Well, I thought we had a really interesting interview on our hands. Democratic candidate Dennis Kucinich was banned from the ABC/Facebook presidential debates tonight because he didn’t have enough support in the polls. But he is an exciting candidate anyway – he speaks his mind, he’s got a lot of support on the Internet and tends to, like Mike Gravel, stir things up in his own party. He’s also doing well in our own Tech President primary – polling a strong second behind Barack Obama.
We did speak for a few minutes this morning, but didn’t get much past the niceties before Kucinich pulled the plug on the interview. I was not able to ask for his opinion on a single issue. In particular, I was looking for him to defend his position against H1B visas. We never got to the actual questions, though.
What we did get was about 11 minutes of salutations, a rant on nuclear weapons and a few detours on NASA and the internal combustion engine. I was able to ask him if he was going to consider running as an independent candidate. He said he would not. Just before we ended he offered to do a follow up. To the extent he stays in the race, we’d be happy to do it again, and talk about the issues.
The podcast is up at TalkCrunch and embedded below, as well as a transcript of the conversation.
Michael Arrington: Hello, this is Mike Arrington from TechCrunch. Today I am talking to Congressman Dennis Kucinich, a Democrat candidate for president in ’08, about his positions on technology related issues. Congressman Kucinich, thank you for your time, and welcome to TechCrunch.
Congressman Dennis Kucinich: Thank you, it’s very good to be with you, thank you.
MA: Where are you today?
DK: I’ve been going throughout New Hampshire — in the rural areas as well as the cities — and we are just returning from Peterborough to Manchester. I was in Bennington earlier in the day, the last few days I’ve been in Concord traveling — traveling the state essentially.
MA: That’s great. I’m in California and actually we’ve had some pretty big storms out here. My power and internet is out so I’m actually – my car on a cell phone is the only way I could actually have this call. It’s some pretty bad storms out here.
DK: Would you want to reschedule when you’ve got internet?
MA: No, I have internet in my car through my cell phone, but it’s just, I actually don’t mind doing this, but it’s been kind of interesting. There’s a few things I wanted to touch on, just beforehand. The Iowa caucuses were last week on January 3rd. I just wanted to get your reaction on the vote and how things turned out.
DK: Well, I didn’t compete in Iowa, so you know, the campaign is firmly focused on New Hampshire.
MA: Yes, so you didn’t compete at all in Iowa, you’re completely focused on New Hampshire, which is coming up this next Tuesday. How do you feel about New Hampshire?
DK: Well, we’ve been getting a really good response. Yesterday I spoke at a Democratic event where there were three thousand people. I had them on their feet cheering. A few days ago, we were in Keene New Hampshire. We had a crowd that packed the Colonial Theater, standing room only, over seven hundred people. A tremendous response and a few days before that we were in Concord. Three hundred people jammed a store front. You know, we’ve been in these small towns – in Bennington and Peterborough and the last place I was at they were actually turning people away at the doors. The turnout was so big that the fire marshals were concerned. So we have support that’s rising here in New Hampshire and we’re working on continuing to catalyze it so that the people of New Hampshire know they have a real choice.
MA: Well I’ll say you’ve been a phenomenon on the internet. We’ve been running our own primary here on TechCrunch and allowing people to vote for the candidates of their choice and you’re running a strong second to Obama, with 25 percent of the overall vote for Democrats. I know that’s symbolic and representative of what you’ve accomplished on the internet in general.
DK: Well, we’ve had a lot of support demonstrated on the internet. We’ve consistently either placed one or two in internet polls throughout the campaign. We’ve been winning a lot of straw polls within the Democratic Party – coming in one or two. There’s been evidence of a strong movement. In a way the internet reflects emerging culture that challenges the mainstream media for the attentions of the American people and I’m really, I’ve been riding the crest of that emerging culture and all those who participate in it.
MA: So tonight is the ABC Facebook debate and you’ve actually been banned from those debates. I want to get your reaction. Is that appropriate for them to remove candidates, viable candidates, from the debates and just in general, what do you think about that whole thing?
DK: Well you know, the airwaves don’t belong to ABC. This isn’t about me, this is about the right of the American people to have an open debate, to be able to hear different points of view. Since the other candidates essentially agree on healthcare, essentially agree on trade, essentially agree on Iraq based on their records and what they’ve said over the period of the war – where’s the debate? So my presence insures there is a debate and we’re still working right at this late hour to try and see if we can change the outcome. I think that, you know, it’s really again a question of who owns the airwaves. Those airwaves don’t belong to ABC, those are public airways. They assume a public trust and so this is a teachable moment for people in the United States where we really have to make a decision: do a small group of executives at ABC determine that they’re going to make the decisions for the rest of the country, or do the American people have the right to make the decisions and ABC have to accept the will of the people instead of the people having to accept the will of ABC?
