Dennis Kucinich, the pint-sized congressman from unfortunate Cleveland, Ohio, caused a sensation by switching his vote on healthcare today to favor the President’s agenda. Being somewhat cynical, many Americans feel Dennis was in the President’s pocket all along – that his opposition was never sincere to begin with.
On a scale of liberal thought ranging from 1 to 10, Dennis hovers near 403. But more than likely, our little friend was just as avidly opposed to healthcare reform as he claimed to be. When he declared the reason he was withholding his support was because the bill wasn’t liberal enough, it was vintage Kucinich. As a long-time Dennis watcher, I could only shake my head fondly and indulgently, like June Cleaver, sighing at the Beaver’s antics.
Dennis has always been absurd, a national punchline. His resume includes bankrupting the City of Cleveland during a short stint as the “Boy Wonder” mayor, quixotic campaigning for a Department of Peace, and a 2008 presidential campaign that netted nearly 17 votes nationwide. He plays on the heartstrings of his district though, and never faces serious opposition at election time.
You need an example, don’t you? I give you Dennis and the Case of the Efficiency Lightbulbs. The City of Cleveland recently announced a plan to drop off an energy efficient lightbulb at every house and then bill the homeowners for it. Dennis flew into a rage when he heard about this plan: What kind of unconstitutional hijinx were these, anyway? Hello, the government can’t mandate that citizens buy a product. Someone had to take a stand against this outrageous plan, and Dennis was just the man to do it.
So he courageously faced the powerful light bulb lobby of Cleveland head on, defying them to do such a thing. It was epic – David and Goliath – at least, in the sense that Denny wrote a letter asking them to reconsider, and the light bulb guys immediately backed down.
I guess the Democrats didn’t know about that story, because they seemed to think Dennis’ opposition wasn’t insurmountable. They kept in touch, and seemed certain he would come around. Pelosi, Steny, and other high-ranking Democrats alternately rained persuasion and abuse on him, and Obama tried without success to persuade him to change his vote three times. But Dennis stood firm, like a tiny piece of gravel lodged in the Democrats’ tire.
It was during this time, the guilt started. I haven’t always been kind to Dennis. Led astray by his senseless ramblings, I failed to see his heart was in the right place. I’d misjudged him. When he made remarks like, “I cannot be intimidated by those who are trying to force this insurance industry give away down our throats”, a real twinge of regret surfaced. It didn’t matter if most of his convictions were insane, he stood by them and that is admirable. He further shamed me by supporting a measure to audit the Federal Reserve, clearly a blow for the people. Finally, he wrote a heartfelt op-ed to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, condemning the reform bill as a giveaway to the insurance industry.
By March 15th, Barack Obama was sensing the collapse of his bill and flew to Ohio to try to rally support. At the President’s request, Denny met him there and beamed on the sidelines. Like a fox, Obama sensed his weakness and invited him on an airplane ride.
When Air Force One landed, Obama must have been feeling good because although Kucinich was back on earth as he knows it, he suddenly had a new perspective. His concern for the people was overshadowed by his need to attend to the President’s image, as he says here: “We have to be very careful that the potential of President Obama’s presidency not be destroyed by this debate.”
Dennis is perfectly right in refusing to explain himself any further. Americans would not understand the complexities of the issue, nor Kucinich’s profound grasp of it.
I agree wholeheartedly with President Obama’s description of Congressman Kucinich as “courageous”. Most people would be too embarrassed to make such a blatant about-face, or to acknowledge that they’ll vote for a bill even though they think it will hurt people. Bravo, Dennis!
Today was about redemption. Everyone needed Dennis’ vote, and he knew it. And perhaps the Republicans were overly confident in their belief Dennis would not vote for healthcare reform because he vowed he wouldn’t, and made kind of a big deal of it, campaigning and what not.
I do have a word of advice for you, if you’re reading this, Dennis. Obviously, it’s not political advice — you’re way more slick than anyone gave you credit for. This is general sales advice: let people know you’re willing to sell out. You could have gotten far more had the Republicans known your vote was:
a) for sale, and
b) to be secured with a mere airplane ride
The GOP and the Dems would have been willing to pay whatever you asked. Too late this time, but think it over. If there’s a big vote on euthanasia, you want to get all you can.