Running for President
By RALPH NADER
The following is the text of a
news conference with Ralph Nader at the National Press Club in
Washington, D.C., as transcribed by Federal News Service Inc.
enter the 2004 elections as an independent candidate for the presidency
of the United States, to join with all Americans who wish to
declare their independence from corporate rule and its domination.
The exercised sovereignty of the people in our history has brought
forth solutions to the people, the justice they created and the
futures they desired for their children.
In times past, the naysayers were organized
commercial powers, whose unbridled greed and authoritarian structures
were denounced by Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt,
Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt in quite memorable statements.
It took a strengthened populace against
the malefactors of great wealth to overcome these corporate naysayers
and abolish slavery, open the vote to women, the unions to workers,
the cooperatives to farmers,
to temper the large mine owners, industrialists,
railroads and bankers. In this manner, American history surged
forward and upward.
Today there is a compelling necessity
for a new strengthening of the people to reform and recover their
public elections from the grip of private financing, to rescue
our public authorities from the corporate government of big business
that prevails today in Washington, D.C.
These mass concentrations of power,
privilege, wealth, technology and corporate immunity have placed
their rampaging global quest for maximum profits in the way of
progress, justice and opportunity for the very millions of American
workers who made possible these corporate profits but who are
falling behind, both excluded and expendable. Their labors have
gone unrequited as these unpatriotic corporations abandon our
country and shift industries abroad -- along with what is left
of their allegiance to our country and our community.
The dreaded supremacy of corporatism
over civil institutions, stomping both conservative and liberal
values alike, has broken through any remaining barriers by the
two major political parties, the two-party duopolies.
Corporatism has turned federal and state
departments and agencies into indentured servants for taxpayer
funded subsidies, budget-busting contracts of great lucrative
scope, and dwindling law and order against the widely publicized
corporate crime wave. This resistant corporate crime wave has
looted and drained trillions of dollars from millions of workers,
their pensions, and from small investors. There has been ample
media publicity and documentation of such crimes, abuses and
frauds of these unprecedented self-enrichments of top executives
at the expense of their fiduciary duties to both their own companies
and their shareholder owners. Has the president supplied the
required law enforcement resources for action? Scarcely. He has,
as in so many other domestic matters, otherwise preoccupied --
very few of these corporate bosses have been brought to justice
Lincoln's new birth of freedom and government
of the people by the people for the people, in his memorable
Gettysburg Address, must indeed not perish from this land. Only
an organized, self-confident people lifting their expectation
levels and applying their time, energy and talent can achieve
Lincoln's foreshadowed horizons, where freedom from fear, shift
of power and just solutions can become realities in everyday
life for Americans. Comparing the Republican Lincoln's assurance
in a period of great peril and daily destruction in those years
in the 1860s -- contrast with the costly politics of fear peddled
daily by the obsessive Republican incumbent of today, George
W. Bush, playing politics with national security.
Elections should place aspirations in
Only in this way will they have meaning
for people's lives. Movements for change come from more voices
and choices, more debates and proposals, more organizing and
more respect for the voters in the electoral arena, so they have
a broader opportunity to vote for whom they choose to vote for.
At the same time, there ought to be
higher levels of responsibility by voters themselves for their
own governments. The civil liberties and their exercise by a
pluralistic, not a duopolistic, system of political parties and
candidates, regenerate, reanimate a passive electorate accustomed
to betrayal and in large numbers not even voting.
Movements for change also come from
the perceived neglected necessities of the American people in
a land of skewed plenty, where the rich have so much and the
rest of America is denied the just rewards for their labors.
These movements embrace the long overdue
abolition of cruel poverty in America; the provision of genuine,
efficient, honest health care; the illumination of civically
inspired education; and the shift in the burden and uses of taxes
away from corporate plunder, corporate tax havens and cost transfers
to individual taxpayers. Taxpayers always end up with the bill
for this corporate plunder and corporate tax escapes.
These initiatives for change embrace
the conversion as well to breathable air and clean water; renewable
energy; detoxified agriculture; decongesting transportation technologies
on the highway and in plans -- and in public transit; the affordability
of decent shelter; and the enabling of workers, consumers and
communities to organize and shape their own political economy.
We need more organization among these constituencies.
Presently, global corporations are bent
on strategically planning our future, our politics, our economy,
our military expenditures, our education, our environment, our
culture, even our genetic inheritance. They're all subject to
corporate strategic planning. Is it not our responsibility together,
as individuals, as real people, to shape our futures within our
own deliberative democratic process?
The unceasing enlightenment of humankind
requires sensitive humans to enlist in a marathon, not a sprint.
May there be a decent tolerance for the release of these creative
individual and community entities inside an electoral system
sadly known more for its straitjackets than for its wings, more
for its routines than its aspirations.
The focus on the fundamental requirement
for broader distribution of power, initiative and opportunity
to forge a resourceful society should be the touchstone of this
election year and its campaigns. We owe at least the prospect
of possibilities to the generations that follow us. We owe the
same to the young people of America as they ponder and prepare
for their leadership obligations. This campaign will reach out
to the young people and to all people who wish to volunteer for
our efforts in 50 states, who wish to contribute to our efforts
in 50 states, who wish to highlight their own creative solutions
in community after community, that are almost never highlighted
by political campaigns; who wish to communicate to us at our
I urge the liberal establishment to
relax and rejoice. This is a campaign that strives to displace
the present corporate regime of the Bush administration. This
is a campaign that will have many purposes and many functions
in a political system that's rigged from beginning to end, from
state-access barriers to exclusionary debates against third parties
and independent candidates whose hopes and rights we hope to
carry throughout these campaigns at the national state and local
level. This campaign can also be a trim tab factor turning the
rudder of these giant political parties toward a more dedicated
concern for government of, by and for the people.
We hope to show that increasingly corporations
are trampling conservative values, as we notice increasing conservative
fury with the Bush administration on matters such as massive,
useless deficits due to wealthy tax cuts; on matters due to the
big brother Patriot Act; corporate subsidies to major corporations
paid for by taxpayers; on matters involving NAFTA and the WTO,
undermining our nation's sovereignty at all three levels of government;
on matters of promise by the Bush administration to do something
regarding corporate pornography and violence beamed to children
at a very impressionable age, undermining parental authority.
We mean to focus on many local issues
as well, which most presidential candidates dutifully ignore.
