Barack Obama: Panderer-In-Chief
“It is Quite Clear He is a Corporate Candidate from A to Z”
By Democracy Now!
Who do you think would be more likely to bomb Iran, to
attack Iran, or have a surrogate do it: John McCain or
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AMY GOODMAN: As Barack Obama and John
McCain trade barbs over issues ranging from Guantanamo and
Iraq to Social Security and taxes, there is little in-depth
analysis of their policy positions. There’s even less
coverage of third party candidates.
Back in February, Ralph Nader announced his
third bid for the presidency on Tim Russert’s Meet the
RALPH NADER: One feels an
obligation, Tim, to try to open the doorways; to try to
get better ballot access; to respect dissent in America
and the terms of third parties and independent
candidates; to recognize historically the great issues
have come in our history, against slavery, women rights
to vote, and worker and farmer progressives, through
little parties that never won any national election.
Dissent is the mother of ascent. And in that context, I
have decided to run for president.
AMY GOODMAN: Tonight, Ralph Nader is holding a
rally here in New York at Symphony Space. He joins us now in
Washington, D.C., where actually the private funeral for Tim
Russert is being held, as people are gathering at this hour.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Ralph.
RALPH NADER: Good morning, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you
with us. First, your thoughts on Tim Russert. It was on his
broadcast, on Meet the Press, in February, on
February 24th, that you made your announcement of your
RALPH NADER: Well, the last
conversation I had with Tim Russert, maybe a month and a
half ago, he told me how much he believed in intellectual
tension on his program. He used that phrase, “intellectual
tension.” I think that marked his willingness to have, other
than the normal redundant Washington politicians on his
show, although he had plenty of those, but I think why
thousands of people lined up near the Washington Cathedral
to pay their respects yesterday is because he had the human
touch. He was the busiest mega-journalist in Washington; he
ran the Washington office, he was on Meet the Press,
he had a book review program on cable, he was on call by
MSNBC and NBC all the time. And yet, no Washington
journalist of his stature returned more calls to more
people. So it wasn’t just an empty PR gesture on his part. I
think he really was from South Buffalo.
AMY GOODMAN: You don’t have much
access to the corporate media. Why do you think that is?
RALPH NADER: Well, I think the
blackout has been exceptional in the last three, four
months. Stephanopoulos was heard to say that the Tim Russert
show was about the most publicity I would get for the whole
campaign. And, of course, he hasn’t had me on, and Wolf
Blitzer hasn’t had me on, and Bob Schieffer hasn’t had me
on. It’s rather sad to see, because they get higher ratings,
there’s more excitement—Tim Russert said he heard from
people all over the world after my announcement on his show.
And the networks, of course, have almost blacked out all
third party independent candidates, except maybe Ron Paul.
Why is it? Well, if you look at our website,
see why: because we have a shift of power agenda. We want to
galvanize the citizenry. We want to get them involved in
shaping the campaign in city after city by getting citizen
coalitions together to invite these candidates as they go
through the city to their own auditoriums to respond to
their own agendas. And when we talk about aggressive
crackdown on corporate crime, fraud and abuse, that’s on our
table; it’s not on McCain/Obama’s table, not on the
corporate media’s table to discuss, although the corporate
media reports it every day.
We have a security speculation tax. $500
trillion in security derivatives are going to be traded this
year. A tiny tax on those transactions would relieve the
federal income tax up $100,000 on American workers. We have
solar energy, instead of nuclear power. We have single-payer
health insurance, which replaces the health insurance moguls
and their enormous administrative and bureaucratic waste and
their denial of doctor discretion and their “pay or die”
policies in America, unlike all Western democracies.
So, you can see in many ways that we favor
workers, and we favor consumers, and we favor small
taxpayers, we favor the environment to the expense of
corporate power. I mean, the issue here is centralized
corporate power. And that’s why day after day, whether
through demonstrations in front of toady government agencies
and trade associations in Washington to campaigning with
people and their controversies for justice all over the
country, we have made our website,
votenader.org, a very
vivid, vivacious website for people who want to volunteer,
who want to get engaged, who want to contribute money to our
campaign. We take no commercial money or PACs, so we rely on
So, to sum it up, really, our campaign is to
subordinate corporate power to the sovereignty of the
people. Why is that a radical notion? Doesn’t the
Constitution start with “We the people”?
