Bush’s Useful Idiot

the liberal media by Eric Alterman

[from the October 4, 2004 issue]

Four years ago, Ralph Nader justified his third-party campaign on the grounds that the two parties represented nothing more than “Tweedledum and Tweedledee.” As Americans die by the thousand in Iraq, the budget deficit explodes thanks to a tax cut targeting the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans, the Justice Department demands women’s private medical records from abortion clinics, and polluters are given carte blanche to despoil the earth and poison our children, the devastating evidence of Nader’s myopia is everywhere around us.

Recall also that four years ago, Nader professed to want to help build the Green Party into a genuinely progressive alternative to what he termed the corporate-dominated “duopoly.” But Nader was no more truthful about his commitment to party-building than George W. Bush was when he decried “nation-building.” Today, Nader’s party allies consist mainly of the motley far-right collection of Republicans who fund his campaign and collect his signatures, and the remains of the nativist Reform Party, late of Pat Buchanan’s presidential campaign.

It’s true that Nader once represented an important progressive voice in American politics; then again, so did Norman Podhoretz, David Horowitz and Christopher Hitchens. While Nader continues to employ the same rhetoric as before, this speaks merely to his personal self-delusion and shameless demagoguery. He also appears to be a rather brazen liar. “We have not been accepting signatures obtained through organized Republican Party efforts in the three or four states where we have learned of such activity,” he insisted in a September Washington Post op-ed. In fact, as the Detroit Free Press reported a day earlier, 45,000 of the 50,500 petition signatures submitted on Nader’s behalf in Michigan were indeed submitted by Republicans. (Meanwhile, in Florida, Nader’s ballot access lawyer is one Kenneth Sukhia, who just happened to represent Bush in that state’s 2000 recount.)

While Nader, with characteristic obliviousness, refuses to accept any responsibility for the horrors of the Bush Administration, Ronnie Dugger, who presented Nader four years ago at the Green Party convention, admits, “We, the Nader people, certainly put Bush close enough electorally for the Supreme Court to seize the presidency for him.” Giving up on talking sense to Nader personally, many of his big-name 2000 supporters have joined together to oppose his current candidacy. Among the seventy-four members of the “113-person Nader 2000 Citizens Committee” who’ve signed a statement urging support for Kerry/Edwards in all swing states this year are: Phil Donahue, Jim Hightower, Susan Sarandon, Noam Chomsky, Barbara Ehrenreich, Howard Zinn and Cornel West. Indeed, Nader is without a single high-profile supporter anywhere this time around. And he has added to his list of enemies what he terms the “liberal intelligentsia”: those he defines as concerned with his issues but willing to accept “the least worst option.”

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