directed by Henriette Mantel, starring Ralph Nader
[Transcribed from the movie by Tara Carreon, The Ralph Nader Library Librarian]
The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man. -- GEORGE BERNARD SHAW, "Man and Superman," 1903.
[Ralph Nader] As you know, I am running for president on an independent slate in all 50 states. The important thing here is to have presidential politics pay attention to the necessities of the American people, because presidential politics has been broken for a long time. The two parties have been broken. They need a wake-up call. They need somebody to hold their feet to the fire inside the electoral arena. That's the only language they understand.
[James Carville] Outside of Jerry Falwell, I can't think of anybody I have greater contempt for than Ralph Nader. No one in the history of the world is on a bigger ego trip than Ralph Nader.
[Todd Gitlin, School of Journalism, Columbia University] One is always right. One is -- One is prefabricated in purity. I think this is Ralph Nader's understanding of the world. He can't make mistakes, because he's saintly. He's the man on the white horse.
[Eric Alterman, Columnist, "The Nation"] Thank you, Ralph, for the Iraq war, for the tax cuts, thank you for the destruction of the environment, for the destruction of the Constitution.
[Todd Gitlin, School of Journalism, Columbia University] I find this worse than naive. I think it borders on the wicked.
[Eric Alterman, Columnist, "The Nation"] The man needs to go away. I think he needs to live in a different country. He's done enough damage to this one. Let him damage somebody else's now.
[Phil Donahue, Nader 2000 Co-Chair] There are -- Some of his major supporters have just -- [flips the bird]
[Cheering] [President Jimmy Carter] Ralph -- go back to examining the rear-end of automobiles [Audience Laughing] and don't risk costing the Democrats the White House this year as you did four years ago.
[Phil Donahue, Nader 2000 Co-Chair] That's the real -- That's the real tragedy. It's gonna be the first line of his obit. It's really -- There's a Shakespearean feature to this.
AN UNREASONABLE MAN
[Man #1] It's the responsibility of a serious person --
[Man #2] On the issues that Nader's put forth --
[Man #3] A lot of people would still be alive if Ralph had been silenced from March to November.
[Jimmy Carter] Go back to examining the rear-end of automobiles.
[Ralph Nader] "Two perish in the cab of burning truck." "Two Wisconsin couples die in car collision in North Dakota -- 15 children orphaned." [47,800 DIED IN '64 ON U.S. HIGHWAYS] "Texas collision takes five lives." "Crash kills six on Chicago highway." And on and on through the daily newspapers.
[David Bollier, Public Interest] Ralph decided that auto safety was of interest to him when some friends of his had been victimized by unsafe cars.
[Ralph Nader] Frederick Condon was a Harvard law school classmate of mine. And at age 28, with a wife and four children [FREDERICK H. CONDON; B.A. Yale '55; Hancock, N.H.; Brewster Club, Record] he was driving home from work in New Hampshire one evening and the car rolled -- there were no seat belts in those days. He was half in, half out on the road and became a paraplegic.
[David Bollier, Public Interest] And on his own, as a freelance journalist, Ralph wrote an article for The Nation magazine in 1959 about the designed-in dangers of automobiles. Totally novel topic at the time.
[Fanfare] THE CAR OF TODAY
SELL THE STYLE
[Lawrence O'Donnell, Political Analyst] It's hard to reimagine a world in which your car's not safe. It's not what it should be in a car-worshipping culture that not only thought the car was everything, but the car was where all your hopes and dreams for a better life were.
[Lawrence O'Donnell, Political Analyst] That car was gonna take you to the girl you needed to meet, or it was gonna take you off into the world and give you this dream life.
[Morton Mintz, The Washington Post] They could sell power and style, you know, stratospheric V8 or all this kind of stuff, uh, and associating power and style with sex. It was hard to make an issue like safety compete with that.
[Ralph Nader] Injuries are needlessly aggravated by the hood ornaments and sharp edges, and extremely intolerant external sheet-metal design.
[Man] This must be an important announcement, because Henry Ford II is addressing the group.
[Henry Ford II] We at Ford Motor Company --
[Joan Claybrook, President -- Public Citizen] Ford Motor Company put a safety package on the road in 1955-56.
[Henry Ford II] I am most happy, therefore, to announce that all of the pioneer safety features and specifications and designs --
[Joan Claybrook, President -- Public Citizen] It had a lap belt, a padded dashboard, a padded sun visor -- these were all optional equipment. That safety package was extremely popular. But then General Motors got infuriated, and called up Ford and said -- called Henry Ford and said, If you don't get rid of that package, we're gonna undercut you and put you out of business. Henry Ford decided that they would drop the safety package. It wasn't that safety didn't sell -- they couldn't supply enough safety belts for this. It was that the program had been cut off by the auto executives.
[Ralph Nader] Behind it all was, they didn't want the federal regulators telling them how to build a car in terms of safety. They said, if it's done in safety, it will be done in pollution control and fuel efficiency. That's an easy sell in Detroit. That would cool off any engineer or business executive who wanted to continue selling psychosexual dreamboats.
[James Ridgeway, The New Republic] I was working at The New Republic magazine. And that was a time when The New Republic magazine was sort of liberal.
THE NEW REPUBLIC
[Ralph Nader] I called up, and it just so happened that Jim Ridgeway answered.
[James Ridgeway, The New Republic] He always had one of these stories about what was going on under the surface. They weren't conspiracy stories. But they were als -- But they bordered on it.
[Ralph Nader] He said, "I'm very busy. You got three minutes." I said, "I can get it across in three minutes."
[James Ridgeway, The New Republic] And, you know, his big thing was the car -- the Corvair car.
[Ralph Nader] The 1963 Corvair, which has some remarkable characteristics. It's one of the few cars I know that can do the bossa nova on dry pavement, and the watusi on wet.
[Announcer] Yip-yahoo! Corvair! Nothing to it with Corvair's rear-engine balance and traction.
[Byron Bloch, Auto Safety Expert] Ralph pointed out that with its swing-axle rear suspension, and it's a rear-engine vehicle that a lot of times a person in a maneuver on the highway, the vehicle would tend to slide out or oversteer. Uh, going around a curve, for example, it would tend to slide out, and it would then trip and roll over. There were people that were being needlessly killed and paralyzed and burned in vehicle crashes.
[Richard Grossman, Publisher "Unsafe At Any Speed"] I read an article in The New Republic by James Ridgeway, "Corvair Tragedy." I felt so upset that this, the possibility that automobile manufacturers were aware of design flaws that endangered passengers and still manufactured them.
[James Ridgeway, The New Republic] This was not a popular subject. This was before anybody was really interested in this stuff.
[Richard Grossman, Publisher "Unsafe At Any Speed"] I said, "Jim, if half of what you wrote is true, it's a national outrage and we must have a book." And Jim said, "Everything I wrote was true, but I'm not gonna write any book for you or anybody else." And he said, "Besides which, anybody who writes about this subject leans on a guy in Washington, a lawyer named Ralph Nader. He knows more than any other 10 people in the world about the whole area of automobile safety. But you'll have a tough time finding him." I finally got hold of the secret number of the boarding house on 19th Street, which I can still remember. Adams 4-1978. I'll never forget it.
[David Bollier, Public Interest Historian] He took that isolated accident which was always blamed on the so-called "nut behind the wheel" and said that, no, this is something that's preventable. We can design cars more safely. That hadn't occurred to anybody before.
[Joan Claybrook, President -- Public Citizen] The nut behind the wheel is a myth, you know. What kills you in an auto crash is how the structure of the vehicle behaves. And yet they said the whole thing is how you drive, not that the steering wheel spears you, not that the roof crushes in on your head. No, it's how you drive that's relevant -- That's a myth.
[David Bollier, Public Interest Historian] People knew that automobile accidents had been occurring for decades. What they didn't know was that this was a systematic issue.
[Ralph Nader] The engineers knew all along that they were building junk. I'd fly to Detroit Airport and we'd circle the airport in an unlabeled motor vehicle while I was interviewing these whistle blowers who I called hidden patriots. Of course, they didn't want their names known because they'd be fired by the auto company that employed them.
UNSAFE AT ANY SPEED: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile, by Ralph Nader
[Lawrence O'Donnell, Political Analyst] Here was someone saying this vehicle that you think is the essence of your happiness, that the advertising community in Detroit has told you is everything you're ever gonna need to be happy, is incredibly, recklessly dangerous.
[Richard Grossman, Publisher -- "Unsafe at Any Speed"] The issue about marketing that book always was, do people, even if every word in it is true, and everything about it is as outrageous as he says, do people wanna read about that?
[Justin Martin, Biographer, "Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon"] There was one particularly interested party, and this made all the difference.
[Richard Grossman, Publisher -- "Unsafe at Any Speed"] Somebody once said to me, "Is Ralph paranoid?" And I said, "He's only paranoid because people are following him."
[Justin Martin, Biographer, "Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon"] Ralph, being of a somewhat suspicious mind, quickly caught on that there were these coincidences and people accosting him, including a woman in the supermarket.
[Ralph Nader] A young lady came up and said, "We're having a discussion on foreign affairs. Would you like to join us?" Well, you know, this is rather strange. It's not like you're at some party, or you're at some classroom and someone says that. You're buying cookies, you know, from the cookie counter. I think she was interested in a domestic affair. Laughs]
[James Ridgeway, The New Republic] The same thing goes on here all the time. The only reason anybody investigates anybody outside of these congressional hearings, which now don't amount to anything, is to smear people. Following him around, usually trying to get him in sexual activity just to cut him down.
[Justin Martin, Biographer, "Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon"] He started to get calls at odd hours -- 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. They would have strange covers. They'd say, you know, "This is Western Union calling. There's a package for you." [Ringing] They'd also say threatening things like, "Watch out, buddy boy."
[Claire Nader, Sister] Mother was getting 3:00 in the morning calls saying, "Tell your son to shove off." There were threats.
[Bryce Nelson, The Washington Post] I was walking to the old Senate office building in an underground corridor they used. One of the Capitol policemen said to me, "You better get out here. There's a couple of detectives following you." And I said, "What do you mean?" "Two guys following you." He said, "Didn't you write a book on auto safety?" I said, "No."
[Morton Mintz, The Washington Post] It was February of '66, a Saturday afternoon, when Ralph Nader told me he'd been followed the previous day. [The Washington Post] Well, you can't write a story saying somebody says he's being followed. There was absolutely no evidence of it.
[Bryce Nelson, The Washington Post] I felt that I'd better tell somebody in case I wound up face down in the Potomac or Anacostia River. Something strange was going on, so I told my editor, the national editor of The Washington Post, Larry Stern.
[Morton Mintz, The Washington Post] And then Larry Stern, my boss, told me that another Post reporter who has white skin and black hair had told him something very similar.
[Bryce Nelson, The Washington Post] Because we were so tall, thin, dark hair --
[Morton Mintz, The Washington Post] I was astonished at having this confirmation.
