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NY Times: Nader Runs Again, This Time With Feeling

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  • elevans@aol.com
    I don t think the author here mentions that Nader is also an author of a number of nonfiction books. Not a friendly piece on Nader, but interesting.
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 15, 2000
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      I don't think the author here mentions that Nader is also an author of a
      number of nonfiction books. Not a friendly piece on Nader, but interesting.



      April 15, 2000

      www.<A HREF="http://www.greeninformation.com/">Green Information</A>.com
      Nader Runs Again, This Time With

      By JAMES DAO

      WASHINGTON, April 14 -- The students with purple hair, the
      graying academics with Jerry Garcia beards and the union
      organizers with their anti-W.T.O. buttons had crowded into a college
      auditorium in Minneapolis to hear some red-meat -- make that
      green-vegetable -- radicalism. And Ralph Nader, America's foremost
      anti-corporate curmudgeon, did not disappoint:

      Global corporations are sucking the life out of small businesses
      and family farms. Pollution is poisoning our rivers and air. Inner-city
      schools and health clinics are crumbling. And while the nation corrodes, the
      rich are buying and selling politicians like baseball cards.

      "Big business is on a collision course with American democracy, and
      American democracy has been losing," said Mr. Nader, who in his dark
      suit was the most conventional-looking person in the room.

      The man who became famous by killing off a sporty but unstable
      little car
      called the Corvair some 35 years ago is at it again, running for
      on the Green Party line.

      But unlike his previous presidential run, in 1996, when he
      refused to raise
      money, spent less than $5,000 and attracted barely 1 percent of
      the vote,
      this time he is serious, Mr. Nader insists.

      "I specifically said I wasn't going to campaign in '96," he said
      in an
      interview. "This is a campaign."

      Mr. Nader is cranking up that campaign just in time to step onto the
      world stage this weekend, when tens of thousands of protesters
      on Washington to demonstrate against the International Monetary Fund
      and the World Bank. Green Party affiliates from around the world are
      playing a major role in the protests, and Mr. Nader himself will
      demonstrators near the White House on Sunday.

      The goal of Mr. Nader's run is not to win, of course, but to get
      more than
      5 percent of the vote, the number that would qualify him for
      millions in
      federal campaign matching funds that he says he would use to
      build the Green Party.

      "If the Green Party breaks 5 percent, the Democratic Party won't
      be the same again," Mr. Nader, still irrepressibly dour and hauntingly
      hungry-looking at 66, said in reflecting on the prospect of
      undercutting the centrist Democratic Leadership Council and its president, Al
      From. "If you think Al From and the Democratic Leadership Council has a
      grip on the Democratic Party, wait and see what a significant and growing
      progressive third party can do."

      Aides to Vice President Al Gore, the apparent Democratic nominee,
      say they are not losing sleep over a Nader challenge. Mr. Nader is
      not the most skillful of campaigners, and even many liberal allies
      question his ability to move voters. Further, the Green Party is better known
      for its internal squabbling than for its ability to run campaigns or
      raise money.

      But Mr. Gore's yielding even a few percentage points to Mr. Nader
      would be damaging to the vice president if the election was
      tight. And a support than Patrick J. Buchanan, the likely Reform Party
      nominee, 5
      percent to 3 percent. The poll indicated that the vast majority
      of Mr. Nader's support came from Democrats and that he was doing
      particularly well in California, considered a vital state for Mr.
      Gore. All of which suggests that an aggressive Nader campaign could
      entirely offset advantages Mr. Gore might gain from Mr. Buchanan's candidacy,
      which is expected to siphon votes from the apparent Republican
      nominee, Gov. George W. Bush.

      Mr. Nader intends to remain a thorn in Mr. Gore's side by promoting
      causes that many liberals, large numbers of whom chose Bill
      Bradley in the Democratic primaries, say the Clinton administration has
      lacked the will to see through: universal health care, the environment,
      campaign finance reform and an attack on urban poverty.

      And unlike Mr. Bradley, Mr. Nader is a fierce opponent of the North
      American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization,endearing him
      to traditionally Democratic union members who feel
      that the administration's free-trade policies have hurt American

      As evidence that this year will be different from 1996, Mr. Nader
      says he has hired 15 full-time campaign workers in Washington and will soon
      dispatch 10 others, perhaps former Bradley campaign organizers among
      them, to get the Green Party on the ballot in every state. (The
      party is already on the ballot in 13 states, including New York and

      He has also vowed to raise $5 million, and says he may get help from
      celebrities like Paul Newman, Warren Beatty, Susan Sarandon, Bonnie
      Raitt, Jackson Browne and the Indigo Girls. His first major
      fund-raising event, in Washington tonight, drew 300 people, who paid $25 to
      $1,000 each, adding to the $210,000 or so that the candidate's aides
      said they had already raised.

