The other night I watched the Democratic debates from Howard University. It was obvious that the debates were for a basically black audience. The debate was hosted by Tavis Smiley and it centered primarily on domestic and urban issues, the kinds of issues that minorities, especially blacks and Latinos, are most interested in. This is probably the first time that the entire roster of presidential candidates sat for a predominately black audience.
The Republicans are slated to do the same thing later.
Actually it was not a debate, but a night of responses to prepared questions answered in the usual sound bites we are accustomed to hearing from primary candidates. I suppose the real debating will come when both parties finally choose their nominee next summer. This was more of a love fest, with the candidates agreeing on just about everything -- at least in theory. But whether Democrat or Republican, you have to admit that these were a pretty attractive, articulate and insightful bunch of folks, who have a clear feel for the hard issues this country is facing.
While it's generally accepted Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are the two to beat, with John Edwards following closely on their heels, it became clear to me the most overlooked but most cerebral member of the Democratic team might just be Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Cleveland.
Kucinich gets very little play for a number of reasons. He doesn't have the name recognition of a Clinton, Obama, Edwards or even Joe Biden. He definitely does not have their money. He's not as experienced as Gov. Richardson, which Richardson makes sure we know every time he opens his mouth. He doesn't have the face that the media generally seem to gravitate to, but he has been around for a long time. He served as mayor of Cleveland; in fact, when he did serve, he was one of the youngest mayors in the country, and he has represented the Cleveland district in the house for a number of years.
What Kucinich has going for him is that he's not afraid to speak out on the tough issues. And when he speaks out, he is usually right on the money. He is bright and thoughtful. He does his homework and he verbalizes his points clearly, methodically and more than rationally. And rarely does he waver from a position once he has thought it out, researched it and presented it. He is able to hold his own with just about anybody of an opposing view. He is a gifted debater blessed with the ability to articulate, explain, analyze, dissect and disseminate information. And then he has passion you can feel. He speaks directly to the common man, the American worker and the minority citizen. You get the feeling he feels their pain. He understands their angst.
When he presents himself you don't feel like you are listening to man who wants to help you but who lives in a mansion with a built-in-fortune he has accumulated because of privilege and power given to him at birth. You actually feel he lives in your neighborhood, sends his kids to the same school your children attend and is fighting hard to acquire the American dream, same as you are.
It is Kucinich who has had the courage to call for the resignation or impeachment of Dick Cheney. While others in Congress have talked behind closed doors about ousting Cheney, Kucinich has all along called this entire administration on the carpet for high crimes. Kucinich said Congress should oust Cheney from office for "fabricating a threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction" to trick Congress and the public into believing war with Iraq was necessary. He said early on Cheney manipulated intelligence to deceive the public about purported links between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and al-Qaida, the group responsible for the attacks on Sept. 11. Now we know he was right.
He also has publicly chided the vice-president for threatening aggression against Iran, even though Iran has not threatened the United States. Now, with the vice president's latest cockamamie attempt to re-write the Constitution on the issue of who can exert executive privilege, and the role the vice president plays in the hierarchical scheme of things, Kucinich's views just might have been prophetic. I still contend, as I have written for some years now, that Dick Cheney should have been forced to go when he was involved in the Enron affair. It was an affair that was covered up with an aura of Nixonian proportions.
Then there are Kucinich's stands on other important issues which affect us dearly. He is against the NAFTA agreement, which thus far has forced many Americans out of work and factories out of business. He wants to end the social and criminal disparaties between powder and crack cocaine, putting justice for minorities and whites in this country on a more even keel. He wants to take a look at the mandatory sentencing laws. It's a known fact they are too harsh, unrealistic and socially disruptive.
"And don't even get (him) talking about health care," which in his view is a shame and just plain scandalous for the richest nation on the planet. And finally he has been first and consistent about the fact that the war in Iraq must end now! It is destroying us!
I know that he is not the most popular Democrat out there. I know he does not have the money or the polling numbers. And I know that he is being overlooked and pushed aside.
But I think that he has a clear-cut, no-nonsense message that is worthy of serious consideration.