And speaking of the Constitution, we are
strongly for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney. It’s never
too late for impeachment or demanding a resignation, the way
Nixon and Agnew had to resign, or after they leave office as
fugitives from justice on January 21st, to invoke
appropriate law to prosecute Bush and Cheney for their
recidivist, criminal and anti-constitutional behavior day
after day, from the criminal war in Iraq to systemic
torture, to imprisoning people without charges, to
wiretapping them without judicial approval, and to have
signing statements that the American Bar Association has
condemned, where Bush says, “I’ll sign these laws, 800 of
them, but I’ll decide whether I’m going to obey them or
I think Chuck Hagel put it all in one sum
statement, Amy, when he said a few weeks ago—he’s a
Republican from Nebraska, Senator Chuck Hagel—he said,
quote, “We tried a monarchy once. It didn’t work,”
AMY GOODMAN: What do think of Chuck
Hagel as a vice-presidential running mate—yes, the
Republican senator—for Barack Obama, one of the names that’s
being bandied about?
RALPH NADER: Well, he thinks for
himself. And that’s about the best you can expect of a
politician these days. Senator Jim Webb, Senator Chuck
Hagel, they think for themselves. They’re not robotic minds.
They’re not completely monetized minds. And they’re Vietnam
veterans. So, in today’s politics, that puts them forward.
AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, on his
first day as the Democrats’ presumptive nominee, Barack
Obama traveled to Washington to address AIPAC, the American
Israel Public Affairs Committee. This is some of what he had
SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Let me be
clear. Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is
non-negotiable. The Palestinians need a state—the
Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and
cohesive and that allows them to prosper, but any
agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve
Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, with secure,
recognized, defensible borders. And Jerusalem will
remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain
AMY GOODMAN: Obama later appeared to backtrack on
his comments about the future status of Jerusalem as capital
in a follow-up interview on CNN. He said it would be up to
the Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate. Ralph Nader?
RALPH NADER: Well, I think Barack
Obama is in training to become panderer-in-chief. That was
really a disgraceful speech. It didn’t further the peace
process, the two-state solution favored by a majority of
Jewish Americans, Arab Americans, a majority of Israeli and
Palestinian people. He basically sided with the militaristic
approach to occupying, repressing, colonizing, destroying
the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza. He hasn’t
even spoken out against the international crime of the
blockade of Gaza, one-and-a-half million people, from
medicine or drinking water, fuel, electricity, food—lots of
silent fatalities in Gaza because of that.
Barack Obama really now has to be examined
very carefully. He has worn out the word “change.” We now
want to know what change is involved. And it’s quite clear
that he is a corporate candidate from A to Z. In his voting
record, he voted against reform of the Mining Act of 1872,
which gives away our hard rock minerals. He voted for a
terrible class-action restriction law that the corporations
wanted him to vote for. He, in many ways, has disappointed
people who had greater hopes for him. He’s voted for
reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act. He refuses to even
discuss—he’s vigorously against impeachment of Bush and
Cheney. He won’t even support his colleague Senator Russ
Feingold motion to censure the Bush administration for
systemic repeated illegal wiretaps. He—you know, he’s
letting the corporate-dominated city of Washington, the
corporations who actually rule us now in Washington,
determine his agenda. And that does not augur well.
He’s just appointed economic advisers right
out of the Robert Rubin school of Citigroup and the
University of Chicago. His Middle East advisers involve
people who actually helped write his AIPAC speech. You know,
it’s a sad thing to see, because he knows better, but he’s
suppressing himself repeatedly until he becomes a different
person, should he be elected president.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Ralph
Nader, independent presidential candidate, longtime consumer
advocate. He has announced in the last months his third bid
for the presidency. We’ll be back with him in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is Ralph
Nader, Independent presidential candidate, holding a rally
this evening at Symphony Space in New York. Ralph Nader,
when we interviewed you when you set up your exploratory
committee, you said that you would need, to run—you’d like
to raise $10 million to have a viable campaign. How is your
fundraising going? Have you reached that goal?
RALPH NADER: Well, with matching
funds, we’re moving in on $2 million, but the Federal
Election Commission still doesn’t have a quorum. But we hope
to pick up—more and more people now are contributing. We’ve
gotten some major contributions from former Hillary Clinton
supporters who are turned off the process. And more and more
people are coming in at lower denominations—$10, $20, $50,
$100—from around the country.
And we’re looking for fundraisers. We’re
looking for people to help us with media outreach, looking
for computer experts. We want fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds
to help us on YouTube with our effort to get the
sixteen-year-old vote, which will help mature politically
our teenagers who are often too wedded to video screens.