      But to get anywhere near 5 percent of the vote, Mr. Nader will
      have tovercome some big obstacles, not the least of which is the Green
      Party itself. The party is notoriously disorganized and divided.

      Some members oppose any involvement in electoral politics; others
      are supporting another candidate, Jello Biafra, former lead singer of
      the rock group the Dead Kennedys.

      And then there is Mr. Nader, who is the first to acknowledge that
      he is not the best campaigner. Gawky and prone to long speeches, he is
      also shy and painfully uncomfortable with asking people for their
      votes. When a Delta Air Lines worker stopped him in the Minneapolis airport
      week and said, "I'm a big fan," all he could say in reply was

      "Campaigning takes a level of political ego I just don't have
      yet," he said after the man had sped off.

      He is also notoriously private, refusing to tell even co-workers
      where he lives. (It is in an apartment he rents in the Dupont Circle
      section of Washington.) The only crumbs of biographical information he
      sprinkles into his hourlong speeches are passing references to the town of
      his birth, Winsted, Conn. Rarely does he mention that he is a son of Lebanese
      immigrants, that his father owned a restaurant, that he studied
      Chinese at Princeton and law at Harvard.

      His secretiveness has spawned a host of dark theories among his
      Some contend that he lives in a million-dollar town house here,
      not in the ill-furnished apartment of Nader lore. (Mr. Nader says the town
      house he has been spotted entering is his sister's.) They say that
      despite his seemingly penurious way of living, he is actually quite wealthy,
      that he purposely spent almost nothing on his 1996 campaign to skirt federal
      election laws, which require candidates who spend more than
      $5,000 to file reports disclosing their assets.

      Mr. Nader says he will file a financial disclosure report next
      month. Despite the concerns he frequently voices about the dangers of
      too rapid an advance in technology, the report will show, he says, that he
      owns technology stocks. It will also disclose, he says, that he earned
      about $200,000 in speaking fees last year but gave half of it to
      charities. He says that most of the other half went toward "projects" and that
      he lives on about $25,000 a year.

      Asked how so private a man could run for so public a job, Mr.
      Nader, a lifelong bachelor, replied: "When you work all the time, you
      don't have a problem in terms of private time. There is no private time."

      Even among many on the left, Mr. Nader is not considered the dream
      candidate. In a recent essay in The Nation, Katha Pollitt
      complained that
      his 1996 campaign had focused too much on trade issues, to the
      exclusion of matters like race relations, health care, and gay
      and abortion

      "The idea of progressives cranking up an organization, raising
      funds, fomenting energy and enthusiasm on behalf of this doomed
      project," Ms. Pollitt wrote, "well, it's just too depressing. If working on
      Nader's campaign is the best way progressives can spend the next eight
      months, it's time to hire a hearse and lie down in it."

      Mr. Nader, who says he is running partly at the behest of Green
      Party leaders, replied, "I think she ran out of material that week."

      Still, his platform seems to reflect some of the criticisms of
      progressives like Ms. Pollitt. At the top is universal health care, followed
      by an antipoverty program built heavily on consumer-protection ideas,
      including provisions against loan discrimination by banks, high auto
      insurance rates and landlord abuses.

      "Corporate welfare," one of his favorite issues, will also be
      front and center: he will campaign against tax breaks and government
      subsidies that allow big companies "to privatize profits and socialize risk."

      And, in an effort to win support from social conservatives, he
      plans to attack big media corporations, saying they exploit children with
      racy programming and aggressive marketing practices.

      Although he is counting on the anti-globalization protests this
      weekend to raise his national profile, Mr. Nader says his best hope for
      attention would be to squeeze between Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush in
      televised debates.

      The commission that determines presidential debate participants
      has said a candidate must be receiving 15 percent in national polls to be
      included. Mr. Nader contends that the threshold is ridiculously high, and
      hopes to unite with Mr. Buchanan to protest it.

      And if he prevails, he says, he will pose in those debates the
      kind of questions that will spark interest in his campaign.

      "Candidates are asked, 'What is your position on welfare, what is
      your position on crime?' " Mr. Nader said. "That's not the right
      question. It needs an adjective: 'What is your position on corporate welfare?
      What is your position on corporate crime?' We're going to open this up.
      We're going to provide adjectives to these issues."
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