Car Safety Critic Nader Reports Being 'Tailed' -- Two men believed to be private detectives "tailed" Ralph Nader, author of a controversial book on auto safety ...
[James Ridgeway, The New Republic] The detective is following people, making calls and saying he was somebody or other.
THE NEW REPUBLIC: The Dick, by James Ridgeway
[Justin Martin, Biographer, "Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon"] He went to Ralph Nader's friends and associates and pretended that Ralph Nader had been offered a job. People began to wonder why, if he was being offered a job, were they so consumed with, "Was he smoking pot? Was he gay?" They realized, yes, in fact, a person who is testifying before Congress has someone breathing down their neck, trying to figure out what's going on. They call some of the big auto companies. Ford says, "It's not us." Chrysler says, "It's not us." General Motors sort of issues a statement where they indicate they don't know what's going on, but they don't -- they don't demur.
[Joe Page, Harvard Law School Classmate] I can remember getting a call in the wee hours of the morning from Ralph. "What's the matter?" And he said, "It's G.M."
[Phil Donahue, Host -- "The Phil Donahue Show"] General Motors sends sexy women into a supermarket to seduce him into a compromising position. I mean, I thought this was the damnedest thing I'd ever heard in my life.
[Pat Buchanan, St. Louis Globe Democrat -- 1966] After we heard General Motors had turned the babes loose on him in the grocery, we thought that was an unwise decision from a public relations standpoint for our greatest corporation.
[James Ridgeway, The New Republic] I mean, General Motors was clearly, you know, pissed off, because they were gonna face a lot of suits. [Siren Wailing] There was a lot of serious stuff here.
[David Bollier, Public Interest Historian] When this was confirmed that General Motors was responsible, Senator Ribicoff from Connecticut, who headed the relevant Senate committee in this area went ballistic.
[Justin Martin, Biographer, "Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon"] The president of General Motors was summoned. You've got television cameras out there. You've got a packed congressional hearing room. Everything's set up for maximum theater. You've got Bobby Kennedy there, Abraham Ribicoff. Then, at a lower elevation, James Roche, the C.E.O. of General Motors.
[James Roche, C.E.O. General Motors] General Motors' legal right to ascertain necessary facts preparatory to litigation --
[Senator Bobby Kennedy] I don't see how you can order the investigation and then put out a statement like this, which is not accurate. That, Mr. Roche, disturbs me as much as the fact that you conducted the investigation in the way that it was conducted in the beginning.
[Richard Grossman, Publisher -- "Unsafe at Any Speed"] It made a huge impact, because it was clear that there was something substantive here.
[Senator Abraham Ribicoff] Let us assume that you found something wrong with his sex life. What would that have to do with whether or not he was right or wrong on the Corvair?
[James Roche, C.E.O. General Motors] Nothing.
[Richard Grossman, Publisher -- "Unsafe at Any Speed"] Ribicoff had a copy of the book on the table in front of him as he was questioning General Motors. He said, "And so you hired detectives to try to get dirt on this young man to besmirch his character because of statements he made about your unsafe automobiles?" Then he grabbed the book, threw it down on the table and said, "And you didn't find a damned thing."
[Ralph Nader] I
think the thing that has persuaded me to continue, uh, is that I don't
want to have a climate in this country
[James Roche, C.E.O. General Motors] I want to apologize here and now to the members of this subcommittee and Mr. Nader. I sincerely hope that these apologies will be accepted.
[Morton Mintz, The Washington Post] When the chairman of a big corporation admits something like that and apologizes, boy, that's big news for everybody.
THE NEW REPUBLIC: The Nader Affair, by James Ridgeway & David Sanford.
[Justin Martin, Biographer, "Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon"] It launched Ralph Nader into instant national prominence.
Los Angeles Times: Crusader Nader and the Fresh Air Underground
Tin can foreign cars; Blind meat inspection; Foul fish canning; Lethal gaslines: The word went out, "Let's smear this guy Nader before he wipes us out." But all Big Business' dough couldn't stop this dedicated lawyer from blasting the pants of America's biggest robber barons
PLAYBOY INTERVIEW: RALPH NADER: a candid conversation with the zealous consumer crusader and wave-making author of "unsafe at any speed"
[Joan Claybrook, President -- Public Citizen] And it intersects with the auto safety bill.
The Washington Post: LBJ Signs Two Highway Safety Bills
[Joan Claybrook, President -- Public Citizen] The hearing on Ralph being followed by General Motors was in March of 1966, and the bill's through the senate in May -- it was just amazing.
[President Lyndon Baines Johnson] We'll somehow be able to build in more safety without building on more costs.
[Ralph Nader] If you get things out in the open, you'll get some action. There's no place for secrecy anywhere in traffic safety.
[Morton Mintz, The Washington Post] Surrender to the press, they don't pay attention to all kinds of serious issues until there's some kind of spark. I've often said, I thought that if that G.M. detective who had tailed him and spotted him in a Safeway with his hand on a girl's fanny, that would have been the end. The issue would not have taken off.
1975-2004: Lives saved by Seat Belts: 195,382 -- National Center for Statistics and Analysis
[Laura Nader, Sister] Winsted, Connecticut, was then about 10,000 people. There were lots of mills in town.
[Claire Nader] It was a town that had lots of immigrants: Polish, Italian, people from the Middle East, Arabic. And Yankee. It was quite a mix.
[Ralph Nader] Winsted was governed by a town-meeting form of government, which meant that the citizens would convene a town meeting, and they were the legislature. Probably the most pristine form of democracy in the world. We would be taken to these town meetings at a young, impressionable age by my mother and father.
[Laura Nader, Sister] Dad came to this country in 1912. He was self-made in every way. He was in the food business, but I think what he most liked was not so much the business business part of it, but he loved talking to people, particularly about politics.
[Laura Nader, Sister] People would sometimes say to him, "Mr. Nader, if you continue along that line, you're gonna alienate people, and they're not gonna want to come in to your business." And that didn't bother him a bit. He said, "When I went past the Statue of Liberty, I took it seriously, that you have the freedom to speak your mind."
[Joe Tom Easley, Early Nader's Raider] Every morning, before school started, Ralph's father would announce at the breakfast table a topic that was to be covered at dinner that night.
[Claire Nader, Sister] He would give us, uh, problems to answer. It wasn't just a simple question of fact.
[Ralph Nader] He would say, "We're gonna talk now about the problems of Main Street and the lack of parking." So we'd try to figure out how to solve this parking problem.
[Laura Nader, Sister] We had opinions because we had to, because we talked about these things at the dinner table.
[Claire Nader] You weren't allowed to run, and you certainly weren't allowed to run if you were losing the argument.
[Ralph Nader] One time, when I was around 10, I went home from school, went in the backyard, and my father was there and he said, "What did you learn in school today? Did you learn how to believe, or did you learn how to think?
[Claire Nader] My mother really was focused on her family. And as we grew and went into the school system, she became a great community activist in all kinds of issues.
[Richard Grossman, Publisher -- "Unsafe at Any Speed"] Mother Nader at one time is alleged to have talked to Senator Prescott Bush, the grandfather of the current president.
[Claire Nader] He came to his constituents to see how things were, because we had the big floods, which destroyed -- '55. It just gutted Main Street. So we needed a dry dam.
[Richard Grossman, Publisher -- "Unsafe at Any Speed"] So she went through the reception line, and as she was shaking hands, she said --
[Claire Nader] "Senator Bush, I want you to promise me that you will go back to Washington and get us a dry dam so this kind of destructive flood never happens again."
[Richard Grossman, Publisher -- "Unsafe at Any Speed"] And he says, "Yes, very pleasant to see you," and he began to move her on.
[Claire Nader] She would not let go until he promised her.
[Richard Grossman, Publisher -- "Unsafe at Any Speed"] There's a dam on the Mad River right outside Winsted. I'll show it to you.
MAD RIVER DAM, CONSTRUCTED BY U.S. ARMY ENGINEER DIVISION, NEW ENGLAND CORPS OF ENGINEERS, STATE OF CONNECTICUT, ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
GM agrees to pay Nader $425,000 to settle suit
[Stuart Speiser, Nader Attorney] Today Ralph Nader settled for $425,000 in his action against General Motors arising out of harassment by General Motors and invasion of his privacy.
[Justin Martin, Biographer, "Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon"] After the congressional testimony, and after the apology that Nader got from James Roche, the C.E.O. of General Motors, he wasn't done with G.M. yet. So he launched what was then a landmark invasion of privacy case.
[Stuart Speiser, Nader Attorney] This is, by far, the largest amount ever paid as damages ...
[David Bollier, Public Interest Historian] There was a delicious irony in the fact that General Motors provided the seed money for the career and history that has become Ralph Nader.
[Stuart Speiser, Nader Attorney] In other words, this is not the end of the crusade of Ralph against General Motors and other, uh, corporations that he feels are acting in the same manner.
NADER'S CRUSADES: Tin can foreign cars; Blind meat inspection; Foul fish canning; Lethal gaslines.
[Ralph Nader] The misuse of law as an instrument of oppression is not new. The annual increase of oil and gas prices. Fantastic swindling in the marketplace, knowingly. One million pounds of meat a day is unfit for human consumption. The U.S. Department of Agriculture -- Corporate crime -- And the National Air Pollution Control Administration.
[Nazi Man] You are committing a fraud on the American public.
[Ralph Nader] Enough facts and enough proof? Do you want me to read you the 18 volumes before this committee and the Senate antitrust committee? What do you call them? Do you want me to reproduce them all? The facts are overwhelming!
Newsweek, January 22, 1968, Consumer Crusader, Ralph Nader
[Andrew Egendorf, Original Nader's Raider] I saw Ralph Nader in a suit of armor on the cover of Newsweek magazine. It was '68, and that's what gave Bob Fellmeth the idea of contacting him.
Newsweek -- MEET RALPH NADER, Consumer Crusader, Everyman's Lobbyist and His Consumer Crusade
[Andrew Egendorf, Original Nader's Raider] I had never written or spoken to anyone I considered as important as Ralph at that point. I don't mean famous. I mean important.
January 29, 1968; Dear Mr. Nader, We hear that you are establishing a unique organization in Washington to intensify your judicious jihad. Your work is most appealing to two disgusted Harvard graduate students who must endure endless year of drivel in order to mechanically defend the guilty and profitable screw the consumer. We want to work with you in this summer, hoping to continue on after our graduation in 1969 and 1970. Mr. Egendorf is an MIT graduate now at Harvard Business School. Mr. Fellmeth is a Stanford graduate now at Harvard Law School. Both of us are first year students. We will gladly come talk to you if you so wish. We don't want to waste our lives in meaningless robot subservience to a machine in desperate need not of more cogs, but of dedicated repairmen. Prospectively yours, Andrew Egendorf, Robert D. Fellmeth
[Andrew Egendorf, Original Nader's Raider] So we said, all right, we'll write a letter.