We’re trying to propose dramatic
votepact.org is proposing, to get over this problem
where disenchanted Democrats vote for the Democrats because
they can’t abide the Republicans, and disenchanted
Republicans vote for the Republicans because they can’t
abide the Democrats. And what Vote Pact does is it gives
people—for example, a disenchanted Republican and a
disenchanted Democrat get together, and they say, “Let’s
vote for the Nader-Gonzalez ticket.” And that way, a third
party has a chance, because we all know that if we don’t
break up the two-party elected dictatorship, the duopoly,
with instant run-off voting or public financing or ballot
access reform, or binding none of the above, all of these
can only be done through legislation by the two-parties who
don’t want to change the system. So we’ve got to take it
into our own hands.
AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, I wanted to
play for you two clips, one of Barack Obama and one of
McCain. This is Barack Obama speaking about Iran.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA: We will also
use all elements of American power to pressure Iran. I
will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from
obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everything in my power to
prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
AMY GOODMAN: On the campaign trail, John McCain
accused Obama of being naive on Iran.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: My friends,
they are developing nuclear weapons. Also what is
totally unsatisfactory is that the Iranians are making,
are manufacturing and shipping into Iraq the most lethal
explosive devices that are killing young Americans.
That’s not acceptable. And Senator Obama wants to sit
down without any precondition across the table and
negotiate with this individual. My friends, that’s not
right, and that’s naive. And that shows a lack of
experience and a lack of judgment.
AMY GOODMAN: McCain’s position and then your
assessment of Obama?
RALPH NADER: Well, it recalls Michael
Abramowitz in the Washington Post in March and New
York Times reporters a few weeks later saying that if
Obama or Clinton were elected president, the foreign and
military policy would not be much different than the foreign
and military policy of George Bush in his second term. And
that illustrates that. The military-industrial complex and
the politicians like Obama and McCain who support it—$700
billion, over half of the federal government’s operating
expenditure now is the military budget—are desperately
looking for enemies, desperately exaggerating enemies.
Iran has not invaded anybody in 250 years.
Yet it’s obviously frightened. It’s surrounded by the US
military west, south, east. It’s been labeled “Axis of Evil”
by Bush, who invaded Iraq after he labeled them “Axis of
Evil.” We have Special Forces, according to Sy Hersh, that
go in and out of Iran. What are they going to do? They talk
very belligerently nationally, but they’re really scared. I
mean, we supported Saddam Hussein, logistically and with
materiel, in invading Iran, which took a half a million
Iranian lives. They remember the shooting down of their
civilian airliner years ago.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, let me ask you
something, Ralph Nader. Who do you think would be more
likely to bomb Iran, to attack Iran, or have a surrogate do
it: John McCain or Barack Obama?
RALPH NADER: I don’t know. I would
like to say that McCain would be more likely. Bush is more
likely, before he leaves office. The point is that we are
exaggerating that threat instead of using diplomacy, number
one. Number two, Iran does not have nuclear weapons; they’re
nowhere near nuclear weapons, according to intelligence
estimates. Number three, Israel has 250 nuclear weapons.
Does Iran really want to commit suicide? And number four,
two major national security experts in Israel have been
reported as saying Iran is not a problem. So why are we
beating the drums, and why is Obama falling for this kind of
And that’s a—you know, Matt Gonzalez, my
running mate, wrote a 3,000-word evaluation of Obama,
basically saying “count me out,” meaning him from supporting
Obama. It’s on our website,
all this, Amy, reflects the non-engagement of the American
people. What’s left for the American people to decide? They
have to take the reins of their government. They have to
become more engaged in this campaign. They have to demand
that these candidates come to their cities and towns and
listen to them and answer their questions, instead of these
slick journeys that these campaigns involve with their
advance people and their slogans through one town and state
after the other.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you about
Matt Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive’s
piece that he wrote that’s called “Don’t Worry About Nader.”
He said, “Hardly any of the tiny few who may vote for Nader
would otherwise go to the Democrats in the fall, anyway.
They’d vote for Cynthia McKinney or some other third party
candidate, or they would write someone in, or they wouldn’t
vote for anyone for president. Still, Nader serves as a
reminder that the Democrats don’t automatically own the
votes of those who disagree with the Republican agenda, and
that Barack Obama is not as progressive as many of his
supporters would hope.” That was Matt Rothschild, who was
your co-treasurer, supported you in 2000 in your bid against
RALPH NADER: And worked in our office
as a newly minted graduate from Harvard. I think that’s
ungracious of him. I think he should look at our website and
see what the polls are showing. The most recent Associated
Press poll has Nader-Gonzalez at six percent, without any
national coverage, against McCain and Obama.