Local issues like what's going on in South Central Los Angeles;
what's going on Weirton, West Virginia; what's going on in Anniston,
Alabama; what's going on among our forests and among our littoral
shores; what's going on in terms of the stratosphere and global
warming; what's going on in terms of what's going on in our great
oceans and streams and rivers and lakes.
We mean to initiate a liberation movement
for the Democratic Party, whose liberals have allowed it to slip
away, year after year, since about 1980, into the hands of corporate
interests too often bought and sold dialing for dollars.
We hope to break the grip of the Commission
on Presidential Debates, a cynical canard against the right of
the American people to hear more voices and choices, and elevate
publicity for the Citizen's Debate Commission that has now been
formed, a truly nonprofit institution controlled by no candidates
and no parties.
We hope to highlight Bush's war on the
Bill of Rights and on civil liberties and on the egregious stereotyping
and violations of due process to people of minority status, recent
immigrants or long- time immigrants, bearing the brunt of the
violations of our civil liberties, especially Muslim-Americans
We hope also to focus on the assets
of America, where there are solutions for almost all our major
widespread problems, working in one town and community after
another, by not having an engine of diffusion behind them. That's
what politics and elections should be about. Our country has
so many problems it doesn't deserve and so many solutions it
We hope to show that jobs can be kept
here in the United States, good-paying local jobs, by a massive
"repair America" campaign, a public works or infrastructure
mission by the federal government paid for by a repeal of those
taxes for the wealthy which the Democrats opposed but didn't
bother to stop when they could have in the U.S. Senate.
And finally, we hope to sensitize the
media to the growing desertion of corporations from the country
where they were born, the country where they were raised to the
heights of their profit and power on the backs of workers, on
the backs of taxpayers who were asked to subsidize them, on the
backs of American military forces who were asked to rescue them
when they got our country and themselves in trouble cutting deals
with dictators around the world.
Finally, I'd like to make a personal
statement to Terry McAuliffe, John Kerry, John Edwards, Al Sharpton
and ex-governor Dean: Relax. (Laughter.) Rejoice that you have
another front carrying the ancient but unfulfilled pretensions
and aspirations of the Democratic Party. Do not deny millions
of voters the opportunity to vote for this candidacy. Everyone
should have a chance. Everyone should argue on the merits, not
on the money.
I also urge you, when you analyze this
political campaign of 2004, to at least have the sophistication
that is revealed by sports fans when they analyze their sports
teams. Look at the dynamics before Election Day. Focus on what
is being done. Analyze carefully the polls in 2000 before you
start scapegoating the Greens for an election that Al Gore won
but had stolen from him and had Democratic Party blunders fail
to rescue it in Florida.
And lastly, please try to extend some
of the finest rhetoric of John Kerry and John Edwards on the
overwhelming dominance of corporate party -- corporate power
in our country and on the need to reassert popular sovereignty,
the sovereignty of the people, over the sovereignty of giant
business; the sovereignty of real people over the sovereignty
of artificial entities called corporations.
For those of you who want more evidence
about the statements made in this few moments, I not only urge
you to contact our website, votenader.org; I urge you to read
back issues of Barron's Financial Weekly, The Wall Street Journal,
The New York Times, The Washington Post, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
The Dallas Morning News, The Boston Globe, The Cleveland Plain
Dealer, The San Francisco Examiner, The Los Angeles Times, Reuters,
AP and many other wire services for constant documentation of
these corporate crimes, abuses of power, across the entire continuum
of our political economy.
I have read these news reports. I have
watched "Dateline." I have watched "60 Minutes."
And I take them all seriously. They all add up to something,
don't they -- something larger than their parts. They add up
to a massive challenge to our democracy, to our systems of justice,
to our civil liberties and our civil rights, and to the ability
of people to pursue liberty, justice and happiness.
Thank you. (Scattered applause.)
Can have questions now.
Can you identify yourselves, first? Yes, sir?
Q Hi. I'm Darrin Garner (sp) for the
PBS Democracy Project. Despite your plans to run as an independent,
there's a strong faction within the Green Party to still nominate
you at their convention. Would you accept the Green nomination?
And if not, can you get on the ballot in Texas and California
without their help?
MR. NADER: Well, they are not on the
ballot in Texas. They are on the ballot in California.
The problem is one of timing. The Green
Party convention is in June, and the decision as to whether they
will have a presidential candidate and under what conditions
will be made then. And that is too late for meeting the ballot
access deadlines of many states.
So we have to pursue our independent
course of action, elicit many volunteers -- young, middle-aged,
older people -- who will learn if they don't know now how to
get signatures that are verifiable on their clipboards in shopping
centers and street corners in order to meet the deadlines that
And the first deadline and most insistent
one is Texas, which requires over 66,000 signatures verified,
which means you got to get more, in a 60-day period, and no Texan
who votes in a primary is allowed by Texas law to sign a petition
to put our candidacy on the ballot. That's just one of many types
of obstacles that we may have to litigate against and we certainly
have to surmount. So we do expect to get on the 50 states, and
it won't be easy.
Q Torrado (sp) -- (name inaudible) --
Azteca Television. What would you propose as a migratory policy
if you became president? And also, what are your proposals for
the fastest-growing minority, which is the Latino community?
MR. NADER: I didn't hear. Migratory
Q Mm-hmm. Yeah, and what do you propose
for the Latino community as the fastest-growing minority in the
MR. NADER: Yes, I think -- did you mean
migrant labor, or did you say --
Q In general.
MR. NADER: In general. One of my first
articles in the 1950s was on the atrocious treatment of migratory
labor, many of them from Mexico. This treatment continues because
we basically have an anarchy within which corporate employers
are seriously mistreating the rights of these workers. I've always
believed that if workers in this country -- whether they enter
legally or not -- are employed by employers, they should be given
the same, fair standards, the same minimum wage, the same treatment
as other workers. Having said that, I support the following policies.
I don't think this country should be
engaged in a brain drain, luring scientists, engineers, doctors
and many other talented people to this country when they should
be building their own countries. And if they have trouble building
their own countries because of oppression, it would be a good
idea for the United States to change its foreign policy and not
continue to support the oligarchs and the dictatorships and the
authoritarian regimes, from Mexico to Central America to South
America and to other countries in other continents, which drive
people to our shores. Most people don't like to leave their native
Moreover, there needs to be a legal
permiting system so -- for work that has to be done in this country
which can't be done by American workers can be done by temporary
entries by workers who will be well treated.