[Robert Fellmeth, Original Nader's Raider] I wrote him a letter and I said, "I want to join you in your judicious jihad," which I thought was very clever. I didn't really know that he was from the Christian area of Lebanon, and the only people interested in jihad probably wanted to do his family in.
[Andrew Egendorf, Original Nader's Raider] Five days later, around midnight, Ralph calls. We had a long conversation. I was trying to convince him -- "Hey, there's this enormous pool of student power. You oughta try to tap into that." He was very, very close to the vest. Oh, he asked me if I ever played chess or poker.
[Robert Fellmeth, Original Nader's Raider] He said, "Come down to Washington and meet us." We walk into O'Donnell's Fish Restaurant and he looks around -- looks at us, spots us. We must have stood out, these two twerps in suits. And he says, "Fellmeth? Egendorf?" "Yes." "Yes." Nods curtly, sits down, looks at us. No greeting like, "How was your trip?" None of that. Just: "There's an agency that's been pulling the wool over the eyes of the people of this town for a long time. You know, of course, which one I'm talking about." I'm the smart-alecky guy, so I said, "Of course. You're talking about the Interstate Commerce Commission." "No." "The Securities and Exchange Commission." "No." "The Federal Power Commission. The Atomic Energy Commission." "No. No." I'm running out of alphabet soup. So I finally said, "Okay, I give up." He said, "The Federal Trade Commission." I said, "That's interesting. They have a pretty good reputation." And he said, "Precisely my point."
[Geritol Man (Cavallero)] It's a shame that you should ever feel tired because of iron-poor blood. What can you do when iron-poor tired blood makes you feel run-down? You can take Geritol.
[Andrew Egendorf, Original Nader's Raider] This is the point where Ralph wanted me to look into the Geritol situation, because the F.T.C. didn't really go after major players, only little players. And I said, "What's the goal here? What are we trying to do?" And he said, "At a minimum, to revive the F.T.C. But as for you, to demonstrate the student power you told me about." Once he decided to use students, Bob and I were chosen to start it.
[Robert Fellmeth, Original Nader's Raider] He had seven people lined up to investigate the F.T.C. You could call them, I guess, radical nerds. They didn't believe in the way the system was being operated, but they believed in the values of the system.
[Joe Tom Easley, Early Nader's Raider] "Radical nerds" is pretty good, although the radicals would have said, "Nerds -- not radical nerds."
[Robert Fellmeth, Original Nader's Raider] Instead of wanting to tear down the system, we said, "That ninth-grade civics model, that was a pretty good model. I wanna see it in place." We were naturally attracted to Nader because he was kind of doing that. It was a different kind of thing for people to do during that era -- this was the '60s. People who were young were convinced that the older people had screwed things up badly.
[Ralph Nader] Our movement benefited enormously from the hundreds of thousands of people who were fighting the Vietnam War and fighting for civil rights who were in the streets. It created the climate, the atmosphere, that made our efforts appear less extreme.
[FTC Man] Members of the press have referred to you as "Nader's Raiders."
The Washington Post] I was a brand-new reporter at the Post, and they
sent me to the Federal Trade Commission where these five or six young
college guys were raking the Federal Trade Commission [Students Urge
Reform of FTC] which was this icon of regulatory power.
[William Greider, The Washington Post] Ralph, for years, would scold me, "You've missed the whole idea of individual citizens. You're trying to make it into a celebrity game. You're making me into an icon. That's not what this is about." And so forth and so on.
[Nader Raider] Mr. Nader has shown students who say that it's impossible to change things through the system that, in fact, it is possible to effect change from within.
[Joe Tom Easley, Former Nader's Raider] We bought Ralph's idea. We were gonna make the country what it oughta be by working and pressing the system to work.
[Robert Fellmeth, Original Nader's Raider] I put a note up in schools and said, "If you're interested, send your resume and interests." I got maybe 400 or 500 responses just based on a note put on a bulletin board somewhere. And it was that summer that all of these 110 people aligned up the steps of the Capitol. And the title of the picture is, "The Lone Ranger Gets a Posse."
[Joe Tom Easley, Former Nader's Raider] Ralph had decided to do about six or eight teams attacking different agencies. There was a team on the Food and Drug Administration, one on water pollution, one on air pollution.
[Robert Fellmeth, Original Nader's Raider] These groups came out, and they eventually published books. The F.D.A. report became The Chemical Feast. The air pollution became Vanishing Air. The report on water pollution became Water Wasteland. Those were Nader's Raiders doing that work, with Ralph orchestrating from a distance. He was the kind of person who said, "You're in charge of this. Here's the mission. Do it." And then he would review the final product and give you a sign-off at the end. But he wasn't -- He respected you.
[Joe Tom Easley, Former Nader's Raider] And the quality of the reports that came out was, on the whole, pretty high. [THE WORKERS: PORTRAITS OF NINE AMERICAN JOB HOLDERS] There was never one of the Nader reports of that summer or any summer since then that was exposed as a fraud.
Ralph Nader Congress Project: Who Runs Congress? The President, Big Business, or You? -- First time published anywhere. An eye-opening and urgent report to the American people! by Mark J. Green, James M. Fallows, David R. Zwick
[Mark Green, Co-Author: "Who Runs Congress?"] In the late '60s and early '70s, Ralph would be in national polls as one of the most famous, admired Americans, up there with Walter Cronkite. So people would throw around his name for President. He would always laugh it off.
Mike Douglas Show, 1972
[Mike Douglas] Would you ever consider running for president?
[Ralph Nader] No.
[Mike Douglas] Why? Are you sincere?
[Ralph Nader] Yeah. There's a good reason. I think that the political system in the country today is so encrusted with bureaucracy, special interests, waste and inefficiency that [Yoko and John Lennon] what you have to do is step back and start by trying to help organize people, and trying to get them to see citizenship as a profession. And then, out of this kind of grass-roots effort, will come better candidates.
The Washington Post: Eagleton Bows Out of '72 Race; McGovern Weighs Replacement
[Mark Green, Co-Author: "Who Runs Congress?"] In 1972, of course, Eagleton was on and then off the ticket.
[Justin Martin, Biographer -- "Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon"] Phone rings at Nader headquarters. A 21-year-old guy fresh out of college picks up the phone. It's George McGovern. And he's in shock. A candidate for president is on the line.
[Ralph Nader] He called up a number of people, including myself, to ask if we were willing to be considered for vice-presidential candidacy on his ticket.
[Mark Green, Co-Author: "Who Runs Congress?"] Because at that point they needed something, we call it a Hail Mary pass, something just to shake up what was a bad situation.
[Ralph Nader] I said, I appreciate very much, thank you very much for calling me about this, but I'd prefer to remain as a full-time citizen.
1976, Plains, Georgia
[David Bollier, Public Interest Historian] A huge political change in Ralph's fortunes came when Jimmy Carter was elected.
[Jimmy Carter] Well, I'm glad that Mr. Nader has come down. We had a brief conversation before the convention and, uh, decided then that after the convention was over he would spend a night to discuss some of the problems that, uh, exist among consumers, and that might be of importance to the American people.
[Reporter] What are the principal things you would like to see a Carter administration do that would aid consumers?
[Ralph Nader] I think, uh, basically, to enforce the laws affecting consumers.
[Justin Martin, Biographer -- "Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon"] Ralph Nader basically thought that the Camelot days had arrived.
[Ralph Nader] The next four years, I think, will provide a spectacular potential for a confrontation between the Congress and the executive branch as to how the power is going to be distributed within our government and to whom it is going to be accountable.
[Justin Martin, Biographer -- "Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon"] Here he had someone who was sympathetic to his point of view -- a Democrat in office. And Nader thought he was gonna be willing to enact the types of things Nader wanted enacted.
[Sidney Wolfe, M.D., Public Citizen Health Research Group] The point is that the Carter administration afforded opportunities that hadn't been present, at least during this consumer movement of the late 20th century, for people to go into government and try and make a difference.
[David Bollier, Public Interest Historian] Many Nader allies became appointees in the new Carter administration. Perhaps the most prominent among them was Joan Claybrook.
[Joan Claybrook, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1977-81] Carter had been very favorable to hire women in high positions. I was asked to head the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. So I went to Ralph and said that I'd been asked to take this job. Ralph does not like people to leave his organization. He gets very angry at them when they leave. I said that I thought this was important for the cause, and he had to admit that it was.
[Ralph Nader] But I told all the people who worked with us and who went into the Carter administration, that they were carrying the reputation of consumer protection into their jobs, and that if they didn't uphold that reputation, I was going to criticize them publicly.
[David Bollier, Public Interest Historian] This created some new tensions between Ralph, the outside campaigner, and his allies, now on the inside, who had a more complex set of political issues to negotiate.
[Joan Claybrook, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1977-81] The first decision to be made on auto safety was on air bags. It hadn't happened in the Ford administration, so it was now on the table for the Carter administration. And there was a law passed in 1974 that said that Congress could veto this decision. For me, the issue was to get this not vetoed by the Congress. So I felt that if we gave them a little bit more lead time, that would make it possible for us to be successful. And then Ralph got mad.
[Ralph Nader] First of all, it was a three or four-year delay before the first category of cars could get the air bag. And, uh, I knew that the auto industry, given that period of time, would strike back and try to scuttle or get the regulation revoked.
[Joan Claybrook, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1977-81] First he wrote one letter, and no one paid any attention to it. So then he wrote a meaner letter, and it got on the front page of The Washington Post.
[Ralph Nader] It
was a tough letter. But on the other hand, this was the biggest
auto safety standard in modern history, and I saw it going down the
drain. It was not just some little spat. It, uh, broke the
back of the regulatory auto safety movement for more than a few years.
The Washington Post: A Head-On Collision -- Nader Angrily Denounces a Former Ally
[Joan Claybrook, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1977-81] I had a press conference in my own inner office with only about four or five reporters. He'd knocked over a secretary or two. Not literally, but, you know what I mean -- verbally. And walked in and sat down, and we had the fight right there.
[Ralph Nader] I came up to her and, in front of the press crowding around, I said, "Surely you don't believe in this decision, do you?" And she says, "Absolutely, I believe in it." To me, you know, that set the stage for the criticism.
[Joan Claybrook, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1977-81] That's okay. I mean, I'm tough. I can have a fight with him. It was just, I'd rather have a discussion with him rather than a public dispute, but that's the way he framed it, so that's the way it was.
Nader Calls On Ex-Colleague to Resign Safety Post -- Ralph Nader today called on Joan Claybrook ...
[Ralph Nader] Well, to me, my compass was the people on the highway. I was working, in effect, as a trustee for people on the highway. So things like, uh, associates, friendships, sentiment uh, are secondary to pushing life-saving standards into law.
[Joan Claybrook, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1977-81] Some said he shouldn't have been so harsh on someone he knew had the best intentions, but, you know, that's Ralph's way.
