Nader at the National Press Club


Ralph Nader spoke eloquently at the National Press Club June 3. It was an hour of unadulterated integrity. Nader actually bothered more than a perfunctory nod to the issues that affect us deeply. A politics practically extinct, certainly in the presidential orbit, Nader spoke from the people’s interests and as representative of them.

Nader separates himself from the pack in his consistent focus on talking abut the military budget as a problem. Other presidential candidates from time immemorial, for some odd reason, find it politically expedient to support its expansion. “We have enough weaponry,” said Nader, “to blow up the world three hundred times and make the rubble bounce. And more and more weapons are in the pipeline.”

Bush is a warmonger, so his devotion to military pork is understandable. Kerry is a war criminal who ought to know better. Where his interests lie, let alone his constituents, in a militarism that rivals Bush’s is as mysterious as where Clinton’s did. Nader pointed out the military budget is rife with graft, corruption, pork, and cronyism. Who knew? It accounts for over half the federal budget, and yet it is off the table as an issue of debate for the two major parties, he said. He rightfully pointed out that even if voters don’t want to vote for him, they ought to want him included in the presidential debates because otherwise crucial issues such as this one are going to go unexplored.

It is typical of his campaign that Nader breached quite early on in his talk the Palestinian Israeli conflict because it is an issue that is so important. Nader does not spout the same failed rhetoric on this problem that is likely to raise for his campaign tens of millions of dollars from the American Israeli Political Action Committee and the like. But it is one whose peaceful resolution would make many more Americans safe from a repeat of September 11. Nader said the conflict is the “source of many of the flash points that are radiating throughout the world.” Wonder when Kerry’s going to catch on?

Nader says that all signs point in aggregate to “the conversion of our great national capital into the corporate state…The clinical definition of [fascism is] the merger of private corporate power with government in twisting government against its own people or to service the corporate machine by way of subsidies, handouts, give-aways, lax law enforcement, bailouts and other things that have been so widely reported.”

Nader’s populist oratory ought by natural right appeal to 95 percent of the citizenry. His political discourse is inimitable, urgently cogent, in touch with issues of paramount importance, and speaks for the great bulk of the electorate. It does not betray a trace of superfluity. He brings a keen intellect and a populist seriousness to the issues absolutely lacking in Kerry’s insipid ego, not to speak of Bush’s stumbling over fact and reality nor his outright prevarications.

Sixty percent of corporations paid no federal taxes in 2002; seventy percent of foreign corporations fall into the same category, reports Nader. It’s these corporations, he says, which are saying “no” to universal health care, a living wage, a fair tax system, publicly-funded elections, alternative energies, public transport, a rural economy and family farms. In each of these and other issues, it is specialized corporate interests that prevent the citizenry from achieving what ought be its by democratic birthright.

Nader is one of the dearest treasures this country has ever had. Let me go twice to the source to close this article.

“The concentration of power and wealth in this country is at the root of so many or our secular problems. This concentration is more than the obvious pattern of abuses that we’ve read about in the history of our country and other countries; it’s now getting into our minds. It’s making us lower our expectation levels. It’s making us settle for less. It’s making us tell the two parties that they can take us for granted; and they willingly do so. It’s making us think about the least worst choice.”

“There is a strong need for accountability over a president who launches an unconstitutional war on a platform of fabrications, deceptions, prevarication, turns down much advice in his own administration… I think someday people will total up the opportunity costs – financial; in terms of casualties, our casualties, Iraqi casualties; in terms of turning so much of the world against us that was so much behind un on 9/11; and other opportunity costs – to more properly weigh the gravity of treating Article I, Section 4, of the U.S. Constitution, the war-declaring authority in Congress, as a mere technicality. James Madison called that provision the highest wisdom in the Constitution, and that was because they did not want one person in the White House to decide when to take our country to war. They wanted a deliberative body. And there was plenty of time to deliberate, wasn’t there? And if there was plenty of time to deliberate, with the mass media reporting it back to tens of millions of Americans, I somehow think we might have avoided the growing quagmire.”

Deliberations? Kerry didn’t have time for deliberations. He was running for president. And he gave Bush the okay to engender longtime, perhaps eternal, hatred of the Muslim world toward our country.

TRACY McLELLAN is a scholar, writer, and activist living in the Chicagoland area. You may reach him at: