THE BLOG
12/13/2006 09:50 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Kucinich Announces for President; NYT Wins Media Sneer Contest

Robert Naiman, Just Foreign Policy

Representative Dennis Kucinich announced yesterday his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, emphasizing his call to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq and to cut off funding for the war to bring that about.

If you learned this from some of the mainstream media, you might also have learned that our nation's newspapers apparently think that this wasn't a news story, but an opportunity for ridicule.

Here's what the not-too-bad Washington Post story had to say:

Unhappy With Democrats Over Iraq, Kucinich Plans Another Bid for White House

Citing dissatisfaction with his party's strategy on Iraq, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (Ohio) announced yesterday that he would run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Again. [Omigod! He ran before and didn't get elected, but now he's running again!! What is he thinking?! How scandalous!]

Kucinich, 60, a five-term House member and one of the most liberal members of his party, made an unsuccessful bid for the nomination in 2004. He stayed in the race long after it became clear he had no chance of success. [You mean, long after it became clear that he would not win the nomination. Sometimes politicians run for office to put or keep issues in discussion, something made more necessary by the fact that major media often refuse to report on issues that major-party politicians aren't talking about, a fact of which the Post reporters and editors are surely aware.]

The congressman said he would announce his candidacy today at City Hall in Cleveland, where he served as mayor in the late 1970s and plunged his city into a celebrated budget crisis over the electric utility, Muny Light. [The city's creditor banks forced the city into default when Kucinich refused their demands to privatize the utility. See David Plata, Sun Newspapers, "Kucinich given thanks for keeping Muny Light.] As a member of Congress, Kucinich has been a vocal critic of the war and has complained that his party has not done enough to force a withdrawal of U.S. troops.

"Democrats were swept into power on November 7 because of widespread voter discontent with the war in Iraq," Kucinich said. "Instead of heeding those concerns and responding with a strong and immediate change in policies and direction, the Democratic congressional leadership seems inclined to continue funding the perpetuation of the war."

While many fellow Democrats have strongly opposed the war, Kucinich has suggested that Congress stop funding it. In the past, Kucinich has proposed creating a universal health care system and a national peace department.

OK, that brief article wasn't so bad: only three sneers and a bunch of useful information. [Ah, the soft bigotry of low expectations.] But that was pretty good compared to the New York Times, which should win some kind of alternative Pulitzer for a fluff article on the theme that Kucinich's candidacy shows that just about anybody can run for President nowadays. You have to read 5/6 of the article before the word "Iraq" appears.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer endorsed Kucinich for re-election to Congress, noting his "constant, principled and proper objection to the war in Iraq," and saying, "Should the Democrats be successful in gaining control ... Kucinich finally would be well-placed ... Were he to become part of a Democratic majority, the eloquence of his arguments would find a proper national stage." So you might think they would do better, and at first you are not disappointed, as the article starts off pretty well, with just a bit of sneering, informing us that Kucinich is " known locally as a populist politician who presided over the city when it slid into default in the late 1970s" (and saved the city's public electric utility) but then usefully letting us know that "Kucinich has earned a national reputation as an anti-war activist, in part thanks to his proposal to create a Cabinet-level department of peace."

But this sort of actual reporting can't go on for long. Down comes the hammer:

Stephen Hess, a George Washington University public affairs professor [says] "What [Kucinich] has got is a name that's hard to pronounce [!!] and an ideology that's pretty far to the margins of his party," Hess said. [A third of the Democrats in the House belong to the Progressive Caucus, with similar positions to Kucinich on a range of issues.] Political handicapper Stuart Rothenberg agrees, adding that Kucinich won't be able to raise as much money as other contenders and that "he has painted himself into representing a tiny corner of the Democratic Party." "After a while, Congressman Kucinich's Don Quixote-like struggle starts to appear kind of goofy," Rothenberg said. "Everyone deserves a shot to run for president, but I am not sure everyone deserves two shots," he said. [According to what moral calculus does Rothenberg get to decide this? Who died and made him Pope?]

As we move towards 2008, if opposition to the war is marginalized from the Presidential debate, it will be more easily marginalized from the national political debate. This would, no doubt, delight many in the media.

If you think that serious newspapers ought to write a serious news article when the former chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus announces his candidacy for President on the basis of getting US troops out of Iraq and cutting off funding on the war, here are some addresses you might want to make use of:

To complain about bad New York Times reporting:
nytnews@nytimes.com, public@nytimes.com

To write a letter to the New York Times:
letters@nytimes.com