Greenwald’s latest post is a love song for Dennis Kucinich. Essentially, Greenwald argues that Kucinich has been a staunch advocate against executive power, drones, and secret wars, and that “establishment Democrats” ignore these principled stances in favor of mockery, derision and scorn for Kucinich’s New Age/alien talk.
I suppose that’s one way to look at it. But here’s another way: Kucinich’s voting record stinks and he’s a terrible Democrat.
Personally, I don’t care about the alien/New Age talk (except to the extent that such talk made him unelectable by the public at large). What I care about is his record on reproductive rights — it’s terrible. Ultimately, Kucinich is a pro-life Catholic who flip-flopped to pro-choice in order to win elections, and I’m simply not cool with that.
From PBS Newshour:
JUDY WOODRUFF: This is a different subject area. Just this week, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of St. Louis said that he would deny communion to any presidential candidate who is Catholic who favors abortion rights, as you do. Does this in any way make you rethink your position on abortion or rethink the Catholic Church?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, no. And let me just tell you something. Much of my public policy comes from what I’ve learned as growing up Catholic. My economic policies were deeply informed by Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, by encyclicals of Pope Paul VI, Populorum Progressio. And so I have a deep respect for the Catholic Church.
On the issue of abortion, I think that we need to do everything we can to make abortion less necessary. And I think you can do that through promoting birth control, through making sure that you have prenatal care, postnatal care, child care, universal health care, a living wage.
I think I’m the one candidate for president who can help heal this nation in this intense divide over abortion by recognizing the concerns that people have, including in the Catholic Church, about abortions, but by creating circumstances where abortions are less likely to occur. So I think it’s time for a president who brings a healing hand to this country on this issue.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Four years ago, you changed your position, is that right, on abortion?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, you know what? It was long before I ran for president the first time that I came to an understanding of how this issue was tearing America apart and how it’s possible to simultaneously stand for a woman’s right to choose and, at the same time, work to make abortions less likely. I think it’s possible to do both.
We’re called upon, those of us who run for president, to have a kind of wisdom which comes from understanding what people go through, not that I’m smarter than anyone else, but I understand the kind of difficulties that people have, how complicated life can be for people.
So when you come with the intention of not rejecting the teachings of the church, but of trying to create a society where the concerns of the church are given full effect and, at the same time, make sure that women have this right to choose so that they can — and create a society where women can choose what is best not only for themselves, but for the society, as well.
I think a president who takes that approach is someone who can heal this great divide which the issue of abortion has created.
Greenwald’s article, of course, focuses only on the differences between the Assassinator-in-Chief and the lovable quirky Kucinich that Greenwald finds important: Kucinich’s opposition to the Iraq War (an opposition that Greenwald himself grew into after he finally “abandoned his trust in the Bush administration“) and efforts to bring to justice those responsible for prosecuting it. For these principled civil liberties stance, Greenwald lauds Kucinich for being “one of those rare people in Washington whose committment to his beliefs outweighed both his loyalty to his Party and his desperation to cling to office.”
Uh… ok. I suppose.
If civil liberties is your bailiwick, then Kucinich seems like a great guy. But Kucinich was shit on women’s issues and women’s health, and only flip-flopped to being pro-choice when he decided to run for president — that is of paramount importance to me. Indeed, Kucinich was so desperate to grab the brass presidential ring that he ignored his Catholic upbringing and began spouting the sorts of platitudes that are the main staple of the closeted pro-lifer diet: No more abortions than are necessary. I understand the concerns of the Catholic Church. Pick me.
