Thursday, April 12, 2007


Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 648

I just got back from lunch with Dennis Kucinich. That is to say, Dennis Kucinch, his wife Elizabeth, Iowa staffer Marcos Rubenstein and campaign spokesperson Sharon Jimenez joined me and four other people for Vietnamese food (Dennis had the veggie egg rolls) at the A Dong restaurant in Des Moines today. And lunch means, y'know, lunch, just us and the wait staff.

Frequent visitors to this blog - both of you - will recall that I covered a little campaign faux pas from the Kucinich camp a couple of weeks ago called "Eyes and Ears" (see posts here, here and here). Congressman Kucinich issued a statement renouncing his campaign's Eyes and Ears project, but to date had not indicated what action he took beyond sending out an email mea culpa. Until now. Keep reading.

After shaking hands and sitting down, Kucinich looked around at the five of us...and waited. We waited back. I think most of us were expecting a few brief remarks about the campaign, the issues, why it is Kucinich thinks he should be President of the United States, something. Nope. Didn't happen. Nada. So, people began to talk tentatively between themselves. Dennis sized up the menu. His spokesperson took some phone calls.

Finally, the congressman asked us what we wanted to talk about. Didn't need to ask me twice.

"Congressman," I began, "I'd like to ask you about a campaign matter. On March 28, your campaign sent out an email soliciting volunteers for something called the 'Eyes and Ears Proje - "
"And I sent out an email the next day cancelling it," Kucinich interrupted.
"Yes," I replied, "and I commend you for it. But beyond issuing an email statement, did you take any action within your campaign with regard to those who conceived of and approved this project?"
"That," the congressman shot back, "is an internal campaign matter. I dealt with it. That's it."
Kucinich's spokesperson attempted to intervene at this point. "I'd like to address this question, if I may."
"No," I replied, "I would like to hear what the congressman himself has to say about this."
Now a little agitated, Kucinich asked, "What are you really asking?"
"I'm asking if you took any action beyond issuing an email statement. Did you take any action against those who came up with and approved this idea?"
"I'll tell you exactly the action I took. I talked to the entire campaign staff, first at the higher level, then lower down, that they weren't going be sending any more campaign emails without clearing them. So, yeah, they have less freedom than they did before."
"So you didn't dismiss or reassign anyone in connection with this?"
At this point, one of my tablemates abruptly interjected that the congressman hadn't yet finished his lunch, and I should leave him alone and let him eat. Nice try.
"Did you know about the email before it went out?"
"So," I said, trying to wrap this up, "you're saying that..."
"I already gave you my answer," a clearly fed-up Kucinch replied. "What I want to know is what's in your mind about this? Why are you pressing about it?"
"Because," I said, "your email statement on March 29 renouncing the Eyes and Ears project characterized it as a teachable moment for your campaign. I think it was also an accountability moment. Accountability in politics is a big thing to a lot of people. You maintain that yours is a different kind of campaign. So was anyone held accountable for this?"
"What would you have done?" Kucinch asked me.
"I would have fired them."
"You would have fired them. Have you ever fired anybody?"
"Yes, I have."
"Have you ever been fired?" Kucinich asked me.
"Yes," I replied, "I have. Is that relevant?"
"Sure!" Kucinich said.
"Tell me how?"
"Because I chose to deal with this from a position of forgiveness. Firing people for making a mistake comes from a position of power, and that's not how I do things. I dealt with this from a position of love."

So, there's your answer. True, there is nothing at all unusual about the lack of accountability in American politics; there are plenty of Mike Browns and Paul Bremers who collect rewards for doing "a heck of a job," no matter how great their ineptitude or its consequences. But it is, to say the least, a mixed message from a candidate who boasts of running his campaign on a higher level than his opponents.