[Ralph Nader] Personal loyalty cannot come at any price. It becomes an indulgence. And you ask yourself, "Personal loyalty for what?" Well, for marching shoulder to shoulder to an accomplished objective. But if that no longer is the case, then what's the function of personal loyalty? It's unadulterated, mawkish sentiment, while people are dying needlessly on the highway.
[Joan Claybrook, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1977-81] We didn't talk for about a year, maybe two. But we got over it.
[David Bollier, Public Interest Historian] A recurrent theme in Ralph's advocacy has been concern for the integrity of the body. Many of Ralph's policy initiatives have tried to develop new legal doctrines, new regulatory schemes [Consumers Make the Difference] [SMALL PARTS: Small parts present a choking hazard to children under 3 years. Larger objects that are too big to fit into the cylinder do not present a choking hazard.] [CRIB GYMS] to protect the body from assault and harm. [Rattles which are small or have small handles are a choking hazard.]
[Ralph Nader] One nuclear power plant catastrophe would be 45,000 dead, well over 100,000 seriously injured, untold damage to future generations.
[David Bollier, Public Interest Historian] For about a decade, Ralph had the field almost to himself.
Mine and ...
[David Bollier, Public Interest Historian] He had built a legislative record as a private citizen that would have been the envy of any modern president. That included the Clean Air Act, Mining Health and Safety Act, the Freedom of Information Act, Occupational Safety and Health Act. Ralph also provided the leadership and seed money to start numerous consumer organizations: Congress Watch, The Health Research Group, the Critical Mass energy project, the Tax Reform Research Group, the Litigation Group. All of these were eventually joined together as Public Citizen.
[Ralph Nader] The workers today are being manipulated by companies and by government --
[David Bollier, Public Interest Historian] Corporate America was flummoxed. They were just getting skewered right and left and didn't know how to respond. [Consumer Movement Seen As 'Going Too Far, Too Fast'] But by the mid to late '70s they started to mobilize their own response uh, and the showdown came in 1978 when Ralph wanted to enact a Consumer Protection Agency law which became the drop dead epic battle in Congress.
Consumer Battles To Go On
[Ralph Nader] Meant whether people were gonna live or die or get sick or get injured, or be ripped off in their family budget by, you know, banks and insurance companies and home mortgage companies and all the rest of the unsafe products that were at large in the marketplace.
[Mark Green, Congress Watch 1970-80] The idea was, one office of advocates who would argue on behalf of consumers in all the other federal agencies.
[Donald Ross, NYPIRG -- 1973-82] It was gonna be kind of like an ombudsman. It wasn't gonna be a regulatory body. It was gonna represent citizens aggrieved by various consumer abuses.
[Gene Karpinski, Congress Watch 1977-81] This idea had been on the table since the early '70s, had passed one house one time, another house another time, but for six years hadn't ever become law. Now Carter's president, and Nader had a good relationship with him. It's time to pass the Consumer Protection Agency.
[Ralph Nader] I do know that he's taken the positions as president thus far that he has promised to take as candidate. He has come out for the consumer advocacy bill.
[Pat Buchanan, Nixon/Reagan Aide] The Consumer Protection Agency bill was a big one we were fighting before I went in with Reagan. It was a bureaucracy, it was gonna have enormous powers. We fought that very hard because we were anti-big government, and that's what we saw it as.
[Gene Karpinski, Congress Watch 1977-81] It really was the first time they'd been as organized locally. They do that on all kinds of issues now, but it was their test run. This became their number-one ask: vote against the consumer bill.
[Cash Register Bells Rings] [Coins Dropping] The Washington Post, Jack Anderson and Les Whitten, Big Business vs. a Consumer Agency
[Gene Karpinski, Congress Watch 1977-81] We tried to be creative -- "Let's do something different," and said, "How much would it cost to set up this Consumer Protection Agency?" It would cost -- The guesstimate was $15 million. That worked out to, at the time, a nickel a person.
[Mark Green, Congress Watch 1970-80] We got 40,000 people to send nickels to the members of Congress.
[Gene Karpinski, Congress Watch 1977-81] To say, "I support the Consumer Protection Agency. Here's my five cents."
[Mark Green, Congress Watch 1970-80] So there was the joke that it was a bribe. And with all due respect to the members of Congress, they can't be bought for a nickel.
Consumer Agency Lobby Rains Nickels on House
[Gene Karpinski, Congress Watch 1977-81] Those nickels attached to postcards was the biggest grass-roots effort the consumer movement ever had.
[Mark Green, Congress Watch 1970-80] Passed the Senate, failed in the House, and then was never enacted.
[Gene Karpinski, Congress Watch 1977-81] It was 227 to 189, a vote I won't ever forget.
[David Bollier, Public Interest Historian] It didn't help that, uh, Jimmy Carter didn't go to bat for the issue either.
[Ralph Nader] At the critical moment when we needed his lobbying help in the House of Representatives, he did not, uh, expend the political capital.
[Mark Green, Congress Watch 1970-80] It failed, because it was caught up in what we now know as the beginnings of the Reagan revolution. The Reagan-like rhetoric against it, scared swing congressmen who made the difference. The argument that this was more big government uh, was rhetorical, shallow and persuasive.
[Gene Karpinski, Congress Watch 1977-81] It wasn't easy to get over it, initially.
[Donald Ross, NYPIRG -- 1973-82] I think it left Ralph fairly disillusioned.
[David Bollier, Public Interest Historian] Uh, many people say that that was the high-water mark of his influence, and from then on his influence receded because he was not able to push through, in 1978, the Consumer Protection Agency Act.
[Henriette Mantel, Former Office Manager, Center for the Study of Responsive Law] Dupont Circle was the center of all the public interest groups. That's where the Health Research Group, and Public Citizen and Greenpeace and, you know, Citizens for the Environment, every public interest group, because it was cheap to live around there for people like me, at the time.
[David Bollier, Public Interest Historian] Nader's offices were always the building that was about to be demolished to put up a spanking clean luxury building.
[Henriette Mantel, Former Office Manager, Center for the Study of Responsive Law] It was cheap office space, 'cause you weren't that close to the Hill.
[Laura Rothrock, Office Manager, Center for the Study of Responsive Law 2005] A lot of this is actually Ralph's stuff. And the books -- We have books everywhere.
[William Taylor, Co-Author -- "The Big Boys"] We had pillars in the office made of boxes of books and remaindered books, and books that Ralph thought were important and may be pulped at some point. He didn't want them to disappear.
[Laura Rothrock, Office Manager, Center for the Study of Responsive Law 2005] His office is in there, but it sort of sprawled out into here, because he just has so much stuff.
[James Ridgeway, Journalist] Just this total mess. It's like some sort of, like, very, very, very, very fucked-up library.
[Laura Rothrock, Office Manager, Center for the Study of Responsive Law 2005] He swears it's organized chaos and he knows where everything is, but sometimes it's hard to tell if he's in there or not because the papers are stacked so high. Any of the staff are allowed to go in there, but we usually don't have camera crews only because of the state that it's in.
[Henriette Mantel, Former Office Manager, Center for the Study of Responsive Law] Stacks of mail. Ralph got more mail than anybody I've ever seen in my life. I think Ralph got more mail than the Beatles.
[Karen Croft, Former Editor Center for the Study of Responsive Law] People would write to him thinking that he could solve their problems. People would call in and ask him to do everything for them: fix my hospital bill, help me with this. People who were desperate. One day this package comes in, it's, like, the size of a tree. We're all sitting there. It's, like, what is this? And it's a drive shaft from a car. This woman had sent it in saying, "I went to the dealership, I went to all these places that said they could help me fix it, and no one would help me fix it. You have to help me. Please, Ralph Nader, help me."
[Henriette Mantel, Former Office Manager, Center for the Study of Responsive Law] One day the FedEx man came, and he had a box with a lot of dry ice in it. And I opened it up -- A guy had sent his lung to Ralph. He was upset that they had taken out his lung and he didn't know if it was really cancerous.
[Karen Croft, Former Editor Center for the Study of Responsive Law] Which basically showed how much trust Ralph had in the public's mind.
[Gene Karpinski, Congress Watch 1977-81] There was an image of a Nader's Raider coming out of the late '60s, early '70s, and they're just these smart, sharp people, totally into whatever the issue they're working on, and just grinding the midnight oil, writing the book, writing the brief, writing the report. All work and no fun. But it was also a very collegial set of people who shared the same values, shared the same commitments were working on many of the same goals and even some of the same specific projects.
[Harvey Rosenfield, Congress Watch 1979-81] It pays in psychological rewards. So he created an environment where you could do exactly what you felt was right. Think about that. How many Americans today can say that they work in a job where every day they go to work and do exactly what they think was right? There's a satisfaction that, uh, if you don't do it, it won't get done.
[Gene Karpinski, Congress Watch 1977-81] Nader told me when I first interviewed with him, you can bring your conscience to work every day.
Health, Religion, Congress
PROPOSALS -- GPP Admin.
Government Information -- JURIS
ESSENTIAL INFORMATION ABOUT PRIVATIZATION
REAL ESTATE / OIL AND GAS
[Joe Tom Easley, Former Nader's Raider] Everybody worked until 2:00 in the morning or so, and then we just collapsed and would get up at 8:00 and start working again.
[William Taylor, Co-Author -- "The Big Boys"] We were there 24-7. It was just ridiculous.
[Mark Green, Congress Watch 1970-80] He would always work harder and ask more of himself than he would ask of anybody else. So he led by the force of his example.
[Girl] Do you install those values in your children? How do you go about doing that?
[Ralph Nader] Well, I don't have any children. I'm married to General Motors.
[Laura Nader, Sister] People always used to say, "Why didn't you get married?" And he would always say, "What wife would want to tolerate this, my working 18 hours a day?"
[Ralph Nader] It's really a tough choice. If you're gonna raise children, you should be there.
[Gene Karpinski, Congress Watch 1977-81] Gave me a line I'll never forget, "Gene, there are two kinds of people in this world, the hard-core and the spouse-core. You gotta decide which side are you on."
[Laura Nader, Sister] He knew enough that, if you're gonna be that kind of a workaholic, as we call it, then maybe there are other things you can't participate in.
[Gene Karpinski, Congress Watch 1977-81] Today I think he probably regrets he said that. I know he regrets I keep repeating it, but those are his exact words back then.
[Karen Croft, Former Editor Center for the Study of Responsive Law] He was like a priest or a monk, because he didn't really have a life like most of us do.
[Gene Karpinski, Congress Watch 1977-81] The hard-core and the spouse-core -- which side are you on?
[Henriette Mantel, Former Office Manager, Center for the Study of Responsive Law] No one knows anything about Ralph's personal life. Okay?
[Justin Martin, Biographer -- "Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon"] I dug and dug and dug, hoping to find something. I mean, the very fact that the man has been associated, romantically, really, with just about nobody --
[Henriette Mantel, Former Office Manager, Center for the Study of Responsive Law] Ralph's personal life is his job.
