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Thank you, Katha
Published on Thursday, May 16, 2002 by
Thank you, Katha
Single Voice Points Out Democrat Darling's Tragic Flaw
by Laura Flanders

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 COINTELPRO..."

For months, Kucinich's "Prayer for America" was the most read piece on the great progressive first-stop site 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 Nichols.

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 that—he'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

© 2002 Working Assets


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