CNN’s Interview with Ralph Nader


[The follow is a transcript of Ralph Nader’s appearance on CNN’s Late Edition. Click here to view a podcast of the show.)
Wolf Blitzer: He’s a pioneer for consumer protection. He’s run for president and his name, still a red flag for many Democrats, guaranteed to start an argument about the 2000 presidential campaign.

Joining us here in Washington, Ralph Nader. He’s the author of a new book entitled “The Seventeen Traditions,” about his childhood and his life.

Mr. Nader, welcome back to “Late Edition.” It’s a beautiful book with a lot of emotion for so many of us who will go through this book, and I want to get to it shortly. But let’s get through some politics, some other issues first if that’s OK.


BLITZER: Let’s talk first of all about the presidency. Do you have any plans to run for president in 2008?

NADER: It’s really too early to say. I don’t like long campaigns. But I’m committed to trying to give more voices and choices to the American people on the ballot. That means more third parties, independent candidates and to break up this two-party elected dictatorship that is becoming more and more like a dial for the same corporate dollars.

BLITZER: As you know, by leaving the door open as you just did, a lot of Democrats are going to get very, very nervous, given what happened in 2000. But you are potentially open to running for president again?

NADER: As I say, I’ll consider it later in the year. But I think they ought to look at the agenda of some of these third parties like the Green Party, like our independent run in ’04. Maybe if they take some of these issues, as they should have, in ’00 and ’04, they might win in a bigger way over the Republican Party.

BLITZER: Here’s what you wrote about Hillary Clinton on If Hillary Clinton is nominated in 2008 by the Democrats to run for president, they will support her. They will support her even though she is a corporate Democrat who opposes us on the war in Iraq, on real universal health insurance, on the swollen, wasteful military and corporate welfare budget, on a national living wage — on many of the issues we care about.”

I take it you’re not going to vote for Hillary Clinton.

NADER: No. I don’t think she has the fortitude. Actually, she’s really a panderer and a flatterer as she goes around the country. You’ll see more of that. I think her main problem may well be right in New York City, Michael Bloomberg. They’re talking in the Bloomberg camp of a possible run.

BLITZER: You like Bloomberg?

NADER: I’m saying he’ll give more diversity for sure, and he’ll focus on urban problems. And I might say, he has got the money to do it, doesn’t he?

BLITZER: He’s a rich guy. He’s a very rich guy. But, in other words, if Hillary Clinton gets the Democratic nomination, would that encourage you to go forward and put your name on the ballot?

NADER: It would make it more important that that be the case.

BLITZER: Are there any Democrats out there that you like right now? Any Republicans out there that you like that would discourage you from running?

NADER: Well, there are, but they don’t have a lot of money. Mike Gravel made a great speech before the Democratic National Convention, former senator from Alaska, on the war, on the corporate domination of our economy, on the need for a national referendum to give more power to the people.

BLITZER: I think it’s fair to say he’s a long shot.

NADER: Yes, well, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, from Ohio, of course, a great…


BLITZER: You like Congressman Kucinich, too.

NADER: But also his record. These people have records, not just rhetoric, going back in their own elected careers. I might add that we have got a money horse race now. I mean, the press and the polls are gravitating on cash register politics as if there’s a bar graph, you know, to see who’s going to raise the $100 million or $200 million, McCain or Obama or Hillary. That’s very unhealthy. That’s rancid politics.

BLITZER: Here’s what you wrote back in October on Bill Moyers, the PBS commentator: “Moyers brings impressive credentials beyond his knowledge of the White House, congressional complexes. As millions of viewers and readers over the decades know, Bill Moyers is unusually articulate and authentic in evaluating the unmet necessities and framing the ignored solutions in our country.”

You’d like him to run for president? NADER: Very much. I got a great response to that column.

BLITZER: What about response did you get from Bill Moyers?

NADER: We haven’t heard from Bill Moyers, but people ought to Google Bill Moyers and let him know that they would like him to run. I think he could raise clean money and substantial money. He’s well- known, he’s very articulate. He’s been in the White House with Lyndon Johnson. He knows the media and his speeches are just wonderful renditions of American history, the progressive moment and the way forward for our country.

BLITZER: Let me talk briefly — and then I want to move on to your book — about this new documentary that’s come out called “An Unreasonable Man.” It’s about you. It deals with your life, but it also has some criticism of what happened back in 2000 when the suggestion is the votes, 20,000 or whatever you got, 90,000 — how many votes did you get in Florida?

NADER: Ninety-six thousand.

BLITZER: Ninety-six thousand.

NADER: But a lot of them would have stayed home.

BLITZER: That could you have tipped the ballots in favor of Al Gore who lost by less than 600 votes. Let me run a little clip from this film entitled “An Unreasonable Man.”


TODD GITLIN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: He should have campaigned in safe states like New York and California where he had many, many potential votes to pick up.

