Ralph Nader finally fought his way into a presidential debate on Friday June 9th. However he didn’t spar with John F. Kerry or George W. Bush on national TV, but rather took on the “insurgent” turned “detergent” of dirty Democratic linen, Howard Dean. At least Nader called the ex-Vermont governor as much during their one-hour contest that aired on CSPAN and NPR, which offered no new insights into the Kerry campaign, nor showed Nader supporters why they should indeed run and join up in Kerry’s army.
Nader hardly flinched as Dean repeated half a dozen times that we must do everything in our power (that is legal of course) to rid the country of the Bush plague. We are in a state of “emergency” he boldly announced. And if getting rid of Bush means supporting a pro-war, pro-Israel, pro-welfare reform candidate like John Kerry, so be it. The country and the world will be better off.
Dean, obviously reincarnated after his own presidential death earlier this year, went as far as to claim that Kerry has “progressive credentials,” something you would have never heard quiver off the lips of Dean the candidate, who himself doesn’t even have credentials of the progressive stripe. But now Dean, the defender of the party that did their best to slaughter him during the primaries, is becoming the poster boy for a lousy Kerry ticket that continues to pander to right-wing ideologies, like the Israeli wall and tax-cuts for corporations.
In hopes of slandering Nader’s character, Dean pointed out several times that Republican ‘anti-gay’ groups were helping his campaign in Oregon. Nader admitted he doesn’t even know these individuals that are giving to his ballot access efforts, but said it was funny how republicans want voters to have choices when Democrats are working overtime to keep Nader off the ballots, like they did in Arizona. When asked if Dean knew of these attempts, he answered, “not to my knowledge,” but then stepped back and said members of his “former staff” were involved. Hmm.
Inevitably throwing Dean into a chicken fight match with Nader was a poor attempt by the Kerry camp to draw Naderites into his fold. And instead of taking on the issues, Dean attacked Nader’s moral fiber, while ignoring the suspect fund raising skills of the Kerry/Edwards operation. Dean must have also forgotten that his own presidential campaign was helplessly infiltrated by many right-wing nut jobs, including long-time Halliburton board member Robert Crandall. But never mind that. Who believes such individual donations, not soft money of corporate PACs, which Nader won’t touch, can influence the old consumer advocate anyway? Isn’t this the guy so many liberals claim is only motivated by his stubborn ego? Isn’t he unable to be persuaded?
And what about the fact that this group, who goes by the name Oregon Family Council, is only trying to get Nader on the state ballot? What is so wrong with giving voters the choice to vote for whom they desire, despite their motivations for doing so? Democrats by and large don’t want voters to have the option of voting for Ralph Nader. They don’t trust citizens to make rationale choices. I guess these Democrats hate democracy. If I am right, you can bet that Dems will do their best to keep Nader out of the televised debates as well. Why wouldn’t they? Like Dean said, the house is on fire, it’s no time to “rearrange the furniture.” What he really meant was, it is no time for democracy, let’s put that off until 2008, this is an emergency we’ve got here.
JOSHUA FRANK is the author of the upcoming book, Left Out: How Liberals did Bush’s Work for Him, to be published by Common Courage Press and is a contributor to Counterpunch’s forthcoming book, Dime’s Worth of Difference. He welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.