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. Illinois

    I think it's hysterical how the Obama supporters are practically wetting their pants about Nadar getting into the race. They know he will take away at least 10% of the independent voters that have been voting for Obama, which will place him at a severe disadvantage in the presidential race against Clinton. And they know Nadar will have an impact on Obama's momentum, who constantly talks about hope and change but does not provide any concrete evidence of how he will accomplish either one of them.

    It's also clear that Nadar can do what Clinton isn't "allowed" to do.....challenge Obama's message, his political history, and his contradictory behavior. Whenever Clinton tries to challenge Obama, everyone comes down on her. Apparently a woman isn't allowed to challenge a man, particularly a man of color. And seeing as how it's a rareity that anyone challenges Obama, it will be interesting to see how Nadar's attempts to straighten out Obama will be viewed. I can't wait to see what happens now that Nadar is in the race.

    I've never been into politics like I am this time around. I'm not normally someone who follows a presidential campaign this closely, so I'm very surprised at my level of involvement this go around. I also found SNL's version of the media's bias in favor of Obama very humorous and right on the money, but of course all of the media today are commenting about how "they" are not the reporters SNL was talking about. Of course not.

    February 25, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  2. Joe (Wayland, NY)

    What has Ralph Nader done in the past 8 years? Where has his leadership been? Where was has his voice been in the national conversation about the issues? Why should I vote for him now? He is like a groundhog that comes out of a hole every so many years to check the weather.... I honestly don't know what he's trying to do? If he was truly concerned about the issues he claims to champion, why isn't he leading the opposition every day of the year in-between elections? You have no credibility with me, Mr. Nader!

    February 25, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  3. Adam L

    Just because Ego and Stupidity works for Bush doesn't mean it works for Nader.

    February 25, 2008 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  4. Annette

    There should be a law against people like Nader jumping on the caboose at the last minute. Who in the world cares what he thinks, he an idot!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Who encouraged him to do this? It certainly wasn't the nation's majority of voters....................must be the Clinton's!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 25, 2008 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  5. Ernest, Chattanooga

    I too understand that a lot of the issues Nader brings to the table are viable...but, at this late stage in the political game what good does it do besides splits votes that would otherwise go to the Democrats. Allowing for McCain to win.

    Why didn't he campaign in 2004?

    I'm sure what "forces" him to run today was prevalent in 2004? As Lee commented earlier on this blog (no plagerism) If these issues were so darn important why didn't he present them early on...like after we lost the 2000 election. Begin a surge for the Independent party that would have launched his or another viable 3rd party candidate for 2008; participate in the 19 debates; provide choices in all the past primaries and caucuses; and finally not seem today as an obvious spoiler. Especially since he didn't run in 2004.

    Mr. Nader, Instead of campaigning; just talk to the candidates (Not criticize them) and see what can be negotiated regarding your concerned issues; if in fact all concerns are about the well being of the American People.

    February 25, 2008 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  6. Ruckus

    This country is badly in need of a viable third party (and maybe even a fourth and fifth party). Republicans and Democrats have had it locked in for so long that they set the agenda for a few "resonating" issues that they can leverage to gain their votes. Both parties, like Ralph Nader says, are ultimately beholden to their corporate donors . . . and as a result do not even address some of the most important issues facing our country and its people.

    If we keep listening to the nonsense about a third party only being a 'spoiler' to the Democratic candidate . . . we will never get the change this country so desperatly needs. No . . . . not even with Obama.

    If you truly believe Ralph Nader is a republican paid "spoiler" do you also hold the opinion that Ross Perot was a democratic paid "spoiler" who stole election for Clinton? NONSENSE. Both times.

    Nader is a conscientious, dedicated individual who wants to bring real change. Take some time to read about what he is saying. Not saying you have to vote for him, but to dismiss him out of hand as a republican plant is mindless. Be smarter than that.

    Personally, Nader gets my vote, unless someone else can bring a true platform of change to the table. Obama, Clinton, and McCain are all dancing to the big money strings.

    February 25, 2008 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  7. Adam - TX

    Nader totally sticks it to Barack! Too funny and too true! I hope they ask a question in the upcoming debate to both candidates to respond on the claims made by Nader. I'd love to watch Barack squirm as he mumbles through some scripted, default answer.

    Knowing the biased media sources of recent, they would probably brush off any troubles to the Obama cult.

    February 25, 2008 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  8. James

    Ok, CNN why have you not reported that Ralph Nader has no political party backing him this time? From MSNBC it was reported the Green party and Libertarian party have chosen other candidates. As such, Ralph Nader will not be able to get on the ballots and will be a no issue yet again. Its a nice fifteen minutes of fame and nostalgia, but that's it.

