Capitol Weekly Interview: Elizabeth Kucinich

CW: How has the response been as you’ve been campaigning in California the past few days?

EK: The response has been wonderful, good turnout. There was a wonderful event last night (Sunday) in Fresno.

CW: Your husband is often seen as a fringe candidate, but his main message has been that he best represents core Democratic issues.

EK: There’s this spurious idea that he’s an ultra-extremist left-wing liberal, without looking at the country or his policies. The story doesn’t credit the reality. There’s a Web site you can go and look at, There’s a list of 25 questions that comes up and tells you which candidate best represents you. There is a statistics page that tells you how many times each candidate comes up first, second or third. Dennis’ numbers are extremely high for coming in first place. There is a big skyscraper by his name and little columns by most of the other candidates. (

CW: What are three key differences between Kucinich and frontrunners Clinton and Obama?

EK: I only get three? Number one, with respect to health care, he’s the only one who stands for single payer universal health care, basically Medicare for all. One third of every health care dollar goes to corporate profits and executive salaries. If that $700 billion dollars a year would go toward health care, we’d have plenty of money to pay for every medical necessity, including dental, mental health and vision care. The government would not be running everything; they’d be the single payer. All the other Democratic candidates talk about having a mandate that everyone would have to buy health insurance or they’d subsidize the insurance industry. We’re already subsidizing the insurance industry. We’d still have a system that is 30 percent less efficient than it needs to be. We recognize the revolution that is going on in California.

Second, he’s the only one on the Democratic side who has voted against the war in Iraq every single time. A vote to fund the war is a vote for the war. He is the only one with a bill to bring the troops home, HR1234. He is the only one with a plan to bring the troops home in 90 days. He will close the bases, bring the contractors home and set up an international peacekeeping force. Our presence is fueling the resistance. The other candidates have openly said in debates they would leave the troops there until 2013. And there is only one candidate who voted against the Patriot Act.

Third is economics. One of his first acts would be to withdraw from NAFTA and the WTO. Then he would renegotiate all the agreements to reflect worker’s rights, human rights and environmental quality. Under the WTO these are all seen as barriers to trade. Trade is now a destructive mechanism rather than a way to prosperity. We in America were promised high wages and better products. That didn’t happen. We saw industry leave and jobs disappear. People in Mexico saw their wages and their economy collapse, driving people from the land. They came north into the waiting arms of corporations who wanted a docile workforce. That’s why we have an immigration problem.

We would have a policy of national economic security. Dennis has plans for a new WPA, except it we’d call it the WGA, or Works Green Administration. The Bush administration economic policy has just been giving tax breaks to corporations rather than supporting the economy itself. They’ve all said they would reinstate the taxes on the top one percent. Dennis would take the tax breaks that have gone to the top one percent and give them to the bottom 80 percent. Not just corporate welfare to those who negotiate the agreements.

CW: I heard an interview recently with one of your fellow Brits, actor Ian McShane.

EK: Who’s that? I don’t really have the time to watch television.

CW: He’s best-known as the foul-mouthed innkeeper on “Deadwood.” Late in the interview, kind of out of nowhere, he said that in Europe Kucinich would be a leading candidate and that most foreigners know more about U.S. politics than most Americans.

EK: I’m not going to place any value judgments on the American people. But I will say that news coverage in other countries is usually much more informative. I’m talking about TV news, not so much print. I don’t bother with watching TV news here. So many people in the international media have said that if Dennis were running in Europe he’d be winning because he makes so much sense. We need the mainstream media to tell the truth. We can be led into war with a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, and still be there five years later. That’s a pretty scary prospect for the future.

CW: Does it ever surprise people to learn you’ve done aid work in Tanzania and India, or that you have a degree in religious studies and theology?

EK: It surprises many people that I have a brain. After all, what many people have seen of me is what’s on the comedy channels. I like that a lot, actually. They think they’re going to shake hands with the wife, and then they ask me a question and something else happens.

It’s the language of belief that really resonates with most people. I chose religious studies because of the time I spent in other countries. I learned more from that than from my pretty extensive academic background.

CW: Any chance you’ll run for political office yourself at some point?

EK: I’m running for first lady. I’ll focus on that first. A number of people have come up to me to say I should run for governor of California after Schwarzenegger.

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