Dennis Kucinich had me swooning this past February. I'm not a believer in prayer
as a substitute for action, but Kucinich's speech to the Southern California
Americans for Democratic action was fresh, furious and brave. It was the first
forthright talk I'd heard in an age from any Democrat in this Congress.
"We did not authorize the bombing of civilians in Afghanistan," said Kucinich,
who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
"We did not authorize permanent detainees in Guantanamo Bay. We did not
authorize the withdrawal from the Geneva Convention. We did not authorize
military tribunals suspending due process and habeas corpus. We did not
authorize assassination squads. We did not authorize the resurrection of
For months, Kucinich's "Prayer for America" was the most read piece on the
great progressive first-stop site CommonDreams.org. When I read some of
the speech on Working Assets Radio, my in-box was swamped with listener
requests for the text. "Kucinich Rocks the Boat," wrote the Nation's John
Apparently inspired by Nichols' report, the progressive media took it up a notch, raising the possibility of a Kucinich run for President. In a
passion that's rarely found in the pages of The Nation, Studs Terkel called
Kucinich "The One." "I think this guy can reach anyone and change seemingly
unchangeable minds," he wrote. Even the preciously cool-eyed David Corn enthused that "a [presidential] bid might be worth considering."
It took Katha Pollitt to point out the obvious: Kucinich is a valiant progressive on many fronts, but he doesn't have a prayer when it comes to running for President because Kucinich is anti-choice. And choice, for those in the ether who've forgotten, is a decisive issue for a massive mainstream let alone progressive voting block.
"I haven't been a leader on this," the Ohio Congressman told columnist Pollitt. But it's worse than thathe's pulled the wrong way. Check out the record compiled by the Planned Parenthood Federation: his anti-choice history has earned him a 95-percent
position rating from the National Right to Life Committee, versus 10-percent
from Planned Parenthood and 0-percent from NARAL.
But it's a small matter to Pollitt's Nation pals: "There's one thing I'd like to you
change your mind on," Terkel added parenthetically in the column titled "He's the
One." David Corn casually counted Kucinich's pro-life stance among several positions the
Ohioan's adopted that are "not widely shared by his fellow elected
Democrats," also helpfully pointing out that Kucinich has never supported overturning Roe
v. Wade or prosecuting people for abortion. But it's not quite true:
Kucinich voted for a ban on dilation and extraction abortions (so-called
"partial birth" abortions) that included fines and up to two years in jail
for doctors who perform them (except in cases to save the woman's life). That's
criminalization and Corn fails to mention that.
In fact, Kucinich's actual voting record on women's reproductive rights gets
no coverage from any of the Nation guys. And it turns out that not only can
one man rise to the top of the progressive pop charts and have his position on
choice remain irrelevant quite a few can. Even in the Progressive Caucus,
Kucinich is not alone. David Bonior (D-MI) supported the Bush Global
Gag Rule for recipients of U.S. family planning funds abroad, and a total abortion ban
for women in the military (even when they use their own money). Bonior scored
a "mixed" 64 percent from Planned Parenthood as did David Obey (D-WI), who
cheered many of us this month with his strong stand for fairness in the House
debate over Israel/Palestine.
Asked about all this, John Nichols, who's covered Kucinich for years, agreed
that the Congressman's position on choice would scuttle his chances at a run
for President, and calls the debate around it "tremendously healthy." "What Katha did with her column is exactly why Katha should have a column," said Nichols.
And I'd add that it is exactly why there should be more feminists with columns. One alone,
quite clearly, is entirely insufficient. Pro-life progressive? It's an
oxymoron, not to mention a liability at the polling booth. And it shouldn't
take the progressive punditocracy's only feminist to point it out.
Journalist Laura Flanders is the host of Working Assets Radio with Laura Flanders --
(listen live on line) and author of "Real Majority, Media Minority: The Cost of Sidelining Women in Reporting." Her Spin Doctor Laura columns appear weekly on WorkingForChange. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2002 Working Assets