But if we raised our minimum wage, if
we had a minimum wage of $10 an hour, I think a lot of the work
that people say will not be done by American workers will be
done by American workers.
Q Yes, sir. I'm sure you were asked
this question before. If you are so critical of President Bush,
why are you helping him again win another term?
MR. NADER: I don't think this is going
to be viewed as an assistance to President Bush. You see, there's
a whole myth that has to be overturned here. Some of you saw
on NBC yesterday the description of how the Nader-LaDuke Green
Party ticket allegedly cost Bush New Hampshire. What they didn't
say was the exit polls showed that I got more Republican votes
in New Hampshire than Democrat votes. You see, so they've got
to be much more careful in their reporting.
Now, having said that, John Kerry said
the other day -- and he's quite correct -- that the Democratic
members will come back into the fold. Why? Because the party
that's out of power finds that its members come back into the
fold. So this candidacy is not going to get many Democratic Party
votes. On the other hand, the party that's in power is the party
that we are going to focus on retiring. And conservatives and
independents who are very upset with Bush administration policies
are left with two options: vote for the Democrats, which is unlikely,
or vote for an independent ticket.
Contrary to popular impression, even
in the year 2000 -- and it will be more pronounced -- 25 percent
of my votes came from Bush voters, 38 percent came from Gore
voters, and the rest came from people who would never have voted.
I think there's going to be lower Democratic votes this year
and more from the other sources. I might add, that was an exit
poll. There was another exit poll that had it about 21 percent
Bush, 41 percent Gore, and the rest would not have voted.
Q Mr. Nader, you spoke of Terry McAuliffe.
And yesterday, after he appeared on "Face the Nation,"
he did come out and talk at length with the reporters who were
staked out there. If I could read a couple of the things he said
about you and the meetings that he held with you.
MR. NADER: Yes.
Q And I'll pause in between one of them.
He did say, "I spoke to Ralph Nader several times myself
because I didn't want Ralph Nader to use the argument used in
2000, which was that no one in the party would talk with him.
I spent time with him. He did say to me, in a long lunch that
we had, he said, `Terry, I want to beat George Bush more than
you do,' which I don't find plausible." And that's the first
MR. NADER: Yes. First of all, I'm the
one who called Terry McAuliffe, he didn't call me. I'm the one
who called Nancy Pelosi and Tom Daschle and other leaders of
the Democratic Party to have extended meetings with them. The
Democratic Party scapegoating the Greens in 2000, has never reached
out to the Greens. For heaven's sake, you would think that, as
in Western Europe, if they think the Greens are a challenge to
them, they'd sit down and say: Well, where can we come together
on certain issues which you, the Greens, think we have ignored,
and how can we collaborate against the Bush regime? So let's
The second is that I do hope that Terry
McAuliffe will be as astute a political analyst as he is as a
sports fan. Again, I repeat that point.
You want to add?
Q Let me just ask you then, he went
on to say about your being an independent, "In many states
he will not be on the ballot, and he actually said to me, quote,
'Terry, if you have some key target states, maybe I won't campaign
in those states.' So he wants to beat George Bush but he wanted
to get out there, get his voice known. So I am hoping that when
he gets out there and campaigns that he's not going to be in
MR. NADER: I think on that score he's
a bit imaginative and a bit clairvoyant. I admire him for his
latter attribute, but I never said what he said I said. What
I said was that this is going to be, if I run, and it was all
exploratory at that time, a 50-state campaign that I would help
deserving congressional candidates in key swing districts, because
I wanted the Democrats to recover the House or the Senate or
both; in part because the senior Democrats in the House represent
the finest Democratic traditions and will be the heads of the
committees, like George Miller, Henry Waxman, independent Bernie
Sanders, Ed Markey and John Conyers. That's what I said. Now,
I'm going to call Terry McAuliffe and talk to him so we can clarify
Q Al Milliken affiliated with Washington
Independent Writers. Are you as confused or as indecisive as
George W. Bush and John Kerry appear to be regarding marriage?
Do you see any inconsistency with the vote and stand John Kerry
took in 1996 opposing the Defense of Marriage Act and the clarity
with which George W. Bush defined marriage in the 2000 presidential
debates, and the retreats they both seem to have resorted to
recently? Are you willing to take leadership on this important
MR. NADER: Well, I think the leadership's
going to come from gay-lesbians and their leaders. I think this
is a social movement that can't be stopped. I think you can see
over the years increasing number of people in the polls who support
equal rights for same-sex unions, or they want to call it marriage.
I think that this should not become a major issue in the campaign
because none of the candidates should be boorish enough to oppose
love and commitment under stable relationships. What undermines
marriage is divorce, as Mayor Daley put it very well a few days
Yes? Right in back there.
Q Les Krepman (ph) with NBC News. You've
characterized many of those who labeled you as possibly being
a spoiler as being contemptuous. Why are they contemptuous and
why do you regard yourself as being anything more than having
the potential for being a spoiler in this election?
MR. NADER: Because they restrict that
word to my candidacy. If they called everyone spoilers, because
every candidate for political office tries to spoil the prospect
of his or her opponents winning, tries to take votes from them,
I wouldn't have any problem with it.
But the fact that they single out third
parties and independent candidates for that term, "spoiler,"
means that what they're really saying, what their real agenda
is that you shouldn't run, you should just sit on the sidelines
and watch our country being taken down and taken apart by corporate
politics and two parties who are dialing for the same dollars
and are converging with more and more similarities towering over
the dwindling real differences that they're willing to struggle
I think those who use the word "spoiler"
need to reexamine their otherwise steadfast commitment to civil
liberties, to choice, to freedom. I'm really amused by -- some
of the groups who are pro- choice on the abortion issue are against
candidate choice on the ballot. And there will be similar ironies
transmitted to their tender conscience in the coming months.
Q Sarah Powell, Washington Report on
Middle East Affairs. You mentioned the targeting of immigrants,
especially Muslims and Arabs. How would your foreign policy and
your policy toward immigrants, especially regarding the Middle
East, differ from the other candidates?
