Political Hay

Dennis the Mouse

Political cowardice in the face of life translates into political death.

2.24.03

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Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, got quite angry Sunday when "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert asked him why he had "turned on a dime" on the abortion issue.

That's not true, Kucinich huffily shot back.

"The position I'm taking now is an expansion; it's not a reversal. It's not an attempt to, at the beginning of a presidential campaign, just flip. I made that decision long before I even thought about running for president."

To which Russert should have responded: "Who are you trying to kid, Congressman?"

Waaaaay back in May of 2002, Kucinich's press secretary told me how "he absolutely believes in the sanctity of life and that life begins at conception." His score from the National Right to Life Committee then was a near-perfect 95.

Yet Kucinich was no Zell Miller-like conservative Democrat. He was -- and is -- a fire-breathing left-wing ideologue. He represented a dying breed of lefties who had emerged before Roe v. Wade. They saw opposing abortion as a moral responsibility in keeping with opposing capital punishment, human rights abuses, war and the like.

Yet today he nonsensically says that his position has "expanded" to include "that under our Constitution, a woman does have a right to choose."

It doesn't take an advanced degree in political science to see what happened. Now that he nurses dreams of becoming a serious Democratic presidential contender (or at least of supplanting Ralph Nader as the standard-bearer for the radical left), Kucinich has found his pro-life politics to be a major impediment.

So he dumped them.

The switch began last year right at about the same time that Kucinich was first attracting attention for his anti-war views. When left-wing magazines began touting him as a candidate, feminists like The Nation's Katha Pollitt shot back: "Not him."

After that, he began to quietly retreat on abortion.

In 2002, he voted to allow federal funding for abortions at overseas military bases. He abstained from a vote on a partial birth abortion ban, after supporting a "health of the mother" amendment that would have effectively undermined it. He also abstained from voting on the "Abortion Non-Discrimination Act."

But that apparently wasn't enough to placate the feminists. So when he announced his bid earlier this month, he made the switch complete. He even told the Cleveland Plain Dealer he would only support pro-choice Supreme Court nominees.

Kucinich, though, clearly feels some pangs of conscience over this, as his refusal to acknowledge the extent of his change shows.

As he is about to find out, it is a major mistake.

Had Kucinich stuck with his original beliefs, he certainly would have stood out among the Democrats. With Al Sharpton, Carol Moseley-Braun and Howard Dean all vying for the left-liberal Democratic vote, he needed something to distinguish himself.

Being pro-life might have enabled him to draw in non-traditional Democratic voters -- exactly the sort of people who could have given him upset victories in the primaries. That's probably the best chance a darkhorse like him had.

Instead, he caved.

Kucinich is gambling that this will neutralize the issue. He's almost certainly wrong. Rivals for the leftist Democratic vote aren't likely to let it slide.

And why should they? If Kucinich can flip-flop on an issue this big, what does that say about the guy?

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