After much hand wringing, the Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)–one of the House’s most progressive members–has decided to support health care reform after long opposing it. Why did he change his mind?
Kucinich cited two main motivating factors in his decision: a hard sell by President Obama, and a belief that the legitimacy of his presidency might be on the line.
“I’ve had four separate meetings with the President,” Kucinich said at his press conference this morning. “When the President of the United States wants to have a conversation with you, you take that seriously.”Kucinich didn’t discuss whether the White House had to twist his arm in any way. But he did note, in response to a question from TPMDC, that, after opposing most of the President’s agenda–climate change legislation, financial regulatory reform, the budget–that he was prepared for an unkind welcome.
“I got an invitation to go on Air Force One–given my previous record in not supporting the administration on many things, I thought that proper attire would include a parachute,” Kucinich joked.
But with health care, Kucinich said, more is at stake–including perhaps the country’s ability to do anything.
“I left [our previous meeting] with a real sense of compassion for our president and what he’s going through,” Kucinich said. “We have to be compassionate towards those who are called upon to make decisions for this nation. It’s not an easy burden that he has taken up.”
“One of the things that has bothered me,” Kucinich added, “has been the attempt to delegitimatize his presidency. That hurts the nation when that happens. He was elected…this is a defining moment for whether or not we’ll have any opportunity to move off square one on the issue of health care…. I think it’s important that–we have to be very careful that the potential of President Obama’s presidency not be destroyed by this debate.”
Kucinich insisted that he was given no assurance that Obama would push for a public option after the bill passes, and said that he was offered no favors in exchange for his support.