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Jewish World Review Nov. 2, 2000/ 3 Mar-Cheshvan, 5761

Suzanne Fields

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His own man in full -- RALPH NADER'S the Real McCoy. He's the liberal I was looking for in the old days when I was a liberal. There's no disparity between who he was years ago, when he took on General Motors, and who he is now, still taking on the big corporations.

You can't find gaps between what he says and who he is. He doesn't vacillate between being a New Democrat and an old one, like, for example, Al Gore. He's not a populist one day and a centrist the next. He maintains an intellectual honesty without a sense of pandering.

He would never say, for another example, that Bill Clinton is one of our greatest presidents. In fact, he thinks Mr. Clinton should have been impeached for the reasons the House sought impeachment: He disgraced the office and then lied about it. (He certainly talks more about impeachment than George W. does.)

He doesn't play the kind of games every one is used to. No single issue politics for him. He delivers the whole package.

He articulates the radical feminist agenda but he doesn't separate women's issues from men's issues. Patricia Ireland of NOW, who is a single-issue advocate, scolds him for not making women the centerpiece of his campaign. "Is it possible for a candidate to be concerned with the widening void between rich and poor but not gender equality?'' she asks. She wants to hear more talk about "violence against women'' and "reproductive freedom.'' She even criticizes him for getting rich from his investments when he could be talking about how the burdens of the global economy falls disproportionately on the backs of women. Talk about tunnel vision.

NOW joins the Human Rights Campaign, the gay advocacy lobby, in criticizing Mr. Nader, a bachelor, for not forcefully advocating same-sex marriage, even though he does support "gay civil unions'' and is by far more sympathetic to the homosexual agenda than most liberal candidates running for anything. But he has a sharp tongue and liberals, accustomed to coddling by their own, don't accept criticism gracefully. They're still miffed by his clever remark of several years ago that he's not particularly interested in "gonadal politics.''

Ralph Nader is in the tradition of uncompromising liberalism. I disagree with him on a lot of things, probably most things, but it's difficult not to respect the guy for the purity of his ideology. He may be attractive because it's clear that he can't win, but he's appealing nonetheless.

His backers know how easy it is in politics to lose everything by working for a less committed liberal. The political system doesn't merely demand compromise, but frequently requires abandonment of all principle. Michael Waldman was a young public-interest lawyer for Ralph Nader who described himself as both a "reformer'' and a "rebel.'' Bill Clinton invited him to write speeches for his presidential campaign in 1992 and then at the White House. He watched his public-interest idealism turn sour, like Cinderella's coach becoming a pumpkin. Since politics is not fantasy, no magic was required.

First to go was his zeal for campaign finance reform. This was a man who once stood with picketers outside a Republican fund-raiser, shouting: "Hey, hey, ho, ho, soft money's got to go!'' That was then, and at the Clinton White House he could see that Democrats had no stomach for campaign finance reform and the president had no will (or wish) to fight for it. Opinions, attitudes and idealism were diluted in the guise of pragmatism.

Rationalizations come easily to those who sit near the powerful. In "POTUS Speaks'' (the name in the Secret Service acronym for "President of the United States''), his book about working for the Clinton presidency, Mr. Waldman describes how he saw power corrupt the intellect absolutely. The president, recognizing a loyalist who could overcome idealistic ideology, asked him to be the communications director of the taskforce organizing support for the North American Free Trade Agreement. He hesitated for a minute. He told the president's aides that he was strongly against NAFTA. Replied the president's man, with a cackle of laughter: "Who wasn't?''

He agreed to write the president's speech supporting NAFTA. By the time the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, he had no trouble defending the president's character.

Many liberals have turned viciously against Ralph Nader because they think he'll cost Al Gore the election. Maybe. But mostly, I think, they look at Ralph Nader and see the idealist they once were.


