Kucinich: Osama Should Not Be Assassinated

Rep. Dennis Kucinich answers questions in our presidential mashup.

The following is an unedited transcript and may contain typos or omissions. Click here for more on the presidential mashup.

Rose: Congressman Kucinich, welcome to “mashup,” this online debate. Let me begin by talking about Iraq. We’ll have three minutes for that. And three minutes health-care education. And three minutes for a wild card. I begin with Iraq. Gen. Petraeus has made his statement to Congress, answered questions. The president will apparently support him. Is anything the Congress can do and will do to change that strategy?

Kucinich: Well, are we forgetting something here? I mean, do we still have civilian leadership in the United States or have we torn that page out of our Constitution as well? The founders made it very clear that Congress under Article 1, Section 8 has the power of war. And Congress also has the power of the purse. Congress must tell the president now, “The war is over. Bring the troops home. Bring the equipment home. Force those mercenaries to come home. Get Halliburton out of there.” I mean, Congress has the power, and they can take action now. We cannot to fund this war.

Rose: Why hasn’t Congress done it so far? Why hasn’t Congress done it so far?

Kucinich: Good question. It hasn’t been—listen, Congress is afraid to take on this president. We engage in all of these phony debates about the war. The essential question of the war—does it continue to be funded? I pointed this out over and over. It does not take another vote, Charlie. It simply is for the leadership of the House to tell the president, “We’re not going to give you any money. Start bringing those troops home now.” And after all, isn’t that what they told the American people they would do when the Democrats were elected in 2006?

Rose: If the Congress doesn’t have the votes to do it and you can’t get enough Republicans to support a Democratic position, what is the strategy that you would have for the American government and the American military in Iraq after the surge ends?

Kucinich: First of all, you do not—Charlie, I’ll say it again. You don’t need votes to end this war. The leadership has to tell the president, “No more money.” But here’s my strategy. It’s a strategy that I articulated over four years ago. The Congress tells the president, “No more money for the war,” and that we have to go out and end the war, end the occupation, have a plan to bring the troops home with a parallel process simultaneously, an international peace-keeping and security force that moves in as our troops leave. That way, Iraq’s stable. But in addition to that, stop the privatization of Iraq’s oil. This is a prescription to keep the war going. No partition of Iraq. We have to have a program for honest reconstruction, for a chance for reconciliation between the Shiites, the Sunnis, and the Kurds, and also for reparations to the Iraq people. But right now, what’s the Bush administration doing? They’re keeping the war going, they’re moving towards trying to privatize Iraq’s oil, they’re doing everything they can to create instability in the region. The occupation is feeling the insurgency. We must end war, we must bring our troops home, and we must have a Congress that stands up to this president to make that happen.

Rose: All right, this is a useful question, and I’ll go a little bit over here on Iraq and take it from somewhere else. From J.D. Younger—he says, “If the insurgents and civil war continue or intensify after implementing your respective strategy, what then for the Iraqis?”

Kucinich: Well, first of all, the plan that I have is going to lessen the conflict, because, J.D., you must realize that it is our occupation of Iraq that has fueled the insurgency. There is over a million innocent Iraqis who have died during the course of this war. We have an obligation to get out of Iraq. But we have to have it stabilized at the same time. Now, how do you do that? You go to Iran and Syria, which the Baker-Hamilton report recommended, and get their help in putting together an international peace-keeping and security force. Now, I have the plan, it’s HR 1234, to stabilize Iraq, but it begins with the United States getting out. We must bring our troops home, J.D.

Rose: All right, let me turn to health care. Do you favor universal coverage for everyone without exception, and if so, how would you pay for it?

