GORGED ON CAVIAR, FRENCH CHAMPAGNE and Havana cigars, the Hollywood revelers turned in recent days to the serious business of picking the Democratic puppet they aim to make President via the political war culminating in November 2004.
These Leftist powerbrokers have been basking on the sunny beaches not of California but of Hollywood, Florida. They are not thin, beautiful celebrities but greasy-palmed fat cat bosses of organized labor accustomed to throwing their weight around. They flew their aristocratic private jets to this luxury beach junket that few unionized workers (whose coerced dues fund the labor boss lifestyle and union power) could afford.
One by one, presidential hopefuls of the Democratic Party have come to pledge that they would do the bidding of these guilded Godfathers. Senators Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and John Edwards of North Carolina came on their knees as humble supplicants to kiss the rings of AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and his operatives.
So too did the rising star of the far Left, the snarky former Governor Howard Dean from the state whose only congressman is a self-proclaimed socialist – Vermont. Dean says he speaks for "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party." This claptrap phrase, shamelessly stolen from the late Senator Paul Wellstone (D.-Minn.), shows Dean to be a graduate of the Joe Biden School of Political Plagiarism. It also shows how brain-dead and short of memory his fans are.
Congressman Dick Gephardt (D.-Mo.), former House Minority Leader, arrived with his begging bowl in hand, desperate for union support. He has certainly paid his dues, the bosses agreed. Gephardt throughout his 26 years in Congress has been a labor sock puppet, ready to mouth or do anything the unions commanded. If any lawmaker should be called a "wholly owned subsidiary" of the AFL-CIO, Gephardt is that guy.
Trouble is, the formerly freckled Eagle Scout even today looks too much like the love child of Howdy Doody, minus this woody parent’s charisma and charm. Dick Gephardt is experienced and adept at legislative compromise, but he is also dull as dirt. A quarter-century of political prostitution has left him as pliable and spineless as Silly Putty.
Gephardt, the son of a Teamster Union member, no longer believes in anything except his own ambition. It is therefore hard for voters to believe passionately in him.
"Candidates have to connect with voters…stand for some issues and look people in the eye and convince them," said Andy Stern, President of the Service Employees International Union. Stern, like many other union bosses, believes that Gephardt has yet to persuade his members that he can win the Presidency in 2004.
Unless organized labor steps forward soon with its millions of dollars and foot soldiers to play primaries king-maker in his behalf, it seems increasingly clear that Dick Gephardt will not become king.
But gaining such endorsement this year is hard. It requires two-thirds of the 65 AFL-CIO unions’ support. And AFL-CIO President Sweeney has barred his state federations and central labor councils from making endorsements ahead of the whole federation. Sweeney, with a wetted ring finger in shifting political winds, is urging all national unions to bide their time.
Another presidential aspirant eager for labor support is Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D.-Ohio) from the half-rustbelt, half-Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame City of Cleveland. He appears to patronize the same unionized toupee maker as Gephardt. Also like Gephardt, Roman Catholic Kucinich used to oppose abortion.
But on the eve of his running for the nomination of the pro-abortion Democratic Party, Kucinich like Gephardt had a revelation. Kucinich came to see that he had a choice: he could oppose the killing of 1.5 million unborn babies a year, or he could approve all abortion and thereby save the world by becoming President.
Both these politicians, demonstrating the depth of their moral character, instantly jettisoned their former religious beliefs against abortion and chose instead to turn these 1.5 million aborted babies each year into their stepping stones to the White House and political power.
But where Gephardt seems too bland and moderate to excite the Leftist Democratic base voter, Kucinich at least on paper offers these faithful lots of red meat. Where Gephardt and all other congressional Presidential hopefuls voted to grant Iraq war powers to President George W. Bush, Kucinich bucked public opinion to vote against this resolution.
While other lawmakers might cut funding for the Department of Defense, Rep. Kucinich on his surreal congressional web site boasts that he wants to replace it altogether with a "Department of Peace" the goal of which is "to make war archaic." He was one of six Democratic members of Congress who sued President Bush, asking a judge to declare war with Iraq illegal and unconstitutional, a lawsuit quickly slapped down.
Kucinich here proudly declares his efforts "to close the School of the Americas" where anti-Communist soldiers from the Hemisphere have received training. Here he also prates about how he "marched with workers through the streets of Seattle protesting the WTO’s [World Trade Organization’s] policies" in what turned into window-smashing, anti-capitalism riots.
Kucinich, we here discover, is co-chair of Congress’s "Progressive Caucus." You will recall that this coalition of Leftist Democrat lawmakers has been formally affiliated with the Democratic Socialists of America, a fact both groups now move heaven and earth to conceal.
But Kucinich does little to hide his own political agenda. If elected President, he says, he would bring about "universal health care" (i.e., socialized medicine) and repeal all of President George W. Bush's tax cuts.
Repealing those tax cuts is vital to Big Labor. Blue collar union membership is in steep decline, down to only about 8.5 percent of America’s workforce. The one bright spot is among government workers, upwards of 30 percent of whom are unionized. (No wonder President Bush is pressing for Federal job "outsourcing" to the private sector to reduce the need for government employees!)
If Big Government is to get bigger, taxes must not be cut but raised, even if blue collar union workers are the victims of such tax increases. Hey, this is where fat cats like John Sweeney get their money now. Ever-Bigger Government is one of organized labor’s two New Frontiers, its future – if it has any at all.
