Published on Monday, October 30, 2000
Ralph Nader Interview With Sam Donaldson
Transcript from ABC's This Week Sunday, October 29, 2000

     SAM DONALDSON: Joining us now is the presidential candidate of the Association of Green Parties, Ralph Nader. Welcome, Mr. Nader.
     RALPH NADER: Thank you.
     DONALDSON: Nice to see you. Well, last August when The New York Times published an editorial against you, you called it shameful. I’m going to give you a chance to respond to their editorial last Thursday, which reads, in part: “We would regard Mr. Nader’s willful prankishness as a disservice to the electorate, no matter whose campaign it was hurting. The country deserves a clear up-or-down vote between Mr. Bush and Mr. Gore. He calls his wrecking-ball candidacy a matter of principle, but it looks from here like ego run amok.” Your reply?
     NADER: Sounds like a tabloid editorial. Maybe we need a clear-cut choice with two good newspapers in New York. I mean, what’s the idea here? Aren’t we interested in competitive choice in this country? Don’t we—voters in poll after poll say they want a broader array of choices, that they want a broader array of people on the debates. Sixty-four percent in a Fox poll wanted me on the presidential debate. RI have no idea why they are so virulently anti-Green Party candidacy.
     DONALDSON: Well, excuse me, sir, but, yes, you do. I mean, like a lot of Democrats, newspapers think that you may throw this race to Bush, and they want it to go to Gore.
     NADER: Well, The New York Times did endorse Gore, but the point is that we are espousing all kinds of issues that The New York Times editorials in past newspaper editions were on the same page...
     DONALDSON: Well, you said repeatedly that you don’t think you would throw the race to Bush. You don’t think it matters. You’ve said it doesn’t matter to you who is the president of the United States, Bush or Gore.
     NADER: Because it’s the permanent corporate government that’s running the show here. What do you think 22,000 corporate lobbyists every day and 9,000 corporate PACs do? The two parties are becoming increasingly insignificant that way, and you can see they’re morphing more and more, on more and more issues, into one corporate party. Look at Senator Joe Lieberman. Could you figure out whether he’s a Democrat or a Republican this morning? Said he might have voted for Mr. Bork. He is for control of the civil justice system, making it harder for wrongfully injured people to sue companies with defective products. That’s a Republican position.
     DONALDSON: Well, he also said he worries about you. And perhaps he has some reason to, whether you think so or not. In our latest ABCNEWS tracking poll, or one we took last Thursday, we found that you had about 3 percent overall. It may be 4 percent by this weekend. But if Nader wasn’t running, 56 percent of your supporters say they would go for Gore; only 23 percent would go for Bush. So he’s right, you’re wrong, if our poll is correct.
     NADER: Why do you think I should be worried about that? If I was worried about whether Gore or Bush were going to be elected, would I be running for president to establish a progressive political reform movement before and after November 7, which is what we’re trying to do? You know, do you think Gore is entitled to any votes? Do you think Bush is entitled—am I entitled to any votes? We have to earn them. If Gore cannot beat the bumbling Texas governor with that horrific record, what good is he? What good is he? Good heavens. I mean, this should be a slam dunk.
     DONALDSON: Well, all right. If it’s not important to you, then let’s see whether it’s important to the people who are, at the moment, saying they’re going to vote for you. Let’s start with abortion. Here’s the ad that the National Abortion Rights League, NARAL, is running against you, a portion of it.
     NARRATOR: If you’re thinking of voting for Ralph Nader, please consider: This year, a five-to-four Supreme Court decision narrowly protected Roe v. Wade. A single vote saved a woman’s right to choose. Before voting Nader, consider the risk.
     DONALDSON: Consider the risk.
     NADER: Consider it. Justice Souter, Justice O’Connor, they could’ve overturned Roe v. Wade three times in the last ten years. They didn’t do it. This is a scare tactic that’s going on here. When George W. Bush was asked by Tim Russert, is he going to push to reverse Roe v. Wade, George Bush said, well, not unless a lot of people in this country change their mind. Even if Roe v. Wade is reversed that doesn’t end it; it just reverts it back to the states.
     DONALDSON: Well, President Clinton has nominated and seen confirmed two justices, Ginsburg and Breyer. They are safely on NARAL’s side. In the case of President Reagan, Scalia is on the court. So if you say, at least he put O’Connor on the court, and she is on NARAL’s side at the moment, you’re only batting 500 there. You’re batting 1,000 with Clinton, and Gore says he’ll beat Clinton.
     NADER: Remember your history. The Democrats made it possible for Scalia and Clarence Thomas to get through the Senate. Scalia was confirmed 98 to nothing, including Al Gore supporting him. Clarence Thomas was confirmed 52 to 48, with 11 Democratic senators putting him over the top in a Senate controlled by the Democratic majority and George Mitchell. They’re responsible for the two worst justices. By their own admission, they’re the two worst justices. What credibility do they have?
     DONALDSON: So you’re saying to your supporters, hey, it doesn’t matter who, Gore or Bush. From the standpoint of a woman’s right to choose, it doesn’t matter. That’s’ what you’re saying.
     NADER: What it matters is the similarities—the enormous similarities, letting this national capital of ours be run by big business, just the way Business Week said the other day in a cover story, saying there’s too much corporate power over all aspects of our life.
     DONALDSON: OK, let’s look at another issue. Environment—that’s your issue. Well, first it was automobiles, “Unsafe at any Speed.” But now it’s the environment. Look at what some of the people who admire you, but who also are for the environment, have to say. Some of your former Nader’s Raiders—great group. Here’s what some of them have said: “To ask voters to support your candidacy on the basis that there are not major differences between the Republican and Democratic Parties”—meaning on the environment—“is a serious misstatement of fact.” And Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who has devoted his life now to being part of environmental organizations, says, “His suggestion that there is no difference between Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush is irresponsible.”
