The campaign of presidential candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich, an Ohio Democrat, has not garnered the same high media profile enjoyed by some of his Democratic opponents such as former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and retired U.S. general Wesley Clark. ABC News has announced it will stop having producers travel full time with the candidate’s campaign. Kucinich says it is this kind of corporate control of media, industries and government that he will fight against as president. It is stifling free speech, he says.
There used to be monopolies in such industries as steel and shipping, but today the monopolies are “in media, energy, health care and banking,” Kucinich said.
“The media should not dictate presidential debates based on polls and endorsements. How can they tell voters who to vote for?” Kucinich said. He told an audience of ethnic media on Dec. 15 in San Francisco that he supports more community access in media and that he would go on with his grassroots campaign. “I’m the Seabiscuit of 2004,” he said referring to the legendary underdog racehorse that won the hearts and minds of Depression-era America.
The press briefing was co-sponsored by NCM, a national coalition of ethnic news organizations, the Media Alliance, the San Francisco Immigrant Voter Coalition, San Francisco Tabernacle Congregations, and Accion Latina/El Tecolote.
Kucinich is no stranger to battling corporate interests. In 1978, at the age of 31—the youngest mayor to ever govern a major city, Cleveland—he refused when the city’s banks demanded he sell Cleveland’s city-owned power company to a private group, which was partly backed by local banks. As a result of his decision, Kucinich lost office when the banks drove the city to a major loan default. It took 15 years before Kucinich returned to public office and he would be credited for resisting the corporate power grab and saving Cleveland residents millions on their electric bills.
Mei Ling Sze with the Chinese language television station KTSF in San Francisco asked Kucinich how he would proceed with the anti-terror campaign in Iraq a day after the capture of former Iraq President Saddam Hussein. Kucinich said he would use the opportunity to take U.S. troops out of Iraq, embrace the world community in efforts against terrorism and seek out the United Nations for leadership and peacekeeping troops. Kucinich also detailed plans to put Iraqi oil interests in a trust for the Iraqi people and eliminate “sweetheart” deals in Iraqi reconstruction for specific American companies. “The sons and daughters of middle class Americans are paying the price for this war,” he said.
Addressing concerns on the sagging economy, Kucinich said there is too wide a gulf between the “haves” and the “have nots.” “Some are doing well, others are not. The minimum wage is frozen at $5.15 an hour nationally.” He says he also opposes Republican efforts to reduce overtime.
In response to the recent Medicare reform approved by Congress, Kucinich said that the term “reform” was being used very loosely. “Every time you hear this administration use the term reform, get hold of your wallets, lock your doors, and bolt your windows” because special interests are coming to “raid your wallets.” He said the new Medicare plan would favor private insurers and allow pharmaceutical companies to charge Medicare whatever they want for drugs. It took cost containment out of the bill and hurts the program, he said.
Beatriz Ferrari, with Spanish language television network Univision asked Kucinich his view on U.S.-Mexico relations. “I propose to ‘take down the wall’ and encourage a new cooperation between Mexico and the United Sates,” he said. This would include canceling the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which only decreases wages for workers under threats of moving jobs overseas, Kucinich said. He would instead replace NAFTA with bilateral trade agreements, which take into consideration workers’ rights, human rights and environmental principles.
Kucinich also supports amnesty for millions of undocumented workers. For too long these “immigrants have been used to reinforce the wealth of private companies while being relegated to second class citizens,” he said. The workers are exploited as cheap labor and if they complain, companies only need to threaten to report their status to immigration officials. “We must change this system,” he cried. Additionally Kucinich said that he supports the controversial measure to offer drivers’ licenses to undocumented immigrants.
Kucinich stressed that his immigrant roots helped him understand the plight of immigrants in the United States. His grandfather came through Ellis Island from Croatia. The United States must continue to extend a light of freedom and hope to immigrants, he said, and he opposes any efforts that stands in the way including the Patriot Act. Kucinich is the only presidential candidate to vote against the Patriot act. “As president, I want to see again a connection from our heart to the hearts of the world,” he said.