Dennis Kucinich is very good at being Dennis Kucinich. An acquired taste, Dennis never pretends to be anyone but Dennis. I’m not a big fan and I seldom agree with him, but I respect his unrelenting desire to fight windmills. The Cleveland Plain Dealer carried an op-ed piece written by Congressman Kucinich on March 14, 2010 that was vintage Dennis.
Congressman Kucinich is a strong advocate of a single payer health care system. He is not bashful about this. His distrust of insurance companies in 2010 rivals his love affair with the banks and CEI in the late 70’s. He is nothing if not consistent. As a leading member of the Progressive Caucus of the Democratic Party, he added numerous amendments to the House’s health care bill that would have pushed our country in a direction most of us would want to avoid. As his extreme measures were stripped from the bill, he and his fellow Progressives swore that they would not vote for any bill that failed to include a strong public option.
We’ve discussed the public option several times over the last year. There is little need to revisit the weakness of this concept again in this post. What is relevant today is Congressman Kucinich’s adamant opposition to the poorly written bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and the unrestrained vitriol he unleashed on the hodgepodge that emerged from the Senate.
As President Obama and Speaker Pelosi rushed to find 216 votes to pass the Senate bill in the House, Congressman Kucinich suddenly became relevant. The Today Show and other morning broadcasts, the Sunday new shows, and the weekday opinion programs all discovered Dennis. Congressman Kucinich was going to vote NO, even if he was the deciding vote. Fox News and Michael Moore (!) applauded his gumption, though for entirely different reasons. Democratic Party leaders rushed to Countdown with Keith Olbermann and the Rachel Maddow Show to declare that Dennis Kucinich led a group of one. They sneered at his presidential runs and other solitary crusades.
What a difference a plane ride makes. President Obama visited Strongsville this week. Several local members of Congress got a ride from Washington aboard Air Force One. Air Force One, the magic plane. Do you remember the Newt Gingrich melt down after Bill Clinton gave him a ride on AFO? Dennis didn’t have a chance. By the time the plane landed, Congressman Kucinich was UNDECIDED. His move to YES was a forgone conclusion. Now cited for his leadership just a week after he was dismissed by the party’s chiefs, Dennis Kucinich was co-opted. It turns out that some strongly held positions are no match for a really cool plane ride.
My representative in Congress is Marcia Fudge. Many of my fellow insurance agents have contacted their Congressman. Most of my clients are small business owners and some of them have tried to talk to their representative. I know that other chamber of commerce presidents have called Congress. Not me. I resisted calling Congresswoman Fudge as a constituent, agent, business owner, or even as President of the Beachwood Chamber of Commerce. Why? There didn’t seem to be any reason to waste the time. Marcia Fudge’s vote was never a doubt. I couldn’t see any value in the exercise and I didn’t want to get aggravated.
I can’t explain why, but I changed my mind on Monday. Maybe it was Dennis’s conversion. Perhaps it was the mindless attacks on my industry or my disdain of smoke and mirrors. Whatever the reason, I finally contacted Congresswoman Fudge’s office on Tuesday. I spoke with legislative aide Beverly Charles.
I started our conversation by establishing my Democratic Party bona fides. Regular readers of this blog know that they are extensive.
I asked Ms. Charles a very simple question. “What is Congresswoman Fudge’s position on the health care legislation?” I was told that she was UNDECIDED. I was surprised. I talked with Ms. Charles for about thirty minutes. She was fully versed in the Speaker’s talking points. Her knowledge on the subject appeared to be a mile wide and an inch deep. She emailed her thanks the next day. I offered this blog and the opportunity to meet in person to provide more useful info.
Was Congresswoman Fudge really UNDECIDED? Absolutely not. According to the New York Times and Doctors for Health Care Solutions, she had already made her decision. DOHCS had been asked to have 75 members, all wearing white lab coats, to appear on short notice to serve as stage props when Marcia holds her press conference. This assumes that she gets a press conference. Since she was always counted as a YES, her announcement is hardly news. But my question is does Ms Charles know as much about her boss’s position on the issue as she does about this legislation, or was I simply being placated? I think we know the answer.
President Obama asked Congress for Courage at this week’s pep rally in Strongsville. There has been very little courage exhibited by this Congress.