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In the Crossfire

Kucinich's anti-war platform

Rep. Dennis Kucinich
Rep. Dennis Kucinich: "My aspirations for this country would be on the scope of what Franklin Roosevelt brought to this country in 1932 when he saw a nation that was broken economically."

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Promising to be the people's president and live in what he calls a worker's White House, Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio formed a presidential exploratory committee last week.

Kucinich is among a handful of lawmakers who have filed suit to stop the Bush administration from going to war with Iraq. Will his anti-war platform set him apart from the rest of the pack?

The former mayor of Cleveland stepped into the "Crossfire" on Friday with hosts Robert Novak and Paul Begala to outline what his presidential platform would look like.

NOVAK: Do you think it's time for somebody as far to the left as you are to get into the White House?

KUCINICH: Well, you know, when I was playing baseball when I was a kid, I could throw with either hand, and I can tell you that the American people want someone who is familiar with the scope of the political debate from both sides, but who's dedicated toward a transformation of our politics that deals with health care, education, retirement security, jobs, doing something about our trade deficit, and the kind of change that Franklin Roosevelt brought to this country in 1932.

NOVAK: Congressman Kucinich, there's one thing I used to admire you for: You are a pro-life liberal. You had a perfect, 100 percent anti-abortion voting record, and last year you completely switched. You didn't vote for a ban of partial-birth abortion and other proposals you voted against. Do you think to get in the Democratic Party now you have to be pro-abortion?

KUCINICH: Not at all. I think that one who leads and who intends to lead from an even higher office has to show a capacity for growth. And as you pointed out, I was ...

NOVAK: You changed. You did a switch-over.

KUCINICH: No, I expanded my view, Bob. Because what I believe is this is a very divisive debate, and I think that it's important to simultaneously affirm that a woman has a right to choose under the Constitution, and at the same time work, as I have my whole life, to see that abortions are not necessary, by having sex education and birth control and then prenatal care, postnatal care and child care.

NOVAK: But you voted for every single anti-abortion proposal in the Ohio legislature.

KUCINICH: My voting record is clear, and you're right about that, but I will tell you this, there is a move on in the Congress today to try to criminalize abortion, to repeal Roe v. Wade. I've never been for a constitutional amendment that would overturn Roe v. Wade.

I think that we need to have someone who can take a unifying position. [Someone] who [will say] that we'll do everything we can to make abortions less necessary and at the same time to protect a woman's right to choose, which is constitutionally protected.

So I think that it's possible to take that kind of acrimonious debate and try to heal this nation so that we're not divided and that we can accomplish two things, and that is, protecting life within the Constitution and making sure that a woman's right to choose is also protected.

BEGALA: Let me ask you now about a more fundamental issue than that, and that is experience, qualifications.

We now know the price of the on-the-job training in the Oval Office. We used to have peace and prosperity. We put a guy in there who wasn't experienced or qualified, and look what happened.

You've got two years as the mayor of Cleveland, two years in the Ohio state senate, six years in the Congress. Is that enough experience to be the president of the United States?

KUCINICH: Well, actually, my political experience goes back to 1967 and my first race for office in the city of Cleveland. I served in the Cleveland City Council. I served as clerk of the Cleveland courts. I served as mayor of Cleveland. I served in the Ohio senate, and I've served at every level of government: local, state and federal.

I've served in executive and legislative and a quasi-judicial office. I actually have broader experience in government than anybody in this race.

BEGALA: You mentioned Franklin Roosevelt a moment before. He had been the governor of a state, the assistant secretary of the Navy, he had run for vice president of the United States. He brought a wealth of experience that -- do you think you have the sort of experience FDR had coming into the office?

KUCINICH: Absolutely. Well, you know, I'm not going to compare myself to FDR. What I am saying is that my aspirations for this country would be on the scope of what Franklin Roosevelt brought to this country in 1932 when he saw a nation that was broken economically. He looked for a dramatic restructuring of the government to make sure that government served the people, not the corporations. To make sure that government produced jobs instead of let the corporations run the economy and result in cutting jobs. To make sure that retirement security was guaranteed and to do something about uplifting the quality of life for every American.

That's the kind of president I aspire to be, and I will tell you, if I get the nomination, I will bring in a whole Democratic Congress with me, if they follow that platform. ...

NOVAK: If the United Nations Security Council unanimously passes a resolution, and the Iraqis don't obey it, what alternative do we have but force?

KUCINICH: Iraq should be disarmed, and I think that Iraq should have a regime where all of the weapons are gone. And I also think that the United Nations has a responsibility to continue inspections.

But, having said that, the administration has not made its case to invade Iraq. Bob, they haven't proven that Iraq was connected to al Qaeda's role in 9/11.

NOVAK: What about Iraq not obeying the resolution passed by the United Nations?

KUCINICH: I think that the United Nations is clearly being pushed in the direction of war by the Bush administration. And I also think that that's not in the best interest of the world; that the Bush administration is threatening to destroy the United Nations over this, just as they threatened NATO, just as they are threatening other nations to go along.

I mean, the fact that Turkey is ready to join for what, $26 billion? There's no checkout counter in the world big enough to hold all those nations that are going to get into line to take money from this country in order for us to go into Iraq. And at what cost? At a cost of $1 trillion when we're not meeting all the needs in this country? I don't think so.


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