Dennis Kucinich - Croatian American campaigns to be U.S. President
Sean Penn endorses Dennis Kucinich
A major step up. Sean Penn is a national treasure, not just because of his artistry, but because of his extraordinary ability to analyze, synthesize and deliver publicly. He understands the basic elements of democracy that are slipping away in front of our eyes. Dennis is a radical positive change, that will bring America, where it should be. Thank you Sean for the integrity, you've never lost it.
-Croatian-American, Nenad Bach, New York
It's Kucinich Time! By Scott Raab
I did not know Dennis Kucinich in Cleveland. I did not know anyone like Dennis Kucinich. Cleveland is divided by the Cuyahoga River into East and West sides, and even in the salad days of yore, their folk did not mix. It goes thus: white ethnics, West; Jews, Italians, and blacks, East; auto plants, West; museums, East; Drew Carey, West; Paul Newman, East. West Siders had the airport and the zoo; East Siders had the money and the money. This was true when I was born, true when I left for good in 1984, and true now.
I am from the East Side. We were Jews with no real money, but we were not poor. Kucinich is from the West Side, half Croat, half Irish. He was dirt poor and knew it. He shined shoes in barrooms to get a few coins to carry home. Nuns took pity on his clothes and scrounged up better ones for him. He lives in a real house today, but it is the same small West Side house that he bought in 1971 for $22,500. It is a miracle -- and no small paean to the American dream -- that Dennis Kucinich now not only sits in the House of Representatives, with a big fancy office in the Rayburn Building in Washington, D.C., but also believes that he will be elected president in 2008.
"I'm ready," he says. "I'm ready to be president today. I can feel it. The attempt to settle the election so early is something that I think is probably tension reduction on the part of people in the media, but I'm not subject to their rules. There's time to do this."
We are in his Rayburn Building office. In the reception area, there's an old black-and-white photo of the congressman in a sweater-vest and bow tie, pointing to a poster listing the three pillars of West Side civilization: polka, bowling, and kielbasa. But in his office proper, the burgundy velvet drapes are tied back with thick white cord, sunlight pours in, and the ceiling is sky-high. Here, in his slim blue suit, blue shirt, and red tie, Kucinich indeed looks ready for the Oval Office.
Still, to the extent that Kucinich is subject to the mainstream media's rules about who matters, he hardly exists. His hour-long speech on the House floor detailing how the hydrocarbon bill being rammed down the Iraqis' throats by the Bush administration is really a ruse to grab the vast bulk of Iraq's oil made no news. He routinely is cropped out of debate group photos. He is almost always put at the far end of the stage and invariably ignored for long stretches. When finally called upon, he tends to yelp. He neither looks nor sounds like a man who could be cast to play the president of the United States.
And, perhaps because he is from Cleveland, he yields nothing to his opponents for the sake of unity, nicety, or sales appeal. Onstage, his scorn is plain. His opposition to the Iraq war dates to late 2002; his position is simple: no timetables or benchmarks -- just stop the flow of money. He says that fellow Democrats either wish to end the war, in which case they can just stop passing appropriations bills to fund it, or they're just playing charades by funding the war even as they moan about not having enough votes to override a veto -- thereby preserving the war as an issue for 2008.
His health-care plan is even simpler: universal, essentially free care under a single-payer, government-run system -- more or less how every other industrialized nation on the planet provides for people's well-being. To Kucinich, a candidate's plan either unseats the health-insurance companies or plows even more tax dollars into a for-profit industry that pays politicians millions of dollars to do its bidding.
The folks who know that Dennis Kucinich cannot be elected president understand that his positions on these two issues alone, while principled and in accord with what tens of millions of Americans say they want, are nonetheless reducible to the sort of sound bites -- "Socialized medicine!" "Abandoning the troops!" -- that would hamstring any candidate, much less one with Kucinich's yap and look. Thus Obama, Edwards, and Clinton stand center stage at each debate and get the lion's share of the time.
But Kucinich has a plan to raise his profile: He's writing a book, too.
"It's gonna be a series of stories about how throughout my life I've come into circumstances where everyone would say, 'It's too late -- there's nothin' you can do about it,' and I decided to get involved, and changed the outcome. There's almost like a -- not almost, there is a spiritual mechanics to this. And that's what the book's gonna be about."
He nods. "Doctrine of transubstantiation," he says. "That's spirit into matter, okay? And then matter extends to spirit." He slaps his hands together. "This is basic physics."
Not on the East Side. A lot of us over there weren't big on that whole transubstantiation thing.
"But I'm talking about it as -- the church has its doctrine, and the doctrine has many different possibilities within. It's theology, but it's also about things seen and unseen. It's not just a matter of faith -- there are things that the physicist David Bohm writes about in Wholeness and the Implicate Order. There's a reality" -- another hand-slap -- "that stands within existent reality, what's apparent. But there's something just behind it that holds that reality together, kind of in those interstitial spaces. There's another reality there. The way I look at it, translating it into social action, is that that other reality is waiting to be called forward, and made, and set into motion."
Kucinich is just warming up. Next come Shelley's Prometheus Unbound, the encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum, the Apostle's Creed -- in Latin -- and the "nexus where spirit infuses matter and transforms it. That's where I live," he says, bringing together the tips of his fingers -- "there at that connect-pole."
The air in the office is already humming with the music of the spheres when Elizabeth walks in. Kucinich nearly levitates out of his chair as he moves to kiss her hello. "You look great," he crows.
He's right. Great oogly-moogly, is he right. Her hair's pulled back tight from her scalp, she's wearing a thrift-store summer dress that she just bought -- a flimsy, low-cut, flowery thing whose thin straps leave her shoulders and back bared -- and she has tied some kind of scarf around her slender neck. Her clavicles alone are heart stopping. And Dennis can't stop grinning, a schoolboy lost in love.
"I was just telling him about what I learned about how to change things," he says. "The spiritual mechanics of it."
A staffer opens the door to let Kucinich know that ABC Radio is on the phone for an interview.
"Elizabeth," he says, "what time should we be getting ready to leave?"
"Well, the train's at five past two. We've got to go back to the apartment and close the bags up, and I'd like to eat something, too."
She has the good British accent, light with laughter -- not the plummy, stuffy one. While Kucinich takes the call from ABC, she tells me that she sat for her last college final -- in a course called Conflict Resolution in World Politics -- on 9/11/01.
"I came to America for a number of reasons. One, to work on monetary reform, which is something I really feel passionately about, but really with this in my heart: that I wanted somehow to help with the healing process -- for America to be integrated with the rest of the world. The second week I was in America, I met Dennis. I didn't know his politics. I walked into his office with my boss to talk about monetary reform."
Love at first sight?
"It was soul recognition."
Behind her, meanwhile, on the phone, Kucinich tells ABC, "Obama, for example -- he says he opposed the war from the start, yet 100 percent of the time, he votes to fund it. I don't think the American people, by the time we get to the primaries and the caucuses, are gonna be able to square that. I think they're gonna say, 'Wait a minute -- quit sayin' one thing and doin' another.' The truth is the truth -- it's not necessary to try to recut it for the convenience of the moment."
Truth is, I'm proud of the guy. Electable or no, homeboy's talking presidential smack and getting laid. They probably even do it tantric style -- lifting Kucinich to interstitial pleasure planes no Clevelander, East or West, has visited before.
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