I taped with Congressman Kucinich for "The Daily Briefing" (5 to 6 PM PT on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and at www.kpfk.org). I was about to ask him to answer charges that he was the Ralph Nader of health care but he abruptly bailed to take a vote. My producer then sent him a text: "We just did a quick interview with you. Would you be willing to respond to charges you are the Nader of health care? Call this number." I was on the air running the incomplete interview when he called in, and we went live with the Congressman.

I was prepared to dismiss him like Marcos Moulitsas did as a suicidally self-righteous progressive in the Nader mould (see here and here), but after trying to pin him down on what he is up to, it appears Kucinich might be the only Democratic Congressman with the guts and brains to get something done about reforming healthcare, as opposed to health insurance.

As Kucinich told me, this is a matter of doing what an elected representative should do:

KUCINICH: I have a responsibility on behalf of all those people who want to see a public option to help the White House cross that divide. . . . If I cave in without any public option, that could kill any hopes of keeping it alive in the Senate.

I asked him what he thought of the comparisons to Nader. His response showed his appreciation of the consumer activist, but also his continuing loyalty to the Democratic party:

KUCINICH: If being the Ralph Nader of health care means I’m against consumer fraud and against monopolies, that’s OK. But if being the Ralph Nader of health care means that I’m scuttling the Democratic Party, that’s not true. I’m inside the party. I represent a voice inside the party that has helped to make health care an issue in three successive Democratic Platform committees and two national campaigns . . . I haven’t gone outside the party, and the party still has a chance to be able to deliver to the American people a health care bill that would be worthy of broader support.

After watching the Democrat’s Progressive Caucus dutifully roll over for the White House, Kucinich’s original House vote against the bill has meaning now, unlike Lynn Woolsey’s and others. Since the House has to vote on the Senate bill as is, without changing a comma, this is the only time to make a deal, not later during reconciliation when some Senate parliamentarian gets to slice and dice it. In taking a stand as the critical vote that the White House needs, Kucinich appears to be giving Democratic Senators cover as more and more of them declare their support for the public option.

I have a new show in drive time every weeknight at 8pm ET/5pm PT on KPFK, which is available via live stream here.