Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Obama pressures Kucinich in Strongsville, on Air Force One

Dennis Kucinich flew to Cleveland on Air Force One with Barack Obama yesterday, and the president spent the flight pressing stubborn Dennis to vote for his health-care reforms. Up on the podium in Strongsville, Obama turned up the pressure with a smile. He name-dropped Kucinich, an audience member shouted, "Vote yes!" and Obama turned and said, "Did you hear that, Dennis?"

But Kucinich has already said he's voting no on the Democrats' health-care bill. {See update below.} His Sunday Plain Dealer op-ed lays out his reasons why: Forcing people to buy private health insurance, without giving them a publicly-run option, risks exposing more people to insurance-company abuses.

Kucinich is taking a huge risk. Voting no will preserve his reputation as a champion of government-run health care -- and his self-image as a solitary hero. But it'll anger his progressive allies and donors across the country. They'll see what many Clevelanders saw in 2007 when I wrote my Kucinich profile, "The Missionary": His solitary far-left stands can make him irrelevant when progressives try make real but incremental change. Markos Moulitsas, founder of the left-wing blog Daily Kos, says Kucinich should face a Democratic primary challenge in 2012 if he votes no and the bill goes down.

Last night on MSNBC, Rachel Maddow was interviewing U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, and she mentioned Kucinich in her question about a public option. Without talking about his colleague, Brown drew a distinction between Kucinich's approach and his.

"You understand how progressive movements work," Brown said. "When Social Security was passed in the '30s, it wasn’t all that great at the time. When Medicare was passed, it was good but not great. So much of what we’ve done on abolishing child labor, on safe drinking water and clean air, worker’s compensation and minimum wage: We passed a decent bill and improved on it decade after decade."

Check out this video, with Obama making his case in Strongsville at 0:30 and pressuring Kucinich at 3:38, and Maddow's question to Brown at 8:32.

{Update, 3/17: The pressure worked. Kucinich will vote yes.}

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