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Jewish World Review May 23, 2003 / 21 Iyar, 5763

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Presidential candidate interviews you'll never see | The road to the White House is paved with potholes, and it is the rare candidate who does not occasionally sprain an ankle or two while skipping between them.

Take Dennis Kucinich, who is in the top tier of the Democratic bottom tier (i.e., he gets a steady paycheck, but few people can tell you why).

Kucinich is running for president because he wants to cancel the North American Free Trade Agreement, end health-care for profit in this country, rebuild our cities and repeal the PATRIOT Act in order "to regain for all Americans the sacred right of privacy in our homes, our libraries, our schools."

But he gets to Iowa, and he find out that all politics is not just local, but four-legged.

I read the following exchange a few days ago on The Hotline, the National Journal's indispensable daily briefing on politics. Kucinich is being interviewed by one of the best political columnists in America, David Yepsen of the Des Moines Register, and Jeneane Beck, the Des Moines Bureau Chief for KUNI Public Radio.

Yepsen: "Congressman, according to your website, you're a vegetarian."

Kucinich: "Right."

Yepsen: "Why should people in Iowa support a president who is anti-meat?"

Kucinich: "Corn is a vegetable."

Beck: "We often use that corn to feed our livestock."

Kucinich: "And I would say that -- well, I eat corn and soy is something that is in my diet. And what I want to make sure is that people get a good price. I don't want to see us going back to the days of the 8-cent hog."

Let me interrupt. First, I did some research and it turns out that Kucinich is more than a vegetarian. He is a vegan. According to the Vegan Action website: "A vegan (pronounced VEE-gun) is someone who avoids using or consuming animal products. While vegetarians avoid flesh foods, vegans also avoid dairy and eggs, as well as fur, leather, wool, down and cosmetics or chemical products tested on animals."

Second, I had no idea there was ever a day when you could get a hog in this country for 8 cents. Heck, just finding parking for it would cost you more than 8 cents. If I could get an entire hog for 8 cents, I would buy 10 or 12 and keep them around as conversation pieces.

Anyway, here is how the Kucinich interview continued:

Yepsen: "So how is a vegetarian president going to be an advocate, going to be an advocate for the Iowa hog farmer or beef producer?"

Kucinich: "Because, you know, I don't have any problem with people who eat meat. I have a problem with monopolies that are stopping farmers from getting a fair price for their crops or for their livestock. So as president, my job isn't going to be to tell anyone how to eat; it's going to be to make sure that farmers get a good price."

Which is a pretty good answer. But it occurred to me that other candidates might have some trouble with the Iowa reverence for things fleshy.

And I can imagine the following interview:

Reporter: "We are here today with Joe Lieberman. Sen. Lieberman, there is an ugly rumor going around that you do not eat pork, and I am giving you a chance to deny it."

Lieberman: "I do not eat pork. But as Connecticut's attorney general, I went after deadbeat dads and fought corporate polluters. As a U.S. senator, I've worked to build a strong defense, improve our public schools, promote and protect our common values, and grow jobs and expand opportunities."

Reporter: "But why should people in Iowa support a president who is anti-swine?"

Lieberman: "In this campaign, I will talk about the tough fights ahead: strengthening homeland security while protecting Social Security. Making affordable health care available to every American. Restoring fiscal responsibility and expanding opportunity, with sensible tax cuts and sound investments that will bring back the prosperity of the Clinton-Gore era."

Reporter: "You don't eat any pork? Not pork chops, pork loin, pork roast, pork pie, pork burgers or pork stir fry?"

Lieberman: "No."

Reporter: "Are you unaware that it's the other white meat?"

Lieberman: "I have heard that."

Reporter: "Well, as long as you eat bacon."

Lieberman: "I do not eat bacon."

Reporter: "Shut UP!"

Lieberman: "No, really, I have never eaten bacon."

Reporter: "Not even on a cheeseburger? On a cheeseburger, it's not really like bacon. It's more like a garnish."

Lieberman: "No, not even as a garnish."

Reporter: "Shut UP!"

Lieberman: "Could I say one thing? As we continue the critical work of rooting out our terrorist enemies militarily, we must launch a long-term geopolitical and ideological initiative -- akin to the great campaign that won the Cold War -- to combat the despotism, poverty and isolation that terrorists exploit."

Reporter: "Up next, why did John Edwards once pass up chitlins in favor of okra? Stay tuned!"

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