Party lines

When it comes to what people really want, Democrat Dennis Kucinich and Republican Ron Paul prove opposites attract

Paul-cinich embodied:
Check out how Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich stack up side-by-side in a photo-illustrative graphic here in JPG form.

It’s the war, stupid. It’s not the economy. It’s not the environment. It’s not “change.” The most important issue facing voters in 2008 is our ongoing occupation in the Middle East, and which candidate is the most likely person to bring it to a screeching halt, before hubris drags the entire country into the abyss.

Here’s a hint. It’s not Barack Obama. It’s not Hillary Clinton. It’s not John Edwards. It’s certainly not John McCain, Mike Huckabee or Rudy Giuliani. In fact, it’s not any of the front-runners in either party, all of whom have at best demonstrated a reluctance to withdraw our troops from Iraq and at worst an eagerness to plunge our stretched-thin military headlong into yet another conflict in Iran. There are only two candidates running who, as members of Congress, have voted consistently against authorizing the war in Iraq and against funding its continuation: Democrat Dennis Kucinich and Republican Ron Paul.

For long-suffering progressives, Kucinich’s 2004 presidential run represented a return to the traditional Democratic values abandoned by President Bill Clinton and the Democratic Leadership Council during the 1990s. Long before it was fashionable, Kucinich, the five-term representative from Ohio, opposed the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq.

In the 2004 presidential primaries, before Democrats realized they could win by running against the war, that made Kucinich dangerous, particularly to the corporate king-makers who fund both political parties. Therefore, like any other candidate who dares to challenge the political status quo, Kucinich had to be marginalized. His own party shunned him; he was excluded from nationally televised debates. Absent the media presence afforded top-tier candidates, Kucinich was reduced to an also-ran, a status that continues to plague him this go-round.

At first blush, it would appear that Kucinich and Paul have little in common. When it comes to domestic policy, the two candidates couldn’t diverge more. A classic social progressive, Kucinich firmly believes the government has a duty to protect our most underprivileged citizens by, for example, providing a universal, single-payer public health-care system. Paul, a libertarian who adheres to the adage that the government that governs best is the government that governs least, advocates the elimination of popular programs such as Medicare, Social Security and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

But when it comes to the war in Iraq and our bellicose foreign policy, the two are unanimous in their opposition to the neoconservative quest for empire.

While Kucinich hasn’t been able to dig himself out of the hole Democrats buried him in four years ago, the “Ron Paul Revolution” has been one of the few bright spots in an election season that so far has confirmed the truism that money talks. Paul’s growing grassroots campaign actually led all Republican candidates in fundraising during the fourth quarter of ’07. He finished a respectable fifth in the Iowa caucuses with 10 percent of the vote, and seemed primed to make serious headway in the New Hampshire primary. Who can blame longtime Paul supporters such as Art Bell, the host of paranormal talk radio program Coast to Coast AM, for becoming excited about their maverick champion’s potential breakthrough?

Alas, it is apparently not to be. On the Friday before the New Hampshire primary, despite the fact that he trounced former Republican frontrunner Rudy Giuliani in Iowa, Fox News announced that it was excluding Paul from the final debate before the election. On his radio program, Bell, betrayed by a network he mistakenly thought shared his own conservative values, was livid. “Fox News sucks!” he hissed.

Welcome to the club, Art.

Dennis Kucinich
1. That vision thing: According to actress Shirley MacLaine’s new book, Kucinich saw a UFO while visiting her home in Washington state. “He said he felt a connection in his heart and heard directions in his mind,” MacLaine writes. Awesome!
2. Have a heart: Kucinich is the only candidate from either party to support a universal, single-payer, nonprofit health-care system.
3. Got guts: In April, Kucinich introduced a resolution to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney for conduct “destructive of the founding purposes of our nation.”
4. One nut or two? Despite having the hottest wife on the campaign trial, Kucinich, who was baptized a Catholic, is widely perceived to lack cojones after flipping from his principled pro-life stand to pro-choice in 2003.
5. Common ground: Both Kucinich and Paul support an immediate withdrawal of our troops from Iraq.

Ron Paul
1. Stubborn as a mule: Paul has lived up to his vow to “never vote for legislation unless the proposed measure is expressly authorized by the Constitution,” earning him the nickname “Dr. No.”
2. Tight-fisted: Paul has never voted for a tax increase or approved a deficit budget. He habitually votes against almost all legislation calling for increased government spending.
3. Showing spine: Paul was one of the first Republicans to endorse Ronald Reagan, who claimed to support reducing the size of government. When Reagan betrayed his own revolution by spending trillions on an unnecessary military build up, Paul was among the first Republicans to break ranks.
4. Texas stud: Paul, a physician who specializes in ob-gyn, has fathered some 4,000 babies in Brazoria County, Texas. Correction. Paul has delivered some 4,000 babies. He and his wife of 50 years have five children of their own and 18 grandchildren.
5. Common ground: Both Kucinich and Paul support an immediate withdrawal of our troops from Iraq.