Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Political Pop Quiz: Who Said It?

Okay, my fellow liberals, which 2008 Democratic presidential nominee said this:

When I’m in Congress and I look at the American Eagle that spreads its wings fifty feet across, above the floor … it’s a glass etching of an American Eagle in all of its fullness, all of its strength, its arms spread, and when I look at that I’m reminded: That American Eagle needs two wings to fly. It needs a right wing and it needs a left wing, okay? … And, now, think about this, okay. I’m talking about an administration that isn’t going to necessarily be made up of people I agree with on everything. How boring that would be. We wouldn’t have the chance to have the kinds of discussions that would get us to the best place. I want people with a great diversity of opinion so we have different ways of looking at the world. … I think that we could work with each other to talk about the direction America’s capable of, and find ways to meet a common ground. So, you know, are there Democrats that I would consider? Of course. But I want it known that as the nominee of the party, that I’d keep my options very wide open. I want our party to be able to have the broadest appeal, so that we’re not just representing one type of politics.

If you said Barack Obama, I could hardly blame you. After all, much of the “change” Candidate Obama talked about was exactly this: Reaching across the aisle, finding common ground … compromising with the other party to find solutions to our toughest problems. Indeed, that was the message that made Barack Obama a household name after the Democratic National Convention in 2004, where he delivered what might have been the most stirring key note speech ever given; and it was one of the resounding messages of his acceptance speech in at the Democratic National Convention in 2008:

[O]ne of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other’s character and patriotism.

The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America - they have served the United States of America.

America, our work will not be easy. The challenges we face require tough choices, and Democrats as well as Republicans will need to cast off the worn-out ideas and politics of the past. For part of what has been lost these past eight years can’t just be measured by lost wages or bigger trade deficits. What has also been lost is our sense of common purpose - our sense of higher purpose. And that’s what we have to restore.

… This too is part of America’s promise - the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.

But, no. The quote at the top of this post – the one that said America needs both a left wing and a right wing, that Democrats should be willing to compromise with the other party and so forth – that quote came from Dennis Kucinich, the guy so many of Pres. Obama’s left-wing critics hold out as The Perfect Liberal.


Candidate Dennis Kucinich believed that the best way to run the country was to consider the views of all sides – “to have the kinds of discussions that would get us to the best place” – and to “work with each other to talk about the direction America’s capable of, and find ways to meet a common ground.” Oh, yeah. And he also rejected the idea that the Democratic Party should embrace some type of liberal orthodoxy, saying “I want our party to be able to have the broadest appeal, so that we’re not just representing one type of politics.” All of that comes from an interview Kucinich did with Free Minds TV during the 2008 campaign, and you can see the entire clip at the bottom of this post.

So, it’s kind of odd that Pres. Obama gets so much grief for doing exactly what Candidate Kucinich once advised, isn’t it?

But Rep. Kucinich said another interesting thing during that 2008 interview, and it highlights what I see as a growing problem with white liberal critics of our first African American president. In that interview, Kucinich said he would consider choosing Ron Paul as his running mate if he, Kucinich, were to get the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, because Paul, according to Kucinich, is “someone who has integrity, he has a vision, has courage …”

Of course, Ron Paul also has a checkered past, about which I can only assume Rep. Kucinich is well aware. After all, I’m aware of it, and I haven’t been a congressional colleague of Ron Paul since 1997. In a lengthy diary posted May 15, 2007, Daily Kos contributor phenry reviewed a series of disturbing newsletters published by Ron Paul in the 1980s and 1990s under various names, including The Ron Paul Political Report and The Ron Paul Survival Report, which, according to Daily Kos, “would come to [be] feature[d] in the stable of ‘underground’ publications and photocopied ‘zines’ that fed the nascent ‘patriot movement’ that arose in the early 1990s … .”

By way of example, the Daily Kos diary cites “a 1992 piece titled ‘LOS ANGELES RACIAL TERRORISM,’ on the subject of the so-called Rodney King riots in South Central Los Angeles in 1991,” containing these horrifically racist statements (emphasis supplied by Daily Kos):

Regardless of what the media tell us, most white Americans are not going to believe that they are at fault for what blacks have done to cities across America. The professional blacks may have cowed the elites, but good sense survives at the grass roots. Many more are going to have difficultly avoiding the belief that our country is being destroyed by a group of actual and potential terrorists -- and they can be identified by the color of their skin. This conclusion may not be entirely fair, but it is, for many, entirely unavoidable.

Indeed, it is shocking to consider the uniformity of opinion among blacks in this country. Opinion polls consistently show that only about 5% of blacks have sensible political opinions, i.e. support the free market, individual liberty, and the end of welfare and affirmative action.... Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the “criminal justice system,” I think we can safely assume that 95% of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.

For more on Ron Paul’s bigoted newsletters, see “Angry White Man,” by James Kirchick, in the January 8, 2008 edition of The New Republic.

Now, it’s important to point out that we don’t know whether Ron Paul himself actually authored the more virulent articles contained in his newsletters. As both the Kirchick piece and the Daily Kos diary point out, Paul has issued contradictory denials (first saying that his words were “taken out of context,” then denying that he was the author of the specific pieces at all, although they were not attributed to anyone else). So, Kirchick reaches, I think, the right conclusion:

[W]hoever actually wrote them, the newsletters I saw all had one thing in common: They were published under a banner containing Paul’s name, and the articles (except for one special edition of a newsletter that contained the byline of another writer) seem designed to create the impression that they were written by him--and reflected his views. What they reveal are decades worth of obsession with conspiracies, sympathy for the right-wing militia movement, and deeply held bigotry against blacks, Jews, and gays. In short, they suggest that Ron Paul is not the plain-speaking antiwar activist his supporters believe they are backing--but rather a member in good standing of some of the oldest and ugliest traditions in American politics.

But, so, here’s the point. Rep. Kucinich is one of Pres. Obama’s loudest critics (even though Candidate Kucinich essentially endorsed Pres. Obama’s approach to the presidency); and he’s clearly the darling of the disaffected left these days. Yet, Kucinich seems to have no problem with Ron Paul’s racist, bigoted past. Of course that doesn’t make Dennis Kucinich a racist; I’m 100% confident he’s not. But he, like a fair number of other white liberal critics of our first African American president, is often utterly clueless on issues of race – and that’s not helping bring our side together.

Here, by the way, is the interview:

© 2011 David P. von Ebers. All rights reserved.


  1. There was a time I admired Rep Kucinich. But there is some major flaw there. Maybe it's that he so wants to be President that he can taste it. At this point, he has about as much chance as perennial Republican candidate, Harold Stassen And Stassen has been dead for ten years.

  2. I think sometimes people think of Kucinich as being not just a Dem, but OUR Dem. A lot of people wonder why his seeming straight forwardness isn't present in other Dem pols.

    That said, as you have proven here, again, that he is someone who shoots from the hip dangerously and sometimes stupidly.

    He would like us to think that it's not about ideology, but it is clear (especially with his remarks about Paul's suitability) that it is about the *Kucinich Ideology*. Nothing else much matters to him except what he thinks is important. If he keeps getting elected, then that is all the proof he needs that he is doing the "right thing" (in the K ideology).

    This sounds rambling, so I hope you understand it.