Transcript

Election 2008: Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader, at his campaign headquarters in Georgetown, says of his fifth presidential run: "If you're locked out of the governmental system, if you can't get a hearing, and I can't, you go to the electoral system. What's my alternative?"
Ralph Nader, at his campaign headquarters in Georgetown, says of his fifth presidential run: "If you're locked out of the governmental system, if you can't get a hearing, and I can't, you go to the electoral system. What's my alternative?" (By Lois Raimondo -- The Washington Post)
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Ralph Nader
Independent Candidate for President
Thursday, July 10, 2008; 3:00 PM

Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader was online Thursday, July 10 at 3 p.m. ET to take your questions about his campaign, platform and why he's running.

The transcript follows.

Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author, and has been named by Time magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential Americans in the 20th century. His books include "Unsafe at Any Speed," which documented safety defects in U.S. cars and led to the passage of the 1966 National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. This is his fifth campaign for president, including unsuccessful runs as an independent in 2004 and the Green Party candidate in 2000.

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Ralph Nader: I'll be chatting live at 3 p.m.

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Los Angeles: Ever heard of the Nader game? Whenever you give an interview and bring up "Taft-Hartley," everyone drinks. What exactly do you have against this 60-year-old bill?

Ralph Nader: The Taft-Hartley act of 1947 is the most anti-worker/anti-union law in the Western world. It is a major obstacle that has kept a number of unionized workers in the United States at the lowest level in the Western world. Specifically, among it's many obstructions is the prohibition on secondary boycotts, additional provisions enabling employers to interfere in organizing efforts by workers, allowing employers to have an expansive definition of managerial employees, and enabling employers to call a prematurely early union election before the organizers are ready. It is full of such mischief.

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Olney, Md.: Mr. Nader, I voted for you in the past two elections and I applaud your efforts to challenge the status quo. However, I wonder if some of the issues you care about might be addressed more effectively through local politics, which then could lead to larger, national movements. Have you considered running for elected office as either a senator or governor? Would you consider doing so if your bid for the presidency is unsuccessful this year?

Ralph Nader: My purpose is to have a national impact, arousing people all over the country to challenge the two-party dictatorship and encouraging people to run as independents and third-party candidates at the local state and national levels. In this manner, you stimulate the local through the national and the national through the local. This could not be done running in a state for senator or governor.

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Ligonier, Pa.: Do you believe that you will be able to get on the ballot in all 50 states?

Ralph Nader: I believe we are on the course for the Nader/Gonzalez ticket to be on the ballot of 45 states.

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Staten Island, N.Y.: Mr. Nader, what exactly is your plan for withdrawal from Iraq, and how long do you think it would take to implement it? Thank you.

Ralph Nader: The Nader/Gonzalez plan for the military and corporate withdrawal from Iraq would be on a six-month timetable. During that period, we urge U.N.-sponsored elections, continuation of humanitarian aid -- because we owe it to the devastated Iraqi people -- and negotiations with the three groups (Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds) regarding a level of autonomy within the overall framework of a unified Iraq. All three groups want a unified Iraq, but they want some autonomy. By returning Iraq and the oil back to the Iraqis, the bottom will fall out of the insurgency, because its only objective is to evict the invader/occupier.

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Pikesville, Md.: I am a 28-year-old father, husband, student and educator. Would you be in favor of repealing No Child Left Behind? Do you believe -- as many educators do -- that NCLB punishes lower-income students/schools while rewarding the schools that already have a wealth of money and community support? Explain.

Ralph Nader: The Nader/Gonzalez campaign favors repeal of the No Child Left Behind law. Narrowly-based, multiple-choice standardized tests rupture the relationships between teachers and students and force the teachers to teach to the test, which themselves are poorly designed. States are gaming the law, violating it, and the overwhelming number of teachers are opposed to it -- for good reason. There are far better ways to stimulate higher-qualitiy education and its assessment.

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New York: Many people I've spoken to have seen your presidential campaigns as nudging elections toward the republican candidate and not nearly achieving the votes needed to get third-party status. Can you explain why they're wrong, or why this time will be different?

Ralph Nader: As long as liberal voters continue to vote for the Democratic Party no matter how badly the party behaves, and so long as the Republicans are worse, the Democratic nominee will take these liberal votes for granted and move toward right-wing positions and also move toward the corporate interests that are tugging at the candidate. The only way this can change is if liberal or progressive voters signal to the Democratic nominee that they have somewhere else to go. That somewhere else can be the progressive Nader/Gonzalez campaign. Otherwise the liberal/progressive voters will be in a trap and will be taken for granted. This already is happening with the liberal progressive voters' relationship with Barack Obama. So it is up to these voters to generate leverage instead of surrender.

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Takoma Park, Md.: What's the difference between your health care reform plan and Obama's and McCain's?

