February 25th, 2008
09:59 AM ET
15 years ago

Nader snaps back at Obama, Clinton


Watch Nader on CNN's American Morning Monday.

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

soundoff (162 Responses)
  1. Chuck

    wow - this is getting more and more interesting

    February 25, 2008 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  2. Mr. C.

    And diversity is going to come from NaDER???? In clinton's words, "Give me a Break".

    February 25, 2008 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  3. jp/michigan

    Nader does have very good questions for Obama to answer. Could it be Obama is also part of the status Que in Washington, hiding behind the words of hope and change. Obama has no concrete answers to the issues. Clinton tries to offer solutions. Obama is a suit filled with platitudes, no substance or integrity. Now, he has Lewis Farrakhan endorsing him, the most racist person known. Why does Obama show favoritism in Kenya for the tribal men Raila Odinga who is behind killings in Kenya? Why doesn't Obama answer the question involving his relationship for over 20 yrs with Rezko?

    February 25, 2008 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  4. frank

    Democrats keep pushing for a change in this country's leadership. If the people really want to vote for change, they'll vote for Nader. He's the only one that will truly change things in Washington. It's a shame he doesn't have much of a chance.

    February 25, 2008 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  5. Peter


    Obama already explained why his healthcare proposal isn't single payer. He said in one of the debates that if we were starting from day one, he would definitely want single-payer, but that it was simply unrealistic to think that we could get single-payer adopted in this country right now. He said that it is unconscionable to continue to let the people of this country suffer just because politicians can't get their act together on health care reform.

    Ralph, why is it you only run for president? If you really want multi-party representation in this country, why don't you start by running for Congress and build a third party coalition there, where it can do some good, rather than simply handing Republicans victory after victory and further perpetrating the suffering of the American people.

    February 25, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  6. Lee Ann ~ Texas

    Nader Doesn't have a chance! The man doesn't even make sense half the time. I don't think he will very many take votes from either Demosratic candidate. He doesn't get my attention or vote.


    February 25, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  7. Matt Hart,

    Corporate occupied territory. I have friends that are Republican and Democrat and none of them can ever admit that their party has been corrupted by special interests and corporations. They always point their finger and start to get hysterical over how bad the other party is. Wake up people... our political system has spun out of our control because of our inability to step back and look at the Republicans and Democrats in an unbiased manner and listen thoughtfully.

    February 25, 2008 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  8. California Voter

    Well, you know, Ralph just might bring some issues to the forefront that the media has been reluctant to tackle. His running for President just might make this a better race - where all the candidates are challenged.

    February 25, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  9. Jack Robertson

    At least Nader offers a clear alternative to the Demicans and the Republicrats. It's too bad that the years of Cold War era indoctrination have left most Americans afraid to embrace anything new in the way of political thought or just any thought for that matter. Rather than blame Nader for their defeat, the Democrats should blame themselves for failing to provide a bona fide alternative to the American people. With or without Nader on the political scene, the country appears set to inaugurate McCain and to continue on its path of ignoring tens of millions of its neediest citizens and alienating most of the world at the same time.

    February 25, 2008 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  10. Tom(Texas)

    Go away you old bitter man. You are a spoiler and you know it. You are like that annoying person who never gets his way so ruins it for others who have a chance. You have no new ideas and you don't say anything we don't already know. Just GO AWAY!

    February 25, 2008 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  11. JCruz

    Finally, someone with the cojones to challenge Obama and Clinton for not addressing the issues. The biggest waste in Government is spending by Senators for pet projects in their districts. I noticed how both of them evaded this question in the debate last week. For the Record, Senator McCain has been in Congress for more than 25 years and has never earmarked money for Arizona. As president he will veto all earmarks.

    February 25, 2008 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  12. Patrick

    Why even cover this guy?

    Here, I'm declaring that I'm a candidate for President. Now CNN send someone out to my house so I can get some face time.

    February 25, 2008 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  13. AJ, IL

    Obama don't waste time addressing Nader directly. Your focus is on getting the nomination resolved on March 4th. Let your campaign staff respond to Nader. Nader at age 74, if he is around that long, will get the November vote of those who are presently anti-Obama, anti-Hillary, and anti-McCain voters, which is presently less than 0.5% of the voting population.

    Obama in 08!

    February 25, 2008 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  14. wordslinger, chicago

    The Dems should answer the questions about the war budgets. Now that they're in power, why isn't there a Truman Commission on the waste and fraud? If they don't have the guts for that, they should both go home. I bet McCain will be on it as president.

    February 25, 2008 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  15. John Parkey

    The country is looking for the kind of leader who can affect change, not someone who is an expert critic, focused on the negative all the time, and has not historically and most likely can not build a constructive working relationship with the American people.

    If Ralph cared so deeply about the issues facing us, why did he wait to enter the race? He certainly is not going to win and now he has a limited ability to help shape the discussion.

    February 25, 2008 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  16. Surrealist, Fort Myers, FL

    He's a nut!!
    If the government had single payor health insurance–the industry would be devastated–costing thousands more of American's jobs. And it would completely eliminate our freedom to choose our own healthcare plans!!

    That's just one example of what an insane socialist wacko this guy is.

    He Nader–we want change...but for the better not for the worse!!

    February 25, 2008 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  17. NCE

    Nader can only be a problem if people are dumb enough to vote for him as they did in 2000. Why not see this man for the posing egomaniac he is instead of a viable public servant committed to the electoral process.

    February 25, 2008 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  18. Kathleen

    Ralph Nader...just go away! You wore out your welcome a long time ago!

    February 25, 2008 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  19. ohiovoter

    Go NADER!
    This is going to be great! He will be the one person to really
    challenge Obama on content and issues. Obama can't cry that
    Nader is negative or racist or has a prejudice in any way.
    Obama is going to have to come up with better than mediocre and
    grandiose(borrowed!) speeches now!
    I see this also as a great boost for John McCain.

    February 25, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  20. Go Ralph Go!

    Go Ralph Go!

    I was going to vote for Obama but now that a real advocate for the people in on the ticket I have to support Nader once again.

    To all you who blame Nader for Bush:

    1) We did not elect Bush, the idiots who voted for him did
    2) Bush is not running in this election, believe it or not
    3) Get a clue and join us!!!!

    Today I turn off my inner Obamabot and embrace Nader!!!!!!

    Go Ralph Go!
    Go Ralph Go!
    Go Ralph Go!

    February 25, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  21. John, Tabb, VA

    Nader's votes in 2004 ... 0.3% of the total nationwide.

    He's in it for his ego and nothing more. He'll have no effect this year, just like last time.

    February 25, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  22. Texas

    Best wishes to you sir. My support has always been for Senator Clinton, and will remain that way.

    February 25, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  23. Stephen Ryder

    I was sickened when I heard Nader's announcement that he will run for president yet again.

    He has done enough damage to this country through his egotism. This is not "political bigotry", it is political reality. If history repeats itself, no-one will forgive him.

    Mr. Nader, please just go away!

    Stephen Ryder, Lake Forest, Illinois

    February 25, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  24. bad idea

    Good for you Nader.I applaud your presidency candidacy.

    February 25, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  25. Steven

    go away Nader!!!


    February 25, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
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