WASHINGTON (CNN) - Facing criticism from the two Democratic presidential contenders, Ralph Nader lashed out at them Monday and defended his decision to enter the race.
Speaking to CNN's "American Morning," the long-time consumer advocate accused Sen. Barack Obama of "name-calling" and "an unseemly silence" on issues involving poor minorities. And he accused Sen. Hillary Clinton of being too close to "big business" in America.
Many Democrats fear Nader could draw votes from whoever gets the party's nomination, potentially helping presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain win the White House in November. Nader has long rejected accusations that he served as a spoiler in 2000, effectively helping George W. Bush beat out Al Gore.
He announced Sunday that he will launch his fourth consecutive White House bid - fifth if his 1992 write-in campaign is included.
On Saturday, Obama was asked about a possible Nader candidacy. He praised Nader's work for consumers, but added, "My sense is that Mr. Nader is somebody who, if you don't listen and adopt all of his policies, thinks you're not substantive. He seems to have a pretty high opinion of his own work."
Nader responded in Monday's interview. "As if Barack Obama doesn't have a high opinion of his own work? That's name-calling.
"Address the issues, Barack. Address why you're not for single-payer health insurance... Explain why you don't challenge what you know as to be tens of billions of dollars of waste, fraud and abuse in the military budget.
Explain why you don't really get concrete about how you would renegotiate NAFTA and WTO, which is exporting jobs and industries to places like the communist dictatorship in China.
"And above all, explain why you don't come down hard on the economic crimes against minorities in city ghettos - payday loans, predatory lending, rent to own rackets, landlord abuses, lead contamination, asbestos. There's an unseemly silence by you, Barack, a community organizer in poor areas in Chicago many years ago on this issue."
Nader also took Clinton to task. On Sunday, she said Nader - whose environmental policies are central to his platform - "prevented Al Gore from being the 'greenest' president we could have had."
Nader stood by his contention that Gore won the 2000 race because he took the popular vote and because Florida's electoral vote "was stolen from him." Nader said Democrats should "concentrate on the thieves who steal elections," instead of "scapegoating the Greens" - a reference to the Green Party, the ticket he ran on in 2000.
"The Democrats ought to look themselves in the mirror and ask themselves why they have not been able to landslide the worst Republican Party and the White House and Congress over the last 20 years," he said.
And noting a quote from former Sen. John Edwards - whose endorsement has being sought by Clinton and Obama since he dropped out of the race - Nader said little will change "if we replace a corporate Republican with a corporate Democrat."
Referencing an article from last year, Nader called Clinton the Democrat "most loved by big business." The article he seemed to be referring to, from June 2007 in Fortune Magazine, said Clinton had "probably the broadest CEO support among the candidates" at that point. But it also said Obama had "a solid base of business support in Chicago" and had "fared well with Hollywood media moguls" and "aggressively moved into Clinton's turf among East Coast financiers."
Nader told CNN he does not believe any of the candidates, including McCain, will pull through on pledges to reduce the influence of special interests in Washington. "Of course not. First of all, if they wanted to do that, they'd put front and center public funding of public campaigns," cracking down on corporate crimes, and other issues.
"Washington has closed its doors on citizen groups," he complained, calling the nation's capital "corporate-occupied territory."
Talking about his decision to run, Nader - who turns 74 this week - said, "We have to give the system more competition, more voices, more choices, more freedom, more diversity."
– CNN's Josh Levs
He is not here to help Republicans, hes in it to help Hillary. I thought all the Obama people are educated.
The FIRST three questions Nader has to answer even before who is funding this debacle are.
1) Where the hell have you BEEN for the last 7 years after you put Bush in the Whitehouse?
2) What have YOU accomplished over that time?
3) Why have we not heard a PEEP from you during these times of Lead in childrens toys, Millions of autos being re-called or substandard equipment for the military or ANYTHING else in your CORE skillset of Consumer advocate????
You can't just show up for work once every 8 years to run for the office of the most powerful country on the planet and expect us all to take notice.
This poor man doesn't have a Clue. He is a tool for the republicans to once again have some disposable nut make their accusations for them.
That is all.
Sad to see so many comments about how you would vote if only he were viable.
That is such a short term view. The biggest issue (you'll never hear the Dems or Repubs discuss it) facing our country is that we are locked into a two-party system (in terms of 'viability'). Those two parties, despite the hype and hoopla, are so similar, that it is only a race between which corporate puppet we will elect.
Taking the long term view, we need to develop viable third and fourth parties (or more). I read so much fear in these comments . . . fear about which corporate puppet will win . . . the Dem or the Rep. As long as you vote based on that fear . . . the real solution will never be realized.
It may be true that Ralph Nader cannot win this election, but perhaps we can get enough people together (10%, 20%?) that next time those too scared to join the cause will also join, and ultimately a real change will be manifest.
Until our country breaks the Dem/Rep headlock, we aren't going to see any significant change.
Proud to be American are YOU February 25th, 2008 2:31 pm ET
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Nadar is just a spoiler, and since they complaint about Obama's experience. What is Nadar's experience?
Both Nadar and McCain are approaching nursing home ages, how much time do they have, if elected, to serve? Because of Ralph we now have a moron in the White House. What are we looking to accomplish with his canidancy?
I am willing to give an education person a chance, who didn't still the election, to make changes where are everyone else have been in a career position to make viable changes but has demonstrated little changes for the voters.
I don't know too much of him except he is a enviromentalist which I have to say is good but other than that, he's dry. He sounds like a old republican that they threw in the election to throw off the momentum of Barack and also cool it down for Hilary. If he does get votes it will be people that are anit-Hilary for her being a woman and anti-Barack for him being a black man. As far as Im concern, they wasted their time. No matter what Hilary Voters are staying with her and Barack voters are staying with him. Its gotten to far and to emotional for voters to do a flip flop unless they truly is unsure with their candidate. By the way, Go Barack!
go Ralph go!
You should remind the Dems and GOP to look at themselves in the mirror every day.
Because we the voters voted to let big corporations take over D.C., we now have big corporations that cannot compete globally and a country in economic recession. Yes, we deserve the leader we voted for.
You have GOT to be joking.
How many times do you need to try and be the center of attention, Mr Nader. No one has heard from you in 4 years til now.
Bye bye. No one cares and no one is listening.
The two party system is a joke. It only offers the illusion of choice as both Democrats and Republicans are already bought and sold for by special interest groups. Nader is the only person willing to stand up and fight for what is right for this country. It is going to take a person with a conviction as strong as his to turn this country into a true democracy.
If Ralph really cared about effecting real change, he would have either joined 1 of the 2 major parties and tried to affect change from within, or spent the time between presidential elections building up a stronger base for his party. Once again, he brings too little too late.
I would say "Go home, Ralph" too, IF it weren't for the fact that the guy actually does make sense. He still won't get elected, but truth be told, I would rather have a lifelong consumer advocate like Nader than any of the other candidates. I would take GREEN over GREED any day.
What a loser!!! No democrat should vote for Nader, he's just full of himself with nothing to offer..I'll bet the Republicans are paying him to be in the race hoping he will split the vote...He's not news worthy but I'll bet the media keeps covering him as if he were..