Ralph Nader: The Nader/Gonzalez health care plan is what often is called a "single-payer" plan -- that is, full government health insurance or full Medicare for all. With free choice of hospitals and doctors, greatly reduced administrative expenses, elimination of the huge computerized billing fraud and abuse and a more facilitative database to determine outcomes, which encourage prevention of diseases and injury.

Obama's plan basically pumps more public money on top of a rotten, wasteful, corrupt and redundant healthcare system dominated by giant HMOs, health insurance companies and drug companies at the expense of the professional judgments of physicians and nurses.

McCain's plan is even worse and does nothing to control the spiraling costs of health care -- it's the dream of the giant corporations that dominate our health care system. For more detail, go to the Physicians for National Health program or ask your member of Congress for HR676, the single-payer legislation.

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Arlington, Va.: How should our electoral system be changed to allow voters to express their preferences without unintended side-effects, and what will it take to start making these reforms? Many Nader supporters in swing states surely will consider voting Democratic as a defensive move against the Republican candidate. The electoral college system is not serving us well when it compels people not to cast their vote for their first-choice candidate in order to avoid helping their least-favorite candidate.

Ralph Nader: I believe people should vote for candidates they believe in. The problem is that many voters are hereditary voters, voting automatically for the Republican or Democratic nominee, or tactical voters who are voting for the least-worst candidate of the two major-party candidates, without demanding anything from their least-worst choice.

Having said that, in more than 30 states that are overwhelmingly Democrat or Republican, given our electoral college system, voters could vote their conscience and support the Nader/Gonzalez campaign. We believe the electoral college should be abolished, but in the meantime, instant-runoff voting (IRV) or a variation could ensure that the winner receives the majority vote and reduce political bigotry against third-party and independent candidates. Check out www.votepact.org to see a creative way that citizens can vote their conscience, while avoiding unintended consequences.

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Burbank, Calif.: Why did you leave the Green Party? It seems that both you running and the Green Party running a candidate only dilutes the protest vote from the environmental voting block.

Ralph Nader: I never was a member of the Green Party. As an independent and its nominee, I worked in 2000 to give it visibility and nearly three million votes. Afterward, I attended more than 40 fundraisers in many states to help keep the Green Party's momentum going. Unfortunately, internal bickering drove away many good Greens, and the party lost whatever ability it had to take advantage of the 2000 momentum and lost much of the discipline and focus that its excellent agenda would have warranted.

A third party much have maturity and discipline to survive in a rigged, two-party-dominated system. I wish the Green Party good luck.

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Anchorage, Alaska: Have any physicians' groups publicly supported the Nader/Gonzalez health care plan? Thanks.

Ralph Nader: Yes. The Physicians for a National Health Program -- led by Harvard medical school professors Stephanie Woolhander and David Himmelstein and Dr. Quentin Young from Chicago -- is the intellectual and practical architect of a comprehensive single-payer health plan in America.

The Web site is PNHP.org. For further documentation and motivation, check out their Web site.

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Farmington, Conn.: Mr. Nader, I find myself disillusioned by the two major party candidates right now, and am considering all of my options in the upcoming election. One of my biggest issues as an American Jew is continued support of Israel. What is your position on economic, political and military support of Israel?

Ralph Nader: To attain peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, the U.S. government must replace its support for the militaristic domination, occupation, destruction and colonization of the Palestinian people and its economy with up-front support of the Israeli and Palestinian peace movements that have worked out a two-state solution -- most prominently described in the Geneva Accords. A two-state solution returning back to the 1967 borders is supported in polls by Jewish Americans, Arab Americans and the Palestinian people.

Both McCain and Obama pandered to AIPAC at its convention recently in such a way as to signal a continuation of the failed U.S. policy toward that conflict. The Washington puppet show should be replaced by a robust Washington peace show to resolve a 60-year festering conflict that is radiating opposition and problems to the United States well beyond that region.

For more information, please see http://www.votenader.org/issues/foreign-policy/israel/

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Slinger, Wis.: Ralph: Why did you choose Gonzalez as your running mate?

Ralph Nader: I choose Matt Gonzalez as my running mate because he is a leading civil rights lawyer in California, a former elected member of the San Francisco city council and previously a dedicated public defender. At age 42, he has a very promising political future -- and one of the purposes of our campaign is to bring in a new generation of political leaders who view politics cleanly as an antidote to autocracy and as a service to the people. For example, Matt Gonzalez was a leader in advancing the living wage in San Francisco. He made the minimum wage in that city the highest in the country -- considerably higher than the laggard, inflation-depleted federal minimum wage that is now at $6.55 an hour.

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New York: Do you concede even a smidgeon of the truth concerning Obama, in terms of his organization and support residing in no small part outside the (corrupt) Beltway?