[Justin Martin, Biographer -- "Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon"] As I got further into it, I began to think of it as the anti-sex scandal.
[Henriette Mantel, Former Office Manager, Center for the Study of Responsive Law] I hope Ralph does have a girlfriend hidden away somewhere. But I don't think he does. Okay?
[Joe Tom Easley, Early Nader's Raider] People always think of Ralph as this dour, gloomy person [THE CONSUMER REVOLT / TIME / RALPH NADER] who's always coming in with these horror stories.
PEOPLE / NADER / Why isn't this man smiling? He's finally got a friend in the White House
[Sidney Wolfe, M.D., Public Citizen Health Research Group] This comes, I'm sure, as a surprise to many people who know his public persona -- he's very, very funny: he actually has a great sense of humor.
[Robert Fellmeth, Original Nader's Raider] And you don't see that in his public persona, and that's unfortunate, because that's part of his charm, and part of the reason some of us who worked for him still have such affection for him after all these years.
[James Fallows, Former Nader's Raider] Ralph was preparing to testify about the hidden menace of America's hot dog supply, how these had some additive in them that was destroying the nation's well-being. So we spent about a half hour thinking about the slogan that would make it into the evening news. Was it the world's, America's most dangerous unguided missile? America's most dangerous guided missile?
[Man] I do not feel the same concern that Mr. Nader expressed about hot dogs. I certainly would not call them "missiles of death" as he did.
[James Fallows, Former Nader's Raider] [Fallows Laughing] I forgot. It was "missile of death." [Laughing Continues] So -- Those were the days.
[Joe Tom Easley, Early Nader's Raider] Whenever Ralph would come back from the Hill, everybody would flock into the room, because you knew that Ralph was going to re-create the hearing and what somebody said.
[James Fallows, Former Nader's Raider] He used to love to do Nixon. He would get the scowl and the glower and the jowls and so forth. He would do things like --
[Ralph Nader] I am not a crook.
[Mark Green, Congress Watch 1970-80] One of the most interesting weeks I've spent was being a sidekick to Ralph as he moved around Saturday Night Live.
[Justin Martin, Biographer -- "Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon"] The Saturday Night Live footage is fascinating to watch, because you will rarely see a person as ill at ease as Ralph Nader is, one, being on television, two, being in a comedy show.
[Mark Green, Congress Watch 1970-80] He's a terrible actor because he's authentic. Uh, and he did great because it was Ralph Nader wearing an air bag that was supposed to explode.
[Girl] I just can't help myself. I just gotta hug you.
[Ralph Nader] Well, thank you! Not too tight, now. You'll activate my air bag!
[Mark Green, Congress Watch 1970-80] But it didn't.
[Ralph Nader] Oh, my God! Oops. Well -- live from New York, it's Saturday Night!
[Claire Nader, Sister] I was kind of disturbed by the first of it. It was not -- not dignified enough.
[Ralph Nader] Burt, I'd like to introduce you to, uh, to Pam, and I'd like to introduce you to Rita. Rita has been naughty this afternoon, so she has to sit backward.
[Mark Green, Congress Watch 1970-80] I loved, one week later in 1977, the story that someone saw him on the street and said to him, "I know you! You're the comedian!"
[Claire Nader, Sister] Whatever doubts I might have had about it were erased in the next month, because people said to me, "You know, my kid brother didn't know anything about Nader until he saw him on Saturday Night Live."
[Audience Cheering, Applauding]
1980, Century Plaza Hotel
[Man] Governor Reagan, we just wanted to show you what the map of the United States looks like as of 8:00 tonight.
[Ronald Reagan] Hey!
[Man] It's all yours!
[Audience Laughing, Cheering]
[Ronald Reagan] When that began to slide, I thought that maybe the world was going out just as I was getting in.
[David Bollier, Public Interest Historian] The Reagan years were a particularly grim time for Nader and his groups.
[News Person] The Reagan administration has announced a review of 30 additional government regulations to see if they are --
[Woman] The administration's hit list of regulations, including many protecting equal rights, prompting Ralph Nader to say --
[Ralph Nader] In the last few months it's been quite clear that the Reagan administration wants to, every way it can, remove the application of law and order to the operations of business.
[David Bollier, Public Interest Historian] These people knew how to play politics. They knew how to play hardball.
[William Taylor, Co-Author -- "The Big Boys"] To be in Washington in the early years of the Reagan presidency with Ralph Nader, and watching him react to the effort to systematically undo what he had spent 20 years building --
[Ronald Reagan] It is time to reawaken this industrial giant, to get government back within its means, and to lighten our punitive tax burden. These will be our first priorities, and on these principles there will be no compromise.
[William Taylor, Co-Author -- "The Big Boys"] It's almost like a bad dream, where Reagan would appoint, to run these agencies not just people who were from the industries that were being regulated, but people who had devoted their entire careers to tearing down and trying to destroy the very agencies they were now being charged to run.
[David Bollier, Public Interest Historian] The Nader people bravely tried to document what was going on, but the electoral power and the persuasive ability of Reagan was just too great.
[Joan Claybrook, President -- Public Citizen] There was a really fascinating memorandum written by Justice Powell when he was the general counsel of the Chamber of Commerce. He said, "There's a threat to America. These public interest groups are a huge threat to America. Every corporation has to react."
[Robert Weissman, Editor, Multinational Monitor] At the time he wrote what's now known as the Powell Memo, he was an attorney. Of course, he did go on to become a Supreme Court justice. This was not an obscure figure. This was a call to action by a leading corporate lawyer, trying to rally the troops saying, "We're in trouble, we gotta do something different."
[Joan Claybrook, President -- Public Citizen] And we have to take back the minds and hearts of students and academics and media, and fight them, tooth and nail.
MEMO, August 23, 1971: "The single most effective antagonist of American business is Ralph Nader, a legend in his own time and an idol to millions of Americans. There should be no hesitation to attack the Naders ... and others." -- Lewis Powell, General Counsel, US CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
[Robert Weissman, Editor, Multinational Monitor] And that did spur the business community to reevaluate their role in politics and what they were doing.
[David Bollier, Public Interest Historian] Corporate America was investing considerable resources in, uh, propaganda efforts, in think tanks that would develop, uh, bogus disciplines like cost benefit and risk management analysis, to try to change the whole terms of debate.
[Robert Weissman, Editor, Multinational Monitor] And it has completely transformed the way politics take place in D.C. and across the country.
[Daniel Mitchell, Ph.D., The Heritage Foundation] The Heritage Foundation is a free-market think tank. We do research and educational efforts on the benefits of limited government, individual responsibility, strong national defense. We like to portray ourselves as having been Ronald Reagan's favorite think tank.
[David Bollier, Public Interest Historian] Ralph approached health and safety regulation as an ethical and social issue. Corporate America redefined it as an economic issue.
[Daniel Mitchell, Ph.D., The Heritage Foundation] Corporations don't have that much power in Washington. They tend to be ineffective, especially on the big-picture issues. They might be able to get a special loophole on some bill or a special handout on another, but especially in a globalized economy, when you have foreign companies penetrating the U.S. market, U.S. companies are probably, probably about the most helpless entities out there.
[Ralph Nader] These corporate think tanks go through their daily life thinking that their glass is only 97% full.
[David Bollier, Public Interest Historian] The '80s was a period in which the alliance between the Democrats and the public interest movement uh, started to fray. Too often Democrats would not go to bat in the same courageous ways to protect the victories of the '60s and '70s. Ralph had relied upon a New Deal and Great Society coalition. That coalition started to fall apart.
[Pat Buchanan, Nixon/Reagan Aide] The whole thing that we were trying to do with the "Great New Deal Coalition" is to drive these wedges into that coalition, split it off and take parts of it for the Republican base. You did this with social-cultural issues. You carve off all their issues which do not conflict with your own, and which comport with your own social-cultural beliefs, and keep hammering and hammering and hammering them. [Breakup of New Deal Coalition: CULTURE, LAW& ORDER, RACE, RELIGION, LABOR, West, Southern Dixiecrats] The strategy was called, in those days, the Northern Catholic-Southern Protestant strategy.
[David Bollier, Public Interest Historian] So, without the protective cover of that electoral base, Nader's political initiatives were far more vulnerable.
[Justin Martin, Biographer, "Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon"] The Reagan era basically forced him to re-create himself. He realized people in Washington weren't going to listen, so he'd go straight to the people.
[Reporter] Consumer activist Ralph Nader has been campaigning --
[Justin Martin, Biographer, "Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon"] Re-create himself as a grass-roots activist.
[James Musselman, Former Nader's Raider] It was the beginning of the change from the "inside the Beltway" Ralph to Ralph out there in the whole country touching people's lives every day. For a long time, they had just been writing theories out of Washington, and things that people should do, but they weren't out there where the real action was. He said that I was his Paul Revere, that he would just throw me into the community, not knowing anybody, and I would have to find out how to work on an issue, and call for reinforcements back in Washington. His first idea, which was wacky, was to have me parachute into towns and say, "The Nader Raiders are here to help."
[Ralph Nader] Well, I had this fantasy that wasn't totally whimsical, that we would have a crew of five civic paratroopers, and they would parachute into the town. The problem was, you could never get them insured. And how could we be assured of the quality of the parachutes if the vendor knew what they were being used for?
[James Musselman, Former Nader's Raider] But it got crazy, because he would literally just leave me in any community. [FLINT CITY LIMIT] Once I got everybody going forward on an issue [WELCOME TO SPRING HILL, EST. 1808, "THE 14TH FASTEST GROWING CITY IN THE NATION!', THE SPRING HILL CHAMBER OF COMMERCE] [SAMMYVILLE] [BARSTOW CITY LIMIT, POP 20,560, ELEV 2,170] Ralph would come in and give a speech to really empower them more and say, "You guys aren't alone here."
[David Bollier, Public Interest Historian] When the community of Poletown in Detroit was going to be condemned so that General Motors could build a new Cadillac plant there, Ralph provided direct assistance for them to physically resist the bulldozers.
[Reporter] Sixty thousand people here --
[James Musselman, Former Nader's Raider] In Van Nuys, there were a lot of children coming down with leukemia in a neighborhood, and a General Motors plant was there. And they had put benzene in the paint, which was causing cancer and leukemia. We got them to change the way they manufactured the paint.
[Reporter] Californians love their cars, but hate their auto insurance rates.
[Harvey Rosenfield, Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights] In the mid '80s, we had a huge insurance crisis all over the country. [CALIFORNIA PROP 101, DRIVE DOWN AUTO INSURANCE RATES 1/3, VOTE YES!!] The insurance industry sponsored proposals here in California [Cross-Examine Prop 100. Just Another Trial Lawyer Trick. Vote No on Prop 100] to limit people's right to go to court. People didn't know who or what to believe, but everybody knew that Ralph Nader would never betray them.
[Ralph Nader] The insurance companies are financial sacred cash cows, feeding the public a lot of not-so-sacred bull.
