Pacifica: Have you lost your way? Have you lost your mind?
Nader: No, I came here deliberately. I felt compassion for the media, it's bored. You've 15 thousand people in the media covering several thousand delegates who aren't disagreeing, who aren't debating, who aren't doing anything but applauding a fashion trade show.
Pacifica: Well, you know it's interesting, because I've talked to a lot of delegates here and I've talked to a lot of delegates in San Diego who are really accomplished, intelligent, thoughtful people who are attending both of these conventions, but very different ideas, of course, but they could be doing something else that could be of value to American body politic, couldn't they?
Nader: Of course, they could be raising problems that are ignored. They could be dropping the slogans, they could be conveying facts to the American people, I mean, if the American people knew that the bottom 80 percent of households in America only have 1.8 percent of all equities, including 401 (k) plans and the top five percent have 77 percent, maybe the issue of the gross disparity of wealth between the top and the bottom would become a political issue.
Pacifica: Do you think it would be for the Republicans? Do you think they care about something like that?
Nader: Well,I think they're going to have to care, because any dismantling of our democracy is going to destabilize our society. People like Jack Kemp know that.
Pacifica: Ralph, what do you think are the major issues that should be discussed right now?
Nader: The major issue is what to do about the concentration of power and wealth in too few hands that has enlisted government as an instrument against ordinary people. That's the Central Issue. The branch issues are: massive corporate crime epidemic, from financial crimes, looting investors, savings and loans crimes, all of which end up by having innocent taxpayers bail them out. Corporate crime--uh, corporations don't like to be governed. They like to be THE governors and they will corrupt with money the political governors and take them over, and that lack of arm's length relationship between the government and the business community is severely dismantling our democracy.
Imagine now, we have global corporations fleeing this country, no allegiance to the country, exporting jobs, creating autocratic systems of government, repressing our own democratic processes, like GATT and NAFTA, and it's not an issue in the campaign! Universal health insurance--not an issue in the campaign! Campaign finance reform, getting private money out of politics--not an issue between the two parties! What to do about our public works, the massive public investment program, creating jobs, meeting the real needs and replacing the billions of dollars of taxpayers' money in bloated defense budgets--not an issue!
What they've done is they've carefully narrowed the agenda over budget deficits and welfare reform, et cetera, and they're fighting more and more about less and less, stressing their minute differences in order to try and give the American people the impression that there's really a two party system when it's really a Corporate Party with two heads wearing different make-up.
Pacifica: Tonight, Ralph Nader, President Clinton is going to deliver his acceptance speech which is being billed as his second State of the Union speech, and, as you know, he recently released a book, and he's going to say the same thing in his speech that he does in the book and I'd like to get your reaction to what he writes here when he says, "The solution to people's economic difficulties in this country is to get more growth, more high wage jobs, more education by building on the policies that have brought our economy back with innovative, targeted, practical efforts, not to abandon what we have done for a radically different course that will not help those who need it and will undermine opportunity for everyone else."
Nader: It's like saying "The solution to cancer is health, and I'm not going to tell you how to pay for it." For example, if he's true to those words, where is he going to reallocate the budget, away from 100 billion dollars to defend Western Europe and East Asia from nonexistent enemies--and they're prosperous countries and can defend themselves--where's he going to get the money? Is he going to continue to give away our natural resources , our gold, our molybdenum to domestic and foreign corporations under the 1872 Mining Act, which he has never taken a leadership effort to repeal? Is he going to get rid of the free gifts of medicines that are developed by taxpayer money in the National Institutes of Health to the drug companies who sock it to people at $10,000 for a series of treatments?
I think what Bill Clinton is doing is he's restumbling over his own slogans, and he's reworking and reworking his own slogans. I mean, yesterday, Hillary Clinton praised Bill Clinton using prime time when two major leaders of the Democratic Party, Cuomo and Jesse Jackson, were relegated to minor time. This is a monumental display of political Presidential ego. And then she quotes him, and then he quotes her today on the train. Uh, what's going on here? Touchy feely? Why doesn't he stand up against big corporate power dismantling our democracy and making the American people the losers as a result?
Pacifica: Talking about the train, President Clinton stopped today in Michigan to announce environmental initiatives. On CNN yesterday you debated Carol Browner who's head of the EPA. What is your response to these?
Nader: First of all, it's just basically piddling proposals that he should have made two, three, four years ago, but it's election time. Second, he grossly distorted this billion-dollar boondoggle project for a clean car, with the federal government taxpayers paying a freight to finance the super-profitable domestic auto companies who should be building their own clean car, competing over who's going to build the least polluting, most fuel-efficient car, and if they don't collude, as this federal program encourages them to do, we'll get a better deal.
