Kucinich campaigns on Hawaii 'aloha spirit'
By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer
By Derrick DePledge
U.S. Sen. Barack Obama took his presidential campaign to Iowa last week, meeting with voters in a state with pivotal caucuses. U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was in California, touring neighborhoods in a state with an early primary that could help swing the Democratic nomination.
U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich? He came to Hawai'i.
"I think it really has to do with the aloha spirit," the Ohio congressman said in an interview. "The aloha spirit involves a gentleness, a desire for harmony with nature, a desire for peace, and that's what I embody.
"I not only embody it personally, but I try to help our nation embody those principles."
Kucinich, whose early and consistent opposition to the Iraq war has given him a passionate following among many on the left, is the only presidential candidate to campaign in the Islands this year. He visited the Big Island on Thursday and Maui yesterday. He has appearances planned today on Maui and O'ahu.
Kucinich has been drawn to the Islands since his 2004 presidential campaign, when he finished an unexpected second in the state's caucuses behind U.S. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the eventual nominee. Kerry asked Kucinich to campaign for him in the Islands after late polls suggested the solidly Democratic state might be competitive.
Kucinich also came to the Islands in 2006 for U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawai'i, during his primary fight against Ed Case, the former congressman. Akaka's advisers believed Kucinich's anti-war credentials would help the senator close liberals and independents who might have been thinking about supporting Case.
Kucinich, a former mayor of Cleveland in his sixth term in Congress, is popular on the Neighbor Islands.
"He sort of represents a very coherent, philosophically consistent opposition leader," said Lance Collins, a Wailuku attorney active among Maui Democrats.
The state's caucuses are on Feb. 19 and many Democrats believe Obama, of Illinois, and Clinton, of New York, have the best chances among a diverse field of candidates. Obama was born and spent his teenage years in Hawai'i and has an organized local campaign team. Clinton has the support of U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawai'i, the state's top Democrat, and state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, D-21st (Nanakuli, Makaha).
Obama volunteers are expecting 250 people for a fundraiser today at Bishop Museum that will include speeches by his sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, and U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawai'i. Obama has taped a video message that will be shown at the fundraiser.
Chuck Freedman, a local Obama coordinator, said Obama will likely not campaign in the Islands and may miss his usual holiday visit because of schedule pressures. He said Kucinich has had a consistent following in the state and that Clinton could be formidable. But he believes Obama will likely take the state's caucuses.
Mike McCartney, the chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawai'i, said Kucinich brought many liberals and independents into the party in 2004, giving the party energy and fresh voices. He said activists respect Kucinich for his anti-war stance and his fearlessness in challenging President Bush.
"He has charisma and is able to communicate well and effectively with people," McCartney said. "He's intellectual. But he has personality."
Kucinich not only opposed the war but has also voted against continued federal funding for the war. He described his national security strategy as "strength through peace," which would promote diplomacy with rival nations and reject war as an instrument of policy.
Kucinich dismissed President Bush's recent strategy on Iraq as going from "a surge to a stall." He also believes an underlying goal of the Bush administration in Iraq is to privatize Iraq's oil.
"This administration, without fully explaining to the American people what this is about, is trying to use the power of the United States to steal Iraq's oil," he said.
"Mark my words on this. This is going to be an issue that will shake the pillars of this government because it points directly to a war for oil."
Reach Derrick DePledge at email@example.com.