Outgoing Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) — who lost a brutal primary battle on Tuesday to Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) — vehemently criticized the Obama administration’s program of targeted killings of US citizens abroad without due process, declaring it a “dangerous” violation of the Constitution that ought to meet resistance from Democrats and Republicans alike.
“Any assault on the Constitution ought to be challenged,” Kucinich told TPM in a Thursday interview at his Capitol Hill office. “This is absolutely an assault on the Constitution.”
“The idea that the United States has the ability to summarily execute a US citizen ought to send chills racing up and down the spines of every person of conscience,” he argued. “The fact that our government can set itself up as policeman, prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner, all wrapped into one fatal moment, should cause every person who loves this country to be deeply concerned about the direction we’re going.”
Attorney General Eric Holder this week made the legal case for the targeted killings program that led to the assassination of US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, who was living in Yemen and deemed by the executive branch to be working with Al-Qaeda. Kucinich did not mention Obama by name but lashed out at the policy championed by the President, whom he dropped out of the 2008 Democratic presidential primary to endorse.
“It’s dangerous,” the eight-term congressman said. “It’s not just what it stands for in and of itself. It’s the direction it moves to and where it can take us, as a step to something even more destructive. We start to move in a direction of repression. We start to move in a direction of conferring upon the government a life and death power. It’s very dangerous for the country.”
Asked for comment Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) both claimed to be unfamiliar with the administration’s legal rationale. Reid, though, said he strongly supported the administration’s decision to kill Awlaki.
Kucinich’s political career — which he says may not be over — is best evaluated not by legislative accomplishments but by his fiery desire to take broad, ideological stands on the issues that most animate him — particularly civil liberties and opposing war. He pushed to impeach President Bush over the launch and conduct of the Iraq war, and last year said Obama’s military action in Libya may have been an impeachable offense.
Concerned that there’s now “headlong momentum toward war” with Iran, Kucinich warned his colleagues not to repeat such an obvious mistake: “This Iran situation — it sounds like a B-movie remake of the war in Iraq.”
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.