Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader lashed out at Democrat John F. Kerry yesterday, accusing him of supporting a legal campaign to keep the longtime consumer advocate off the November ballot.
"He's in control of the party now so he's responsible," Nader said at a news conference. "He could put a stop to it, just like Bush could have put a stop to the whole Swift Boat [Veterans for Truth] thing."
Nader, in a wide-ranging critique of the Democratic nominee, also accused Kerry of taking liberal voters for granted; of not having a clear strategy for removing U.S. troops from Iraq; of not placing enough minorities in key positions within his campaign; and, echoing his 2000 Green Party presidential bid, of presiding over a party that has become dominated by corporate interests.
"The Democratic Party, under the influence of its corporate supremacists, is a gutless, spineless, clueless and hapless party and needs to be challenged by liberal Democrats," Nader said. "We must never tolerate a Democratic Party that turns its back on the very people it depends on to win elections."
The tongue-lashing marked something of a turning point for the candidate, who had focused much of his fire on President Bush. Nader said he decided to ramp up his criticism of the Massachusetts senator in response to the ongoing legal challenges to keep him off ballots.
Kerry campaign spokesman Chad Clanton said of Nader's complaint: "There are rules on the books that have been there for a long time, and we're just making sure that those rules are followed." Nader's remarks came at a critical time for his campaign, which is nearing the end of its drive to get on ballots. His campaign said yesterday that it is on the ballot in 29 states and is fighting in court for a place in 14 others. That effort has been shadowed for months by a Democratic-sponsored legal effort to push him off the ballot or, barring that, to bleed his campaign of time and money. Theresa Amato, Nader's campaign manager, said the campaign has spent "tens of thousands" of dollars fighting ballot complaints in court. Nader, who has $8,379 in the bank according to his most recent campaign finance report, repeated his vow not to drop out of the race before the election.
Nader also complained that he was being excluded from the three presidential debates, but he said he plans to be in Coral Gables, Fla., for the first event. He said he has asked the Commission on Presidential Debates, which coordinates the events, for tickets for the Sept. 30 debate. Nader said he may offer his responses to the questions asked in that debate online or to cable television channels.