The Return of the King... for Kucinich

Anyone who has seen the trilogy of "Lord of the Rings" films knows that Aragorn is up for a daunting battle. And so it should probably come as no surprise that the actor who played the king has thrown himself into the New Hampshire primary battle at the side of a candidate who faces a test that is the equivalent of Mr. Frodo's journey up Mount Doom in Mordor.

Film star Viggo Mortensen was so angered over the exclusion of Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich from the last Democratic presidential debate before Tuesday's first-in-the-nation primary that he jumped on a red eye flight from the west coast to not just endorse the anti-war Democrat who has proposed impeaching Vice President Dick Cheney but to campaign on Sunday with Kucinich in Concord and Manchester.

"When a television network has the power to decide which candidates are 'worthy' of addressing the American people, it robs the American people of their most precious right to the free flow of information and dissenting points of view," said Mortensen, a deeply political man who used the forums he was given during the "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" publicity tour to oppose the rush to war with Iraq. "I am an actor, but I am also a citizen and a voter who resents the control that big money, big media, and entrenched political interests have in deciding what I should see, what I should hear, and what I should be allowed to think."

Mortensen is not the only celebrity campaigner on the trail in New Hampshire. Actors Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon were scheduled to make multiple appearances with John Edwards Monday in Bedford, Hampton and Dover. And, of course, the Obama campaign, which once accepted a boost from queen-of-all-media Oprah Winfrey, is now holding events with a "star" that voters are lining up for blocks to meet: Barack Obama.

But the presence of Mortensen, whose chiseled features appeared on a million "Lord of the Rings" posters and who more recently earned critical and commercial acclaim for his turn as a Russian gangster in the film "Eastern Promise," gave the neglected Kucinich campaign a last-minute luster as the candidate and his supporters fought for attention in a state where they have been denied even the measure of media attention accorded rebel Republican Ron Paul.

With Mortensen at his side, Kucinich actually earned what he was denied when ABC News excluded the congressman from Saturday night's Democratic debate between Obama, Edwards and Hillary Clinton: serious attention from the cable and broadcast networks that have all set up shop in Manchester.

Kucinich and Mortensen even appeared on Fox News' "Hannity & Colmes" show for an extended segment that say the congressman engage in an extended discussion about fair tax policies and a single-payer health care system

Of course, conservative Sean Hannity took a few swings. But Mortensen struck back at the dark lord of talk television.

After complimenting Mortensen's film performances, Hannity said, "In spite of everything, I'm going to forgive your politics..."

"You don't have to," said Mortensen. " I'm not going to forgive yours."

That was typical of Mortensen's campaigning on behalf of Kucinich, which was a good deal sharper and more engaged than that of most of the absolutely exhausted contenders in New Hampshire.

Mortensen even showed up to introduce a televised forum on Constitutional concerns where this reporter spoke about the need to restore a system of checks and balance.

While the discussion of presidential accountability was surely bracing, one suspects that the dramatic moment of the evening belonged to Mortensen.

"One of the reasons why I support Dennis Kucinich is this...," said the actor.

Mortensen then pulled open his button-down shift to reveal a black t-shirt with the word "Impeach" emblazoned across the front.

John Nichols' new book is The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders' Cure for Royalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use of the 'heroic medicine' that is impeachment with a call for Democratic leaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by the founders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"

Copyright (c) 2008 The Nation

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