Kucinich: Well, first of all, I’m for a national health-care plan. I’m the co-author of the bill HR 676, Medicare for All. Charlie, the whole debate about universal health care has been a fraud. All these other candidates are talking about keeping the for-profit insurance companies in charge of health care in America. That’s not what I’m talking about, because I realize, as the viewers do, that these private insurers make money not providing health care. And so, I’m saying no more role for them. Let the United States be like every other industrialized democracy in having a health-care plan, a national plan where we take care of our people. And we’re already paying for it. We spend $2.2 trillion on health spending, but $600 billion of it goes for the activities of the for-profit system each year. I’m talking about taking that money, putting it to care for people. And suddenly, we have enough money to cover everything for all Americans, including vision care, dental care, mental health, long-term care, prescription drugs. Charlie, this is the only plan that works. And all these other candidates—you know what they’re talking about? They’re talking about the American people having to pay more for their health care, because the minute that you leave the insurance companies in charge, you’re at their mercy with respect to premiums, co-pays, and deductibles. My plan: no more premiums, no more co-pays, no more deductibles, no more control of our health system by private insurance companies.

Rose: And it would cost how much?

Kucinich: It would cost the same amount we’re spending now, except that all the money goes into the system.

Rose: All right. This is a question—

Kucinich: And has been paid for by—go ahead, Charlie.

Rose: This is a question—OK, because of the time considerations, from a doctor from Maryland, Richard L. Stivelman. He says, “Why do you think that none of your fellow candidates support a single-payer system and what is their rationale that you so disagree with?”

Kucinich: Well, I think there’s a couple reasons. One is the amount of money they get from health-care interests. Another one is their own financial interests. A third one is the fact that they’re afraid to take on the insurance companies because of the insurance companies’ influence in Washington. Let me tell you this: I haven’t been bought by anyone. I don’t have any investments that are going to be compromised by backing a plan which everyone in this country has health care, and I’m not afraid to take on the challenge. When you think about it, you have three candidates, Sens. Clinton, Obama, and Edwards. All of them have said publicly, you know, they just don’t want to take on that fight, they don’t want to challenge the private insurers. Why? I’m ready for that. If someone wants to be president of the United States and they can’t take on the insurance companies, what are they going to do about the Halliburtons of the world? What are they going to do about the arms manufacturers? What are they going to do about the the monopolies that control our energy policies? I’m the one person who’s not only ready to be president of the United States, I’m ready to assume the full power that the people give a president instead of having that power be given to corporations who happen to prop up a candidate.

Rose: This is a user question from William C. Spruiell about education. He says, “If we want to compare school performance, we need a common set of national standards for measuring the performance, but we have a tradition of local control of schools, which means curricula and standards can vary enormously from place to place. How would you go about dealing with these conflicting desires?”

Kucinich: My election will mean the end of No Child Left Behind as a way of achieving the education of our children, because the fact of the matter is, No Child Left Behind has made testing the end-all and be-all of education. Of course, you have to have tests, but you to realize that some school districts, the students have already started out behind. I want a universal pre-kindergarten program so that every child age 3, 4, and 5 will have access to full-quality day care so that they’ll learn reading skills and social skills and learn the arts and languages to help them grow so they’re ready for the primary schools. And I’m also planning on a universal college education plan where every young American would be able to go to college or a public college or university tuition-free. We have to make education a priority, but all this debate about education and testing is almost beside the point. Our young people are falling farther and farther behind based on where we stand with other nations. We have to start focusing on education. We only spend a fraction of the money on education that we spend on arms buildups. Under a Kucinich administration, education becomes one of the top domestic priorities. We put money into it. We cause the government to be vitally involved in it. And we make sure our children have the love of knowledge. All this stuff about test-taking, we make children good little test-takers under No Child Left Behind. It’s the wrong approach to education.

Rose: What’s the federal government’s responsibility?