MR. NADER: Well, there's no particular
policy toward immigrants from the Middle East compared to other
Third World countries that are in deep turmoil. So you may be
asking me about the conflicts there. Is that what you want to
Q Well, okay. If you would rather answer
the question on the conflict in the Middle East, that's fine.
MR. NADER: Yeah. Well, I'm not aware
that there's a unique immigration policy. Do you want to illustrate
it for me?
Q Not that there's an immigration policy,
other than the finger pointing and the US-VISIT, all that sort
MR. NADER: Oh, I'm sorry. Yes. I understand
what you mean now. Yes. The singling out of visitors and immigrants
from the Middle East raises interesting law enforcement questions.
I think that dragnet law enforcement where you stereotype ethnic
groups is, A, inefficient, B, wasteful of taxpayer dollars, and
C, not just smart ways to apprehend violent offenders. It's too
much of a giant embrace.
If you want legitimate people to inform
on violent offenders, you don't stereotype them, you don't harass
them, you don't rummage through their belongings in an impolite
manner as if they are criminals when they have not been suspected
of anything like that, singling them out compared to other passenger
or other entries into our company -- our country.
I think that more and more of these
cases ending up in the courts, ending up in the Supreme Court,
will either demonstrate whether our Constitution's going to hold
firm here in terms of our Bill of Rights or whether our Constitution's
going to be perforated by the "Patriot-less Act" and
its presumed renewal and further enlargement next year from the
White House to the Congress.
Q Tom Curry, MSNBC. Both Senator Kerry
and Senator Edwards voted for the Iraq war resolution. Both of
them voted for the Patriot Act. You just said a few minutes ago
you don't expect that your candidacy will get many Democratic
votes, but will you criticize the Democratic nominee for votes
for those two acts, or will you focus more of your -- most of
your criticism on President Bush?
MR. NADER: Well, there's limited media
time, isn't there, for an independent candidate. That media time
will be focused on the giant corporation in the White House masquerading
as a human being, George W. Bush. If the Democrats want to assail
our positions or the exercise of our entry into this campaign,
our candidacy will reply. If the Democratic candidates persist
in supporting the Patriot Act, which they're showing serious
signs of not supporting the act that they voted for in the renewal
battle next year, they will be -- they will be criticized.
If they persist in supporting a further
quagmire war in Iraq without end, an unconstitutional war that
President Bush got us into based on a platoon of fabrications
and misleading information, well documented now -- if they side
with President Bush, they will be criticized, but I don't think
they're going to. I think they're going to realize that a major,
well-funded U.N. peacekeeping troop replacement, properly-supervised
elections with a decent respect for the autonomy of Kurds, Shi'ites
and Sunnis while they work toward a unified Iraq, and extended
humanitarian assistance because we owe Iraqis a responsibility
for all our years of supporting their brutal dictator from 1979
to 1991, all of these are a proper pathway for the Democrats
in this coming campaign.
Q Tom Gallagher with Traffic World magazine.
You mentioned that your candidacy is primarily focused on taking
votes from President Bush and removing the Bush regime. The Democrats
seem to be motivated by the same thing, not so much in terms
of "we want to be in and we want the other guys out,"
but by a tremendous anger that seems to be abroad in the nation
about some of their policies; that this is more important than
Some organizations, like <MoveOn.org>
and so forth, have been organized primarily to remove the Bush
What's the difference between your organization
and an organization like that, that intends to remove Bush? But
how would you do it in a different way?
MR. NADER: Well, the difference is this:
that I recognize, as -- 10 years of amazing losses at the local,
state and national election levels by the Democratic Party, against
an extreme Republican Party. This is extraordinary. The Democrats,
because of their internal decay, repeatedly described by former
Department of Labor Secretary Robert Reich, even James Carville,
Paul Begala, in articles that they've written, not to mention
to Gene -- Eugene McCarthy -- the Democrats are so decayed --
and we hope they're rising again -- that they have been very
good at electing very bad Republicans. And that is a sobering
thought, that the extreme wing that now has taken over, the corporatist
wing that's against conservative values, has taken over the Republican
Party, keeps winning elections against the Democrats.
One might assume modestly that the Democratic
Party needs some help. They need additional strategies, additional
issues, additional reports against the Bush regime that they're
too cautious, they're too indentured to think of themselves.
And if they want to appropriate what we do, fine. There's no
intellectual property on the ways to take apart the Bush administration
that comes from this candidacy.
I think the mistake the Democrats are
making when they use the mantra "anybody but Bush"
is, first of all, it closes their mind to any alternative strategies
or any creative thinking, which is not good for a political party.
And second, it gives their ultimate nominee no mandate, no constituency,
no policies, if the ultimate nominee goes into the White House.
And then they'll be back to us. I guarantee
you the Democrats, the liberal groups, the liberal intelligentsia,
the civic groups that are now whining and complaining, even though
they know they're being shut out increasingly, year after year,
from trying to improve their country when they go to work every
day. And they'll be saying, "Oh, you can't believe -- we
were betrayed. The Democrats are succumbing to the corporate
interests in the environment, consumer protection." How
many cycles do we have to go through here? How long is the learning
curve before we recognize that political parties are the problem?
They're the problem! They're the ones who have turned our government
over to the corporations, so they can say no to universal health
insurance and no to a living wage and no to environmental sanity
and no to renewable energy and no to a whole range of issues
that corporations were never allowed to say no to 30, 40, 50
years ago. Things really have changed.
Q You say you will be reluctant to criticize
the Democrats. How, then, are you different from Senator Edwards
and Senator Kerry? What do you offer that they don't offer? Why
should a Democrat or an independent vote for you instead of one
MR. NADER: Oh, first of all, I'm not
going to be reluctant, I said I'm going to focus on the Bush
administration. They're the incumbents, they're the ones that
have the record. In 2000, it was Clinton-Gore that had the record,
and we focused attention on them.
Why anybody should vote for us? One,
because our record for 40 years represents dedicated, steadfast
defense of American liberties, justice, health and safety, access
to government, access to the legislature, to the courts, freedom
of information, and a whole variety of reforms that we have been
proud to initiate and be part of.
Second, we believe, unlike the Democrats,
that public financing of campaigns should be expeditiously pursued.
The first meeting that Speaker Tom Foley and Majority Leader
Senator Mitchell had with the Clinton administration was to urge
Mr. Clinton not to propose campaign finance reform in early 1993
to the U.S. Congress.
