Viggo Mortensen On Dennis Kucinich

Source: Union Leader

Dennis Kucinich Campaign 1.6.08
Dennis Kucinich Campaign 1.6.08.
I had the pleasure of spending some off-the-record time with Dennis and Elizabeth Kucinich and their friend, actor Viggo Mortensen, last night. It was interesting for many reasons, but as the conversation was off the record, I can't post them all. A few observations, though: First, although this table had by far the biggest celebrity status in the room, other tables exuded much more pretension and self-importance. This table had none. Second, with one of the great Hollywood hunks of the past few years at the table, it was Kucinich who was approached most often and given compliments or asked for his autograph. In fact, just one person asked for a photo with Mortensen, while a constant stream came up to Kucinich to shake his hand or get a signature. Only in New Hampshire.

I was curious what motivated Mortensen to come up to New Hampshire and stump for Kucinich, who after all has a lot of ground to make up in a short time. How did Mortensen think he would help, and was it worth his obviously limited time (He's working on a project now)? He was kind enough to agree to a short on-the-record interview to make his case for Kucinich to the people of New Hampshire. I've posted it here unedited except for an ellipsis here or there for clarity.


"I've been, if you want to put it that way, a fan of his or a supporter of his positions and of him as a person, you know, of the courage he's shown. I know his history somewhat, in terms of when he was the so-called 'boy mayor of Cleveland,' and how much flak he got for standing up to certain corporations on behalf of the people, in terms of pressing utilities and so forth.

He got a lot of flak for that, just as he did years later as a congressman for making a stand against the proposed and imminent invasion of Iraq and the grounds for that invasion.

He has always been courageous no matter the fallout. He was vilified in Cleveland for what he did. A few years later people realized, 'you know what, he actually did us a favor. It was a good thing he took that stand.' And eventually that was part of the reason he was sent to Congress and has been there for a dozen years.

It's not like he suddenly, as often happens, suddenly you're on a national level, you're a congressman. Lobbyists, pressures, special interests, suddenly they become watered down - politicians. He's never done that. He's unique in that sense.

You can agree or disagree with him. And I think that's one of the reasons FOX TV, Bill O'Reilly, Hannity & Colmes, they have him on there all the time is they appreciate, even if they disagree with him - most of those guys, if not all of them - they appreciate the guts he has, the forthrightness, and the clarity and consistency with which he explains his ideas.

He doesn't duck anyone. I only half-jokingly said to him yesterday, 'So you're getting shut out. They won't let you in these Democratic debates. Go on the Republican debate.' He'd be great. It'd be really fun. They seem to have more chairs in that one for some reason. And people will say, you know, he's not the tallest man in the world, well he wouldn't take up that much room. I'm sure he wouldn't mind standing if there aren't enough chairs.

In any case, he's not afraid. In a Republican debate he'd do fine. He's on FOX. He's the only one of the Democratic candidates that will even go on FOX. He is about communication. He is about dialogue. Just as he talks about what he would do in foreign policy, he would engage everyone in the world.

The relationships we have in life, I think, whether it's husband and wife, brother and sister, father and child, siblings, whatever, the relationships that last the longest, that mean the most to us, that we remember most fondly are the relationships we have with the people who are honest with us - even and especially when it's information we might disagree with or we don't like or it's painful to hear or it's unsettling. You may have arguments with those people. You may have discussions. But you appreciate the fact that, you know, when you're in a real jam personally or emotionally and you think who can I talk to about this, that's the person you want to call. And that's who you're going to remember at the end of your life.

The same thing goes for the state of the union, you know, the nation and the state of our union that is only going to be as close to perfect or is only going to get better and renew itself through honesty, through honest communication.

Politicians, no matter who they're talking with, that don't duck anyone and speak the truth as they know it, who inform themselves and listen to you and who give you their position as honestly whether it's sitting in a radio station in Mississippi or in Los Angeles or in New Hampshire, you know, don't change their approach, their tone, their accent, try to come off more down home, try to come off more earthy or more conservative or more heartland or more urban or more whatever. And I'm not pointing at anybody, I'm just saying it's a general thing you see in both parties, is a necessity.

Those are the people that you appreciate. We were talking about this yesterday, people are coming up to him in the street. People from New Hampshire, and from Massachusetts, and I just saw some people who said, 'I came all the way from Texas,' from California, and they come up to him and take him by the shoulders, and you know, 'can I shake your hand... you are far and away the most thoughtful, the most well-spoken, the most thoughtful candidate, it would just be a dream if you were President, you know, you were great.'

I saw that repeatedly. And then, unfortunately, most of them - half or more - are wearing Obama buttons, Hillary buttons and so forth, Edwards, Ron Paul. There are Ron Paul people who come up to him, and they appreciate him. Because Ron Paul is on the other side of him, especially domestically, in his policies, but on foreign policy they're not so different. And Ron Paul is like Kucinich in that they're both pretty gutsy and they say what they think and they've both been excluded from these national debates. And I think in both cases if they were given a fraction of the time that the other candidates are getting nationally - in radio, TV, print media, New York Times, what have you, they would blow those other guys out of the water on substance, especially in Kucinich's case."

Have you watched the debates?

"Yeah, that's really why I sort of hurried up to get here. Because I'm working now on some stuff, but I just jumped on a red-eye overnight, and I realized they're not going to let him on the ABC debate - again. They're gonna censor him, basically. And my feeling is, these are public airwaves we're talking about. We're talking about people being able to inform themselves nationally and locally about who stands for what. We're talking about free flow of information, including the airing of dissenting views. That's what the country's ideally about. And when that's not happening and he doesn't have a voice and people can't make a good judgment call, I think it's unfair. And so I figured I'm going to go there, and if I can, hopefully in a mostly positive, not a negative way, you know, 'he's an actor' and all that, 'what does he know?' You know that tradition that we have that of saying, even though our government is supposed to be of the people, by the people, for the people, well if you're not in government, if you're a plumber, a teacher, an actor or a journalist, shut up, let those who are in government govern.

That kind of flies in the face of what the country's all about. We put those guys in there, in office. If we don't like them we can complain. If we really don't like them we have redress, we can impeach them. If we really don't like the whole ball of wax we can have a revolution. It's all in there (the Constitution). That's what we're about. People forget that.

People also forget, like these people coming up to him. I say, 'You know, you say all these great things about him, how come you're wearing an Obama button. I mean no disrespect. Or a Clinton button?' 'Well, I can't waste my vote.'

It's like, who is voting? Is FOX TV or The Boston Globe voting? Is USA Today voting? Is CNN casting your vote, is registering and going to the ballot box, or you? Who decides? Since when can't someone win?

That bizarre disconnect of saying, 'Great candidate. The most profound. In decades I haven't seen someone be so forthright as Dennis Kucinich and so well-informed and so for-the-people, and for the community of nations, what have you. He's so great that I can't possibly vote for him.'

It doesn't really make sense. You should say, 'He's so great, I must vote for him.' People have to get out of their butts, really, and say, 'Wait a minute; what am I doing? Who's in charge of my vote: me or FOX News?'

It's a little bit laziness. And it's a little too easy to blame the media and say, 'well, there's this conspiracy.' And you can make a good argument for that, the corporate system, the media, that kind of thing. OK, yeah, whatever, but you've still got the right to vote. Nobody's stopping you from voting for Dennis Kucinich or Ron Paul or John McCain or whoever you want to vote for. Just do it. Don't accept no for an answer. Life is too short. The country's too important."
Last edited: 8 January 2008 14:55:20
© Andrew Cline/Union Leader.