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Comments by YACCS
Monday, June 28, 2004

Nader: We want to punish the Dems


What he used to be


This article pretty much outlines Nader's strategy for the 2004 race. Anyone who supports his crusade after this is just too lazy to join the GOP.

How this article slipped past the blogosphere is beyond me, but it did. Now, maybe people will notice.

On Friday, October 13, 2000, at Madison Square Garden, the largest of Ralph Nader's "super rallies" kicked his campaign into high gear. It was a great event in many ways. Fifteen thousand ticket buyers cheered songs, jokes, skits, and pep talks delivering timeless radical truths about wealth and power in America. Nader's speech was actually the low point, circulating randomly through riffs about corporate power, health insurance, the environment, and what Ralph Nader had accomplished.

But Nader also served up disturbing untruths. Most notable was his insistence that Al Gore and George W. Bush were "Tweedledee and Tweedledum"—they look and act the same, so it doesn't matter which you get. I went home angry. But it took me a while to understand that my progressive hero had turned suicide bomber—that Ralph Nader had strapped political dynamite onto himself and walked into one of the closest elections in American history hoping to blow it up.

The next day I was invited to a fundraising party in Greenwich Village. There I approached Michael Moore and described how the campaign could use the Web to provide the latest data on battleground states like Florida, where Nader supporters should hold their noses and vote for Gore. When Moore realized what I was suggesting, he puffed up like one of those fish that expand when threatened, leaned into me, poked his finger into my face, and yelled: "You can't say that! You can't say that! You can't say that!"

Later I was introduced to Nader's closest adviser, his handsome, piercingly intelligent 30-year-old nephew, Tarek Milleron. Although Milleron argued that environmentalists and other activists would find fundraising easier under Bush, he acknowledged that a Bush presidency would be worse for poor and working-class people, for blacks, for most Americans. As Moore had, he claimed that Nader's campaign would encourage Web-based vote-swapping between progressives in safe and contested states. But when I suggested that Nader could gain substantial influence in a Democratic administration by focusing his campaign on the 40 safe states and encouraging his supporters elsewhere to vote Gore, Milleron leaned coolly toward me with extra steel in his voice and body. He did not disagree. He simply said, "We're not going to do that."

"Why not?" I said.

With just a flicker of smile, he answered, "Because we want to punish the Democrats, we want to hurt them, wound them."

There was a long silence and the conversation was over.
...................

Milleron's words are so remarkable they bear repeating: Ralph Nader ran so he could hurt, wound, and punish the Democrats. His primary goal was not raising issues, much less building the Green Party. He actively wanted Gore to lose. Where did this passion to punish come from?

In his admiring, balanced 2002 biography, Ralph Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon, Justin Martin explains that early in his career, "Nader felt he could achieve anything" in Washington. He testified regularly before Congress and was seriously proposed as a Democratic candidate for Senate and even, under McGovern, vice president. He was so allied with the Democrats that in 1972 he rejected a New Party presidential run because, he explained, that might "help throw the election to Nixon." Nader had access to the Carter White House, where many of his former staffers worked, although his notorious nastiness and self-regard prevented him from fully capitalizing on it.

After 1980, however, he was completely shut out by the right wing—and just as galling, the Democrats tried to ride out the conservative onslaught, challenging it only selectively and knuckling under on electability issues such as crime and energy policy. By 1992, Nader campaigned briefly in a Democratic primary, but during the Clinton years, says Martin, Nader was "a pariah even among the most liberal members" of Congress and was altogether shunned by the White House. By 1996, he'd had it with Democratic gutlessness. Running on the Green ticket against a Clinton who supported NAFTA and "welfare reform," he told Mother Jones, "I think his best nickname is George Ronald Clinton." Nevertheless, Nader did little campaigning. In 2000, after a slow start, he threw himself into the process. Clearly, this election was going to be extraordinarily close, and in a September 2000 interview, Nader discussed playing spoiler:

Rolling Stone: "In 1996, you told the New York Times, 'If I really wanted to beat Clinton, I would get out, raise $3 or $4 million, and maybe provide the margin for his defeat. That's not the purpose of this candidacy.' Since you're planning to raise $5 million and run hard this year, does that mean you would not have a problem providing the margin of defeat for Gore?"

