KEENE, N.H. -- Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich brought his passionate message on renewable energy, universal single-payer health care and taking back government to the enthusiastic crowd of supporters and curiosity-seekers who packed The Pub to overflowing Friday afternoon.
"I've been campaigning across this country on a message of hope, of optimism and of reclaiming government," said Kucinich. "In this campaign, I'm calling on the American people to find that place of courage to reclaim our democracy."
The self-described "liberal alternative" among the nine major Democrats running for president, Kucinich has not registered in polls in the state with the nation's first binding presidential primary next year. Kucinich has spent little time in New Hampshire, something he promised to change last week when he opened his state campaign headquarters.
On Friday, the Ohio congressman advocated signing the Kyoto Accord and joining the International Criminal Court, and was harshly critical of the Bush administration.
He found fault with was the administration's foreign policy, and especially with what he called the emphasis on fear used to embroil the United States in a war in Iraq.
"We must engage with the world," said Kucinich. "We must do it confidently; we must do it courageously."
There are men and women in the armed forces "who went to war for a lie," said Kucinich, who voted against the congressional resolution last fall giving President Bush authority to wage war in Iraq. "That in no way takes away from the honor of them serving this country, but it calls into question the honor of those who sent them there."
Kucinich said the United States needs to bring a balanced approach to the Palestinian-Israeli crisis, not favor one side over the other. "We must recognize that the creation of a Palestinian state is essential to the security of Israel," he said.
Friday's crowd ran the gamut from those who have supported Kucinich's campaign for some time to those who turned out to get to know the candidate's positions.
"I'm very upset about what's going on in Washington right now," said Patrick Baker of Westmoreland. "I'm hoping someone will have the guts to fix things."
Asked if he thought Kucinich would be the one to fix things, Baker said he wasn't sure. "That's why we're here."
Pauline Sortor of Fitzwilliam, however, expressed confidence in Kucinich's message. "I'm here because Dennis has given a voice to what the Democrats have been missing for a while," she said. "A party that cares about the old, cares about the young, cares about people."
Sortor said she encountered Kucinich through the MoveOn organization's Internet site after the organization invited each of the Democratic candidates to outline their principles. Sortor said she liked what she saw.
"His was the most passionate declaration of a belief in people's humanity," she said.
Another Kucinich supporter was Eric Wasileski of Greenfield, Mass., president of the Wally Nelson Chapter of Veterans for Peace.
A member of the Green Party, Wasileski, who served in the U.S. Navy during the Gulf War, said he was supporting Kucinich because Wasileski supports the congressman's idea for a Department of Peace.
"As far as I could see, he's ideal for America," said Wasileski "He's someone I could support."
Kucinich fielded a number of questions. One woman asked him about health care, and Kucinich stressed his goal of a universal, single-payer program. "If a nation is truly just, if a nation is truly moral, then it will provide health care for all its people," he said, adding that his proposal would cost about the same as what is currently spent on health care, but that everyone would be covered.
He said his support for universal coverage sets him apart from his leading rivals, who support building on existing programs with universal coverage as a goal. He cited former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, whose supporters include liberals and opponents of the war, as an example.
"He is not for universal health care," Kucinich said of Dean. "He has said if you are looking for fundamental change, then he is not your guy. It's time for a second opinion."
Kucinich said the environment was linked with energy production. He said he would like to see 20 percent of the country's energy come from renewable resources like wind and solar by 2010.
"Eventually, we're going to have to move away from oil, move away from nuclear," he added.
Asked about the disposal of nuclear waste, Kucinich said "disposal" is a misnomer because it's not possible to get rid of nuclear waste.
"We have to transit out of that type of power," he said about nuclear generation. "It's too expensive, it has hidden costs. It was a colossal mistake."
Kucinich was greeted by a standing ovation when he arrived at The Pub, and when he concluded his speech some in the crowd again rose to give him applause.
"We are going to wage a vigorous campaign in New Hampshire, and it's a campaign that will establish that I am different from all the other candidates," Kucinich said.
Later in the day, Kucinich spoke with about 50 supporters at a school in Dublin. He continued his criticism of Bush's handling of national security, saying it is worsening the terrorism situation.
The Bush administration has engaged in "an ever-widening campaign to convince us that terrorists are coming, when it's our government's own response the world at large that is creating more of a challenge of terrorism than ever before."
Asked about protecting the nation's food supply, Kucinich said it is important to ensure small family farmers are secure against the threat of massive agricultural conglomerates.
"I intend to break up those monopolies in agriculture with the help of the Justice Department," he said.
Copyright 2003 Brattleboro Reformer