But I think his dilemma is what
votepact.org is trying
to resolve. I think he supports our agenda, but he goes for
the least worst. And he’s very critical of the Democrats,
but obviously he dislikes the Republicans more. This is a
trap that millions of liberals and progressives have fallen
into. That is, by going for the least worst, namely the
Democratic nominee, they don’t make any demands on the
Democratic nominee, because they’re so freaked out of the
possibility the Republican may win; therefore, they’re not
pulling Obama in the area of peace and justice and a carbon
AMY GOODMAN: Well, let me ask you
something. Are you, Ralph Nader, freaked out at the
possibility that a Republican would win?
RALPH NADER: Oh, yes, I am. And my
critique of John McCain, as it was of George W. Bush, will
be far more detailed and more excoriating and more grounded
than the Democrats are willing to advance themselves. And
so, you know, I said to Kerry, “Look at the critique that
I’m making of Bush in 2004.” And he didn’t look very hard.
He blurred his positions with Gore—with, rather, Bush, and
therefore lost more votes than he should have, because he
didn’t have a bright line on things like anti-corporate
welfare, a crackdown on corporate crime against pensions and
workers, etc., strong consumer protection, a carbon tax,
I mean, here’s an example. Gore just
endorsed Obama. Gore is vigorously for a carbon tax, against
his cap and trade manipulation. Is he going the pull Obama
toward a carbon tax, or is he going to say, “Oh, Obama is
not as bad as McCain. We’ve got to support Obama
critically.” The corporations are pulling Obama every day,
every day, twenty-four/seven, in their direction. If all
these liberal groups with all their single issues are not
pulling in the other direction, where do you think the
Democratic Party and the nominee is going to go? Even if
they’re elected, they won’t have any mandate. And we have to
become very rigorous here. And I hope Matt Rothschild writes
another editorial that reflects his intellect, rather than
AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, you said in
2000 it doesn’t really matter whether Gore or Bush is
president. Do you feel that way today?
RALPH NADER: I didn’t say that. I
said the similarities between Bush and Gore tower over the
dwindling real differences that they’re willing to argue
over. And, of course, my focus is not on some of the single
issues. Obviously, Gore is better on Social Security, better
on Medicare, better on gay, lesbian rights. Obviously in
those areas, the Democrats have a much clearer position,
better position, than the corporate Republicans. But in the
gross area of corporate power and domination of every agency
and department in our government, from the Department of
Defense and Department of Labor, the Democrats are moving in
the direction of the Republicans. It’s quite clear in terms
of their voting record. There are exceptions, like Henry
Waxman and Ted Kennedy, Ed Markey. But for the most part,
these parties have moved very heavily into the grip, the
iron grip of corporate power, corporate money, corporate
ultimatums on globalization, for example, and above all, the
distortion of the federal budget in the direction of
corporate contracts, subsidies, handouts, giveaways, and the
swelling of this enormous, corrupt, wasteful military budget
that’s draining money.
AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, let me ask
you a question. For those who want to vote for Barack Obama
but are very discouraged about the lack of a strong stance
that he has taken or laying out his position, for example,
on withdrawal from Iraq, what do you think they should do?
RALPH NADER: Just what
together with a disenchanted Republican. So you have a
disenchanted Democrat who feels he has to vote or she has to
vote for the Democrats, because they don’t want Republican.
You get a disenchanted Republican friend or neighbor who
feels that they have to vote for Republicans; they don’t
want to vote for the Democrats. And they both say they’re
going to vote for Nader-Gonzalez.
There is a self-initiating process here
that’s personal and political that people can do all over
the country. Nobody can stop them. And we all know that
every day at work, in neighborhoods and at play, the
Republicans and Democrats, disenchanted with their parties,
are meeting, and all they have to do—and they can actually
vote absentee over—you know, while they’re having coffee,
they can fill out the absentee so they can see that they’re
being valid in their promises, and vote for Nader-Gonzalez.
AMY GOODMAN: Your assessment of
McCain and Obama’s plan to combat the global food crisis?
And what is yours?
RALPH NADER: Well, I would stop
subsidizing corn ethanol, for one, which takes away millions
of acres from wheat and barley and other edibles, soy. Obama
is for subsidizing corn ethanol. Actually, McCain was fairly
critical of it. I don’t know what his latest position is.
Number two, we’ve got to straighten out our
food export situation. We import far too much food from
China, which is contaminated. We’ve got to have much more
food grown close to markets. For example, Massachusetts used
to grow 80 percent of its tomatoes in 1948. Now, it imports
80 percent of its tomatoes from California, Mexico. There’s
no reason for that. There’s plenty of land for vegetable
growing, fruit growing near the metropolitan markets.
