Jewish World Review Feb. 21, 2001 / 28 Shevat 5761
Already, leading congressional Democrats have shunned Nader. During John Ashcroft's confirmation battle, most of the party fretted over the former Missouri senator's supposedly abysmal record on civil rights and his unabashed opposition to abortion on demand. Nader, however, was eager to emphasize Ashcroft's support for tort reform and soft spot for "corporate crime." But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy ignored his hand-delivered and faxed requests to testify against John Ashcroft. Nader says a Leahy staffer even claimed -- rather lamely -- that he did not think Nader's signature on the faxed letter was authentic. Other Democrats are a bit blunter. "We're not going to touch him with a 10-foot pole," says Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) "He has divorced himself from the very ideals that made him a worthwhile political actor." Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) recently told USA Today that it is "bizarre" for Nader to think he can ally himself with the very Democrats he attacked during the campaign. "Nader can never admit he was wrong," Frank contends.
Interviewed by TAS, Nader laughed off the kvetching. He says Senator Tom Daschle and the "party leadership" don't buy into the hostility evidenced by Leahy and Frank. "Look who's talking," he says of Frank. "Can you imagine the apogee of self-righteousness accuses someone of being unable to admit a mistake? I admit my mistakes. One was thinking Barney Frank would stand up to big banks.''
Perhaps, Nader's real sin is not so much in the number of votes he allegedly "took" from Gore, but his refusal to pay homage to the "lifestyle issues'' that animate Frank and most of his fellow Democrats. Frank had previously grumbled that Nader is indifferent to gay rights. Indeed, a letter from Frank to Nader posted last year on a prominent gay rights web site chided Nader for his stated indifference to "gonadal politics." And feminists went ballistic when Nader suggested -- quite logically -- that abortion would remain legal even if Bush won the presidency.
Former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile is a bit softer on Nader than many of her fellow Democrats. Brazile whose genial demeanor arguably belies her penchant for anti-white rhetoric, tells TAS that "We did a great job maintaining the base. He did siphon off some votes but perhaps [some of those voters] would have stayed home." She suggested, ever so slightly, the Democrats are wrong to blacklist Nader. Sure, he used "dangerous language in the campaign" by saying there was no essential difference between her man and Bush. "But it's a free country."
Nader continues to stand by his oft-repeated assertion that voters last year were offered a Republican who would "do nothing" and a Democrat who would "do little." He notes that Democrats have approved all of Bush's right-wing nominees; they couldn't even muster 50 votes in opposition to the "ogre of ogre, John Ashcroft." He's equally unimpressed by Bush's emphasis on a "diverse" cabinet. Just a bunch of corporate shills, he says, calling it "diversity without a difference." Elaine Chao, the first Chinese-American to become Labor Department secretary, may inspire many folks, but to Nader she's yet another corporate functionary. "She's part of the American dream. Right," he says with considerable sarcasm.
Nader acknowledges that he probably should have answered questions about abortion a bit differently. NARAL and other groups with a stranglehold on the Democratic Party fretted that abortions rights would be demolished if Bush were elected president. Nader responded that even if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, individual states would be unlikely to exercise their newfound jurisdiction to outlaw abortion. The problem was that "I saw it as technical question. It invited a technical response. That's not what you do in a campaign. I should have said [Roe] is settled law and not going to be reversed and RU 486 and its multiple successor will diminish the issue."
Has all the abuse from Democrats taken its toll? During the campaign, the Gore campaign even spread unfounded rumors about Nader's personal life. And the day after the election the liberal activist group Americans for Democratic Action called him narcissistic. And now he's vilified by other Democrats. Does the left's foray into the politics of personal destruction worry him? "Only someone writing for the American Spectator could call them the left," he replies. "They are frightened liberals."
And they're still
scared of Saint
02/17/01: Donna Brazile Speaks out on Clarence Thomas