[Harvey Rosenfield, Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights] So they voted "yes" on Prop 103.
[Man] And this is the victory for the little guy, for us.
[Harvey Rosenfield, Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights] And of course, Proposition 103 delivered $1.2 billion in rate refunds, and $23 billion in savings the first 10 years just on auto insurance premiums alone.
[James Musselman, Former Nader's Raider] The second you'd say, "I'm a Nader's Raider," there was instant credibility where people were like, "I so much admire that man, I admire what he's done for this country."
[Ralph Nader] In 1984, we were still of the persuasion that the Democrats were not as bad as the Republicans, so you gotta try to get 'em into office. So we had a very, very competent staff of about a dozen people, and they went around the country in key states to show the difference between Mondale's policies and the Democratic Party's programs and the Republicans' and Reagan.
[Gene Stilp, Public Interest Attorney] We utilized a good old bus that I designed -- "The Difference in '84." This bus had all the issues listed on its side that we were trying to ask people to ask their legislators and their candidates about.
[Joe Halfon, NYPIRG] And try to keep those Democrats that were moving forward towards the nomination accountable to the citizens out there and the issues we cared about.
[Ralph Nader] But the national press ignored it because, after all, we weren't inside the electoral arena. We were on the outside.
[Gene Stilp, Public Interest Attorney] I remember the diminutive pin we had for "The Difference in '84." Look at this. This is "The Difference in '84." You can barely see it. Okay? Maybe this could sum it up. But that's the original pin.
[Joe Halfon, NYPIRG] Obviously, there were many Democrats that simply wanted to be like Ronald Reagan. He had the winning formula.
[Ralph Nader] That was basically the precursor of about 20 years, from 1980 to 2000, where we tried every way to get the Democrats to pick up on issues that really commanded the felt concern in daily life of millions of Americans, but were issues that corporations didn't want attention paid to. And so, when people say, "Why'd you do this in 2000?" I'm saying, [MONDALE the man for America / REAGAN in '84, Let's Make America Great Again] I'm a 20-year veteran of pursuing the folly of the least-worst between the two parties. 'Cause when you do that, you end up allowing them to both get worse every four years.
[Gene Karpinski, Congress Watch 1977-81] The first time he ran for president was this write-in campaign in the New Hampshire primaries in 1992.
[Ralph Nader] I am None of the Above, and I'm not running for president. [Onlookers Chuckling] This is initially confusing.
[Justin Martin, Biographer, "Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon"] He was the person who, if you're simply saying "I'm unhappy with who the Democrats have presented, I'm unhappy with the Democratic field." That he, Nader, would stand in as the proxy for "none of the above."
[Gene Karpinski, Congress Watch 1977-81] If he'd actually run in the Democratic primary, who knows what might have happened. But he didn't.
NADER / VOTE GREEN / 1-888-NADER 96
[Crowd Chanting] Nader '96! Nader '96!
[Ralph Nader] I got a letter from a number of environmentalists in California led by the great environmentalist David Brower, and he wanted me to be on the ballot for president in California on the Green Party ticket. Never again, people are told by the Democrats or Republicans -- essentially one corporate party with two heads -- that millions of people have nowhere to go. We really need multi-party development in this country, because we don't have a government of, by and for the people. We have a government of the Exxons, by the General Motors, for the Duponts. But it ended up not really a formal, or even technically, a campaign [VOTE GREEN / RALPH NADER FOR PRESIDENT / VOTE FOR A CHANGE] from the standpoint of the Federal Election Commission. And the two parties had a deaf ear.
ELECTION 2000 SPECIAL [Theme]
AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH RALPH NADER
[Ralph Nader] Most people feel they're losing control to the big guys, the fat cats that dominate the country. Doesn't matter whether they put a conservative, liberal, or progressive label on. They don't like to see the country being taken from them, the democracy for sale.
[Joe Tom Easley, Former Nader's Raider] I think what Ralph saw was a betrayal of democracy by the Democratic Party that started, really, in the mid to late '70s, and continued on rapidly during the '80s.
[Reporter] It was something the Democrats had never done before. About 40 prospective congressional candidates lined up so they could be inspected by representatives of about 50 business political action committees.
[Joe Tom Easley, Former Nader's Raider] There was a movement largely instigated by Tony Coelho, who at that time was the third-ranking member of the House leadership. The House and the Senate were both controlled by Democrats then. He said, "There is no reason why the Republican party should be getting all of those contributions."
[Rep. Tony Coelho, D-California] Business PACs are sincerely and legitimately looking for Democratic candidates to support.
[Woman] What we're really looking for is money, you see. That's what we're here to talk to you about.
[Reporter] Most of the candidates thought it was a good idea, the Democrats finally doing for the first time something the Republicans have been doing for years.
[Rep. John Conyers, Jr., D-MI] Because of the K Street lobbyists, the only way we can compete in a two-party, basically two-party system is that we've got to raise somewhere near the amount of money that Republicans raise.
[Joe Tom Easley, Former Nader's Raider] The result of that, of course, was that the Democratic congressional party became very compromised.
[Pat Buchanan] The corporations pay their room, board, tuition, beer money, everything for these guys.
[Rep. John Conyers, Jr., D-MI] It's sad to say, because that distorts the choices of people right from the beginning.
[Pat Buchanan, Reform Party Candidate 2000] I figured that unless you have your own resources -- a couple hundred million dollars -- you can't have the effect. And so I've given it up. What does that say about our democracy? I think our democracy's a fraud. I think the, uh -- It's a consumer fraud.
[Ralph Nader] For 20 years, we saw the doors closing on us in Washington, our citizen groups and a lot of other citizen groups. What are we here for? To improve our country. And we couldn't get congressional hearings, even with the Democrats in charge.
[Sidney Wolfe, M.D., Public Citizen Health Research Group] The Democrat Party was in as low a position in terms of any espousing of progressive politics as it had ever been in.
[Howard Zinn, Historian] When we now confront a really ruthless Bush presidency, suddenly everybody before Bush looks good.
[President Clinton] My fellow Americans --
[Howard Zinn, Historian] Clinton, for instance, has been much overrated as a so-called liberal president. Clinton essentially followed the aggressive foreign policy that had existed before him. He initiated the idea of Iraq having weapons of mass destruction. And on domestic policy, he was pitiful. I mean, it was Clinton who signed the bill doing away with federal aid to families with dependent children.
[Mark Green, Public Advocate -- NY] When Clinton and Gore wouldn't meet with Ralph in their last term on issues that Ralph really had something distinguishing to say -- on auto safety regulation, for example -- it infuriated Ralph, rightly so.
[Ralph Nader] When I saw the neglect, the indifference, the greed, the corruption of the two parties, I looked around and I said, "Hey, is there anyone else running for president?" I mean, be my guest.
[Sidney Wolfe, M.D., Public Citizen Health Research Group] He would've welcomed a really progressive candidate not just talking politics, but actually running and trying to get elected, and there just wasn't anyone on the horizon.
[Ralph Nader] Nobody wanted to step forward, and year after year would go by. I didn't want to step forward. And then I began realizing that bad politics was driving out potential good candidates. Then I would meet people all over the country who'd say, "I'd like to run for the -- But it's such a dirty game. I don't want anything to do with it."
[Carl Mayer, Nader Campaign Attorney] I've knocked on thousands of doors in my life campaigning, and I'll tell you the number-one comment I hear from people is, "Politicians -- they're all crooks. Politicians -- you can't trust 'em."
[Ralph Nader] In ancient Athens, "politics" was a glorious word. It was the word used as an antidote to autocracy. And now these rascals in politics, this two-party elected dictatorship, has turned politics into such a dirty word that the whole idea of elected public service is now distasteful to thousands and thousands of wonderful people in this country. That's when I said, "Okay, that's the final straw. I have got to step forward."
[Phil Donahue] I remember through the years, people would come to me and say, "Why doesn't Ralph run?" I said, "Forget it. He's not gonna run. He's not gonna run." Then, boom, he ran. I couldn't wait to get on the bus.
[Theresa Amato, Nader Campaign Manager] I remember George Stephanopoulos calling up and saying, "What are you doing?" And I said, "Well, we're running for president." You know, but that's how the mainstream press treated Ralph's campaign like, "What is this oddity, this quirk?"
[Ross Mirkarimi, Green Party Organizer] There were a lot of hiccups in starting, in launching Ralph's campaign, like he starting late and a party being as small as it is in a country that's not very tolerant of third parties.
[Theresa Amato, Nader Campaign Manager] The conquering goals were fairly mundane but they were along the lines of: "Let's raise $5 million. Let's try to get on the ballot in 45 states. Let's try to get five percent of the electorate so we can help build the Green Party. Let's create a lot of local Greens. Let's bring a lot of new talent into the citizen movement. Let's get the issues out there."
[Ralph Nader] The very things we should do for the family pocketbook: more fuel-efficient cars, more solar energy, more fuel-efficient appliances, lighting, air conditioning systems, will also reduce the contribution to global warming. I would make sure corporations pay their fair share of taxes so the rest of the individuals don't have to pay what they're now paying. You know, if corporations paid the same rate of taxation as they did in the prosperous 1960s, we'd have another $250 billion in the treasury. There are almost 50 million people in this country making less than 10 bucks an hour -- 10 bucks. Some of them are making eight, seven, six, 5.50. You can support a family on that? We're spending 15% of our economy on health care. 47 million Americans not covered, 20 more million grossly undercovered. The ones who are covered, they're getting hit with more co-payments, deductions, exclusions, give-backs in negotiation with employers, and preexisting conditions. So I don't believe in Gore's step-by-step, and I don't believe in that phony package that George W. Bush put out last week either. We have a bunch of skulking, cowardly politicians in Washington. They don't want to go down in history as fighting for the people as much as they want to go down next week and get some cash from special interest groups.
[Marching Band] [TV Announcer]
Grilled tenderloin for fund-raiser: $1,000 a plate.
Campaign ads filled with half truths:
promises to special interest groups: over $10 billion
Finding out the truth: priceless.
Finding out the truth: priceless.
There are some things money can't buy.
There are some things money can't buy. PAID FOR THE NADER 2000 PRIMARY COMMITTEE, INC.
There are some
things money can't buy. PAID FOR THE NADER 2000 PRIMARY COMMITTEE, INC.
Without Ralph Nader in the presidential debates, the truth will come in last. PAID FOR THE NADER 2000 PRIMARY COMMITTEE, INC.
Without Ralph Nader in the presidential debates, the truth will come in last. PAID FOR THE NADER 2000 PRIMARY COMMITTEE, INC.
Without Ralph Nader in the presidential debates, the truth will come in last. PAID FOR THE NADER 2000 PRIMARY COMMITTEE, INC.
Without Ralph Nader in the presidential debates, the truth will come in last.
Without Ralph Nader in the presidential debates, the truth will come in last.
