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. Michael "C" in Lorton, Virginia

    With concern to Ralph Nader running for president, well all I have to say is that "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

    February 25, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  2. Bud

    Ralph is a patriot and a great American.

    But, he is the sole reason we've had 7.5 years of George W. Bush. The 100,000 people who voted for him in Florida were the deciders in Gore losing Floriday, hence, Gore loses the presidency.

    Was Gore a great candidate? No. Would he have been a good president? Yes. Would we be in Iraq if Gore had won? No.

    Ralph, as far as I'm concerned, has undone all the good things from his illustrious career. And if we have a repeat of 2000 because of Ralph Nader (again), I'm going to pull of my legs and beat myself to death with them.

    February 25, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  3. Marianne

    Sit down Ralph! Your antics are too obvious.

    February 25, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  4. Can't We Do Better?

    Nader is so uninspiring....:(

    February 25, 2008 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  5. Darren Laskovski

    Good, now Huck can come from behind and win it all!!! Thanks Ralph, you da man!!! Yippee-doo

    February 25, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  6. julie

    First of all, Obama ! is running as an African-American. He is 6.5% African,43.5% Arab and 50% American, so he is running on a very BIG lie. GO NADER!

    February 25, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  7. joe

    Go Nader! I challenge each person to look at ANY issue, and honestly question whether you agree with Nader on it. If your position is different, then vote for someone else. If not, then you are being emotional about politics and not rational. Nader is an American hero. Your own ignorance blinds you from seeing this. Just take a weekend to research what he has directly and indirectly been responsible for, and you'll be amazed. Al Gore and Jimmy Carter took a long time to learn what Nader has known all along...real change occurs from outside Washington.

    February 25, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  8. E. C., Houston, Texas

    GO RALPH NADER......WHO are THEY to Make such Comments? It's your RIGHT to run for President.... so GO! Besides, Obama has become 'Cocky' already. WHO NEEDS IT? Obama's " Doom, Gloom and Peril" are an absolute OUTRAGE to this Nation!

    February 25, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  9. Anonymous

    Everyone, get past your emotions and look at the issues. Nader just brought up some great points about the Dems, including neglected issues and why they can't landslide horrible Republican candidates, and all you do is bash him because he dared speak about your precious Hillary and Obama. Talk about being afraid of real change. Grow up. Obama over Hillary, definitely Nader over all of them...

    February 25, 2008 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  10. Dale Fisher

    Between his fight with GM and the Corvair and all of this "safety" stuff that he has lobbied for, all of these years. Look at the American auto industry. Plastic cars with plastic interiors that do not stand up in a wreck by all of our "safety" conscious public. We don't want or need Ralph Nader.

    February 25, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  11. Kim, PA

    Nader is sooooooooo uninspiring i could puke. AND way to jump on the ban wagon America's just spent MILLIONS on... getting our candidates out in front of the pack!

    Get some backbone Nader!

    Guess that's why I'm voting for Hillary. If you looked at her career vs everyone else in the game, it makes me believe she is the CAN DO candidate. Don't you all remember George Bush saying the same thing like Obama/Nader... "bring the parties together, finally" He never did it. No one will. That's why we have them.

    We don't want 1 car company, 1 restaurant, 1 gas station... we want competition...to level the ground and generate ideas.

    So why would I vote for Obama's campaign theme WHEN NO ONE will be able to do it. Its a FALSE HOPE, and one that doesn't have be the go to emotional trigger.

    RESULTS baby!
    Hillary can show us them NOW.

    February 25, 2008 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  12. Peter

    Run, Ralph, run. If Obama with no qualifications at all can be this close to getting the Democratic nomination, there's no reason you shouldn't run as an independent.

    February 25, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  13. tod

    Don't we have a right of choice for who we vote for without someone always putting their two cents in about who is the wrong canidate and who the right. keep your crap to yourself and let your vote speak for itself. that is what this country was founded on after all. Nader has the right to run just like any of you do. and i really don't see any of you steping up and trying to take that responcibility. ANYONE? i didn't think so. You think that because people vote fot Nader that it takes away votes for other canidates. but it never even crossed your minds that people didn't like the other candiates to begin with. And most of you vote for bush in the last election. , by a landslide. You asked for change, and you go the Iraqi War. now you complain about the war. the dead and dying and are the one paying for that. not you.
    if more people came out to vote, then maybe kerry or gore would have one. But instead we got good Television for months.
    The only Vote waisted is from the person that didn't vote. If you have a better idea on how this country should be run. Then run for office and stop complaining. I'll vote for who i want, thank you.