Leading the world's only superpower isn't a game. As tempting as it sometimes is to think so, it is not American Idol gone political. It is serious, demanding, unforgiving work, where the actions of the president and those who work for him directly impact the lives of millions, at home and around the world. Presidential campaigns are about, in part, a candidate putting him or herself on full view before the American public in order to let them decide who is most fit to lead them. Running for president is a brutal and unrelenting marathon. But as hard as running for president is, it is nothing compared to how hard being president is. Being president demands absolute integrity and absolute accountability to the people you lead. No exceptions. No exemptions. No excuses.

I saw nothing in my meeting with Dennis Kucinich today to indicate that he in any way understands this. He is utterly unfit for the office of President of the United States.



cr said...

Unfortunately, the "serious" Democratic candidates can neither recognize a war of aggression nor realize that paying for war crimes is reprehensible as well as insane.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Cr, spoken like a true Kookcinich supporter.

Dennis presents us with the same false dichotomy that Bush does, just from a different side.

You can indeed support the troops and not the war. You can also fund the troops and not support the war. What is the HONEST alternative to THAT? Kookcinichs idea to not fund troops is neat on paper, unfortunately for "serious" Dem candidates who know how that would look it is a completely ridiculous concept.

tw said...

I really think you're making a mountain out of a molehill. Campaign staff screw up all the time, especially this early in the campaign cycle. Mistakes are going to be made. Think Edwards hiring those two bloggers or Obama and the NJ big donors thing where his campaign didn't get in touch with a big time fundraising money bundler. No campaign is immune to early mistakes.

I'm sorry but this is a blip in the large scheme of things.

Anonymous said...

Whoa, aren't we self-righteous today!

You never explained what the Eyes/Ears project was and why it was such a serious error as to merit someone's firing.

And are you comparing this staffer's error to Paul Bremer and Mike Brown? sheesh.

iPol said...

Please go back and read the post. You'll find that I did post links explaining what Eyes and Ears is and my thoughts about what made it such a questionable move by the Kucinich campaign.

Campaigns are generally about people who aren't president trying to become president. As such, they don't yet have the power to commit monumental blunders on the order of Katrina and Iraq. But since it is unlikely that the way in which a candidate responds to their mistakes will suddenly change upon their ascenscion to the Presidency, by definition molehills are mountains at this stage.

As posted in a separate comment, no campaign is immune to early mistakes. But campaigns that feel they are immune from accountability are something to beware of.

2008 Central said...


Well done! I commended you for your coverage of this matter already, but confronting him directly deserves extra kudos. 2008 Central's calls and emails to his campaign regarding this matter were not returned, so I'm glad that you were able to at least get some information from Rep. Kucinich.

Keep it up!
Publisher, 2008 Central

Lenore said...

Supporting those who work for you is a skill not many people have. Giving someone a second chance makes for better teamwork overall.

Now, why don't you ask a candidate how he proposes to get us out of the morass this administration has so criminally got us into? Climate change? Health care? Rejoining the rest of the world, where US policy has made us a pariah and a plague?

We are in desperate need of real solutions, of new ideas, since politics as usual is only digging us deeper into a hole. Please, next time, make your questions count. said...

I can't believe you consider yourself a journalist. I'M a journalist. You're an embarassment. You had a presidential candidate right in front of you - there are hundreds of questions you could have asked him that would have been of value to your readers. Instead you focused on minor internal incident and mauled it to death. I see a bright future for you on Fox News.

iPol said...

Actually, in my very first post on this site, I wrote,

"I have no journalistic pretensions, and make no attempt at producing a political news site. Most likely, in fact, if it is actually news, you’ll read about it here last of any site on the internet. And while I will make very free with my personal political opinions, I expect this will occur within the context of framing my reaction to one or another event or candidate. I don’t intend to try to necessarily persuade readers that I am right, but do hope to always set out a clear (and hopefully compelling) statement of my views."

You are free to disagree, of course. I would only add that since, as you say, YOU'RE the journalist, you might have done a little cursory content checking before making your assertions. But we can't have everything.

BTW, if Fox news ever should come calling, I'll be sure to give them your email address; you have more in common with them than you might think.

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