Published on Thursday, October 26, 2000 in the New York Times
Nader, Facing Democratic Fire,
Attacks Gore's Record
by James Dao
WASHINGTON, Oct. 25 — In the face of growing efforts by the Democratic Party and its allies to deflate his support, Ralph Nader, the Green Party candidate for president, criticized Vice President Al Gore today more sharply than ever before, accusing him of repeatedly breaking promises to clean up the environment, help the poor and reform the federal government.
"Al Gore is suffering from election-year delusion if he thinks his record on the environment is anything to be proud of," Mr. Nader said at a packed news conference at the National Press Club. "He should be held accountable by voters for eight years of principles betrayed and promises broken."
Today, for example, officials with the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League said the group would begin running television commercials in Portland, Ore., Minneapolis and Madison, Wis., late this week urging people who support abortion rights not to vote for Mr. Nader, on the premise that the election of Gov. George W. Bush of Texas would lead to a Supreme Court that would overturn those rights.
Mr. Nader said today that prominent Democrats and labor leaders, including Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, have urged him to quit the race. But he scoffed at the effort, saying it was merely helping him communicate his anti-corporate, pro-third-party message to disenchanted, disengaged voters.
"It's actually giving us greater publicity," he said. "Let these Democrats be more vociferous."
In his wry way, Mr. Nader seemed almost gleeful about the sudden burst of media attention his campaign had received. As he entered the news conference today, he glanced at the forest of microphones clipped to his lectern and joked, "There used to be a podium here." (There were more than 30 reporters and a dozen camera crews at the event, far more than usual for him.)
Mr. Nader also batted aside suggestions from some Democrats that he confine his campaigning to states where the race was not close, so he would not hurt Mr. Gore. Rather, he said, he planned to stump through several swing states over the next two weeks and hold major rallies in two of them: Wisconsin and Iowa.
Democratic Party officials and their allies in the labor, women's and environmental movements are concerned that Mr. Nader is drawing away just enough liberal voters in several states, including Minnesota, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin, to threaten Mr. Gore's chances of winning the election.
For that reason, a number of prominent labor unions and interest groups, including Naral, the League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club and the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay and lesbian organization, have recently begun major campaigns to convince liberal voters that a vote for Mr. Nader is effectively a vote for Mr. Bush.
Naral's new commercial, for instance, warns that Mr. Bush's goal is "ending legal abortion" and concludes, "Before voting Nader, consider the risk."
Kate Michelman, Naral's president, said the group is considering running the spot in Maine, Michigan and Washington as well. And she said the organization had begun calling voters in swing states who support abortion rights to urge them to vote Democratic, not Green.
Most of those organizations have said liberals should vote for Mr. Gore because Bush appointments to the Supreme Court could pose a threat to causes like abortion rights. But today, Mr. Nader shrugged off that argument, asserting that some Democratic nominees to the court have compiled conservative voting records.
"I don't give the Democrats much credibility here," he said. He added that several respected justices, including Earl Warren, Harry A. Blackmun and David H. Souter, were nominated by Republican presidents.
Mr. Nader opened his news conference by attacking the Clinton administration as having failed to improve the condition of the poor. He argued that most low-income workers make less today in inflation-adjusted dollars than they did in the 1970's. And he called for raising the federal minimum wage to $8.50 an hour, from $5.15, repealing laws that restrict labor organizing and devoting much of the federal surplus to a "Marshall Plan" to rebuild cities.
"The cruel truth is that few of the benefits of a booming stock market and good economic times at the top have trickled down to millions of American families," he said.
But Mr. Nader quickly moved to a wide-ranging attack on Mr. Gore's environmental record, accusing the vice president of reneging on a host of pledges over the past eight years. Among them: failing to close a hazardous waste incinerator in Ohio, not pushing for higher fuel-efficiency standards in automobiles and allowing federal prosecution of environmental crimes to decline.
Kym Spell, a spokeswoman for the Gore campaign, said: "Voters who are informed about the issues know that big things are at stake in this election, like a woman's right to choose. The voters who care about these issues know that the differences between Al Gore and George Bush are like night and day."
During an extensive question-and- answer period, Mr. Nader said his campaign would actually help liberals fight for their causes by forcing the party's dominant centrist wing to pay more attention to them.
"Already the progressive wing of the Democratic Party suddenly is getting its calls returned by the right-wing Democratic Party operatives who are running that party into the ground as they morph it into a Republican Party impostor," he said.
He dismissed assertions that he might derail Mr. Gore's candidacy, paraphrasing David Letterman.
"Only Al Gore can beat Al Gore," Mr. Nader said. "And he's been doing a pretty good job of that. Up against one of the most bumbling, corporate-indentured, horrible- record Republican candidates, George W. Bush, and he's still in a neck-and-neck race."
Copyright 2000 The New York Times Company