10/30/00: The Oval Office, through a glass brightly
10/23/00: There'll always be an England. Maybe.
10/19/00: The celebrity candidate
10/16/00: 'Ladies night' at the second debate
10/12/00: Gore vs. Bush: Volvo vs. Maserati
10/10/00: We weep for Rami for he is dead
10/05/00: Looking at Lieberman from inside the 'ghetto'
10/02/00: Campaigns, candidates, and kissy-face
09/28/00: Laughing and crying over Joe Lieberman
09/21/00: Targeting teenagers for money
09/21/00: Sexual politics in New York
09/18/00: Surviving the stereotypes and debates
09/14/00: Gloria Steinem runs cheerfully into captivity
09/12/00: Sex in the eye of the partisan
09/07/00: 'Sex and death' on the college campus
09/05/00: Joe Lieberman as a 'Menorah Man'
08/31/00: Rising suns of the conventions
08/17/00: Changing icons: From Loretta Young to Hillary Clinton
08/14/00: The Creator returns to the public square
08/10/00: Bursting with pride, but caution too
08/07/00: Brains, beauty and beastly politics
08/03/00: A candidate with a superego
07/31/00: The sizzling Lynne Cheney
07/27/00: The party of the aging Playboys
07/24/00 Hillary drives the Jewish wagon into a ditch
07/20/00 Conservatives gone fishin'
07/17/00: Snoop Doggy Dogg was a founding father, wasn't he?
07/13/00: When a teenager doesn't need a prime minister
07/10/00: Abortion as cruel and unusual punishment
07/06/00: Surviving 'survivor' TV
07/03/00: Independence Day with Norman Rockwell
06/29/00: Here comes 'something old'
06/26/00: Waiting too long for the baby
06/22/00: Good teachers, curious students and oxymorons
06/19/00: Wanted: Some ants for Gore's pants
06/15/00: Like father, like daughter
06/12/00: Culture wars and conservative warriors
06/08/00: Return of the housewife
06/05/00: Hillary and Al -- playing against type
05/31/00: The sexual revolution confronts the SUV
05/25/00: Waiting for the movie
05/22/00: Pistol packin' mamas
05/18/00: Journalists and the 'new time' religion
05/15/00: There's nothing like a (military) dame
05/11/00: 'The Human Stain' on campus
05/09/00: We've come a long way, Betty Friedan
05/04/00: From George Washington to Mansa Masu
05/01/00: Gore's ruthless doublespeak
04/28/00: Doing it Castro's way
04/24/00: Women's studies beget narrow minds
04/17/00: The slippery slope of anti-Semitism
04/13/00: A villain larger than life
04/10/00: When mourning becomes an economic tragedy
04/03/00: The last permissible bigotry
03/30/00: Seeking the political Oscar
03/23/00: The gaying of America
03/20/00: Pointy-eared quadrupeds on campus
03/16/00: The shocking art of the establishment
03/13/00: Sawdust on the campaign trail
03/10/00: Campaign rhetoric of manhood
03/06/00: The Amphetamine of the People
03/02/00: Elegy for Amadou
02/29/00: With only a million, what's a poor girl to do?
02/24/00: The changing politics of change
02/16/00: Tip from Hillary: 'Let 'em eat eggs'
02/10/00: No seances with Eleanor
02/07/00: Campaigning like our founding fathers
02/03/00: When neo-Nazis have short memories
01/31/00: George W. -- 'Ladies man' and 'man's man'
01/27/00: Dead white males and live white politicians
01/25/00: Smarting over presidential smarts
01/21/00: A post-modern song for `The Sopranos'
01/19/00: When personality is a long-distance plus
01/13/00: French lessons in amour --- and marriage
01/10/00: Reaching for the Big Golden Apple
01/07/00: Liddy Dole as the face of feminism
01/04/00: Hillary: From victim to victor
12/30/99: 'Dream catchers' for the millennium
12/27/99: In search of a candidate with strength and eloquence
12/21/99: The president as First Lady
12/16/99: Columbine with blurred hindsight
12/09/99: Homeless deserve discriminating attention
12/07/99: Casual censors and deadly know-nothings
12/02/99: Why mom didn't make general: A reality tale
11/30/99: Potholes on the road to the Promised Land
11/25/99: A feast for the spirit and the stomach
11/23/99: Fathers need to say 'I (can) do'
11/18/99: Adventures of a conservative pundit
11/15/99: Traveling with Jefferson on the information highway
11/11/99: Wanted: 'Foliage of forbiddinness' for the oval office
11/09/99: Eggs, art and rotten commerce
11/05/99: Al Gore, 'Alpha Male'. Bow wow.
11/01/99: Gay love
10/28/99: Lose one Dole, lose two
10/26/99: Rebels with a violent cause
10/21/99: Reforming parents, reforming schools
10/19/99: The male mystique -- he shops
10/13/99:The campaign of the Teletubbies
10/08/99: Money is in the eye of the art dealer
10/01/99: Lincoln's 'Almost Chosen People'
09/29/99: Introducing Bill and Hillary Bickerson
09/27/99: Must we wait for the next massacre?
09/24/99: Miss America meets Miss'd America
09/21/99: Princeton's 'professor death'
09/16/99: The Cisneros lesson
09/13/99: No clemency for personal politics
09/08/99: M-M-M is for manhood
08/30/99: Blocking the schoolhouse door
08/27/99: No kick from cocaine
08/23/99: Movies don't kill people
08/19/99: A rude awakening
08/16/99: Dubyah and that 'language' thing
08/09/99: Chauvinist sows -- oink oink

©1999, Suzanne Fields. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate