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Now Nader Claims He Didn’t Endorse Edwards

by ALEXANDER COCKBURN

 

In our column on the CounterPunch home page yesterday on the New Hampshire primary Jeffrey St Clair and I wrote in the penultimate paragraph:

“Are there any other independents who would raise the antiwar standard? Certainly not Michael Bloomberg. Ralph Nader? His endorsement of John Edwards in the final moments of the Iowa caucus was bizarre. Why suddenly support someone he had run against in 2004, who supported the war and the Patriot Act, whose populism had as much authenticity as Al Gore’s lunge into populism at the Democratic convention in 2000. Nader should probably leave the battlefield to Paul.”

In testy messages to both of us yesterday Nader denies he endorsed Edwards before the Iowa caucus, asserting that all he did was quote approvingly a phrase of Edwards concerning Hillary Clinton being a corporate Democrat. “We quoted Edward’s phrase, We didn’t even say who it was, then we went after Hillary. That’s not an endorsement I demand a correction.”

So Nader didn’t endorse Edwards before Iowa? Try googling the topic. On December 31 the politico site featured a story by David Paul Kuhn, headlined “Nader throws support to Edwards“. Kuhn’s report, datelined Muscatine, Iowa, began:

“Ralph Nader unleashed on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton Monday – criticizing her for being soft on defense spending and a chum of big business – and expressed his strong support for John Edwards. In an eleventh hour effort to encourage liberal Iowans to ‘recognize’ the former North Carolina senator by ‘giving him a victory,’ the activist and former presidential contender said in an interview that Clinton will ‘pander to corporate interest groups’ if elected.Nader, a four-time presidential candidate, called Edwards a Democratic ‘glimmer of hope’. On Monday, Nader also issued a public statement criticizing Clinton as a ‘corporate Democrat,’ echoing the exact words Edwards uses to challenge Clinton. Nader said he has watched Edwards from afar and sees his more pugilistic brand of populism as an encouraging sign. ‘It’s the only time I’ve heard a Democrat talk that way in a long time,’ Nader said, acknowledging what was, for him, a rare moment of praise for a Democratic leader. ‘Iowa should decide which candidate stands for us,’ he added. ‘Edwards is at least highlighting day after day that the issue is who controls our country: big business or the people?'”

This report was immediately cited across the full spectrum of corporate and independent media, from stunned greens, through salon, the Washington Post to John Edwards’ own website. We can find no record of any attempt by Nader to correct what he now claims to be misrepresentation.

Actually I spoke a great length to Ralph on the morning of December 31, when he called me on my cellphone to vent his outrage at the New York Times’ recruiting of Bill Kristol as an op ed columnist. We ranged across many topics. I asked him if he was planning a run as an independent candidate and he said he would make up his mind in a month. There was no mention of an endorsement of Edwards or even talk of any “glimmer of hope”.

I was rather mortified thhe next day, January 1, to read Kuhn’s politico story, thinking, Why did Ralph not bother to mention to me his plan to give the nod to Edwards later that same day? That same morning, January 1, there came from Nader not a swift denial of Kuhn’s report, but a somewhat rambling press release, under the names of Ralph Nader, Rocky Anderson (the mayor of Salt Lake City) and Matt Gonzalez, the San Francisco green, denouncing Hillary Clinton as one of the “corporate Democrats”, a phrase often used by John Edwards.

Also on January 1, Andrew Malcolm who writes a political blog for the Los Angeles Times, cited an interview of Nader by the LAT’s Dan Morain: “Nader lauded John Edwards for his presidential campaign, saying the former Senator is using the opportunity to talk tough about corporate abuses.” Again, Nader apparently felt no need to deny Kuhn’s report on politico the day before.

On January 2 the Nation print edition went to press with a column of mine. Near the end I wrote, “He [Nader] told me on New Year’s Eve that he’d make up his mind in a month. The same day he endorsed Edwards, which presumably helps Ralph’s cred with the trial lawyers. So if HRC becomes the certain nominee Ralph may run. If he does, he should campaign solely in Ohio and Florida.”

And here’s a clip of Nader’s appearance on Hardball, where he calls Edwards the most progressive presidential candidate for a mainstream party in twenty years.

Last night, after Nader’s angry message, I emailed Judy Long, the Nation’s letters editor, asking if Nader had demanded a correction. No, Judy promptly answered, there’d been nothing from Ralph.

It’s silly. A man of Ralph’s vast experience gives the thumb’s up to Edwards on the eve of the Iowa caucus and then pretends to us–though apparently to no one else–that this didn’t constitute an endorsement of Edwards.

Our guess is that Ralph is mad at us for suggesting yesterday that he might sit this one out. Mind you, we only said “probably”.

And, Ralph, you can quote us on that.

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

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