Second (sic), we really believe in labor
law reforms and the repeal of Taft-Hartley. I only hear Dennis
Kucinich talking about that. We believe that there should be
many more unions in places like Wal-Mart and McDonald's, and
among the 45 million Americans who are not earning a living wage
at $5.50, $6, $7, $8, $9, $10 gross an hour. We believe that
NAFTA and GATT should be withdrawn from. I haven't heard Kerry
and Edwards say that. There's a six-month withdrawal option by
all signatory nations, so that we renegotiate these trade agreements,
A, to stick to trade; B, to be open and democratic; and C, not
to pull down standards in this country, for labor, environmental
and consumer standards have no business being subordinated to
the supremacy of international trade. They should be subject
to independent agreements between nations -- environmental, labor,
We also are going to engage in modes
of campaigning that the Democrats will not engage in. They avoid
local issues like the plague at the presidential level. We're
going to work with the people, with the neighborhood groups,
with the citizen groups to do that.
And of course, most prominently, they
don't come close to our position on corporate power. I believe
in federal chartering of corporations above a certain size, taking
it away from Delaware and Nevada and their race to the bottom.
I believe in strengthening aggressively
the rights of shareholder owners to control the company that
they control. And I believe that corporations should not be viewed
as persons under our Constitution; that they are artificial entities,
they should never have the rights that real human beings have.
And I fully agree with this wonderful
editorial in Business Week in September 2000 which, after documenting
that there's too much corporate power; after reporting on an
extensive poll of the American people, 72 percent of whom said
corporations had too much control over their lives; had an editorial
with the singular phrase, quote, "Corporations should get
out of politics." End quote. And I might add that not long
after, British Petroleum, the third-largest oil company in the
world, announced that it would no longer, as a corporation, give
any campaign contributions to any political campaigns anywhere
in the world. A modest step, but an important one nonetheless.
Q I'd like you just to clarify some
of the statements that you have made. Sam Husseini from <VotePact.com>.
You've said simultaneously that you expect to help the Democrats
in a certain respect, and you have also said that you got substantial
Republican support in the 2000 election. Can you, A, clarify
that and comment on efforts such as <VotePact.com>, which
seeks to pair up disenchanted Republicans with disenchanted Democrats
and together, by trusting each other, both vote for a third party
that they truly believe in?
One further point, if I might. You've
said that George Bush is a human being disguised -- is a corporation
disguised as a human being, and you've also talked about the
spiritual impoverishment in this country. Don't you think that
statements like that, which in effect dehumanize someone who
you may disagree with tremendously, impoverish our world spiritually?
MR. NADER: Well, first of all, a corporation
is still a person under our constitutional regime. (Scattered
laughter.) So if they want it to be a person, let's give it personal
characterization, plus or minus.
There will be extensive use of the Internet.
For example, one proposal is that, in a close state, someone
who might want to vote for our candidacy would pair off with
someone in Texas who might want to Now, when you hear me talk
about Democrats, votes, Republicans, it's because the fourth
estate and reporters, such as yourselves, are so insistent in
describing collateral benefits or collateral deficits of this
candidacy. So sometimes I have to put myself arguendo in responding
to you in the shoes of the Democratic Party or in the shoes of
But I want to point out that we have
reached out to both parties with a 35-page agenda inquiry, which
is in your press kit, that in a very relaxed way, rather than
a kind of accusatory way, puts forth a number of major, thoughtful
policy changes in tax, in environment, in consumer protection
and election reform and international trade, and so on, and asked
them, in late November, to give us their views. And both of them
said that they would respond -- the Republican National Committee
and the Democratic National Committee. Well, later on, the RNC,
through Mr. Gillespie, stated that -- his response was a simple
sentence, that the response to our agenda inquiry was the Bush
administration's policies. So that finished that. The Democratic
response was a little more fertile. Mr. McAuliffe said that he
had read it on the train to Philadelphia, these 35 pages. But
then came a response, not too long ago, a two-page response criticizing
the Republicans for a number of policies that were mentioned
and raised in this agenda inquiry.
But here you go; you see, they were
given all kinds of time. They had their own complaints against
third-party challenges. Someone reaches out to them, they have
a research capability, it would probably make their day less
daily to ponder these issues, like shifting the incidence of
our tax burden away from work as much as possible, earnings from
work, to wealth; and then shifting it away from things we like
-- like books, furniture, clothing and food -- shifting the tax
burden to things we least like, like pollution, stock speculation,
gambling or the addictive industries. One would think they'd
have some play with that, but they weren't interested. Another
documentation as to why we need broader public debate, broader
public dialogue, and more voices and choices for the American
Q Mr. Nader?
MR. NADER: Yes?
Q Two issues. (Name and affiliation
inaudible.) Two issues. One, you're a resident of the District
of Columbia. Do you support statehood or voting enfranchisement
for the District of Columbia? And a second, perhaps more challenging
issue, you mentioned John Conyers for singular praise. Since
1989, he's sponsored H.R. 40, which is a bill to set up a commission
to study reparations, payments for -- reparations as a solution
to the dilemma of slavery. Would you, as president, encourage
Congress to adopt H.R. 40? And do you support remedying the voteless
status of the District of Columbia?
MR. NADER: Well, of course, in the year
2000 we took a very strong stand for statehood for the District
of Columbia. We're going to do it again. And we'll see how supportive
the other two parties are against the colony called the District
of Columbia, where people who are drafted or taken off to war
and people who pay taxes do not have the right to be represented
by a voting representative and two senators in the U.S. Senate.
So that's going to be very clearly delineated. And I hope that
there will even be strategies to implement that delineation,
one of which you will be very intrigued by when it is announced,
as a number of other innovative proposals we're going to have
that's going to make what could become, by August, a rather dim
and dreary two-party campaign, as they dwindle the number of
issues that they disagree on and repeat ad infinitum.
As far as John Conyers, I think there
should be a commission to study it.
I think a lot of Americans aren't aware
that there are corporations today, pursuant to mergers or even
actual corporations, that were profiting from slavery, such as
the Aetna Corporation, before the Civil War, and there's a payback
there. I think if white people had great grandparents who were
slaves, they would be very concerned about that. There's got
to be justice here. And all John Conyers is asking is a national
commission to inquire into it to see what the responsibilities
of governments are.