And above all, we’ve got to have a foreign
policy that makes us into a humanitarian superpower, that
is, more agricultural cooperatives overseas, showing with
our technology, appropriate technology, how to greatly
increase crops and preservation of crops. 30 percent of food
grown in the third world is lost due to rodents, fungus and
insects. And we have a lot of knowledge on how to store food
and preserve it so it isn’t lost and so people don’t starve
and children don’t have distended bellies because of gross
undernourishment. It’s an absolute crime against humanity.
AMY GOODMAN: The Iraq war—your
assessment of the Iraq war, from McCain’s comment, we’ll be
there for a hundred years, Barack Obama not clear exactly
how withdrawal would happen? And what would you do?
RALPH NADER: Six-month corporate and
military withdrawal from Iraq, during which we negotiate
with the Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis for modest autonomy,
which they worked out in the 1950s before the dictators took
over. Under a unified Iraq, continue humanitarian aid, some
peacekeepers from nearby Islamic countries, and UN-sponsored
elections. That’s the way you knock the bottom out of the
insurgency. That’s the way you get the authority figures,
the tribal leaders and the religious leaders and others, who
still have authority over millions of Iraqis, to get
together, because the alternative is constant bloodshed and
civil strife. So you give them a stake by using the only
chip we have, which is to give back Iraq to the Iraqis,
including their oil. Now that—otherwise, it’s constant,
You saw that huge explosion in Iraq, in
Baghdad, yesterday. The Pentagon doesn’t count Iraqi
civilian tolls. They don’t even count officially US injuries
unless they occur right in the middle of combat. So US
injuries are triple what their official figure is. And all
the press, including the liberal press and the indie press,
still uses that figure of some 32,000 injured soldiers, when
it’s triple that. I don’t understand why they follow that
kind of Pentagon line. So that’s the way to deal with it.
AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, the issue
of global warming?
RALPH NADER: Global warming, solar
power. Solar power is the closest thing to a universal
solvent that we have. Wind power, solar thermal, solar
photovoltaic, passive solar architecture, other
forms—biofuels that are not corn ethanol—that’s the way to
go. We’ve got to have a national mission of converting our
economy and be an example for the world in solar energy.
It’s four billion years of supply, Amy. And it’s
decentralized, it’s environmentally benign, it makes us
energy independent, and it replaces the Exxon Mobil-Peabody
Coal-uranium complex. That’s what we’ve got to go for
economic, political, health and safety, environmental
AMY GOODMAN: The meteorologists
talking “extreme weather,” those two words, but not “global
RALPH NADER: Yes. Well, you know, the
connection will be made more and more between extreme
weather that’s occurring all over the world, the increase in
water vapor, the effect of that. It’s amazing how some
people who doubt global warming, I guess like Rush Limbaugh,
want to wait until the ocean has overcome our literal
landscapes, and I don’t know what more evidence they’re
going to require. We’re having a lot of material on our
up on that subject, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, healthcare—the
difference between you, Obama and McCain, and Obama and
McCain, on healthcare?
RALPH NADER: As clear as could be.
McCain and Obama have these cockamamie schemes that do not
replace the health insurance companies. When Medicare came
for the elderly in the mid-’60s, Medicare replaced the
health insurance companies. We have a “pay or die”
situation, which is disgraceful in this country. Whether for
drugs or for healthcare, physicians have their hands tied,
nurses have their hands tied.
As the California Nurses Association has so
trumpeted, and so specifically, a single-payer system, which
is full government insurance with free choice of doctor and
hospital; with a reduction of these corporate bureaucratic
costs, about $350 billion; with the replacement, because
it’s only one single payer, of all these computerized
billing frauds and abuses that are now about $220
billion—sources for all these figures—all that can be
changed by single payer.
18,000 people, according to the Institute of
Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, Amy, die
every year in this country, because they cannot afford
health insurance. Nobody dies in Canada, Belgium, Germany,
France, Italy, the UK, because they can’t afford health
insurance. This is a disgrace. And we must get rid of this
inefficient, swollen, redundant, corrupt, “pay or die”
so-called healthcare system and focus more on prevention and
more on nutrition and more on exercise, but also more on
letting doctors be doctors under quality control systems,
not have their hands controlled by commercial clerks.
AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, we’re going
to have to leave it there. You’ll be here in New York
tonight, Symphony Space, 7:00—
RALPH NADER: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: —for a rally. We will
cover that. Thanks for joining us, independent presidential
candidate, longtime consumer advocate and corporate critic.
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