Stormin’ Norman Solomon recently released his annual “P.U.-litzer Prizes” for shoddy commentary and wackjob journalism across these glorious United “Red” States of America. To tell the truth, it ain’t all bad. He’s got a few stalwarts of the corporate press in there — like Dan Rather and that racist radio host Don Imus. Solomon doesn’t pull any punches when naming journalistic abhorrence at the New York Times, either, like Judith Miller and Thomas Freidman. But Normie left someone off the list that surely made it this year, himself.
There were few other progressive superstars out there opposed to Ralph Nader’s independent run for President this year than Solomon. His host of anti-Nader columns in 2004 may have even surpassed that of The Nation’s own in house Nader-baiter, Eric Alterman. First, Norm begged Nader’s running mate Peter Camejo to throw in the towel during a debate in early 2004, well before Nader or the Greens had even announced candidates. He believed Nader would indeed tilt the election to Bush. Sorry Norm, we can give that illustrious prize to your candidate-of-choice, John Kerry.
Before we get into Solomon’s own ghastly commentaries over the past twelve months, a disclaimer is in order. Solomon’s book False Hope, published in the mid-1990s (although at times a meandering screed), represented a great assault on the Clinton administration. Contrary to others of similar political persuasion, Solomon knew that after twelve long years of Republican control, the ascendance of Clinton meant little more than a formality cloaked in the rhetoric of “change.”
Solomon argued very articulately that Clinton represented another wing of the corporate class, a neoliberal and a war-monger cut from the same cloth as his Republican adversaries. Consequently, Solomon was a vocal supporter of Ralph Nader’s Green Party bid in 1996 and 2000.
But Solomon has changed chords since then.
Writing in late October 2004, Solomon had this to say of his old friend Ralph: “In contrast to his avowed idealism, the candidate has descended into nihilism blended with macho posturing.”
So fearful of Ralph “stealing” the election was Solomon that he declared Nader’s candidacy “a pointless project — unless the point is to again prove that he can hurt the Democratic Party in a big way. With most polls showing a dead heat, Nader insisted on the need to keep running all-out, even — and perhaps especially — in the closest states.”
Pointless? Nader was the only progressive candidate even attempting to take Kerry to task in the states that mattered, i.e. “swing states.” Unlike Solomon, who drove around the Southwest in the latter days of the campaign trumping for Kerry, Nader challenged consistently the corruption of our corporate government and their bipartisan thirst for Iraqi blood.
He remained the only high-profile candidate raising questions about U.S. policy on Israel and Palestine, the pre-emptive war doctrine, the growing wealth gap, and the racist prison-industrial complex, among so many other issues.
But on Solomon raged, smearing Nader, accusing the veteran consumer advocate of being in-bed with the Republicans. Of course, Judith Miller would be proud of Solomon’s contempt for facts. Solomon told Socialist Worker: “In Oregon, right-wing groups–including a notorious antigay organization–have worked to get Nader on the ballot. The Oregonian (June 25) reported that the head of the Nader campaign in Oregon ‘said he saw nothing wrong with the Republican outreach efforts. ‘It’s a free country,’ he said. ‘People do things in their own interest.’ Building ‘a political alternative’ while accepting tactical alliances with xenophobic and antigay forces? I’ll pass.”
But Solomon conveniently forgot to mention the tactics Dems took in Oregon to keep Nader off the ballot, such as sending slick operatives to the homes of Nader petition gatherers to threaten them with federal crimes if they made errors while collecting names. Writing for LeftHook.org in early October, Toby Shepard had this to say about the shenanigans:
“Take Oregon. After Nader volunteers collected more than the required 15,306 signatures (a total of 18,186) needed to appear on the state’s ballot, Secretary of State Bill Bradbury invented reasons to disqualify his constituents. If signatures appeared illegible, (despite printed names appearing directly below ‘illegible’ signatures) Bradbury disqualified them. In one instance, a volunteer had begun to write a ‘7’ to mark the day of the month, realized the error, crossed it out and wrote ‘8.’ Bradbury discarded the entire sheet. Bradbury even threw out 2,354 signatures (which had already been verified by individual counties) because they were submitted without page numbers. All in all, Bradbury left Nader 218 signatures short of being on the state ballot. Three cheers for democracy.”
Well, what about Solomon’s assertion that right-wing groups were helping Nader? CounterPunch had this to say in July 2004 about the corrupt money we should really be concerned with:
“Chevron Inc, who was convicted in 1992 of egregious environmental offenses, has given the Democrats over $46,000 this election cycle. Pfizer, the monstrous pharmaceutical company and maker of Zoloft and erection fortifying Viagra, has given close to $160,000 to the Democrats this go-round. Their crime? Price fixing food additives, to which they pled guilty in 1999.
“Time/Warner, who will most likely be charged with a $400 million accounting violation later this summer by the SEC, has given John Kerry approximately $250,000 since 1990. That’s not including the over $3.6 million they have given the Democrats since Al Gore’s run for president.
“Bush’s homeboy, convicted right-winger Kenny “Boy” Lay, the Enron sage, used to sit on the board of directors for the Heinz Foundation, which is John Kerry’s wife’s ketchup rich environmental trust. His company has given well over one million dollars to the Democrats since 2000. And we all know Enron’s crimes.
“Archer Daniels Midland, the huge multinational processor and exporter of cereal grains and oilseeds, pled guilty in 1996 to one of the largest anti-trust lawsuits in the history of the United States. They’ve anteed up over $1.7 million to the Democratic Party since 2000. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
“How about the most recent on the list of corporate robber barons? Although they have yet to be convicted of any wrong-doing in Iraq (the Pentagon claims they have overcharged tax payers millions of dollars), Dick Cheney’s war profiteering Halliburton has donated $37,581 to the Dems this year. And Democrats still want us to believe Nader’s the only one who is sleeping with the enemy?”
Some would say an apology is in order. Norman, say you are “sorry” to Ralph.
Your teammate in the Kerry-or-die effort, Medea Benjamin, has already apologized in a round about way, and it’s your turn now. As Medea recently told The Nation, “Many of us in the Green Party made a tremendous compromise by campaigning in swing states for such a miserable standard-bearer for the progressive movement as John Kerry. Well, I’ve had it. As George Bush says, ‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”
Nader’s independent campaign for president this year brought in close to 500,000 votes, despite being wrangled in legal battles over ballot access, and chastised by ex-supporters like Mr. Solomon for deciding to take the two corporate war parties head on.
Norman’s efforts to smear Nader in 2004 indeed backfired. Kerry’s loss was not the fault of Nader or his cohorts, no matter how much Solomon wishes they were. It would have been easy to point the finger of blame at that grouchy old Ralph, but Solomon would do well to regress back to his old roots and again take on the Democrats for their spinelessness.
In the meantime Norman, go ahead and award yourself your own lamely punned “P.U.-litzer.” You deserve it.
JOSHUA FRANK, a contributor to A Dime’s Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils, is putting the finishing touches on Left Out: How Liberals did Bush’s Work for Him, to be published by Common Courage Press in 2005. He welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.