After all, slaves built a good part
of the U.S. Capitol. They built a lot of public buildings. And
I think the money is not designed to go to individuals; it's
designed to amplify the budgets that are now being squeezed to
rebuild the lower-income areas in our cities, for example; to
expand health care to African American children, to reduce their
exposure to sources of deadly asthma and lead poisoning. That
is something that we should all discuss.
After all, you know, there were other
genocidal or vicious treatments of ethnic minorities that have
gotten some justice in recent years. And of course the tragedy
of slavery in this country is one of the two worst tragedies
in North American history, the other being the genocidal annihilation
of the first Native Americans. And we should always remember.
Q Mr. Nader?
Q Mr. Nader?
MR. NADER: Yes?
Q (Name off mike) -- from NBC Newschannel.
In 2000, the state that you did best in was Alaska. You got more
than 10 percent of the vote there. How do you think you'll do
in that state again? Can you reiterate your position on drilling
in ANWR? And thirdly, how do you think that you will affect the
Senate race there, because the idea is that because you'll bring
in Green Party members, independents, that will ultimately help
the Democrats in Alaska. Could you respond to all those?
MR. NADER: I think there will be a spillover
vote helping the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate from
Alaska. I doubt whether there's going to be a challenge from
any other party.
I did very well in Alaska. It was actually
20 percent at one time, but we lost a good portion of our votes
near the end, as a lot of third parties do. When people go into
the voting booth, they want to be with what they call as a winner.
No drilling in ANWR, the Arctic refuge.
What we should do is nail the corporate executives in Detroit
to liberate their engineers so they can improve fuel efficiency.
One mile per gallon over the entire range of motor vehicle production
will save more fuel than anything that can be gotten five, 10
years from now from the Arctic refuge.
Unfortunately, under Clinton, among
others, a lot of the northern slope was opened up for exploration,
and the oil companies haven't really done as much as they're
permitted to do outside of ANWR. That's important to do. And
I think the oil companies owe the Alaskan people more taxes.
I think they owe them more revenues for cleaning up their environmental
messes. And also, native Alaskan tribes now organized in a corporate
fashion need to be compensated for the damage that's been done
to their habitat.
Q I just wondered, did you ever consider
running in the Democratic primary? I mean, we live in an electoral
system that is not a European parliamentary system. We have a
winner-take-all, as you know, and that's a system that has produced
two parties except, I think, for 1860. There's no realistic chance
of a third party actually getting majority power, except the
1860 example where slavery completely blew apart the Whigs.
What's wrong with -- where would you
be right now if you had run in the primary in 2000? Arguably
-- a lot of your friends say you'd be in a lot better position,
and then there's something inherently wrong where you have the
Left divided against itself by your candidacy.
MR. NADER: The simple answer to your
question is I don't choose to run in wealth primaries. I don't
choose to run in a party that plays the for-sale game with their
Republicans, dialing for commercial dollars in order to gain
a nomination. You can't abide by the clean politics rules that
we are abiding by -- refusing to take corporate money and PAC
money and other forms of special interest money -- playing inside
the Democratic Party, I'm sorry to say.
Quite apart from that, I don't think
they'd have me. You know that under the rules of both parties
they can take away your registration as a party member, if you
think that you are -- if they think that you are there as a Trojan
horse, for example. So apart from those curlicues, they don't
practice election politics the way I want to practice election
Did you have another? What was the other
Q If there's a problem with the Democratic
Party, which, you know, a lot of people certainly think there
are, what's wrong with going in there to the belly of the beast
and changing it? Because the alternative is what we see happening,
is progressives fighting amongst themselves and any analogy to
a European parliamentary system just don't apply, because we
don't live in that system.
MR. NADER: First of all, you can't compete,
following our rules, in wealth primary that starts in Iowa. I
mean, Dean spent $10 million in Iowa, for example.
Q And he brought a lot of Democrats
-- (off mike).
MR. NADER: Yes. Well, fine. But you
simply can't compete on a clean slate. I mean, let me put it
more boldly. You cannot compete on a clean slate in a commercially
ridden party, number one.
Number two, give serendipity a chance.
Jesse Ventura started out running for the governorship of Minnesota
at 9 percent, and then he got on 10 debates in Minnesota, and
he got $350,000 in state public financing, and he is in a state
with same-day voter registration.
So there's always a chance of a breakthrough,
with the blissful permission of the mass media, through which
you campaign. I mean, you can reach 2 percent of the people even
if you speak before the largest rallies in the biggest arenas
of America on campaign in 50 states, as I did in the year 2000,
but the only way you can reach lots of people is through the
presidential debate -- debates and through a more resourceful
recognition by the media that small starts with long successful
records in the civic community deserve more than three and a
half minutes of face time on the three networks between September
1st and Election Day, year 2000, which is what I received.
Q Mr. Nader, would you talk to the aspect
STAFF: Identify --
Q I'm Joel Wishengrad of World Media
Reports. Would you talk to the aspect of conservative versus
liberal? We've seen these talk shows in the last 10, 12 years,
such Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and others, that you would say
were skewing the political landscape with their rhetoric.
MR. NADER: Yes.
Q Why hasn't your particular advocacy-type
career caught on, not just in the Green Party, but through maybe
the Democratic Party and elsewhere? And why may be there only
one radio network, Pacifica, as opposed to the other radio networks
and television commentary?
MR. NADER: Well, if I understand your
question correctly, the answer is pretty simple. Corporations
advertise on radio, and governments very rarely do. So the vast
amount of revenues -- he who pays the piper plays the tune.
And one of the reasons why 90 percent
of talk show hosts are corporatists -- sometimes they think they're
conservative, but more often they're corporatist -- is that they
can go after government and not lose advertising revenue, they
can go after liberal groups and not lose advertising revenue,
but Rush Limbaugh is not going to go after his corporate paymasters,
because he will lose advertising revenue.
And until we have access to the public
media and the public airwaves -- which belong to the people,
after all, and are licensed for free by the FCC to radio and
TV stations -- unless we have a certain amount of time as a people
-- not just liberals, as a people -- to have our own radio stations
and television stations and audience networks, as we have proposed
to Congress over 10 years ago with a detailed statute, then it's
going to be more of the same.
Q John Gallagher, Traffic World Magazine.
