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Civil Service With A Smile: Ohio Congressman Kucinich is an unabashedly liberal contender for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Left Behind

Congressman Dennis Kucinich is getting less attention than the other Democrats who've thrown their hat into next year's presidential race. Could it be because he's the most radical of them all?

By Tara Treasurefield

Voters who are looking for an alternative to duct tape, Big Brother, and decades of war certainly could do worse than Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who was in the Bay Area last week for an address at the Praxis Peace Institute.

The congressman, who is one of nine contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, is less known than some of his colleagues--and commentators have downplayed his chances of getting the nomination--but his liberal stance on issues like the war in Iraq is gaining him support.

Kuchinich's proposed legislation to create a Department of Peace would move the nation from "wars to end all wars" to "peace to end all wars." He has also introduced legislation to label genetically engineered foods, supports single payer health care and retirement security for all, and wants to cancel "free trade agreements" that have lost hundreds of thousands of jobs. Kucinich says he supports a woman's right to choose, sex education, family planning and contraception. He shows up at peace rallies, and he marched with workers through the streets of Seattle to protest the policies of the World Trade Organization.

We caught up with the congressman to asked him a few questions on current events.

METRO SANTA CRUZ: With the advent of the "embedded" reporter, more and more people are questioning the news they get from the mainstream media. How can people know what's really going on in this war?

DENNIS KUCINICH: I think there are so many different media outlets that it's tough for people to understand what's real and what isn't. I think there is a sense in which we have to trust our own intuition about what we believe is going on. Let's take the war, for example. A lot of information is reinforcing the cause of war. And yet, we know that there has been no proof that Iraq was connected to the event of 9-11, and we know that Iraq did not attack our country. No credible information has been brought forward that suggests that Iraq was responsible for Al Qaeda's role in 9-11, nor is there any evidence that Iraq had anything to do with the anthrax attack on our country. It's important for people to look for alternative resources when the major media may not be presenting information which is at variance with the message of the day at the White House.

Do you think that recent moves to impeach George Bush are worth pursuing?

I'm not in favor of impeachment. I think we need to make the peace movement visible in this country, and we need to work for candidates who want to create structures of peace in our society [and] who want new foreign policies which rely not on unilateralism and preemption, but on cooperation and support for the United Nations. An effort towards impeachment would only serve to strengthen the current administration.

With passage of the USA Patriot Act, the attorney general of the United States gained the legal right to arrest anyone in the country without specific charges, and hold them indefinitely. Do you see any way to recover our civil liberties and prevent the passage of new legislation that will erode them even further?

We need to work to regain those civil liberties that have been ceded to a government which is determined to stay at war and therefore keep this nation on alert. The Patriot Act ought to be repealed. We cannot achieve security in our society through having a government dedicated to war. The attack on Iraq will increase the jeopardy for our own citizens. We need a different response to the challenge of terrorism, which is to enforce the law using good, old-fashioned police and detective work, and wherever that can't work, using the international community to take coordinated action towards peaceful resolution. The Patriot Act was a step in the direction of establishing a type of government that is really foreign to everything that America stands for. This will be an issue in the 2004 election.

The Bush administration's Defense Department budget--$380 billion and climbing--represents about one-half of every tax dollar spent. Is there any way to shift government-spending priorities, especially now with fear so dominant?

Yes--a new administration and a new Congress. This administration is determined to spend the treasure of this nation on war and tax cuts. There's a trillion and a half dollars for tax cuts. But there's no money for health care. No money for education. No money for creating jobs. No money for rebuilding our cities. But there's money for war. That's why this administration needs to be challenged and replaced.

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From the April 9-16, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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