    February 25, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  14. Nathan

    The problem is that the same reckless egotism that causes Nader to run will also cause a select few to vote for him, a select few who continue to be oblivious to the fact that Nader can't win and that casting a vote for him is equivalent to writing in the Flying Spaghetti Monster as a candidate.

    If you preferred George W. Bush to Al Gore in 2000, then by all means cast a vote for Nader. I think a much simpler way to support McCain would be to vote for him directly, but then again I think the same of Nader's campaign – why doesn't he just directly contribute to McCain's campaign instead of spending money on his own?

    February 25, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  15. Vitus

    Ralph Nader is right about big oil, big ag, big food, big hog, big auto, any other bigs, they should be our servants not our masters!!!!!!!

    February 25, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  16. John, Racine, WI

    Go Ralph – You have my vote!

    NOBAMA is the one who thinks so highly of himself that the first words out of his mouth after your announcement – the politics of CHANGE – is to attack you!


    February 25, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  17. lessBS


    The Two Party system works great for Corporate America: their money flows to both. One pisses you off, you go with the other. Then it's "Business as usual"....

    There's probably over 100 choices when it comes to toothpaste. Why do we only get 2 for a Presidency? (Rhetorical question that was answered above).

    PS Shame on you CNN: your "story on Nader" yesterday, and the people you quote are his spokesman from 4 years ago and a DNC spokesperson? You may as well have asked Brittany what she thought.

    February 25, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  18. N8Ma

    Who's this again?


    February 25, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  19. Josh

    Ralph Nader is not a spoiler. I don't believe our lives run in 4 and 8 year cycles, where winning is its own virtue.

    Nader shaves off votes from the Democratic party. Why? Because he takes up issues that are important to those who would otherwise be Democrats. This is the only way to attempt balancing our firmly entrenched 2 party system.

    Take some of the votes, encouraging those you "stole" from to recognize the issues. Reducing corporate influence, urban issues, social welfare, these are all Democratic policy issues. If they were being earnestly confronted by any of the nominees, Nader would be less inclined to run.

    No, he can not win. But that's not always the point. As the man pretty much said, if Democrats can't beat him AND the Republicans by a healthy margin after the Bush years, they will have shown themselves to be even more incompetent by comparison.

    February 25, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  20. Mike

    I'm disappointed at the number of comments which seem to forget that this country does not have a two-party system. The fact that there are many voters out there anxious for a better (perhaps third party) candidate), speaks to the poor quality of our available candidates from the big two.

    February 25, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  21. Lee

    If Mr. Nader REALLY was interested in having a third political party in this country, as he says he does, he would have been working towards that since his last two presidential campaigns. Once again, he's too late to make any difference – a third party is not going to arise in 7 or 8 months. If he truly believes in the issues that he's talking about, then where has he been for the last three and a half years? Yes, he's bringing up issues that are important and need to be addressed, so why hasn't he been out there before now? Why didn't he give the voters a choice when it made a difference? Isn't he the one who said that there would be no difference between a Gore presidency and a Bush presidency? He was wrong then and is wrong how. He's a spoiler and to say that the 2000 election wasn't his fault is to refuse to take responsibility for his own actions. Mr. Nader is an egotist who needs to be made irrelevant by the voters who really care about this country.

    February 25, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  22. Latino voter

    We must get rid of Republicans soon before they do more harm. Nader is not the person who can do that. He needs to go on retirement. We need unity and a strong ticket to get them out. Then we will take car of personal interests and the military machinery. Although our two Democratic candidates seem very imperialistic.

    February 25, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  23. JJ

    I feel Ralph Nader is stirring things up in a time our country if facing serious problems/issues. He should not be playing games with our country. Shame on You!!!

    February 25, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  24. Tanaya

    I used to respect Nader and in all honestly I do respect what he is trying to do for American politics. It is a noble cause, but not at the detriment to the country's wellbeing. But in order to truly make inroads into changing this country's political system we must start by changing the common moralities and beliefs of the population as a whole and we must start to educate and inform every citizen so that they not only exercise their to vote but make more educated decisions about who to vote for. Until that happens, no third party candidate will even make a dent.

    Obama '08

    February 25, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  25. Rico

    Just like this race is unlike any previous one.
    We all know that the division betwwen the 2 democratic camps will not completely heal before the election.
    How many of those votes will Nader get?

    February 25, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
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