Find out how you can help. Go to votenader.com. Nader2000, PO BOX 18002 WASHINGTON, DC 20036
[Theresa Amato, Nader Campaign Manager] One of our press people came to me and said, "MasterCard called, and they want us to pull the ad or else they're gonna sue us." And I said, "Oh, you're kidding!" I said, "Make my day."
[Mastercard Spokesman] The suit we filed asks for a discontinuation of airing the spot on TV, as well as monetary damages of $5 million.
[Theresa Amato, Nader Campaign Manager] They had no sense of humor about it.
[Mastercard Spokesman] We've spent a lot of time developing the "priceless" campaign, and we're very concerned that our consumers are confused.
[Jay Acton, Nader Literary Agent] It's amazing to me that MasterCard would take the bait and try to sue him on that, and therefore just replicate the thing a thousand times, let every TV station in America show it for nothing.
[Theresa Amato, Nader Campaign Manager] And they continued to sue us, but we won on all counts on summary judgment.
GORE -- STOP BEING CHICKEN! LET NADER DEBATE
[Al Gore] Yeah. I see it a little bit differently.
[Theresa Amato, Nader Campaign Manager] Initially the Democratic Party and the Gore campaign paid very little attention to the Nader campaign. They thought, "Okay, third party -- They're not gonna get anywhere, because we've already rigged the system." As the campaign developed in 2000 and they saw that we were getting five, seven percent in some major states that they were starting to get concerned about.
[Pat Buchanan, "Reform Party" Candidate 2000] I came into the green room at CNN. And I walked in -- There was the Democrats there, and there was Lanny Davis and some other guys, "Hey, Pat, how are you? Good goin'? How's it goin' out there?" And then Ralph came in behind me, and he said, "Hey, Pat, how are you?" I said, "Hi, Ralph." And this -- [Shudders] Everybody backed away. [Laughs] And he said, "They're shunning me." And he was right. They wouldn't even talk to him. They wouldn't even talk to him, and it was remarkable. But they really saw him as a mortal threat.
NADER'S RAIDERS FOR GORE: NADER, NUDGED, SAYS NO. A dozen old Nader's Raiders are urging Ralph Nader to reassess his presidential campaign, saying he could cost Vice President Al Gore the election. Mr. Nader's support is some 3 percent to 4 percent in most national polls, causing some Democrats to fear that he could win enough votes in some close states to push them into the Bush column. "It is now clear that you might well give the White House to Bush," the group wrote in an open letter to Mr. Nader yesterday. "As a result, you would set back significantly the social progress to which you have devoted your entire, astonishing career." The group, Nader's Raiders for Gore, accused him of reneging on a promise to campaign only in states where his candidacy would not hurt Mr. Gore's changes. His press secretary, Laura Jones, rejected the appeal. "There are always a few," she said, "who lose their zest and will to fight for progressive ideas and settle for moderate conservatives like Al Gore." (AP)
[Joe Tom Easley, Former Nader's Raider] Nader's Raiders For Gore came about when Gary Sellers, who was one of the first people who worked for Ralph full-time in the summer of '69, had an argument with Ralph about the effect of Ralph's candidacy on a Democrat. Ralph pooh-poohed it all. What did he say? "I wish I were as, uh, uh, knowledgeable as to the future that you are," or something like that. It was a really condescending comment. Put him down. Gary came away from that really furious.
[Gary Sellers, October, 2000] It's really sad. Ralph is a very sophisticated political thinker. A profound thinker. He knows what the consequences are --
[Joe Tom Easley, Former Nader's Raider] And so Gary called us and said, "Look, we oughta put together a letter to Ralph, an open letter to Ralph -- set up this. Maybe we can help get Ralph out of the race."
[Gary Sellers, October, 2000] The consequences are -- are really profound. Of course it'll lurch the Democratic Party a little bit to the left, but it'll take 30 years to undo the harm that Ralph is going to do in the next 12 days.
[Joe Tom Easley, Former Nader's Raider] And out of it came a composite letter that we presented to Ralph and opened up a Web site, and got in business as Nader's Raiders For Gore.
Naider's Raiders For Gore / An Open Letter to Ralph Nader / ... step aside in the best interest of our nation.
Former Nader Raiders, Colleagues: Gary Sellers, Nader's Raider 1969-73; Michael L. Charney, M.D., Nader's Raider 1969; Beverly Moore, Nader's Raider, 1969-73; James S. Turner, Nader's Raider 1969-72; Peter Petkas, Nader's Raider 1970-74; Harrison Wellford, Nader's Raider 1969-72; Neil G. McBride, Nader's Raider, 1972-73; Joe Tom Easley, Nader's Raider 1969-72; Anita Johnson, Nader's Raider 1979-84; Miles Rappaport, Nader's Raider 1979-84; James Dickson, Nader's Raider 1976-78; Ron Plesser, Nader's Raider 1972-74.
[Joe Tom Easley, Former Nader's Raider] Imagine his own former associates have turned against him.
[Ralph Nader] You know, that always makes for newspaper copy.
[Joe Tom Easley, Former Nader's Raider] Ralph's response to this bothered me a good deal. "Oh, these are just some people who worked for me a very long time ago, and they've gone on to their other activities." The implication being that whatever public interest we had years ago was long gone, and now we were out there working for Phillip Morris or something like that.
[James Musselman, Former Nader's Raider] I was approached by them, and I asked everybody who approached me simple questions. I said, "How do you feel about universal health care? How do you feel about the death penalty? How do you feel about NAFTA?" And then they would agree with me on all the issues and I would say, "So why are you supporting Gore?"
[Joe Tom Easley, Former Nader's Raider] I don't think there was anything that Ralph Nader stood for in his campaign that I didn't believe in. There wasn't anything that he said that I didn't think was right or wouldn't make this a better country if those policies were enacted. But it was very clear that Ralph Nader was not going to be elected president.
[Robert Fellmeth, Former Nader's Raider] My feeling was, "Listen, I'm on the outside. I'm firing at Republicans. I'm firing at Democrats. I want to be free to do that. I'm not gonna support anybody. I'm not gonna run your campaign, Ralph. I'm not going to sign a letter opposing you. I'm completely out of it." I think a lot of Nader's Raiders took that position because, as he taught us, we hit whoever gets elected. We want to be in a position to do that.
Nader at the Coliseum
[Gregory Kafoury, Nader Campaign Organizer] In late June of 2000, Ralph called me, and he said, "Greg, I want you to do an exquisite event for me when I'm in Portland on August 25."
[Theresa Amato, Nader Campaign Manager] The Kafoury and McDougal team in Oregon said, "Well, why don't we rent the Coliseum in Oregon, which seats something like 9,000, 10,000 people, to be able to do that." And then, because all of our financial resources were tied in to doing that, we had to make sure they worked.
Ralph Nader in Portland! One night only! In Person at Memorial Coliseum, Friday, August 25, 7:00 p.m. Hear the man Bush and Gore are afraid to debate! "The difference between Bush and Gore is the velocity with which their knees hit the floor when corporations knock on their door." -- Presidential Candidate, Ralph Nader. Tickets still available, call 223-1399.
[Jason Kafoury, Nader Campaign Organizer] An hour into the show, it had completely sold out. They were turning people away. Ten thousand people paid seven bucks a head just for Ralph. No entertainment. No music. Just Ralph's political message. And the super rallies were born.
[Ralph Nader] Thank you. Thank you very much.
[Gregory Kafoury, Nader Campaign Organizer] We did Seattle. We did Minneapolis. We did Boston. Had a great event in Boston.
[Ralph Nader] It was one rally at a time, and every rally had a tiny surplus, and gave us an opportunity to go to the next city.
[James Musselman, Nader Campaign Organizer] I remember he called me up and said, "We're gonna do New York City. Madison Square Garden." I said, "Okay. Next Month?" He goes, "No, in 10 days." I said, "Are you crazy? Ten days? New York City? Madison Square Garden?" He goes, "No. You can do it."
[Gregory Kafoury, Nader Campaign Organizer] Three hundred thousand bucks to do Madison Square Garden.
[James Musselman, Nader Campaign Organizer] It was 10 days of no sleep, and it was quintessential Ralph. It was like, "We're doing this, and don't ask any questions. Just do it. It can be done. I have faith in the people who are behind this, so let's do it."
NADER ROCKS Madison Square Garden, Friday, October 13 at 8pm
[Gregory Kafoury, Nader Campaign Organizer] We had Eddie Vedder, Ani DiFranco, Bill Murray, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Ben Harper, Patti Smith, Phil Donahue, Michael Moore.
[Jason Kafoury, Nader Campaign Organizer] It was an unbelievable lineup.
[Bill Murray] Someone said to me, "Who are you gonna vote for?" I said, "I'm gonna vote for Ralph Nader." Who are you gonna vote for?
[Audience Applauding, Cheering]
[Susan Sarandon] You understand that it is more than a win-or-lose situation. It's the bigger picture, and this is where that bigger picture begins.
[Michael Moore] We're at the place we're at because we have settled for so less for so long. If we keep settling, it's only gonna get worse. The lesser of two evils, you still end up with evil. You still end up with evil.
[James Musselman, Nader Campaign Organizer] It really gave me a lot of hope for our society, because there were issues being talked about that night which had not been talked about in 20, 30 years in American politics.
[Ralph Nader] The students are not learning. They're not learning citizen skills. They're not learning how to practice democracy. They're not learning the creative force of their personality and idealism and imagination. Maybe if we started talking about citizen globalization, civic globalization, instead of corporate globalization, the world will move forward! Let not future generations look back on us and say that this was the last generation that refused to give up so little in order to achieve so much.
[Bill Murray] He fights almost impossible battles, and he's won a number of them. He's, uh -- He's not afraid. I think he's the best American I know.
[Man Singing Folk]
[Jason Kafoury, Nader Campaign Organizer] I expected us to be on the front page of the New York Times. And we had a story, but it was buried, you know, 20 pages in. No other political person -- Bush or Gore -- had gotten 20,000 people to pay money to hear them speak. [THE GREEN PARTY, Nader Supporters Fill Madison Square Garden] Ralph was the only guy doing it, and yet the establishment media froze us out.
[Theresa Amato, Nader Campaign Manager] And the kind of coverage that we did get was all about the horse race. "How are you gonna affect Al Gore?" [Crowd Chanting] [Let Ralph debate! Let Ralph debate!] From the very beginning months of the campaign, we knew in 2000 and in 2004, we would have to try to get into the presidential debates.
[Phil Donahue, Nader 2000 Co-Chair] Ralph Nader could visit every city and town in this nation personally and not reach 10% of the people who watch the debates.
[Theresa Amato, Nader Campaign Manager] Now, most people don't understand how the presidential debates are run. They have memories of the League of Women Voters hosting it, or they think journalists host it. [Ronald Reagan and George Bush I, League of Women Voters, 1980 Presidential Forum -- Stick It Where the Sun Don't Shine] But it's really a private corporation that sits a few blocks away from here on New Hampshire Avenue in Washington, D.C., that is run by former chair [1200 NEW HAMPSHIRE AVENUE] of the Democratic National Committee, and the former chair of the Republican National Committee.