As a sign of their desperation, the Laborite bosses in Florida have also allocated $20 million from coerced union dues to a new power grab called "the Partnership for America’s Families." Its goal is to expand get-out-the-vote programs beyond union members to a host of non-union voters – especially women, blacks, and Hispanics.
This circumvents new campaign finance restrictions and lets a shrinking labor movement retain and expand its power within the Democratic Party. (Recent Democratic National Conventions have drawn up to 25 percent of their delegates from public sector teachers’ unions, not to mention other unions.)
Kucinich has already been praised (and almost endorsed) by Ralph Nader, the "progressive" whose 2000 Green Party candidacy drained a decisive 92,000 from Al Gore in Florida and cost Democratic nominee Al Gore the White House. Nader presumably would have little reason to run against his fellow socialist Dennis the Menace.
As to Disorganized Labor’s values, where Dick Gephardt now calls for higher minimum wages in the Third World to reduce foreign competition, Kucinich calls for the outright repeal of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Kucinich would in effect close our borders to foreign competitors and force American consumers to buy the costlier products of unionized factories here.
But when I said Kucinich offered "red meat" to the Looney Left, perhaps I should have said "green flesh." Like that earlier socialist Adolf Hitler, Dennis Kucinich is a vegetarian.
As he describes himself thirdhand on his own web site, Kucinich "is one of the few vegans in Congress, a dietary decision he credits not only with improving his health, but in deepening his belief in the sacredness of all species." But how does he reconcile this with the separation of church and state? And if he refuses to eat meat, why does he want, in P.J. O’Rourke’s pungent phrase, to eat the rich?
This lack of a complete spectrum of proteins in his brain may also explain why Kucinich believes that he "combines a powerful activism with a spiritual sense of the essential interconnectedness of all living things." This guy could win the Northern California vote.
The main problem for Dennis Kucinich is the required leap from hyperspace into concrete reality, as it is for most socialists. In person, Dennis the Vegan is wrinkled and looks much older than his 56 years. He is no poster child for health or animal magnetism. Envision a small mustache beneath his nose, and the straight-black-haired Kucinich looks remarkably like Hitler.
Under questioning he slithers like a snake to avoid answering whether his support for abortion includes late term or "partial birth" abortion. He has cooked up fanciful explanations to blame capitalists for how, as a young 31-year-old Mayor of Cleveland, his wunderkind high-handedness plunged the city into virtual bankrupcy.
And he gets testy when reminded that he called for ending Iraq sanctions in the November 2002 issue of The Progressive Magazine, but on Meet the Press on February 23, 2003, he called for using sanctions – but no violence – to oust Saddam Hussein.
By holding himself out as spokesman for "peace" on the Democratic side, noted Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, this issue "is becoming an emotional battle between ideologues who, as usual, don’t give a damn about the truth. Kucinich seems to be one of those."
"If he and his fellow antiwar candidates are going to turn a complex debate into an ideological brawl, then one outcome of the potential war will not be in doubt," Cohen continued. "The Democratic Party will lose."
Thus far Kucinich attracts only about 2 percent of Democratic supporters in the latest Time-CNN poll. Organized labor is not rushing to embrace him.
Even Richard Cohen, after watching Kucinich on Meet the Press claim that the Iraq war is about oil (and after Cohen found himself applauding fellow guest and former Defense Dept. official Richard Perle for calling Kucinich a "liar") reached a conclusion about this Democratic congressman hard for a liberal to admit: "How did this fool get on ‘Meet the Press?’"
On another chat show Mr. Kucinich proclaimed yet another Leftist rationale for peace – that Saddam Hussein was hanging on to his forbidden missiles, despite chief United Nations inspector Hans Blix’s orders, for a good reason.
George W. Bush was to blame, declared Kucinich, because America’s hawkish President had made Saddam Hussein "feel threatened and insecure." (You can’t make this kind of genuine lunacy up!)
Okay, let’s expand Dennis Kucinich’s reasoning. Why is President Bush behaving this way? Could it be because Democrats like Dennis Kucinich are attacking him verbally and trying to take his job away? They are making President Bush "feel threatened and insecure."
So to get peace with Iraq, Mr. Kucinich, why don’t you and all other Democrat presidential aspirants terminate your campaigns and declare your support for another four-year term for President Bush? This will end his insecurity and allow Mr. Bush to make peace with Saddam Hussein without fear of political consequences from you.
Yes, this is crazy. But that’s the point. This is how Dennis Kucinich and his fellow looney Left peaceniks actually think. They are, in liberal Richard Cohen’s words, "Antiwar and Illogical."
Let’s turn to another serious issue affecting the price of our gasoline for Kucinich, Gephardt, and Disorganized Labor to answer.
Right now in Venezuela the Marxist dictator and friend of Fidel Castro, Presidente for Life Hugo Chavez, has begun jailing the organizers of a national strike against him.
Chavez has said he will jail the leader of the nation’s biggest labor confederation, Carlos Ortega, for having dared to lead work-stopping demands that Chavez face a vote of the people.
The "Progressive Caucus" co-chaired by Kucinich has supported Chavez, their ideological brother. But now Chavez says he will imprison a labor leader, now in hiding, for the "crime" of calling for and leading a strike.
What does it tell us about the nature of today's Left in America that they say nothing louder than a whisper about either Saddam Hussein's or Hugo Chavez's gross violations of human rights? Do America's union bosses nowadays stand up for workers' rights - or only for their own power and privilege?