Ralph Nader: Obama and his associates have run a brilliantly tactical campaign. It is now time to bring the general rhetoric of his campaign, which obviously has produced mass enthusiasm amongst millions of people, down to the ground. Unfortunately in recent weeks he has filled out the blanks in ways that have delighted the concentrators of power and the mega-corporate interests that have donated more to his campaign than they have to the campaign of John McCain. Sen. Obama's voting record has not been encouraging (http://www.mindfully.org/Reform/2008/Obama-Craze-Gonzalez27feb08.htm). He knows full well about the gross disparity in power and wealth between the few and the many, but he has been reluctant to speak truth to such power. If you support Obama, you better make him better by making demands on him -- otherwise the corporate lobbies will be making him worse day after day.

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Washington: What are you doing to identify and promote third-party candidacies besides your own?

Ralph Nader: We will be working with former Rep. Bob Barr of the Libertarian pParty, and other third parties, to highlight the need for ending ballot-access obstructions and moving toward one federal ballot-access standard for all candidates seeking federal office, whether for Congress or the White House.

I also favor public funding of public campaigns, instant runoff voting, an end to gerrymandering, and binding "none of the above" options on each ballot line to give voters the choice of voting no to all candidates for that position.

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Ligonier, Pa.: Mr. Nader, I agree that the long term solution to our energy problems lies in alternative fuels and energy, but unfortunately that would take years to have any meaningful impact. Wouldn't drilling in ANWR, building additional refinieries and increasing offshore drilling more immediately help the average person who is struggling to fill their tank and buy groceries?

Ralph Nader: Unfortunately you're having a bad dream. Drilling in ANWR won't produce one barrel of oil for at least 10 years, whereas energy conservation -- from the way motorists drive to the fuel-efficient cars that the auto companies can give you very soon -- will save far more fuel than any new wildlife refuge in Alaska will produce. You should be able to buy cars now that get 50 miles per gallon or more. For several years hybrid cars have been meeting that level, and the auto companies should move quickly into hybrid car and other high-efficiency motor vehicles that their engineers have known how to build for years.

More efficient energy technologies -- including household appliances, heating and air conditioning systems and the way homes and other buildings are constructed -- will save more amounts of energy quickly, safely and less expensively than constructing more generating plants or drilling for more fossil fuels.

As far as gas prices are concerned, stopping the speculation on Wall Street and in oil futures markets would cut the price of a barrel of oil in half. Even ExxonMobil testified to that figure recently in Congress. That would mean $65 barrels of oil instead of $130 or more. This would reduce gasoline to the range of $2 a gallon. I do agree with you that tight refinery capacity has helped keep gas prices up, a situation the oil companies have learned how to game. More than 30 refineries have been closed in the past 35 years without being replaced in the United States. Federal policy should move toward expanding refinery capacity.

For more information on my energy policies see: http://www.votenader.org/issues/environment/new-energy-policy/

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Amherst, Ohio: It is fashionable to attribute much of our difficulties to "corporations" and "big business." Are corporations evil? Is it wrong to want to make a living and pursue the American Dream? Haven't lawsuits by so-called consumer advocates also become a big and profitable business (for example, in the areas of asbestos, tobacco and medical malpractice)?

Ralph Nader: When corporations are not required to adhere to decent boundaries enforced by law, they can become reckless and take hundreds of thousands of lives and cause injuries annually from hazardous workplaces, defective consumer products, toxic chemicals in the environment and medical-hospital negligence. When regulators fall down on the job, the courts are the last recourse for compensatory justice on behalf of the wrongfully injured victims. Remember, every major corporation in the world has warned its adherents not to give too much power to the merchant class. The subordination of commercial values to civic values advances a just society. The reverse is what has been happening in our country. Including the corporate crime wave from Enron to Wall Street and the hijacking of our government by global corporations.

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Silver Spring, Md.: It seems that Jesse Jackson was saying much the same thing you said about Obama -- namely that he was ignoring the problems in urban and rural America in favor of white votes. Is there a way to criticize Obama's record and platforms without being called a heretic or racist?

Ralph Nader: My record fighting for civil rights and and improving the plight of low-income Americans goes back 50 years. This experience has enabled me to include all politicians, whatever their race, color, creed as being subject to equal opportunity criticism if they turn their back on the people and prostrate themselves before corporate lobbyists. No one gets a free ride because of their color, gender or ethnic background. They have to earn the public trust.

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Ralph Nader: Thank you for your questions, if you'd like more details about the many purposes of the Nader/Gonzalez campaign for shaping a more just and respectful future for our country, sign up for our email list and visit our vivid website for an independent evaluation of this year's presidential campaigns. And lastly, remember ancient Chinese proverb: "To know and not to do is not to know."

Please visit our Web site, or our page on Digg.com.

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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