- because we need it for our children and our grandchildren.
-- Dennis Kucinich
7. ENVIRONMENT (see what other candidates said)
The Bush administration is engaged in an all out war against the environment. Nothing is safe in this assault - not our national parks, wilderness areas, endangered species, the water we drink or the air we breathe. The administration's energy and land use policies are based on the recommendations of private corporate supporters rather than on government-funded studies, their own appointees in the EPA or on public opinion (in keeping with the general disregard for civil rights, more and more often, public comment is not being taken into consideration - sometimes not even being allowed in environmental disputes). The short-sighted policies of this administration could have devastating effects on our country and our planet. Can the Democratic candidate assure us that he will support progressive environmental policies here at home, and assume a leadership position in the global effort to protect the environment?
--A.L. Zuckerman, Associate Producer (June 12, 2003; New York, NY)
As President, I will lead the way in protecting our oceans, rivers and rural environments -- and I have been speaking out on these issues across America. I will also lead in fighting for clean, affordable and accessible drinking water -- which is an emerging global concern. Over the years, I have worked hand-in-hand with the environmental movement on many battles, from thwarting a nuclear waste dump to boosting organics to demanding labels on genetically-engineered products. I've won honors from the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth and League of Conservation Voters.
Last summer, I was one of the few U.S. officials at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. To repair the earth, America must lead. A Kucinich Administration would reverse course on most Bush Administration policies and support the Kyoto Treaty that Bush rejected. My Administration would strengthen environmental laws and increase penalties on polluters. It would provide tax and other incentives to businesses that conserve energy, retrofit pollution prevention technologies, and redesign toxins out of their manufacturing processes. Nontoxic, safe substitutes for hazardous chemicals must become permanent.
And as I mentioned in the previous answer, I will initiate a "Global Green Deal" for renewable energy, to provide jobs at home, increase our independence from foreign oil, and aid developing nations with cheap, dependable, renewable energy technologies like wind and solar. A clean environment, a sustainable economy, and an intact ozone layer are not luxuries, but necessities for our planet’s future.
-- Dennis Kucinich