Friday, March 12, 2010

Kucinich: It rhymes with mercurial "itch"

NOW THAT Dennis Kucinich, the mercurial congressman from the Cleveland area, has checked in on the health care reform debate with a promise to vote against it, it might be a good time for his many Republican corporate enemies to admit that there is finally something to admire about the guy. Kucinich, you may recall, is the quadrennial Democratic presidential candidate who always manages to find a voice in those deadly multi-candidate primary debates. His entry into the deadly negative side of the health care marathon is no exception.

Kucinich says the current proposal "doesn't go far enough" - which is true with an asterisk: It won't, no matter whether he's for it or against it. But killing it will place him squarely in the camp of Sen. Jim DeMint and his congressional brethren who are holding forth mostly from the Old South and who disapprove more of Obama, the person, than of any version of reform. It was, after all, DeMint, the modern-day John Calhoun, who predicted last summer that if Obama's proposals on health care are defeated, it will be the President's "Waterloo."

That gotcha-shot has been the driving force of any initiative, including Obama's own insufferable concessions to the GOP, that has crashed in a state of confusion and left a noble idea in tatters.

Seems strange to me, as one who has followed Kucinich's career on site as a political reporter since his days as Cleveland's kid mayor, that he would cast his reputation as a populist in the profitable tent of the health care industry and their corporate friends, over the health care plan on the table. But Dennis has never been one to go-along-to-get-along, which has driven his opponents crazy over the years. I recall writing something during one of his many mayoral and congressional campaigns that he could sound like George Wallace on Cleveland's West Side (read, white) , and John Kennedy on the East Side (read black). I think he liked that.

Despite his current aversion to the bill, I still wouldn't conclude that ultimately he won't support it if it ever reaches a vote. To know Dennis Kucinich, as I learned day in and day out, is not to know what he's likely to say or do next. Or how he intends to do it. I do know, however, that it has been a long time since the last Democratic presidential primary, and Kucinich has a fresh supply or energy to do whatever he has in mind for the next presidential election, which, after all, is less than three years away.

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