From Katha Pollitt in a 2002 article entitled “Regressive Progressive”:
One thing you won’t find on Kucinich’s website […] is any mention of his opposition to abortion rights. In his two terms in Congress, he has quietly amassed an anti-choice voting record of Henry Hyde-like proportions. He supported Bush’s reinstatement of the gag rule for recipients of US family planning funds abroad. He supported the Child Custody Protection Act, which prohibits anyone but a parent from taking a teenage girl across state lines for an abortion. He voted for the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which makes it a crime, distinct from assault on a pregnant woman, to cause the injury or death of a fetus. He voted against funding research on RU-486. He voted for a ban on dilation and extraction (so-called partial-birth) abortions without a maternal health exception. He even voted against contraception coverage in health insurance plans for federal workers–a huge work force of some 2.6 million people (and yes, for many of them, Viagra is covered). Where reasonable constitutional objections could be raised–the lack of a health exception in partial-birth bans clearly violates Roe v. Wade, as the Supreme Court ruled in Stenberg v. Carhart–Kucinich did not raise them; where competing principles could be invoked–freedom of speech for foreign health organizations–he did not bring them up. He was a co-sponsor of the House bill outlawing all forms of human cloning, even for research purposes, and he opposes embryonic stem cell research. His anti-choice dedication has earned him a 95 percent position rating from the National Right to Life Committee, versus 10 percent from Planned Parenthood and 0 percent from NARAL.
Kucinich attempted to undo his damaging and anti-progressives views on women’s reproductive justice with a pithy “I believe life begins at conception and that it doesn’t end at birth.” (Whatever the hell that means.)
Sorry. That’s not good enough.
Do you know who has never stated that he doesn’t “believe in the substance of Roe v. Wade”? President Obama.
Do you know who said “nope, zero” when the GOP wanted to cut funding for Planned Parenthood? President Obama.
Do you know whose administration stepped in when the New Hampshire GOP defunded Planned Parenthood and provided funding so that underprivileged New Hampshire women could continue to obtain contraception? President Obama’s.
Or what about when President Obama promised to veto the GOP’s “Let Women Die” bill? Need I go on?
You see, at a this point in time when Republicans are trying to travel back in time to the glory days when gals just put an aspirin between their knees; when Republicans are trying to force foreign objects into a woman’s vagina under the guise of “Right to Know and See” or “Informed Consent” while simultaneously permitting doctors to withhold prenatal medical information because such information might lead to abortion; when Republicans are trying to pass bills that allow women’s health decisions to be subject to the religious whims of employers and health insurers; when the “no taxes increases ever” Norquist-boot-lickers turn around and attempt to levy a sales tax on women who seek abortions, I only have one response: Screw you.
I don’t care whether Kucinich was against the Iraq War or not. I was, too. I don’t care that he doesn’t like Obama’s policy of “targeted assassinations of American citizens without due process far from any battlefield.” I don’t either. So why should I miss Kucinich? Why would I want more Kuciniches?
Greenwald’s accolades which attempt to shame “party loyalists” —
In sum, Kucinich was one of the those rare people in Washington whose commitment to his beliefs outweighed both his loyalty to his Party and his desperation to cling to political office. He thus often highlighted the severe flaws, deceit and cowardice of his fellow Democrats and their Party as well as the broader political class. That’s why he has to be vilified as crazy and wacky. He’s long been delivering an unpleasant message about the Democratic Party and Washington generally, and like all unwanted messengers, has to be dismissed and marginalized so that this criticism disappears. Thus, those who brought us the Iraq War, Endless War in general, citizen assassinations, the systematic incineration of the Constitution known as the War on Terror, the financial collapse, the destruction of the middle class, and the financial and political supremacy of banker-criminals are sane and respectable. Those who most vehemently opposed those assaults, like Dennis Kucinich, are the “wackiest.”
Such self-affirming pronouncements will make those who passively acquiesced to all those policies and who support the politicians who brought them to us feel much better: sure, Kucinich stood stalwartly against them all and warned us of their dangers while I cheer for politicians who bring us these things, but he believes in UFOs and impeachment and a Department of Peace. What a wackjob. That’s what the “crazy” insult enables and why it’s so popular in the halls of political and media Seriousness.
