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Tom Troy

Assad link bad news for Kucinich

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    Former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio speaks during the Ohio Democratic Party's fifth debate in the primary race for governor on April 10 in Middletown.


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    Tom Troy

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Dennis Kucinich’s attempt to thread the political needle and create a populist coalition to win the Democratic nomination for governor of Ohio was going so well. That’s last week’s news.

You don’t play footsie with thuggish Middle Eastern dictators and then get taken seriously as someone in charge of the state government in Columbus.

Read last week’s column from Tom Troy

This week, Mr. Kucinich was forced to acknowledge that he accepted a $20,000 fee to speak at a pro-Bashar al-Assad meeting in London.

Mr. Kucinich didn’t want to admit this level of detail. He tried to pass his 2017 speaking fees off as one $33,000 lump of contracts. The Ohio Ethics Commission, however, last Friday notified Mr. Kucinich that he had to be more specific.

This news is likely to have a deflating effect on the Kucinich campaign going into the May 8 primary, for the benefit of front-runner in the Democratic primary, Richard Cordray, the former director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

It also might move some votes to state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Youngstown, who trails both Mr. Cordray and Mr. Kucinich in the polling. And it can’t hurt former Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill, who also trails in the polls, but whose campaign has not recovered from his claims on Facebook of having had sex with 50 women.

Mr. Kucinich, the former mayor of Cleveland and former Cleveland-area congressman, justifies his interest in the Syrian conflict as having a higher purpose, that he passes up no opportunity to plead for peace and an end to war.

It doesn’t wash. A person can plead for peace and an end to war without taking cash from the outstretched hand of the biggest aggressor in that particular war.

Mr. Kucinich accepted the honorarium for the London speaking engagement from the Association for Investment in Popular Action Committees, of El Cerrito, Calif. — a soporific title that might discourage interest in who is bankrolling such an organization.

The group is listed in federal records as holding the trademark to the Syria Solidarity Movement, which opposes “imperial interests” intervening in the Syrian civil war, according to The (Columbus) Dispatch..

“Imperial interests” refers to the United States, the country whose Constitution Mr. Kucinich would have to swear to uphold and defend.

Think of that: a possible Democratic candidate for governor of Ohio thinks of the United States as an imperial power. Don’t think that would play well in the general election campaign.

It is also known that the chief executive officer of AIPAC serves on the board of Architects and Engineers for 9/​11 Truth, which doubts that Islamic terrorists took down the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

If the Cordray campaign makes good use of this development, finding out that Mr. Kucinich believes in crackpot theories and accepts money from bloodsoaked hands will not endear him to many Ohio Democratic voters, and it likely will weaken support among some who were leaning his way.

It will have an effect similar to when voters learned that Ed FitzGerald, the 2014 Democratic candidate, had been driving around for a decade without a permanent driver’s license.

EDITORIAL: The West stands up in Syria

Mr. Kucinich’s campaign was always a gamble — an experiment. His campaign with Akron Councilman Tara Samples hopes to link together disparate groups that might feel left out by establishment political parties — lower-income rural whites, laid-off workers, African-Americans, and people with strong environmental, anti-war, pro-universal health care, and anti-gun views.

His issues are opposition to charter schools — which conflicts with the choices that many of his would-be voters have made in Ohio, ending fracking — which has been a ticket to dramatically lower energy costs, opposition to Toledo’s proposed regional water system, and the passage of a ban on assault-style weapons.

Thanks to his and Ms. Samples’ energy and charisma on the campaign trail, it was going forward with a chance of success.

Plus, Mr. Cordray has not spurred excitement and many are disappointed by his cautious and low-key positions.

Polls showed Mr. Kucinich running neck-and-neck with Mr. Cordray, and Mr. Kucinich received an endorsement from The Plain Dealer.

While being associated with Assad likely will turn off many voters, there may be many who don’t really understand or care. Mr. Kucinich has already fought back angrily, attacking his critics as liars, including former Gov. Ted Strickland, who attacked Mr. Kuc inich’s acceptance of the $20,000 speaking fee. It depends on whether Mr. Cordray has the money and campaign wits to use it to its full effect. You can be sure it will face harsh exposure in the general election.

Mr. Kucinich will have a tougher time winning traditional or conventional Democrats after this news. To be cautious, one of Mr. Kucinich’s political models is Donald Trump, who survived many a disclosure as bad as this. But based on traditional politics, accepting money from an anti-American group has to undercut Mr. Kucinich’s credibility as a candidate for chief executive of the state of Ohio.

Contact Tom Troy at tomtroy@theblade.com419-724-6058, or on Twitter @TomFTroy.

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