Kucinich: Edwards Trying to Rig Election
Dennis Kucinich is mad as hell and he’s not going to take it any more.
An angry Dennis Kucinich lashed out at John Edwards on Friday, saying his Democratic rival showed “a consistent lack of integrity” by suggesting fewer candidates should participate in presidential forums and then trying to explain his remark to reporters. “This is a serious matter and I’m calling him on it,” Kucinich, an Ohio congressman, said in a telephone interview Friday. “Whispering, trying to rig an election, then denying what’s going on and making excuses. It all reflects a consistent lack of integrity.”
Kucinich’s comments came after Edwards and Hillary Rodham Clinton were overheard Thursday discussing the possibility of limiting the number of participants in future presidential forums. In an exchange captured on camera and open microphone by broadcasters after an NAACP forum in Detroit, Edwards approached Clinton onstage and whispered in her ear. “We should try to have a more serious and a smaller group,” Edwards said, and Clinton agreed. “Our guys should talk,” Clinton said, complaining the format had “trivialized” the discussion.
Later Friday, Kucinich sent letters to both Clinton and Edwards challenging them to one-on-one debates, the Kucinich campaign said. “If you are truly seeking debates where there are fewer participants and where there is more meaningful and serious discourse, this is a great opportunity for us to join together in an open discussion on behalf of the American people,” the letter said.
That’s actually a rather clever response, although presumably not what they had in mind.
And, while I fully agree with the sentiments expressed by Edwards and Clinton in their private exchange, they’re not covering themselves with glory in their disingenous attempts to deny they meant it.
Both Edwards and Clinton were asked about the exchange Friday, and offered different explanations.
In New Hampshire, Clinton seemed to lay responsibility on Edwards. “I think he has some ideas about what he’d like to do,” she said, adding she liked participating in the forums.
For his part, Edwards told reporters in Iowa that he wasn’t in favor of barring anyone from future gatherings. Rather, he said he wanted to see them separated into two groups of four each, chosen randomly. “The result would be that we would have a much more serious discussion and people would actually be able to see what the differences are between us,” he said.
How hard is it to admit that they think it’s silly to invite guys like Kucinich and Mike Gravel to debates, eating up the time that could be given to serious candidates for the nomination? In addition to wasting everyone’s time, vanity candidates often derail the discussion with inflammatory rhetoric and off-the-wall commentary. There’s nothing unseemly about narrowing the focus to legitimate players.
UPDATE: Chris Dodd chimes in, a day late.
“I’d remind them that the mike is always on,” Dodd told reporters on Saturday after addressing a state convention of Utah Democrats. “Celebrity and money are not going to decide this race,” he said. “People take some offense at it in these early primary and caucus states.”
Dodd blasted debate organizers for giving Democratic candidates little opportunity to offer voters more than “bumper sticker answers” on important issues. “My problem is you’re insulting me and the American public when you give 30 seconds to talk about Darfur and Iraq,” he said. Sudan’s vast western Darfur region has been torn by ethnic conflict for four years, with more than 200,000 people killed and millions displaced.
But the reason they’ve got only 30 seconds each to talk about important issues? Too many candidates. Unless we subject people to five hour debates, truncated responses are the price of inclusion.
Unlike Kucinich, Dodd is a serious national figure. Like Jim Gilmore, though, he simply has no shot at winning the presidency.