Sunday, December 09, 2007

Cynthia McKinney in Iowa City, Liveblog

Cynthia McKinney in Iowa City, Liveblog

Good morning from the Cottage in downtown Iowa City. I'm here with ten or so folks to hear Cynthia McKinney. former Democratic congresswoman from Georgia, who's looking at a presidential campaign as a Green.

Several of the usual Green suspects are here: `06 governor candidate Wendy Barth, `02 lt. gov candidate Holly Hart, and Karen Kubby of the Emma Goldman clinic.

The run looks like a go: there's lit with a logo, and a website, Hart and McKinney are discussing the difficulty of ballot access in Oklahoma. "And I thought Georgia was the worst," McKinney offers. That was the state she represented fron 1992 to 2002 and again in 2005-06.

Why Iowa, now, in the middle of caucus season? "Why not now?" McKinney responds. She starts chatting with the local Greens and I get asked, for reasons that seem unclear, to stop the audio recorder, though I'm the only press here. She recalls her first trip to Iowa, for Paul Simon in the `88 caucuses.

They're planning to head up the street to the Hamburg Inn to crash the Coffee Bean Caucus, which only includes the Dems and the GOP. They discuss the logistics of getting into the `burg on a Sunday morning (their busiest time). Barth talks with me about the SODAPop sitins at presidential campaign offices. In Cedar Rapids a group meets every Wednesday at one of Hillary Clinton's Cedar Rapids offices. Why Hillary? She's the worst on the war, won't apologize for her vote, says Barth.

The crowd's up to about 15. At 9:42 the program gets slightly more formal, but the sound system's not on or needed. (As it's getting more formal, the audio recorder goes back on. I didn't miss any great Green Party secrets.) Hart is going the introduction, everyone applauds the word "impeachment."

McK compares the present era to the civil rights era in that things are bad -- but in the `60s things were moving in the right direction and there was hope. "How could it be that the myth of American prosperity could be laid bare before the world with Hurricane Katrina?" And New Orleans is a microcosm of what could happen to the rest of America. "We had Blackwater troops patrolling the streets. How could we turn mercenaries on our own people?" They're not rebuilding public housing, they're building million dollar condos.

"Since they don't have grounds to go to war, they lie to the American people." Says last two elections were stolen. "How could it be that we let these things happen and yet do nothing?" "You know that the election in Florida was stolen, and you know what happened, and yet we did nothing. In 2004, as in 2000, the theft turned on the black vote." Yet Dems, who get 90% of black vote, did nothing. "Where was the dissent on the part of the Democratic party, who conceded the very next day in 2004." Says we know what happened in Ohio in 2004 because of the Greens.

"Election theft didn't start with electronic voting machines, but now we have a problem with electronic voting machines." Cites errors in her district in `06, and ongoing court battled. "The court ruled that the election results belonged to Diebold. That's the state now where we are."

Moving to domestic spying. The greatest generation went across the ocean to fight for democracy and freedom, but they didn't fight for this. Dr. Martin Luther King and Coretta didn't dream about this."

Says her travels are showing her "the tremendous capacity" of America. Cites the Ike military-industrial speech. "There's a lot of theft. $2.3 trillion out of the pentagon is missing. It's not missing. They just don't want to tell you who got it." When I asked the Pentagon comptroller, they said "the computers don't talk to each other." And they spent $20 billion to try. "I'm sure the computer science students at Iowa State and UI could go a long way to making those computers talk to each other and net spend $20 billion." Calls the war a "credit card war."

Says economy is "a house of cards, and a little breath from China or Japan or the oil states could blow it over."

As she tested waters, she asked young black voters "are you wedded to the Democrats, and have you done your research." Says she didn't get one yes. "Every young black person I spoke to is open. They're open." So what's that something different? For some it's running, for others its opening their minds to a new political party. "Not only are young people looking for that kind of hope, but they're looking for hope that will talk directly to them and go where they are. So we have to do that."

For the Greens, it means "we have to go deep into some neighborhoods where it's hard to understand the accent -- now I have a REAL Southern accent -- we have to go to where the people are." And we have to know the votes will be counted. "You might not agree with the outcome, but you at least have to feel your position was considered."

People are coming who are Dems, indys, GOP... "in most places my audience have been small on the Green side and large on the independent thinking side."

Q and A. Why didn't Gore and Kerry fight the results harder? "You would have to ask them. But in Florida the African American turnout was nearly 100%. And their votes weren't respected enough to be fought for. For me it is absolutely unacceptable. It was the black vote that created the Dem majority, yet not one of those Senators elected because of the black vote raised their hand in objection. It would not have overturned the election, it would have merely given us two hours to debate what happened in Florida." It wasn't about Gore, it was about the voters.

