Published on Wednesday, October 6, 2004 by the Portland Press Herald (Maine)
Scorn, Anger and Resolve Sustain Nader
by Joshua Weinstein
Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader excoriated the Democratic Party and its nominee for president Tuesday, calling the party a bully and a coward, and saying that a vote for Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry is "a vote for war - an endless, Vietnam-type quagmire."
Speaking to about 65 people at a fund-raiser at Portland's Center for Cultural Exchange, Nader also swung at Republican President George Bush and at the Green Party, which he represented in 2000 as a nominee for president.
During the fund-raiser and at a press conference beforehand, though, he reserved most of his criticism for the Democratic Party and Kerry.
During Thursday's presidential debate, Kerry "made no ambiguity. . . . He was in it for victory, to smash the resistance and to continue the corporate and military occupation of Iraq," Nader said.
Nader said he and his running mate, Peter Camejo, would have American troops out of Iraq within six months. Nader's plan would put an international peacekeeping force of troops from Islamic and neutral nations into Iraq.
Nader said his is the only candidacy that has an exit strategy for Iraq.
He called for universal health care, for a living minimum wage for all, for an end to the war on drugs. And Nader, who gained a national reputation as a consumer advocate in the 1960s, called for "a major law-and-order effort" against "corporate fraud and abuse."
During his half-hour talk, Nader said liberals should make demands on Kerry before supporting him. "The liberal intelligentsia in this country is complacent," he said. "They rolled over for John Kerry, who is a war hawk in Iraq.
"To what level of cowardliness will this castrated Democratic Party descend to?" Nader asked.
He also criticized the party for trying to keep him off the ballot in Maine and other states. By doing so, he said, the party proves it wants freedom of speech only for people who agree with it.
He had ire for Republicans, too, saying the president "does not care about American people" except when it comes to protecting them from al-Qaida.
"All he cares about is to convert the terror threat into a political advantage," he said.
Nader expressed scorn for his old party as well.
Jonathan Carter, who was the Green Independent candidate for governor of Maine in 2002, introduced Nader, and Nader thanked him by saying that Carter "doesn't waver like some people in Maine who belong to the Green Party - lost their nerve."
Carter's predecessor as the Green candidate for governor, Pat Lamarche, is the party's vice presidential nominee this time around. But Lamarche and David Cobb, the Green presidential candidate, are focusing more on their issues and campaigning for local Green candidates than seriously attempting to win the White House.
Nader, who is campaigning in all states - and also visited New Hampshire and Vermont on Tuesday - mocked the strategy.
"That's not running a third party," he said. Rather, it is turning the Green Party into "a subsidiary of the Democratic Party, and that's what's weakening the Greens."
Blair Bobier, the Cobb-Lamarche spokesman, dismissed Nader's criticism.
"That's nonsense," he said. "The reality is that neither David Cobb nor Ralph Nader are going to win the presidency this election. So the question is how to best grow a party and build a movement, and we're confident that we're taking the right approach.
"We are not supporting the Democrats," Bobier said, "but we're also not telling people that there's no differences between the Republicans and the Democrats. David Cobb is incredibly clear when he says that John Kerry is a corporatist and a militarist. David also points out that, as bad as Kerry is, Bush is worse."
That strategy, Nader said, forces people to elect "a least worst" candidate.
Jesse Derris, Kerry's director of communications in Maine, said, "The voters of Maine know that a vote for John Kerry is a vote for the middle class . . . for quality jobs, affordable health care and prescription drugs for seniors. There's a clear choice this November: four more years of a president who is taking us in the wrong direction, or a new team with a vision to take us in a new direction."
Dwayne Bickford, executive director of the Republican Party of Maine, said the president has a strong plan for health care and for education, and is working to make the world a more secure place. "The voters are looking for substance, and that's what they get from President Bush," he said.
© 2004 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.