With Wellstone in mind, Kucinich urges progressivism in U speech

by Josh Verges

Democratic presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich sat in his dressing room at Northrop Auditorium on Saturday afternoon eating a vegan entree of brown rice with udon noodles.

“It’s good stuff, man, it’s the best,” he said. “That’s where I get all my energy from. It’s because of that diet I can campaign 20 hours a day.”

His visit to the University was the Ohio congressman’s third of seven scheduled stops Saturday in the Twin Cities.

Kucinich has not won any delegates and some Democrats have asked him to end his bid for the nomination. But he has showed no sign of caving in to the “anybody but Bush” pressure.

“Well, I’m planning on being president,” he said, when asked if he would be satisfied with a John Kerry presidency next year.

University DFL President Austin Miller worked on Kucinich’s campaign in Iowa and is an officer with Students for Kucinich.

“A lot of people really like his ideas, but there aren’t very many people who think he’s electable,” Miller said.

Kucinich said Wednesday’s departure of fellow candidate Howard Dean, a former Vermont governor, from the Democratic nomination race could help his cause.

“We’re opening up our arms wide to all the supporters of Howard Dean to let them know they have a place to come to for a candidate who opposes the war and is for health care and jobs. We think Dean supporters will find a home in our campaign,” he said.

Kucinich said his stance on the war in Iraq gives him an advantage against George W. Bush that Democratic front-runners Kerry of Massachusetts and Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina do not have.

“I’m in a singular position on this Iraq issue where none of the others can challenge the president,” he said. “I led the effort in the House challenging the war.

“You’ve got two candidates running who voted for (the war), who said there were weapons (of mass destruction). What are they going to do in a debate with the president?” he said.

Kucinich said he would replace soldiers in Iraq with U. N. peacekeepers within 90 days of taking office.

Wellstone ties

As a congressman, Kucinich chairs the Progressive Caucus, of which the late Sen. Paul Wellstone was a member.

“The issues I work on resonate with the ideals that (Wellstone) stood for: peace and social and economic justice,” Kucinich said.

The Progressive Caucus is a group of 54 congressmen and congresswomen. They support programs such as universal health care and welfare.

He stopped short of referencing Wellstone as he addressed approximately 1,000 supporters at Northrop Auditorium.

“Every visit I have ever had to Minnesota, I have always felt this powerful percolation of progressivism,” he said.

The similarities between Wellstone and Kucinich were not lost on student Tasha Baron.

“He’s the first politician – except for Wellstone – I’ve ever fully endorsed and trusted,” she said.

Kucinich spoke about his plans for peaceful cooperation with other countries and his desire to create a cabinet-level Department of Peace.

He compared Bush’s descriptions of the “axis of evil” to the paranoia of the Cold War.

“It’s amazing when you visit people who were said to be enemies and you start to see how much they’re like you,” Kucinich said about a trip he took to Russia.

Student Lindsey Strange said she appreciated Kucinich’s sense of humor and his “compassion for all people.”

She said she plans to support Kucinich in Minnesota’s caucus March 2.

Kucinich spoke about his plan to extend free public education to preschool-aged children and college students.

“Everyone agrees that the public ought to pay for K-12,” he said.

Free preschool and college education should be “something that is taken as a given,” he said.

Kucinich also told the crowd about his desire to take the United States out of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization.

“The jobs that many college students are training for right now are leaving the country,” he said.

Kucinich also addressed his national single-payer, health-care plan, which he said would take money away from insurance companies.

Green Party

Although he is a Democratic candidate, Kucinich has been courted by the Green Party since last fall, said Ben Manski, co-chairman of the national Green Party. Kucinich also received a Green Party delegate in January from Ohio, his home state.

“His voice will long have been forgotten by November,” Manski said. “His message would go much further on the Green Party line.”

Kucinich acknowledged he is the “greenest” of the Democratic candidates, but said he has no plans to switch parties.

“The Greens can vote for me,” he said. “The reason I can win is I can bring the Greens in to vote.”

Student Jeff MacPhail wore a Green Party button to the speech. He said he will vote for Kucinich because he supports gay rights.

“Trust is important” in a president, he said. “He inspires a positive world.”