Dennis Was Right, Is Right, and Shall Be Right

May 27, 2004

Also published at

Dennis Kucinich said what the media would not condone: We must not go into Iraq. Dennis said what the media would not stand for: We must get out of Iraq. Dennis said that this position was not just ethical but necessary for the Democrats to win the White House.

Now he says: “It was wrong to go in. It is wrong to stay in.” And more and more people , including even some members of the media, are beginning to give this position a little of the respect it deserves. The New York Times has not yet owned up to its horrendous non-coverage of Kucinich’s campaign, but it has admitted some of the problems with its selling of the War on Iraq.

The obvious fact that Bush has made this country less safe, not more, is beginning to show up in “mainstream” media. If that conclusion takes hold in a large section of the American public, then all Ashcroft’s cries of “Terrorist threat! Terrorist threat!” will work against Bush, not for him. Bush has already lost tax cuts and honesty as winning issues. If he loses fear as a tool, it’s all over. A sea sponge, much less Senator Kerry, would be able to win – assuming relatively fair elections.

But what if fear comes through for W. one more time? Then Dennis will have been right. It will be necessary for Kerry to adopt Dennis’ position and risk the radical political strategy of opposing his opponent on his opponent’s weakest point. Kerry will have to join the call to bring our troops home or buy himself a one-way ticket back to Boston, Massachusetts.

Of course, the pundits told Kerry he’d have to vote for the war or not run for president, and he believed them. To come full circle and demand that we end the war will take a serious change of heart for Kerry. To do so before the media reaches that conclusion some time next year will take the sort of courage Kerry showed in opposing the War on Vietnam. To do so after the media does so will tragically repeat Al Gore’s strategy of adopting winning positions only after the other guy is in the White House.

But Kerry won the early primaries (I hear you say), so if he’s a slow learner he’s just keeping pace with the public. Maybe. But let’s remember that the media labeled Howard Dean “the anti-war candidate,” and that this resulted in significant support for Dean. More importantly, we should remember that the Democratic primary process was dominated by two mythical creatures: electability and momentum. When the media moved those creatures from Dean’s corner to Kerry’s, the nominating process was over.

Or was it? What will happen if Kucinich arrives at the convention with enough delegates to make a great deal of noise and demand that Kerry oppose illegal wars, even current ones? This is Dennis’ goal, and it is the politically smart one. He has no interest in splitting voters off from the Democratic party. His mission is to bring voters into it, enough to put the election out of the reach of Bush’s lawyers, enough to force Kerry to win despite himself.

It will never be too late for Kerry to adopt the position of decency, wisdom, and peace. He can do so up through October. But if he listens to the pundits and picks a Republican or quasi-Republican vice presidential nominee, it will become harder for him to take up a winning Democratic platform. And the sooner he opposes the occupation, the sooner he can begin making the case that the occupation is making us less safe and draining the funds we need for constructive purposes. And the sooner he can ask Ralph Nader to drop out. And the sooner he can inspire those who hold themselves too pure to vote for the less passionate backer of an illegal war.

What are you waiting for, Senator? If you do not sieze this moment to revitalize the Democratic Party, you could very well be the last candidate to lose for a mistake. Those asking you to do that are not your friends.

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