Kucinich: Great. It’s a great responsibility the federal government has. I’ll tell you how I’m going to get the money to fund a No Child Left Behind—excuse me—I’ll tell you where I’m going to get the money to fund a universal pre-kindergarten program. A 15 percent cut in the bloated Pentagon budget will yield $75 billion a year that will pay universal pre-kindergarten, as well as more money to fund elementary and secondary education. The government has a major responsibility. After all, an educated populous is core, central to democracy. Charlie, as you walk up the stairs of the Capitol on your way into the House of Representatives, way over the top of that entrance to the House is a statue of a woman whose arm is outstretched, and she is protecting a child who is sitting blissfully next to a pile of books. The title of that sculpture, which is right at the center of our national experience as we walk into the House: Peace Protecting Genius. The goddess of peace protects the child genius. Under a Kucinich administration, peace, strength through peace, focusing on education is going to give our children a chance to unfold in the joy that every child deserves.

Rose: All right. We now have a wild-card question. This one’s from a viewer named Bill, and he’s from Los Angeles. Listen to his question, and then if you’ll give us an answer, we’d appreciate it. Here it is.

Bill Maher: Congressman Kucinich, you said on my show you would not give the order to assassinate Osama Bin Laden. How can you expect even liberals such as myself to support you when you don’t even want the head of the man who, in the name of writing Muslim persecution, murdered 3,000 fellow citizens whose immediate complicity in the plight of Muslims is nonexistent?

Kucinich: Well, Bill, it’s nice to see you on Charlie Rose’s show. And I know that you’ll both help each other’s ratings. I want to say that our Constitution has been trashed by this administration. Former President Gerald Ford understood there are dangers when you use assassination as a tool. Assassination is really what’s called an extrajudicial killing. Look at the entire way this administration has changed our Constitution and what America’s values are. Extrajudicial killings are now licensed. Abu Ghraib, tortures—licensed. Guantanamo—people are not permitted to have a right to a trial. Habeas corpus has been trashed. You’re looking at the one person who really understands what this document, the Constitution of the United States, is all about. I want equal justice. I want Osama Bin Laden brought to justice. Now, if he resists in an attempt to arrest him, you know, whatever happens happens. But I think that we as a country need to reinstate this Constitution. This is the basis of our strength, and so I’m going to proceed to—for the whole world to understand the full power of the U.S. Constitution and what our system of justice is really about.

Thank you, Bill, for your question.

Rose: Let me follow up on my friend Bill Maher’s question. If in fact Osama Bin Laden is taken out by some kind of airstrike, would you be pleased?

Kucinich: Again, I think that my position is that, you know, we’ve already tried that, Charlie. That we’ve had airstrikes all along the Pakistani border. We’ve killed a lot of innocent villagers in this search for Osama Bin Laden. Where does it end? Do you nuke a country in order to get one person? I’m saying that we have to follow international law. We cannot get into a kind of international vigilantism. We have to unite this country in the sense of upholding the law. We must join the international criminal court because our officials must equally be accountable to the law. President Gerald Ford understood that you start licensing assassination in any way, shape, or form, that it endangers our own country and our own leaders. So I’m saying that we have to be very concerned about the consequences of our action. That—stop the deaths of innocents, because that’s what’s been going on. The question about Osama Bin Laden, Al Sharpton said it a few years ago. Osama been gone. He’s putting out more videos than a lot of people get on MTV. And so, despite that, we don’t know where he is. The fact of the matter is, we’ve got to change our international policies, and that’s what my doctrine of strength through peace represents. No more unilateralism first-strike pre-emption. That’s the neo-cons that took us into the war based on lies. I was the one person of all these people running for president who not only spoke out against the war, but voted against the war, voted 100 percent of the time against funding the war. As a plan to end the war, I’ve met with leaders in Syria and Lebanon to talk about organizing the region to stabilize Iraq. We really have to take a new direction. And this goes way beyond Osama Bin Laden.

Rose: And I have to interrupt you only because of the time considerations. I hope to see you soon here at the table in New York. And thank you for doing this with us.

Kucinich: Charlie Rose, great to see you. Let’s do it again.

Rose: Thank you very much. Congressman Dennis Kucinich. We’ll be back in a moment.