This is a terrible boondoggle. The press hasn't been on it. It's going into its fourth year. It hasn't produced any prototypes for clean cars. It's just a waste of money and the auto companies, in return, have gotten a de facto exemption from anti-trust laws and from regulations to up the fuel efficiency standard beyond its long station twenty-seven and half mile per gallon figure.
Pacifica: Staying on the environment for a moment, Ralph Nader, you've gotten involved in an environmental issue in California which could have electoral repercussions. It is bringing your name for the first time into the headlines, and that is the fight over the Headwaters Forest. The Pacific Lumber Company buy out. Charles Hurwitz, the Maxxam multi-millionaire, and the possibility of paying him some money in exchange, or him paying, or giving the land over. What's going on here with the Clinton Administration and where do you see that playing itself out politically in California?
Nader: Clinton knows that preserving the redwoods is a big issue in California and this is one of the last remaining large groves of redwoods, owned by a rapacious corporate chief, Mr. Hurwitz, who had an S&L that collapsed and the taxpayer had to spend over a billion dollars to bail him out.
Now the Clinton Administration wants to swap some federal land, like Treasure Island near San Francisco, for this grove of redwoods; and what we're saying is, that they should get together with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation that has sued Hurwitz' corporation to get money back for this corrupt, failed S&L, and say "Okay, Hurwitz, you and your corporation owe the taxpayer hundreds of millions. We'll reduce it by several hundreds of millions of dollars in return for the redwood grove."
And the Clinton Administration is not willing to do that
John Garamendi, the deputy secretary of the Interior, played a very hokey game the other day. He called me up, he tried to say that what I was asking the Clinton Administration to do was wrong and illegal, and interfering with an independent, regulatory agency like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation--which, of course, is not that. We're asking them to cooperate between the Interior Department and the FDIC, and the FDIC, in a letter to David Dellums, er, Ron Dellums, the Congressman from Berkeley, 30 months ago, said it was willing to consider this debt-for-nature swap. And then he goes on a telephone press conference, and its chief ploy, he tries to say that environmentalists are trying to get Clinton to do a wrong and illegal thing, This is the, uh, this is the Clinton Administration--an extremely sleazy operation, full of cowards at the top and frustrated decent people at the bottom.
Pacifica: What about President Clinton's call for a cleaning up of the Superfund sites by the year 2000, enforcing community right-to-know laws.
[At this point a sound clip is aired from a President Clinton speech in which he says he wants no child to live near a toxic waste dump, no parent to worry about the safety of a child's glass of water, and no neighborhood should be polluted by a nearby factory, and says he wants that by the year 2000.]
Nader: Yeah. This is like his assurance that we're going to get universal health assurance like every other Western country. He's not going to be able to deliver for two reasons:
One, he's not going to have the will to deliver; and two, he's not going to be able to maneuver Congress into delivering because he does not like confrontation.
Pacifica: Is it true Haily Barber says he wants you in the debates?
Nader: Yes. He said it on Crossfire two days ago and he said it when I met him just a few minutes ago, that he thinks I should be on the debate panel with Dole, Clinton, and especially if Perot is on it. And I think it would be a much more exciting and much broader debate, more people will watch it. Otherwise, it's going to be Clinton versus Dole, one Rep-Dem debating a Dem-Rep, and people are going to yawn and turn off.
Pacifica: Who decides this?
Nader: The Presidential Commission on Debates, basically a man by the name of Mr. Noystadt, who is the son of a famous Harvard professor of political science.
Pacifica: Do you have to choose a vice presidential candidate soon in order to be on the ballot in the states you're going to be on the ballot in?
Nader: Yes and that decision will be made before the end of this week.
Pacifica: Who's in contest for it?
Nader: I'm not going to' say because the announcement will be made very shortly.
Pacifica: We want a scoop on Pacifica, Ralph, c'mon!
Nader: The scoop is the triumph of harmony ideology in the political conventions in San Diego and Chicago. The end of debate at a political convention.
Pacifica: Throughout your life time and my lifetime and the lifetimes of everybody listening, these political conventions seem to have declined in significance and escalated in absurdity, do you think we're really seeing the final four-day full conventions by the Democratic and Republican Parties in 1996?
Nader: Definitely. I think it will be two-days in the future. There will be less TV coverage, and they will be completely anointed as wholly-owned subsidiaries of the corporations who sponsor them, wine them, dine them, entertain them and ply them with all kinds of little packages full of product goodies free.