    February 25, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  9. Sharon, Orlando

    While Nader may be a spoiler, he is in a position to call all three potential candidates to task on what they say they will do. He will be able to pick apart their issues and point out which ones don't make sense to him. There's nothing wrong with that. It's time we address the issues in this campaign rather than listening to one candidate spew sweet nothings and the other ineffective because everyone is so mesmerized by words and not action. Nader has a purpose – expose them all and let the chips fall where they may.

    February 25, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  10. RobJohnson

    I worked for two of Ralph's organizations, Public Citizen and PIRG. While I admire Nader's service as a consumer advocate, I would never vote for him for President.

    He is in no way a politician, and no, that is not a compliment. Ralph is about demanding, not negotiating. That's just his style.

    His rigidity is legendary, whether it comes to policy questions or internal matters within his own organization. George W Bush is a model of free-thinking open-mindedness by comparison.

    So for me, it has nothing to do with whether he is "viable." It's simply that he would be a terrible President, and has a personality that is uniquely unsuited for that job.

    February 25, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  11. Proud to be American are YOU

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    February 25, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  12. May

    Nader has a big ego that constantly seeks attention. Because of him, we ended up with Iraq. So many billions of dollars, so many lives lost!

    February 25, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  13. Liz

    Hey roger lodge, there is no such thing as "Nader over Barack" because a vote for Nader over Barack (or Clinton for that matter) is really a vote for John McCain. And I'm sorry to say that I don't trust all of our voters to know better than to vote for Nader this time around because I also thought that they would have been smart enough not to re-elect Bush. There are just too many people that will vote for Nader while being ignorant of the fact that they are really voting for McCain. Ralph Nader really must not care about this nation's future.

    February 25, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  14. Brenda

    Personally, I wouldn't mind voting for Nader but knowing that he won't win, I am voting for Hillary. Bottom line, aside from all the mudslinging and the comments Obama and Clinton have made about each other, don't forget that Obama DECLINED going to Hurricane-Katrina-stricken Lousiana because of his 'busy campaigning' to help the victims of that State, NOW that the voters have already voted for him. Granted, his wife took his place but she's not running for President, HE IS! Also, the night before the 22-States Primaries, WHO had nationwide Townhall meetings televised answering questions about her stand on issues concerning health care, education, and even immigration? Surely wasn't Obama. Any candidate who blatantly decides that his campaigning is MORE important than the HOPE HE'S BEEN speaking about to people who thought HE CARED for should be blatantly treated the same way!

    The only thing I would trust Obama with is his impeccable confidence in playing the lead in the real-life version of "The Pied Piper of Hamlin".

    February 25, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  15. Leo

    Nader just needs to jump into a Corvair and drive off into the sunset.
    Don't stop till you get there Ralph!!

    February 25, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  16. Maria

    Ralph Nader is not doing the Democratic or the Republicans any favors. He is doing ANYTHING which is why I wonder why is is running at this point. He is one thing, A SPOILER. He should rethink his decision and stay out of this race. He is the only one who thinks he should be president. Stop playing games Nader, this country needs a new president and it is not you. Shut up and do the right thing.

    February 25, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  17. Jim

    Ralph, please go after Obama. The system would not allow the Clinton's to attack.

    February 25, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  18. Harris

    Nader is a hypocrite. His PIRG is a scam which skims untaxable funds from college students without their knowledge in many cases. He is not running for President, he knows he will never win. His day job is a speaker. Every time he runs for president (and loses) he will be able to command a higher price for speaking. Jesse Jackson, anyone? Besides, he criticizes businesses who don't pay taxes, yet he essentially does not pay taxes on many of his properties due to the PIRG program. Read the Skeleton Closet.

    February 25, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  19. HSNP

    If Barack wins the nom, now I have an alternative.

    February 25, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  20. james

    More proof this idiot is working the Republican shift.. why didn't he take a shot at McCain?

    February 25, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  21. liz florida

    I guess it's going to take Nader to uncover the truth about Obama and his lack of substance on the issues and his lack of history in making any differences any where except in his rallies.
    Get over the love affair and look at the reality that is Obama ,he is not the chosen one!

    February 25, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  22. NickNasc

    All you have to do it go to this mans site and the FIRST thing you see is him trying to tear down OBAMA! He does a little to Hillary as well. So I ask you How can he say he isn't here to help the Republicans AGAIN!!!!!!

    February 25, 2008 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  23. TheLeftNut

    Well, he's got Dick Cheney's sneer down pat.

    February 25, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  24. Not again!

    Hey Ralphy, The writer's strike is over so we don't need to see any more reruns...........

    February 25, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  25. KMAN

    Hey Ralphie ... you're still obviously suffering from delusions of relevance by once again injecting yourself into a presidential race where you are about as popular as a Corvair ... get over yourself you arrogant and irrelevant gadfly!

    February 25, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
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