Wendy Barth notes that Greens were founded by "environmentalist white folks," and how can that build a coalition with blacks? "I hope it's going to work and I wound be doing it if I didn't think it would work." Says her old district largely Georgia, and there were people who wouldn't even shake her hand. "But in four years we overcame a lot of mistrust. SO I think me coming from the south, having already gone into areas that were unfriendly... there was a tremendous burden on the whites there who didn't want to be up front, but did a lot in a subtle way." Then the district was abolished as a gerrymander "and destroyed all the good work we did."

Says there was a Green internal issue with the Jema 6. "It's important that my party be there on these issues. Can't just sit there and watch. And a beautiful press release was done -- and then the pushback came and people were saying it was inappropriate for the Green Party to make a statement. And then I received a message from one Green who was concerned. She agreed with the release, but her fellow greens disagreed on this issue. And she didn't know who's compass was off. And I told her, on this voyage, some will be left behind, because they're not ready. Some of the Greens are going to be just as alone as I have been."

Campaign finance. "The issue is where the $ comes from and what people expect when they make contributions. That's why the Green Party has taken a position -- which I think should be tweaked a bit. Usually corporate contributions are funneled through PACs and all PACS are not equal. I think we should be careful to be sure that our money is conscience money, heart money, and we should produce justice, peace and truth. Those values are worth making campaign contributions for. I've always supported public financing, which we don't have. It's interesting that the arms dealers support Hillary's campaign. I don't know what that means for the war machine."

Iran. "War should always be the last resort, and usually it is the last resort, even the war we have now. I would suspect that war will always remain an option if other items on the agenda are not achieved."

Do Dems like Kerry and Gore value their position in the elite so much that they caved on the election? What made you resist that? (Question hard to hear -- and follow.) "The initial bill to fund the war passed by exactly the number of voted required, 218. The War Party - Democrats and Republicans -- were counting their votes in 2006. If you are able to eliminate one sure No vote, you're closer to 218. I was the only member of the Democratic caucus who lost in 2006. Why? Because I was a sure No vote. The person recruited to challenge me voted yes."

"The people who don't share my values are good at what they do, and they are determined to thwart people like us." Notes how unrepresentative Congress is -- too old, too male. "I've been invited to the club many times, but the cost was not only my integrity, but my dignity."

First presidential term? Rolling back executive power, a Department of Peace (through the State Dept.) Pullback military around the world and an immediate jobs program. "The construction trades are here" (can't be outsourced) so focus on that. "Retrofit for a green, carbon-neutral lifestyle and repair our crumbling infrastructure." Calls it "radical common sense."

I ask about the Nader/spoiler effect. "Pay attention to the black vote. Democrats abandoned it, Republicans obstructed it. The facts include one million black people not having their votes counted, they said they were 'spoiled'. It has nothing to do with the Green Party, it has everything to do with who's counting the vote. There was a concerted effort to construct a convicted felon list, and the when a similar named person showed up to vote they couldn't And there were 90,000 names on that list. Those of us who researched this or were victimized by it, we're outraged."

McKinney says she's backing Cindy Sheehan in her primary challenge to Nancy Pelosi, and emphasized the importance of having people running for office. Ask who in the room has run for office, four hands go up (Barth, Hart, Putman, me.) "Because accountability is not permitted, I get kicked out in 2002, get kicked out again in 2006. I'm being held accountable to the wrong values. If our elected representatives fail to be held accountable, we hold them accountable, or we change them, the way they changed me. Katherine Harris was rewarded with a seat in Congress, and I was thrown out."

What else would you do different? McKinney talks of budgeting. "The biggest snarer of your dollars is the Pentagon. I would significantly decrease the amount of money spent by the Pentagon." Roll back Patriot Act and such. Roll back Bush tax cuts. "I've supported every universal single payer health care plan. People who rail against `socialized medicine' in Canada and the UK have to explain why life expectancy is longer in Canada and the UK, why infant mortality is lower in Canada and the UK." Interested in the role of "assassination as a tool of the state," citing MLK, Fred Hampton, Tupac.

I've spotted a late arriving elected official -- Kelley Putman from the Soil and Water Conservation Commission. (Last I talked to her, she was backing Bill Richardson.) She asks about home district support. "Not yet, because this effort is as yet unannounced. There's a massive effort to get the Green Party to get on the ballot." Says she didn't lose her primary to Democrats, she lost to Republican crossover. "They used redistricting as a tool to try to get rid of me."

After the speech, Putman, who's been active in both the Democrats and Greens, said she's still considering Richardson, but has some concerns with him about the death penalty. "I can't believe we don't have a better group of people who want to be president," she says.

"We're on the wrong track on just about every issue that concerns our way of life," says McKinney.

After the talk, I ask McKinney what Greens should do on caucus night. She doesn't nibble: "I'm not here to talk about the Democrats, I'm here to talk about the Greens." Ron Kinum of Iowa City says, "Dennis Kucinich is closer to the Greens." McKinney is happy about the Ron Paul movement. " It's wonderful for the Greens, because people are thinking independently."

In part 2: Caucusland is a small world.

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