     NADER: I’ll match that with Barry Collander (ph), David Brower (ph), and Randy Hays (ph), who are part of an environmentalists-against-Gore group. Gore talks environment. In one area after another, he has betrayed the environmental movement, whether it’s on biotechnology, motor vehicles, pesticides and herbicides, WTO and NAFTA, one area after another, environmental racism, incinerators in East Ohio, the Everglades—he just cannot conform his deeds to his words.
     DONALDSON: But he says he would not open the Wildlife Arctic Refuge to oil exploration; Bush would. He says he would prevent new roads in national forests for logging; Bush would not. You say that’s not a difference?
     NADER: Those are linguistic differences, but will he fight for them? Has Al Gore ever fought for any of these things, really? Look at all the riders now on the appropriation bills Republicans have put on: delaying the arsenic standard, delaying the publicity of which cities have the worst pollution. Have you seen Al Gore take a strong stand against that? Has he recommended to Clinton that that bill be vetoed? You know, there’s a difference in Washington, Sam, between the word and the deed. You spent an entire career exploiting that difference. And it’s important to recognize that politicians who speak with forked tongues and metaphorical Pinnochial noses be brought to account in this country. He can’t even speak against nuclear power and in favor of solar energy. He wrote a great book, but he can’t put it in practice.
     DONALDSON: Well, you said linguistic differences. In other words, if he makes a promise, you can just dismiss it as saying, well, that’s just a linguistic difference. If you make a promise, though, we have to believe you.
     NADER: Thirty-seven years of beliefs, Sam. When have you ever seen me waiver? I do like windmills for solar energy, but I’m not a windmill.
     DONALDSON: All right, let’s look at some of the other differences that some people think are important, and you can call them linguistic if you want. We’ve just compiled about three: Bush would offer private investment accounts on Social Security to some extent; Gore would not. Bush would lower taxes for everyone; Gore would not. Bush favors a voucher-type option in education; Gore does not. Linguistic?
     NADER: You think they’re going to make the decisions? AARP is going to make the decision on Social Security, the retired people’s lobby, and the corporate lobbies are going to make the other decisions. That’s what our concern is. We look at Washington as having been hijacked, just the way Senator John McCain said. Politicians, in order to get reelected, raise tons of money from these corporate interests, and in return they sell our government to the highest bidder. That’s the overriding issue in this election. Are the people going to run this country? Or are the corporations going to run this country?
     DONALDSON: Or the lobbyists? But some lobbyists vote for the environment: Senator Nelson, a former senator from Wisconsin, the chairman of a very great environmental group. They’re lobbyists. If their lobbyists are on Capitol Hill, that’s OK, but if General Motors lobby, that’s terrible. Is that what you’re saying?
     NADER: Well, one lobbies for profit and pollution; the other lobby’s for conviction against pollution. You know, there is a difference. I mean, if you compare Senator Nelson with General Motors, that’s an easy choice.
     DONALDSON: All right, you’ve talked about a vote that Joe Lieberman says he might have made had he been in the Senate.
     NADER: Yes.
     DONALDSON: You say that if you’d been in the Senate, you would have voted to convict Bill Clinton in his impeachment trial; correct?
     NADER: Correct, and I would have voted against Bork, and I fought vigorously against Scalia and Thomas, which is more than I can say for Vice President Gore.
     DONALDSON: You think Clinton is—what?—a liar, a perjurer, I mean, what?
     NADER: I think he disgraced the office. He then lied about it. A judge confirmed that. He dragged it out and he took a year of journalism from both of you.
     DONALDSON: Well, a lot of your supporters, according to our poll, we’re Clinton supporters.
     NADER: Well, they’re going to have to choose, aren’t they?
     DONALDSON: All right, let’s see about that, because the Democrats are worried about you, in some swing states particularly. They say you could tip the balance. But we’ve got some good news for them and perhaps some bad news for you. In our ABCNEWS tracking poll, which we released this morning, we asked people that—well, how solid are they? Might they switch? May they change their mind? Thirteen percent of the Bush supporters said they might change their mind; 16 percent of the Gore supporters said they might change their mind; 56 percent of your supporters say they might change their mind, and six in 10 of those say very probably they’re going to come back home.
     NADER: Well, there are non-voters who aren’t polled. Their are young voters, millions of them on college campuses, who are drawing the biggest political rallies, by the way, of the entire presidential campaign, filling Madison Square Garden and Boston Garden, and let’s see in eight days or nine days, Sam. We don’t have to wait very long. But that’s not the end of it. We’re going to break through the tape on election day and build the third largest party in America by quantity and the number one party in terms of spirit, in terms of trying to turn this country over to a deliberative democracy backed by informed citizens, which is the way it was originally envisioned. You know, there are certain things that aren’t for sale that the corporations want for sell. Our democracy isn’t for sale, our government shouldn’t be for sale, our personal privacies, our human genes, our children—they shouldn’t be for sale. Commercialism is just reeking and rancid, permeating almost every nook and cranny of our society. This is not only a political movement; it’s an ethical, morale movement, it’s a movement to put people back in charge.
     DONALDSON: Ralph Nader, thanks for being with us. We’re non-partisan on this program, so we can wish everyone luck. Good luck.
     NADER: Thank you, Sam.
     DONALDSON: When we come back, with a little over a week left before the election, President Clinton is taking on congressional Republicans. Is it about policy or partisan politicking? Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott joins us right after this.

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