Between The Lines: Ralph Nader Answers Critics
Between The Lines
Between the Lines Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release Oct. 19, 2004
Ralph Nader Answers Critics Who Say His Presidential Bid Could Help Re-Elect George Bush
- Interview with Ralph Nader, independent presidential candidate, conducted by Scott Harris
As the 2004 presidential election approaches, opinion polls suggest that with an extremely tight race between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry, independent candidate Ralph Nader could again influence the outcome of the campaign. In the aftermath of the 2000 election, which saw numerous flaws in the Florida vote count and a razor-thin margin between Al Gore and George W. Bush, many Democrats blame Nader for their eventual loss at the hands of a Supreme Court decision.
After Nader announced his 2004 candidacy, the Democratic Party leadership made a determined effort to talk him out of another run for the White House. When this failed, hardball tactics were employed to keep him off the ballot in as many states as possible. The two-time Green Party presidential candidate failed this year to win that party's endorsement. Instead, Nader is running under the Reform party banner in some states and as an independent in others.
Critics accuse Nader of accepting campaign contributions from Republican activists who they say are donating funds in an effort to siphon off votes from Sen. Kerry in key battleground states. And although Nader rejects the charge that he will be a spoiler in this election, more than 70 former progressive supporters of the consumer advocate's 2000 campaign have signed a letter urging support for the Kerry/Edwards ticket in swing states in order to defeat George W. Bush. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Ralph Nader, who talks about the goals of his campaign and answers criticism directed at his candidacy from many former allies.
Ralph Nader: Well, these are big lies about Republicans supporting us that have been put forward by the Democrats to cover their dirty tricks. They're the ones who've hired corporate Republican law firms like Kirkland, Ellis, Ken Starr's law firm, unleashing in Ohio alone, 50 corporate lawyers to get us off the ballot, and doing the same thing all over the country.
This campaign is designed to demonstrate by stressing the corrupt political system how much we need a political reform movement, how flaccid and surrendering are the liberal intelligentsia in this country, and demonstrate how converging the two parties are, and corruptly turning our government over to the corporate supremacists to fund both campaigns. We need a political reform movement in this country and if we can't start it big time, we have to start it at a more modest level, so after Nov. 2 we can gain headway and momentum.
Between The Lines: Is one of the goals of this year's campaign by you and (your vice presidential candidate) Peter Camejo to build a party? If so, what party? Because, the Greens are supporting David Cobb and you're operating with the Reform Party ballot in some states. Is that part of the framework of what you're trying to do here?
Ralph Nader: Well, it would be a nice thing to do. It depends on Nov. 2 and it depends how much energy progressives have in this country for countering what appears to be an endless energy of the extreme right wing. So we'll see. If people go for the least worst and vote for Kerry without making any demands on him and pulling him in the direction of their agenda, while the corporations are pulling Kerry constantly in their direction, then they're going to have a credibility crisis after Nov. 2. How can the anti-war movement supporting a pro-war candidate, John Kerry, have any credibility after Nov. 2, when either one of them is going to escalate the war and the devastation and the bloodshed and the cost of Iraq?
Between The Lines: You met with John Kerry a few months ago. What was that meeting like and what did you take away from that meeting? There were a few nice words from both of you, as I remember reading in the papers the next day.
Ralph Nader: Well, it was a meeting where we exchanged, obviously, views. He was quite nervous about our campaign, but he didn't say he wanted us to drop out. On my point of view, I tried to get him to face up to putting some meat on his rhetoric, which is: He's not making corporate crime and fraud a big issue, and that affects millions of people with pensions, who lost their jobs -- like Enron or the WorldCom collapse, and small investors. It's a big vote-getting issue, but he wouldn't take it. I mentioned that he had said to the New York Times, he said he wanted to end corporate welfare as we know it. And he wouldn't take grips with 10 of the worst corporate welfare boondoggles, like big subsidies to drug companies and oil, coal and gas companies. And I left the meeting with the sense that he was going to set his dogs loose, to try and get us off the ballot. And indeed, a couple of days later, I talked to Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe and he told me he was encouraging all these efforts to intimidate, harass, file phony lawsuits to get us off the ballot in states like Arizona, Oregon, Florida. Elsewhere, we fortunately have won 80 percent of our state Supreme Court decisions and we're on the ballot in over 36, 37 states. But that's not going to play well after the election for the Democratic party; they're going to pay a price for this.
Between The Lines: If John Kerry and George W. Bush were the only ones on the ballot, and you and Peter Camejo were not running this year, who would you vote for?
Ralph Nader: None of the above.
Between The Lines: You would stay home?
Ralph Nader: No, I'd go down and I would write none of the above. I mean, they're both pro-war, both pro-bloated military budget and won't challenge it. They're both pro-Patriot Act. Kerry has sided with corporations like the nuclear power industry, biotech industry -- he hasn't distinguished himself in his years in the Senate. He hasn't even been a third as good as Ted Kennedy, his senior senator. He has to be dragged into taking a stand on raising the minimum wage and then he wants $7 an hour by 2007. Who's he kidding? Who can live on that?
Between The Lines: What's your response to the group of your former supporters in 2000 who've now come out asking progressive voters to cast ballots in the critical swing states for Kerry instead of you?
Ralph Nader: They've completely lost their nerve. Point one is they stated, "While we strongly disagree with Kerry on the war, and other issues," we urge voters to vote for Kerry in the close states. Well, why didn't they make demands on Kerry? Why'd they give Kerry a free ride, especially when they know that he's for more war in Iraq? Second, they didn't have the courtesy to urge voters in the "safe" states, as they're called -- Texas, California and New York -- to vote for the Nader/Camejo ticket, whose agenda and record represents everything they've been writing for and urging. This is the cream of the crop and they've lost their nerve.
Between The Lines: What is your response to their concern that there is so much at stake here this year? That they're concerned about endless war, erosion of civil liberties, the shredding of the Bill of Rights if Bush is re-elected. I mean, they seem to think that re-electing Bush would be a real problem for all of us in this country, and despite their misgivings about Kerry, they want people to vote for him to prevent a re-election.
Ralph Nader: What's Kerry going to give them? He's going to give them more war, he's going to give them the renewal of Patriot Act, he voted for it; he hasn't spoken out against it in this campaign. He stands for dozens of subjects and policies that are contradicting their stands. What do they expect to get from Kerry? That's the interesting question that they should ponder. The other question is, when are they ever going to get out of the rut of least worst? They have no end logic because every four years, there'll be a least worst. Are they ever going to build a new political movement?
Contact Ralph Nader's campaign at (202) 265-4000 or visit their website at http://www.votenader.org
Related links on our website at
- "Reproaching Ralph: Nader's Bid for President has Failed Utterly to Achieve Any of Its Stated Goals"
- "Nader 2000 Leaders Organize To Defeat Bush"
Scott Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on more than 35 radio stations and in RealAudio and MP3 on our website at http://www.btlonline.org. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines for the week ending Oct. 22, 2004. This Between The Lines Q&A was compiled by Anna Manzo and Scott Harris.
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