What is your take on the status of the transportation infrastructure
in this country, both for freight as well as for passengers?
And the $247 billion bill that's being considered by Congress,
is that enough or not enough?
MR. NADER: It's not enough for modern
public transit, which is spectacular and ready to go. It's not
just buses and trains in the old-fashioned sense. We're going
to try to highlight some of this modern public transit technology
and what is available. There's still a huge bias toward highway
building, huge congestion on the highways, which can be decongested
with a broader elaboration of our railway system and broader
utilization of cross-transport modal containerization, as well
as a number of ways where highways can be made less congested
in terms of staggering work shifts and things like that that
have been proposed.
Q Hi. I'm Janice D'Arcy from the Hartford
Courant. I have a question, but before I ask it, I want to clarify.
Are you supportive of the Internet vote trading that you mentioned
earlier, where someone in Texas would trade their vote with someone
MR. NADER: That is a choice of the voter.
I support the choice of the voter. I don't deny voters opportunity
to make choices, whether over the Internet in exchanges or for
third-party candidates and independent candidates.
Q Then my question is, why you waited
so long to announce. Does it have anything to do with Howard
Dean's departure from the race?
MR. NADER: Well, first of all, we were
in an exploratory mode since October. We were testing the waters.
And our findings can be transferred over into the campaign. So
it isn't that we were totally inactive. We were reaching out
trying to see what kind of volunteers can be recruited; what
kind of money can come in -- now to our website, <votenader.org>;
what kind of ideas.
The second is that there was an overwhelming
opposition by the liberal intelligentsia that absorbed some of
our time. I think this may be the only candidacy in our memory
that is opposed overwhelmingly by people who agree with us on
So we've got a lot of communion here
to work out, and I keep saying just relax and rejoice, wait until
the months unfold. You may see pleasant opportunities to amplify
your opposition to the incumbent Bush regime.
Q Yeah, I -- (name inaudible) -- health
MR. NADER: What is your --
Q I write on health issues.
MR. NADER: Yes.
Q On the issue of corporate branding
of children in public schools, you've written far more extensively
than any of the other candidates and acted on it. However, in
the last election you failed to really raise it as a major issue.
Since then, there's been what's been described as an obesity
and the issue of overweight and obese children and adults. I
wonder if you will focus on the issue a bit more this time?
MR. NADER: Well, there's a lot more
data on obesity. The number of obese children under 12 has doubled
since 1980, and now there are -- 31 percent of adults in this
country, according to health statistics, are obese. Coupled with
overweight, the total is over 60 percent; very sharp increases,
and certainly people should restrain some of their fat food intake.
And certainly corporations that have, from age two to three,
seduced children to turn their tongues against their brain, undermine
parental authority, and sold them junk food; essentially sugar
and fat pumps into their stomachs to the detriment of their present
and future health.
I beg to differ, though, on 2000. There
was almost nobody making as many points as I -- they just weren't
reported -- about the commercialization of childhood, the commercial
exploitation of childhood. And rest assured, you'll hear a lot
about the subject you just raised.
Q (Off mike) -- Green Party --
MR. NADER: Yes?
Q Mr. Nader, Terry Campbell (sp) --
(inaudible) -- the Green Party. I want to urge you and ask you
if you're going to work out and reach out to conservatives during
this campaign. There are many conservatives across the country
that are very upset at the largest federal spending in the history
of the country, the largest deficit in the history of the country,
no accountable accounting system -- auditable accounting system
at the Pentagon. You talked about more trains, less traffic.
We have collected thousands of petition signatures to put these
candidates on the ballot here: Joe Odo (ph) for Congress, a Green,
and Brad Blanton (ph).
So the question is, more trains, less
traffic -- are you going to focus on that, reaching out to conservatives
and calling for candidates all across the country? Forty percent
of all races have no one, no opposition. Today you can reach
out across the country with this big platform and urge people
to step forward and do their patriotic responsibility to participate
in our democracy. Will you do that?
MR. NADER: Yes, sir. I'm enthused by
your enthusiasm. (Laughter.) I might make the point that if you
want to see a distinct evidence of the cleavage between conservative
Republicans and corporate Bush Republicans, on our website, <votenader.org>,
is my letter to President Bush, in October, outlining over 20
positions of the Texas State Republican Party platform of 2002
-- his own party -- diametrically opposed to the Bush administration's
policy, including the policies by the state party to get out
of NAFTA and WTO, including the severe criticism of the Patriot
Act and the violation of civil liberties as what those conservative
Republicans believe, quote, was "the main threat to our
domestic liberties." End quote. You might want to look into
that and explore.
I might add this nice point that you
might be interested in. A few months ago, Ross Perot sent a private
prospectus to New York publishing circles for a book that he
presumably wanted to write, heavily attacking the deficit policies
of the Bush administration. For some reason, it was pulled back.
Now, Ross Perot made his mark in 1992 excoriating deficit spending
and excoriating the exported jobs incident to NAFTA. The WTO
hadn't been passed then. He's been right on both scores. I urge
all Americans to urge Ross Perot in Dallas, Texas, to go public
with his criticisms of the Bush regime's devastating deficits,
so devastating that the head of the General Accounting Office
described the budget, as I mentioned earlier, as, quote, "Enron-type
accounting," end quote, and talked about the enormous burden
on the children in this country who are going to inherit not
just the deficit, they're going to inherit huge interest payments
diverted from the necessities of our country, and suffer enormous
budget cuts, which always start with the poor and with the minorities
and with the children; it never starts at the top with the gold-plated
weapon systems that were designed for a Soviet Union-era of hostility.
Q Mr. Nader, you mentioned that -- Sarah
Schweitzer from the Boston Globe. You mentioned that you were
looking for -- how many volunteers that you were going to get
and how much money you've raised. How much have you raised? How
many volunteers do you have?
And then secondly, in terms of just
practical electoral results, if this time around you're going
to get fewer Democratic votes, and if you're also not running
with a third party and thereby not putting that party in the
position of getting federal funding next time around, what practical
electoral result do you hope to get out of this?
MR. NADER: What practical votes or --
Q Electoral outcome. What do you hope
to get in terms of --
MR. NADER: Well, you don't need to get
electoral votes in a winner-take-all-system to qualify for federal
MORE If you get 5 percent of the total
votes you qualify --
Q (Off mike) -- the party?