MA: Well, I agree with you and I think the good thing is that today, and we didn’t have this ten years ago, but today you can’t be silenced on the internet and you have such a strong base of support there that your word can really get out. One thing I’m wondering is, in 1972 you actually ran as an independent for Congress. I’m just wondering if you’d consider doing it again – going alone and running as an independent in this election.
DK: I haven’t really considered that. I mean, I am the independent side of the Democratic Party and as such I’m the one person who really gives people a fundamental choice on all of the basic issues of healthcare, and peace, and trade, and technology. I mean, I’m the one who says, “carbon free and nuclear free,” in terms of our energy policies, develop wind and solar micro-technologies, which can be retrofitted on tens of millions of American homes and businesses and industries, lowering our carbon footprint, lowering our energy costs. We can transform our country that way. No one else is calling for a not for profit healthcare system. We haven’t even begun to explore the kind of progress we could have if we have a healthy population, but now healthcare is based on, it’s a privilege based on ability to pay. I want it to be a right, that as part of being a democratic society. So you know, there are differences between myself and the other candidates and I can well understand why some of those candidates wouldn’t want me in the debate. So they could take fake positions and be able to pretend that they stand for something when they don’t and there’s no one around to contradict them.
MA: Well let’s talk about your specific positions on a number of technology issues. To start out, with a broad question, the US technology industry of course has been a pioneer in the field and has been the world leader for decades. As President what would you do to continue our lead as a technology force in the world?
DK: Well, here’s a specific area. National Aeronautical Space Administration has always been involved as an incubator of technology. I want to task NASA with moving particularly in the area of energy technology, to create at the alpha stage technologies which private businesses and individuals could take to the beta stage and use it to grow the economy. I want to look at technology for peace. I want to show that we can move in new directions in conservation and in energy production with technology. That we can go into desalinization, so we’ll never run out of water. That we can move towards providing fiber optic broadband access to every rural area in America, as well as every city. That we can have a wireless nation. That we can have a country that looks at technology as being the place where we pour our ideas into and create a new world. And we can create a new world that can be very exciting in terms of learning technologies, environmental technologies, transportation technologies, agriculture technologies, help rebuild our farms, get farmers the ability to be sustainable again. You know, there are so many areas where technology can be applied to create a peaceful and a prosperous world. And that’s what I’m into. And I’m also into vehicles by which we disseminate the technologies so it can be used by indigenous people if they so choose. So as not to threaten their lives, but to make their lives easier as they try to protect their culture. Technology’s often not neutral. Technology can be used to change the world in ways that are not always favorable.
DK: The development of the atomic bomb demonstrated that. The development of an automobile internal combustion engine, while it helped in mobility, inevitably it’s helped to destroy the environment. We can take a path with technology that can be a means of uplifting the human condition, but we also have to remember the admonition of Alfred North Whitehead who once wrote that the major technological developments of mankind are processes that all but destroy the society in which they occur. So we now know that technology is not neutral, but that we can still remain in the saddle, to take a phrase out of Marshall McLewin, and actually guide the technology. We remember with the work of Morris Berman, who’s a philosopher and writer of the impact of the sociology of technology, that in the post 16th century we really became entrained with our machines. So we must always be the soul of whatever we create. We cannot have our creations apart from who we are. So our creations must have integrity. They must have beauty. They must be sustaining of life, and they must be capable of being owned by the masses.
MA: Interesting. So you believe that technology for technology’s sake isn’t necessarily a good thing, that the ethics and morals of the use of that technology have to considered when creating it.
DK: Absolutely. Fundamental. We cannot. For example, you know, when the atomic bomb was created – when Teller created it. You know, there was something that some people would say what a thing of beauty. I talked to Russian scientists who saw the creation of the atomic bomb as being a thing of beauty just as science behind it. However, its purposes were destructive. And we have to keep in mind that if we’re going save this world – and we should be able to – that we must use technology for peace and sustainability. And we can do that, we’re capable of doing that and that’s what I advocate. You know what, let’s talk again soon. They’re taking me into my next meeting here. And if we can do a follow up, I’d love to do it. Thank you very much.
DK: Thank you. Bye.