Ralph Nader Weighs Democratic Chances in 2004

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This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, July 2, 2003, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Democrats are looking for a savior to take back the White House, and right now their best shot may be a long shot.

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (search) is a dark horse emerging from a crowded field, kind of like a previously unfamiliar governor from Arkansas. He's gaining… as voters begin to separate the wheat from the chafe. Of course, a third-party candidate could affect the outcome of a close election. Former presidential candidate Ralph Nader (search) ran twice on the Green Party (search) ticket and may run again. And that is today's big question.

Mr. Nader, are any of the Democrats acceptable to you and the Green Party or do you think you might run again?

RALPH NADER (G) FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, the difference between the Green Party's very, very people-oriented platform and the other two parties is enormous, but Dennis Kucinich (search) probably represents many of the issues in terms of living wage, and universal healthcare, and strong environmental health protections, clean elections and some of the more democracy-binding platforms that the two parties ignore. He's probably the closest.

GIBSON: Well, let me put it this way. Since Dean is hot and got an endorsement and is piling up money, is he acceptable to you?

NADER: Well, you have to judge Dean not by his speeches, which are really pretty good — I like especially his criticism of the Bush administration and breaking the sense of community in the American society — but if you look at his record as governor, it's a pretty mediocre record. Someone said in Vermont that he's the originator of the triangulation. Part Republican, part Democrat. Very, very obeisant to corporate power up there. So I think more of that is going to start spilling beyond the borders of Vermont and there is going to be more critical appraisal of Howard Dean. But his speeches are, by Democratic Party standards, electrifying and that's why he's moving fast.

GIBSON: You know, Ralph, I watched you on the air yesterday on a couple of other networks and you get savaged by those Democrats that were professionals and now doing TV. I mean absolutely savaged by James Carville (search) and Bill Press (search). And they blame you for the fact that there is a President Bush, and they're afraid to death that you will enter the race and make sure there's a second term for George Bush.

NADER: A very superficial analysis. For example, they should be concerned about getting more voters to the polls. Green Party presidential candidates can generate more voters that will spill over and help progressive Democrats running for the House and the Senate, as they would have in 2002. If it was a presidential year, the Democrats would be in control of the Senate and would have won the close races in New Hampshire, Missouri and Georgia. They're just looking at the White House, as if they have any Democratic candidate who has got the gumption to take Bush on the critical issue of the American people losing control over their lives to giant corporations who control too much federal, state and local government.

A Business Week poll — even three years ago, before the corporate crime wave came on looting trillions of dollars from millions of workers and investors and their pensions in the last three years —Three years ago, 72 percent of the American people said that they think corporations have too much control over their lives. If you want to get more detail about what the Democrats and Republicans, including Howard Dean, are ignoring in terms of a corporate crime crackdown platform, just log in to citizenworks.org. And you will see the changes on behalf of small investors, workers and consumers that both parties are ignoring in Congress and in the White House.

GIBSON: Okay, but Ralph Nader, a little later we're going to have Bruce Reed on from the Democratic Leadership Conference.

NADER: Sure.

GIBSON: At least his estimation and the Democrat's estimation of where the American public is about 50 percent dead center. You know, 30-some-odd percent Republican, a slightly smaller percentage Democrat. It sounds as though going left isn't going to help a Democratic candidate. That he's got to be in the middle and you object to that. And if a middle candidate comes along, you are kind of holding out the possibility you might step in and siphon off a few votes from him, which could make the difference.

NADER: Look, everyone has a right to run for president. This idea that the Democrats are entitled to a certain slice of the American electorate or the Republicans is nonsense, number one… There are 100 million voters in this country who don't go to the presidential polls and vote, half of the voters. Who is going to appeal to them?

Who is going to give them engagement, incentives? Who is going to take them and have them make a part of a growing Democratic society instead of a plutocratic society where the rich take off with far more than they deserve at the expense of millions of workers? They're in a rut in Washington. They don't get out enough. I've told all these Republicans and Democrats, “You want me to debate you in front of your favorite constituency back home, I will be your guest.” And if I don't beat you 2-1 in a random auditorium, I will concede defeat. They're not talking about things that matter to the American people. They talk gobbledygook. They talk Senatese.

GIBSON: You know, Ralph Nader, the next time you come up against Carville or Bill Press remind them, if it wasn't for Ross Perot, they wouldn't have had a President Clinton. Ralph Nader, thank you.

NADER: Exactly. You notice, they don't whine about that, do they?

GIBSON: No. They never want to bring that up. Ralph Nader thanks a lot. I appreciate it.

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