Nader: "I would not—not at all."


Martin reports that during the 2000 campaign, "no matter how hard he tried to be evenhanded in doling out criticism of Bush and Gore, Nader did show a bias"—against Gore. "It was clear to many," writes Martin, "that he truly despised Gore, while he was merely dismissive of Bush." Martin was especially struck by a Portland speech where Nader said that Gore was "more reprehensible" than Bush because Gore "knows so much and refuses to act on his knowledge."

Gary Sellers has a simpler way of putting it. Although Nader was the best man at Sellers's wedding, the two are no longer close. After extensive discussions with his old boss in late 1999, Sellers created Nader's Raiders for Gore in 2000. He believes Nader hated Gore, he told me, because "Gore wouldn't return his phone calls."

.........

What does Nader want to do in the 2004 election? Does he again want to defeat the Democratic candidate by taking swing-state votes? "Absolutely," says Gary Sellers. This time the Greens will likely run David Cobb, who is committed to a safe-state strategy. Nader is not. So voters in Florida and other battlegrounds where the differences will again be razor-thin can expect to see a lot of him. The stampede of his prominent 2000 supporters means many of them know what their former hero has in mind. But there are always new suckers to con. In 2004, as in 2000, Nader's real campaign slogan is: "Vote for Ralph Nader. You too can punish, hurt, and wound the Democrats."


Oh yeah, and now he's talking to Pat Buchanan:

Ralph Nader: Conservatively Speaking

The long-time progressive makes a pitch for the disenfranchised Right.

Ralph Nader recently accepted Pat Buchanan’s invitation to sit down with us and explain why his third-party presidential bid ought to appeal to conservatives disaffected with George W. Bush. We think readers will be interested in the reflections of a man who has been a major figure in American public life for 40 years—and who now finds himself that rarest of birds, a conviction politician.

Pat Buchanan: Let me start off with foreign policy—Iraq and the Middle East. You have seen the polls indicating widespread contempt for the United States abroad. Why do they hate us?

Ralph Nader: First of all, we have been supporting despots, dictators, and oligarchs in all those states for a variety of purposes. We supported Saddam Hussein. He was our anti-Communist dictator until 1990. It’s also cultural; they see corporate culture as abandoning the restraints on personal behavior dictated by their religion and culture. Our corporate pornography and anything-goes values are profoundly offensive to them.

The other thing is that we are supporting the Israeli military regime with billions of dollars and ignoring both the Israeli peace movement, which is very substantial, and the Palestinian peace movement. They see a nuclear-armed Israel that could wipe out the Middle East in a weekend if it wanted to.

They think that we are on their backs, in their house, undermining their desire to overthrow their own tyrants.

PB: Then you would say it is not only Bush who is at fault, but Clinton and Bush and Reagan, all the way back?

RN: The subservience of our congressional and White House puppets to Israeli military policy has been consistent. Until ’91, any dictator who was anti-Communist was our ally.

PB: You used the term “congressional puppets.” Did John Kerry show himself to be a congressional puppet when he voted to give the president a blank check to go to war?

RN: They’re almost all puppets. There are two sets: Congressional puppets and White House puppets. When the chief puppeteer comes to Washington, the puppets prance.

PB: Why do both sets of puppets, support the Sharon/Likud policies in the Middle East rather than the peace movement candidates and leaders in Israel?

RN: That is a good question because the peace movement is broad indeed. They just put 120,000 people in a square in Tel Aviv. They are composed of former government ministers, existing and former members of the Knesset, former generals, former combat veterans, former heads of internal security, people from all backgrounds. It is not any fringe movement.

The answer to your question is that instead of focusing on how to bring a peaceful settlement, both parties concede their independent judgment to the pro-Israeli lobbies in this country because they perceive them as determining the margin in some state elections and as sources of funding. They don’t appear to agree with Tom Friedman, who wrote that memorable phrase, “Ariel Sharon has Arafat under house arrest in Ramallah and Bush under house arrest in the Oval Office.”