MR. NADER: No, no. It also accrues to
independent candidates. John Anderson, for example, actually
got 7 percent or so in 1980 and he qualified for federal funding;
he chose not to take it in 1984. As far as the -- does that answer
that part of your question? And the other part?
Q How much money have you raised and
how many volunteers do you have?
MR. NADER: Yes, okay. In an exploratory
mode you can't really raise big money, because then it will be
viewed as not an exploratory mode. So we raised about $175,000
in the exploratory mode. But the funds have been increasing;
contributions from all over the country have been flowing in,
especially in the last 24 hours to our website, <votenader.org>.
We're getting floods of volunteers, resumes from people. We particularly
want people who are good organizers, good signature gatherers,
good in graphic arts, good in computer software and Web design,
and good at all kinds of creative ideas on how to advance justice
in our country based on what they're doing back home to advance
justice in our country.
Yes? Could you identify yourself?
Q Yeah, Amanda Debenen (sp), Washington
Report on Middle Eastern Affairs. And I'm curious about --
MR. NADER: Did you ask before?
Q I do not believe --
Q (Off mike.)
MR. NADER: Okay, because -- are you
together? Because I'm sorry, you know, we have to give someone
else a chance.
MR. NADER: Yes, hello?
Q Louisa Savage (sp) from The New York
Times. Could you elaborate --
MR. NADER: Could you speak a little
Q Sorry. Louisa Savage (sp) from The
New York Times. Could you elaborate on -- (audio break) -- and
will you be arguing that Iraq would have been better off if Saddam
Hussein was still in power? How do you feel about Republican
and conservative voters?
MR. NADER: Yes, well I think there are
a lot of conservative voters who thought the Iraq invasion and
its unconstitutional authorization by the Congress was inappropriate,
to put it mildly. And as more casualties come back, fatalities,
injuries, diseases from sand flies -- sand-fly disease has already
afflicted 1,200 soldiers; it's hardly reported in the press.
They're going to be more upset when 130,000 soldiers are rotated
back home; that's going to mean a lot of communication with millions
of families, including conservative families.
Would Iraq had been better off under
Saddam Hussein or under the present situation? The question should
be, would an American government-entrenched Saddam Iraq had been
better off if the Bush administration in 1991 had overthrown
Saddam Hussein after he illegally invaded Kuwait, and after the
"Bush I" administration had the entire international
community around them. That's where the problem should have been
resolved. Instead, the first George Bush urged the Shi'ites and
the Sunnis to rise up and overthrow the tyrant, and they did
and they had control over about 75 percent of Iraq when Saddam
Hussein got the okay to slaughter them with helicopter gunships,
and put down the rebellion with U.S. F-16s being held back from
doing anything about it.
So I refuse to be put in a situation
where you ask a question now without discussing history then.
And now there of course is more free
newspapers; there, I'm sure -- some small businesses starting.
But on the other hand, the health care system has declined to
even worse levels because of the war and lack of facilities.
And to put it another way, dictators are terrible, but they provide
security in the streets. And as one Iraqi said, "We despise
Saddam Hussein, but we have less food, less electricity and less
security now." That's not the kind of comparison we want
to make. We -- the comparison we wanted to make is, why do we
keep supporting dictators and oligarchs, instead of workers and
peasants fostering democratic societies?
In the Middle East, the answer is oil.
That's the answer.
Q Brad Blanton, Radical Honesty Rag.
MR. NADER: Radical Honesty Rag?
Q Radical Honesty Rag. I'm the editor.
I'm interested in secrecy, and it seems
to me that a lot of American policy has been dogged by the 36
separate and secret agencies of the United States government
that our taxes pay for. They seem to have made a lot of those
policies without any review by the American people. I'd like
for you just to say something about secrecy and the dishonesty
that's implicit in the hiding out in this most secretive administration
in the history of the country.
MR. NADER: Well, democracy dies in the
backrooms of government and their corporate and other allies.
We have long been advocates and were significant promoters of
the Freedom of Information Act of 1974, which the press takes
constant and proper advantage of.
The Bush administration is one of the
most secretive. They also have a Homeland Security Department
that can easily exempt itself from Freedom of Information Act
requests, without judicial review. And of course you get more
misspending by the federal government, you get bad policies that
aren't exposed in time by the federal government when there's
secrecy. Information is the currency of democracy, and sunlight
is the best disinfectant, as Justice Brandeis pointed out many,
many years ago.
And we will make this a major issue.
We will make government secrecy, a major adversary of democratic
processes and public participation in their government, a major
issue in this campaign.
Can we have just one more or two more,
Q (Name off mike) -- American Prospect
Magazine. I know that you've rejected running with the Democratic
Party and the Republican Party. I'm wondering why you've rejected
running with the Green Party, and what you think they're doing
wrong that makes them a party you don't want to be part of.
MR. NADER: Well, they're doing nothing wrong. The Green
Party has a good platform. It keeps getting better. It's very
broad, not just the environment, although that's important; it's
labor, it's tax reform, it's corporate accountability, it's civic
I had to withdraw from consideration
for the Green Party nomination because, as I said earlier, they
are going to decide whether they're going to have a candidate
and under what restrictions -- stay out of X states or Y state
-- in June. That's too late to hazard a candidacy that should
be busily collecting signatures to get on the ballot and surmount
the two-party exclusionary statutes that we hope someday will
be removed by one federal statute for federal elections instead
of 50 state statutes varying wildly, from 300 signatures to get
on the ballot in Tennessee, to 100,000 signatures in North Carolina
for an independent candidate. There's no rhyme or reason for
that. They can have their own state election standards; for federal
elections, there should be one federal standard, and that's going
to be one of the policies of our campaign.
Remember, if I just may end it in this,
I do beseech you -- as the media -- to focus more and more on
broader and broader issues and not allow the candidates of both
parties to narrow the issues to four or five which become very
repetitive and bore the heck out of all of you who follow these
campaigns. Toward that end, I hope you will look with some measure
of devotion to reading the 35-page agenda inquiry that I sent
to the Republican and Democratic Committees, and perhaps look
into some of those in order to flavor and elaborate the intensity
and the diversity of an election campaign in a presidential year,
when public debate should reach its optimum level.
Again, those who are interested in volunteering
and contributing to our campaign, our new website is <votenader.org>.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)