— ultimately amount to bupkis. Greenwald is simply tsk-tsking the reviled party loyalists and cultists for not adhering to his view of how good progressives should behave, and, yet again, he prioritizes his pet issue. In so doing, Greenwald dresses up Kucinich as a courageous leader while ignoring the many ways in which Kucinich was not only a failure, but also kind of a douche.
Finally, Greenwald’s swipe at President Obama’s faith wildly misses the mark. Had he done a whit of research into the president’s personal beliefs, Greenwald would have realized that President Obama’s faith and turn to Christianity was grounded in community, black history, and the Civil Rights Movement, and not in a belief that “Jesus turned water into wine, rose from the dead and will soon welcome him to heaven,” as Greenwald claims.
As President Obama explained in 2004:
OBAMA: The way I came to Chicago in 1985 was that I was interested in community organizing and I was inspired by the Civil Rights movement. And the idea that ordinary people could do extraordinary things. And there was a group of churches out on the South Side of Chicago that had come together to form an organization to try to deal with the devastation of steel plants that had closed. And didn’t have much money, but felt that if they formed an organization and hired somebody to organize them to work on issues that affected their community, that it would strengthen the church and also strengthen the community.
So they hired me, for $13,000 a year. The princely sum. And I drove out here and I didn’t know anybody and started working with both the ministers and the lay people in these churches on issues like creating job training programs, or after school programs for youth, or making sure that city services were fairly allocated to under served communities.
This would be in Roseland, West Pullman, Altgeld Gardens, far South Side working class and lower income communities.
And it was in those places where I think what had been more of an intellectual view of religion deepened because I’d be spending an enormous amount of time with church ladies, sort of surrogate mothers and fathers and everybody I was working with was 50 or 55 or 60, and here I was a 23-year-old kid running around.
I became much more familiar with the ongoing tradition of the historic black church and it’s importance in the community.
And the power of that culture to give people strength in very difficult circumstances, and the power of that church to give people courage against great odds. And it moved me deeply.
So that, one of the churches I met, or one of the churches that I became involved in was Trinity United Church of Christ. And the pastor there, Jeremiah Wright, became a good friend. So I joined that church and committed myself to Christ in that church.
FALSANI: Did you actually go up for an altar call?
OBAMA: Yes. Absolutely. ?It was a daytime service, during a daytime service. And it was a powerful moment. Because, it was powerful for me because it not only confirmed my faith, it not only gave shape to my faith, but I think, also, allowed me to connect the work I had been pursuing with my faith.
FALSANI: How long ago?
OBAMA: Sixteen, 17 years ago. 1987 or 88.
FALSANI: So you got yourself born again?
OBAMA: Yeah, although I don’t — I retain from my childhood and my experiences growing up, a suspicion of dogma. And I’m not somebody who is always comfortable with language that implies I’ve got a monopoly on the truth, or that my faith is automatically transferable to others.
I’m a big believer in tolerance. I think that religion at it’s best comes with a big dose of doubt. I’m suspicious of too much certainty in the pursuit of understanding just because I think people are limited in their understanding.
I think that, particularly as somebody who’s now in the public realm and is a student of what brings people together and what drives them apart, there’s an enormous amount of damage done around the world in the name of religion and certainty.
FALSANI: Do you still attend Trinity?
OBAMA: Yep. Every week. Eleven o’clock service. Ever been there? Good service.
So there you have it. One can laud Dennis Kucinich in an honest way, and Greenwald simply hasn’t done that. If you want to be honest while criticizing people for not liking your guy, it’s a good idea to be honest about exactly who your guy is, and to not spout unsourced falsehoods about who the other guy is. Your guy is an opportunist who after damaging the cause of reproductive justice for eight years because of his Catholic beliefs, pivoted to the more women-friendly position to garner votes. As Zandar aptly put it, he’s a useful idiot.
(h/t Fred Clarke at slacktivisthttp://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2012/02/21/a-personal-testimony-cathleen-falsani-interviews-state-sen-barack-obama-in-2004/ for Obama interview)[cross-posted at ABLC]