JOAN CLAYBROOK, PRESIDENT, PUBLIC CITIZEN: He told a lot of his contributors that he wasn’t going to go into the swing state in 2000. But then he changed his mind and then he couldn’t resist the competitive part of it. And so he went into the swing states.

CLAYBROOK: So then he changed his mind, and then he couldn’t resist the competitive part of it. And so he went into the swing states.


BLITZER: All right, those are two supporters, people who are sympathetic to you.

NADER: Unfortunately, it’s false. The film has a professor at Harvard who looked over our schedule. I spent 28 days in California, two and a half days in Florida, for example. So those statements are factually false.

But if we all have equal right to run for public office, Wolf, then we’re either all spoilers of one another, or none of us are spoilers. I mean, why should third-party candidates, which historically have given the new ideas, such as in the 19th century, anti-slavery, women’s right to vote, labor, farmer, why should they be second-class citizens?

By the way, I’ve spoken to Al Gore. You ask Al Gore what cost him the election. He thinks he won the election. I agree. I think he won it in Florida, but he lost it because it was taken from him from Tallahassee with all those shenanigans all the way to the 5-4 political decision in the Supreme Court.

BLITZER: All right, we’re not going to rehash what happened in 2000.


BLITZER: I want to talk a little bit about “The Seventeen Traditions” by Ralph Nader. This is a lovely new book, a little one, but it’s got some really deep significance for you and I assume a lot of people who read it. Tell us what you mean by these 17 traditions.

NADER: Well, there are 17 ways my mother and father raised four children, two girls and two boys, in a little factory town in northwest Connecticut. And their traditions, I think they’ll resonate with a lot of people, especially young parents who think everything’s out of control for them, including their children.

So the first tradition is learning how to listen. My mother would say, learn how to listen so you’ll listen to learn, something I wish George W. Bush grew up learning. There’s a tradition of history, a tradition of the family food table, where a lot of discussion was conducted. The tradition of history, it was very important for us. Tradition of work.

Father had a restaurant where they said for a nickel, you got a cup of coffee and ten minutes of politics. So it was a lot of town meeting activity, with the factory workers and others.

BLITZER: You had a wonderful childhood growing up. You had parents who were intimately, directly involved in raising you and your siblings. But you fear that a lot of these responsibilities, parental responsibilities that you had, that I had are now being outsourced in a new generation.

NADER: Tremendous pressure on families. More commuting, more than one job, sometimes single moms. Not enough time for the children. So, more and more family functions. Day care, entertainment, food, fast food restaurants, all being outsourced. That’s not very good for raising the next generation of Americans.

I think this book will help a lot of other families establish their own family traditions. Their own grandparents and great grandparents’ wisdom, insight, experience. Why have the children keep reinventing the wheel?

We have a civic tradition in our family. And I think the greatest source of civic advocates in our country doesn’t come from the schools. It will come from the parents and the family upbringing.

BLITZER: Let me read to you from the book and get your response: “Today, more and more families are farming out their responsibilities. The family industry is swiftly becoming a real factor in our economy. And this comes with a price, as more parents lose confidence in their own judgments, in their ability to make decisions without the help of the, quote, ‘experts.’

“As corporations deliberately encroach on the parenting of our children, and children spend less personal time with their parents, those all-important traditions are falling by the wayside.”

Now, that’s a depressing thought.

NADER: But it’s realistic. And I wouldn’t blame the parents. The economy is designed to separate more and more, during the day, the parents, from the children, number one. The companies are marketing direct now to two-, three-, five-, eight-year-olds in a massive advertising campaign, junk food, military toys, overmedication, cosmetics for girls age 7.

I mean, it’s just unbelievable what’s going on that we’re not thinking enough about because of these distractions that we’re seeing in our country. And that’s one of the prices of the Iraq war.

BLITZER: Of the 17 traditions, and they’re all one chapter each, which is your favorite?

NADER: The civic tradition. My parents, by example, were active in the community, helped expand the hospital, for example, helped to get from Senator Prescott Bush, the grandfather of the president, a dry dam so that the Mad River wouldn’t overflow and destroy the main street, as it did three times in 50 years. We saw all that. And it sunk in.

BLITZER: Anybody who reads this will know that the Ralph Nader that all of us have come to know over these past decades, the roots were strong here, and they are documented in this book, “The Seventeen Traditions.” Thanks for writing it.

NADER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Ralph Nader, thanks for coming in.

And up next on “Late Edition,” new warnings this week that Iraq is close to chaos. We’ll get analysis from our panel of intelligence and military experts.

Plus, is Iran playing a dangerous game in arming and encouraging sectarian violence in Iraq? We’ll ask the panel about Iran, the war, the U.S. response.

And what of Iran’s role in Lebanon, including money and arms for Hezbollah? The former president of Lebanon, Amin Gemayel, he’s standing by to join us, live, right here on “Late Edition.” We’ll be right back.


Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!