Virtually no member of Congress can say that, and so we come to this paradoxical conclusion that there is far more freedom in Israel to discuss this than there is in the United States, which is providing billions of dollars in economic and military assistance.

PB: Let me move on to Iraq. You were opposed to the war, and it now appears that it has become sort of a bloody stalemate. You said you would bring troops out of Iraq within six months. What if the country collapses and becomes a haven for terrorists? Would you send American troops back in to clean it up?

RN: Under my proposal there would be an international peacekeeping force, and the withdrawal would be a smart withdrawal during which there are internationally supervised elections. We would have both military and corporate withdrawal because the Iraqi people see the corporations are beginning to take over their economy, including their oil resources. And we would continue humanitarian assistance until the Iraqi people get on their feet. We would bring to the forefront during the election autonomies for Kurds, Sunnis, and Shi’ites. So this would not be like a withdrawal in Vietnam where we just barely got out with the helicopters.

TAC: You often mention corporations. What is the theory behind this or what are the alternatives to corporate economic power? I presume you are not talking about state ownership or socialism, or perhaps you are …

RN: Well, that is what representative government is for, to counteract the excesses of the monied interests, as Thomas Jefferson said. Because big business realizes that the main countervailing force against their excesses and abuses is government, their goal has been to take over the government, and they do this with money and politics. They do it by putting their top officials at the Pentagon, Treasury, and Federal Reserve, and they do it by providing job opportunities to retiring members of Congress. They have law firms that draft legislation and think-tanks that provide ready-made speeches. They also do it by threatening to leave the country. The quickest way to bring a member of Congress to his or her knees is by shifting industries abroad.

Concentrated corporate power violates many principles of capitalism. For example, under capitalism, owners control their property. Under multinational corporations, the shareholders don’t control their corporation. Under capitalism, if you can’t make the market respond, you sink. Under big business, you don’t go bankrupt; you go to Washington for a bailout. Under capitalism, there is supposed to be freedom of contract. When was the last time you negotiated a contract with banks or auto dealers? They are all fine-print contracts. The law of contracts has been wiped out for 99 percent of contracts that ordinary consumers sign on to. Capitalism is supposed to be based on law and order. Corporations get away with corporate crime, fraud, and abuse. And finally, capitalism is premised on a level playing field; the most meritorious is supposed to win. Tell that to a small inventor or a small business up against McDonald’s or a software programmer up against Microsoft.

Giant multinational corporations have no allegiance to any country or community other than to control them or abandon them. So what we have now is the merger of big business and big government to further subsidize costs or eliminate risks or guarantee profits by our government.

PB: Let’s move to immigration. We stop 1.5 million illegal aliens on our borders each year. One million still get through. There are currently 8-14 million illegal aliens in the United States. The president is mandated under the Constitution to defend the States against foreign invasion, and this certainly seems to constitute that.

RN: As long as our foreign policy supports dictators and oligarchs, you are going to have desperate people moving north over the border.

Part of the problem involves NAFTA. The flood of cheap corn into Mexico has dispossessed over a million Mexican farmers, and, with their families, they either go to the slums or, in their desperation, head north.

In addition, I don’t think the United States should be in the business of brain-draining skilled talent, especially in the Third World, because we are importing in the best engineers, scientists, software people, doctors, entrepreneurs who should be in their countries, building their own countries. We are driving the talent to these shores—

PB: How do we defend these shores?

RN: I don’t believe in giving visas to software people from the Third World when we have got all kinds of unemployed software people here.

Let’s get down to the manual labor. This is the reason the Wall Street Journal is for an open-borders policy: they want a cheap-wage policy. There are two ways to deal with that. One is to raise the minimum wage to the purchasing-power level of 1968—$8 an hour—and then, in another year, raise it to $10 an hour because the economy since 1968 has doubled in production per capita.


Please continue to tell me how Nader is a progressive and how this isn't about his ego. Please.

posted by Steve @ 8:06:00 PM

8:06:00 PM

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