Pacifica: Let me ask you something, Ralph Nader, what is President Clinton, or President Clinton's people, the Democrats, what are they saying to you about being in this race? You can only hurt President Clinton.
Nader: Well, no, I think he can only hurt himself. I think, first of all, Clinton's too unprincipled to lose to Dole, and he's proven that again and again most recently with his cruel-to-children so-called hoked-up welfare legislation. I think, secondly, they are extremely upset about this very modest, no-money candidacy. President Clinton actually, three, four weeks ago went over to a couple people that are fund raisers who knew me and tried to get them to persuade me to back off, but I think that-
Pacifica: He doesn't know you very well, does he?
Nader: I think that illustrates the need for new political parties, for political competition. They can't stand even a little competition, because his whole tactic is to tell millions of people they've got nowhere to go, because no matter how corporatist he is, no matter how subordinate he is to corporate power, the Republicans are worse. And let me tell you, no Senator in modern history has been so diversely, profusely and enthusiastically a sell-out to corporations as Senator Dole. And that is what is basically saving Mr. Clinton, who deserves to lose but not to Senator Dole.
Basically, Clinton's approach to America is, "Vote for me, I'm not Newt Gingrich."
Pacifica: You talk about building new parties and building alternatives. When we interviewed you on this problem a few months ago, you said basically that you were using the Green Party and other organizations like it as an agency to promote your views and to get into the debate, but that you didn't necessarily think that you were running on their platforms. Bob Dole says that he hasn't read his party's platform, at least he hadn't until recently. Have you read the Green Party platform and are you in agreement with it?
Nader: Yeah, cover to cover. It's really a very good platform, but it has so many issues that I'm not entirely informed about. But on the issues of democracy, sustainable economy, environment, campaign finance reform, you name it, it's far superior to the Democratic Party platform, which is a mealy-mouthed, evasive weasel-worded set of pages that doesn't even come out for universal health insurance.
Pacifica: Some of the people who are part of the Green Party, African-Americans, people who have been part of the civil rights movement no matter what color, are concerned about your track record on the issue of race. They're concerned, for example, that you haven't come out against CCRI in California, the California Civil Rights Initiative, what they're calling the "California Civil Wrongs Initiative", the end of affirmative action. What's your response to that?
Nader: First of all, when I was a law student, I was fighting for civil rights for African-Americans, neglecting my studies to do so, as well as Native Americans. Women's Rights--I got the first article in Harvard Law Record on the fact that eleven states had laws that prevented women from serving on juries. But I've come to believe that in a political campaign, if you don't focus on basic, fundamental, democracy issues and corporate power, the media will scatter you in terms of all other issues. But people should realize that when we have a stronger democracy, the kind of crazy initiatives that are on the California ballot would never have a chance of passing, because the people would have the tools to communicate, to publicize and to get people out to the polls.
Pacifica: Ralph Nader, as the campaign unfolds over the next two months, what do you see yourself doing and where? You said you were going to run a low-budget campaign, spending, I think you said, no more than $5,000 of your own money to avoid whatever legal entanglements that would mean. How far can that get you? Are you going to hitchhike around the country? What are you going to do?
Nader: First of all, there's a lot of free media. A lot of calls from all kinds of electronic radio, TV, press, magazines. I will do my share of op-ed articles and I will briefly go through some of the states by motor vehicle equipped with air bags.
Pacifica: (Laughter) You don't drive, though.
Nader: I have a license.
Pacifica: You do?
Pacifica: Get off the roads, folks, Nader's driving in!
As we wind up, the issue of you revealing your finances and who contributes money to you, this is also a concern to a lot of people. You attack the other parties for not revealing everything behind what they do. How do you justify that?
Nader: First of all the most important thing to reveal is who's financing your campaign. Zero. Nobody's financing my campaign. Second, I've been an advocate for privacy for 30 years--credit privacy, health data, income tax. That's not a proper disclosure mechanism. I love Dole, who discloses 20 years of his income tax and then goes and votes against 20 health and safety bills on the floor. The only legitimate law that deals with disclosure is Government and Ethics Act. The minute I cross that barrier of $5,000 and become a money candidate as defined by federal law, I've got to spend my time fending off people who say, "Go for", "Raise money". etc. etc.
The one thing I want to emphasize in this campaign is that this is a no-money campaign, I want self-reliant volunteers and that's why I'm not going to cross that line.
Pacifica: What's that phone number again? To get your self-reliant volunteers?
Nader: I don't have an 800 phone number. The Green Party's on its own. I just accept the successful petition drives, such as New York State and elsewhere to get on the ballot. I have no phone number for anybody to send any money to me.
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