COMMISSION ON PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES
[Phil Donahue] One was a -- One is the biggest lobbyist for the gaming industry. The other is a lobbyist as well. Frank Fahrenkopf and Kirk produce -- they were producers -- they decided which candidates the voters could see. [The Knight Foundation] And their sponsors were Anheuser-Busch, US Airways -- corporations. Can you imagine how much an American corporation would want Ralph Nader on that stage?
[Theresa Amato, Nader Campaign Manager] They set criteria that says you have to have 15% of the measure of support, measured by the average of five different national polls.
[Lawrence O'Donnell, Political Analyst] But if what we're picking is a poll number, then what we're picking, what we're in effect saying is, "We'll allow you in the debates if we think you're a factor in the election." And so in an election in which now the Gore world wants to say, "Ralph Nader lost the election for us." I guess he must've been a factor in the election. But you said he couldn't be in the debates because he wasn't a factor in the election.
[Man] Polls showed two-thirds of the American people wanted him in the debates.
[Woman] Because Ralph Nader speaks to issues that the other two candidates are ignoring. Both candidates are pro-death penalty, for instance.
[Man] Look at which issues concern the American public. A fairly broad slab of them are not being covered in the debates as far as we can tell.
[Jason Kafoury, Campaign Organizer] But they froze Ralph out of the debates. The first debate between Gore and Bush was Tuesday, the third of October, in Boston.
[Theresa Amato, Nader Campaign Manager] The campaign had decided that if we weren't going to be able to be in the actual debate on the stage, that we were going to try to be in the debate hall. Thirty seconds.
[Jason Kafoury, Nader Campaign Organizer] I got a phone call from Ralph's entourage that was touring with him at about 8:00 or 9:00 at night and they said, "Jason, what we really want for tomorrow is a ticket to the debate." We got this kid -- University of Massachusetts, where the debate was gonna be held -- and his dad had gotten him a ticket. [Welcome to UMass Boston, Host site of the U.S. Presidential Debate 2000] Called this kid, and I said, "How would you, in the name of democracy, like to have a press conference tomorrow at Harvard where you hand over your ticket to Ralph Nader and say, 'I think you should be there at this debate?'" And the kid loved it.
[Theresa Amato, Nader Campaign Manager] There were lots of people protesting the exclusion of third parties including, I should mention, not just the Greens. The Libertarians are upset. Other third parties would like to have a chance to talk to the American people.
LET RALPH DEBATE / WE WANT DEMOCRACY
[Man Singing Folk]
[Tarek Milleron, Nephew] We hopped on the "T" and we rode to this staging area for the debates, because there was huge security around the debates. [Music Continues] Three perimeters and all the Secret Service, and hundreds of cops and so forth. And there were also well over 5,000 people there protesting to let my uncle on the debates.
[Chanting] Let Ralph debate! Let Ralph debate!
[Ralph Nader] It was an unbelievable scene. It was like out of some, you know, gigantic painting of a semi-revolutionary journey.
[Tarek Milleron, Nephew] As we started passing these barricades and these thousands of people, they recognized my uncle inside the bus and they just went crazy. [Let Ralph debate! Let Ralph debate!] Our ticket was -- was for a, you know, video of the debate, where we'd watch it from a remote location.
[Ralph Nader] I was confronted by someone who said he was in charge of security for the Debate Commission. A private security firm.
[Tarek Milleron, Nephew] And they said, "You, Mr. Nader, are not welcome." The man who came out had a Greek last name -- it was Vasaris. And my uncle greeted him in Greek, and so he, uh, it sort of threw him off a little bit. It was pretty comical. But he immediately reverted to, "Mr. Nader, you're not welcome here."
Okay, here's the
[Tarek Milleron, Nephew] We have an arrangement to do a show with Fox. Their truck is inside. We could walk through with our ticket, sit in the truck, watch the debates and do the show.
[Man Speaking] "Yeah, but that's not an option sir."
[Tarek Milleron, Nephew] Right now the commission is saying they will not let us through the gate to sit in the Fox truck to watch the show, the debate, and then proceed with the interview. So the officers are telling us once again ...
[Ralph Nader] I kept saying to myself, "I can't believe I'm in America. I can't believe this is going on."
Gentlemen, I think you're being subjected to an unlawful order, and you really ought to go to your superiors, because a private party cannot misuse the status of the state police. You're the state police?
[Policeman] Correct, we are.
[Ralph Nader] They cannot do that.
[John Vezeris] Okay, what's gonna happen -- We have two options.
[Ralph Nader] Yeah. Yeah.
[John Vezeris] You were warned once before that if you returned, you were gonna be placed under arrest for trespassing. Is it your intent to be arrested?
[Ralph Nader] Of course not. I have never been arrested, and I will not be arrested.
[John Vezeris] We're still gonna give you the option, Mr. Nader.
[Ralph Nader] I don't understand --
[John Vezeris] Please leave the scene, or you're gonna be placed under arrest for trespassing. I really don't want to get in a debate with you. We'll give you a police escort off the grounds, or we'll give you a ride off the grounds, or you can be placed under arrest for trespassing and taken off the grounds.
[Ralph Nader] Let me please --
[John Vezeris] What would we like to do right now, please?
[Ralph Nader] Let me please just reply to you. I have no understanding of why you are being instructed to do this. We have an official invitation from one of the major television networks.
[John Vezeris] Well, they're not allowing you access to the grounds.
[Ralph Nader] Who's not allowing me? The Debate Commission?
[John Vezeris] The debate committee. Correct, sir.
[Ralph Nader] They have to --
[John Vezeris] I really do not want to get into an argument with you. You seem like too nice of a man to argue.
[Ralph Nader] I don't want to argue. All I want to ask you is, this is a political exclusion. I'm not a security risk. I'm not being disruptive. This is a political exclusion. You should not be misused. The authority of the State of Massachusetts should not be misused for a political exclusion of a presidential candidate who has a ticket to be in Kripke Auditorium to watch the debate on remote television, and who has an official invitation from Fox News. So --
[John Vezeris] Okay, sir.
[Ralph Nader] I make my point?
[John Vezeris] Very good.
[Ralph Nader] This is the strangest situation I've ever seen.
[John Vezeris] How are we gonna get you off the property, Mr. Nader? We have to get a bus or whatever.
[Al Hunt, CNN] The Presidential Debate Commission excluded Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan from the presidential debates. They also wouldn't even let Mr. Nader into the hall. The independent presidential candidate was given a legitimate ticket by a student supporter for a remote area in the auditorium. But acting like thugs, officials threatened to have him arrested if he didn't leave the premises. Presumably, Mr. Nader's presence might have offended some of the commission's fat cat contributors in their prominent seats.
[Pat Buchanan] I give him credit. He went down there. I told 'em, I went to parochial school, and I'm told you don't go somewhere, you don't go somewhere.
[Gene Stilp, Former Nader's Raider] He should not have left. He could have made his point that way, by being escorted out manually by the police, and he could've, uh -- he could've had a bigger impact in the 2000.
[Ralph Nader] Perhaps, but it would've been a very short time, and the complications of being a defendant would've been longer term. And it would've been a defensive situation on my part, not an offensive situation, which is what I turned it into when I sued the Commission on Presidential Debates.
They threw out the wrong guy this time.
[Theresa Amato, Nader Campaign Manager] It turns out we found in a subsequent lawsuit that their counsel had passed around a face book.
[Pat Buchanan] [Laughs] They had Ralph's picture. They gave all the cops.
[Theresa Amato, Nader Campaign Manager] Sheets of paper with the pictures of all the third-party candidates and their vice presidential candidates and basically said, "If any of these people show up on the premises, don't let them in."
[Pat Buchanan] They had a picture of me -- that I was gonna break in? [COMMISSION ON PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES, FACE BOOK] Okay, this is the face book. Gotta look out for these guys. Ralph was the number one guy they were looking for. [Laughs] He's on the top of the list.
ATTACHMENT TO NADER/CPD SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT / Dear Mr. Nader: In October 2000, you filed a lawsuit against the Commission on Presidential Debates and its co-chairs, Paul Kirk and Frank Fahrenkopf, in which you asserted claims concerning your ticketed right to enter an auxiliary viewing auditorium in the UMass campus on October 3, 2000, the night of the presidential debate. The Commission and its co-chairs did not know about your interest in attending the auxiliary viewing auditorium. If we had had a clear understanding of your intentions, every effort would have been made to protect your right to attend that event. We apologize for the misunderstanding of John Vezeris, the security consultant for the Commission, on the night of October 3 that resulted in your being required to leave the campus so that you could not attend the auxiliary viewing event and for any inconvenience to you. For the Commission and its co-chairs, Paul Kirk and Frank Fahrenkopf, Sincerely, Janet Brown, Executive Director
[Theresa Amato, Nader Campaign Manager] The commission did write a written apology, and they ended up giving $50,000 to the Electoral Reform Project at Harvard Law School.
[Phil Donahue] It all backs up to the guys outside the Capitol with the briefcases funding the people who make a vote and can make or break billions and billions of dollars' worth of business. Their life is -- is the price of their stock -- and Ralph Nader threatens that, and we, we cannot overstate, uh, the power that they bring to stop him from doing that, including the power to decide that he is not gonna get on this stage.
[Woman Newscaster] And Nader is showing no signs of backing off.
THE NADER FACTOR, 36 ELECTORAL VOTES
[Ralph Nader] Gore is gonna have to understand he's gonna have to earn his votes. Bush has to earn his votes. I have to earn my votes. No one's entitled to any votes.
[Woman] The bottom line remains. It's not over until the votes are counted. And I mean really counted one by one. Twice we've taken back so-called "final" results in Florida.
[Newscaster] My guess is that in a lot of the Nader instances that he got new voters to the polls as much as Jesse Ventura did when he ran in the State of Minnesota. People who were turned off by the political system altogether decided that they would turn out and vote for Ralph Nader. They would not have voted for either Al Gore or for George Bush. In fact, many people say they would have stayed home if those two names alone had been on the ballot, and just sat on their hands and not voted for either candidate.
[Tim Russert] But you know what Democrats are gonna say. If their candidate loses by one percent and Ralph Nader got two, they're not gonna look at the exit polls, Katie. They're gonna point their finger and say, "Ralph Nader, you're a spoiler," fairly or unfairly.
[Tom Daschle, Democratic Minority Leader] If you look at the numbers in Florida alone, I think it's safe to say that Ralph Nader denied Al Gore a clean victory in Florida. It may be true in other cases as well. But he has had a consequential impact on this presidential election.
[Ralph Nader] By the way, I do think that Al Gore cost me the election, especially in Florida. [Audience Laughing] And that's far greater concern than whether I was supposed to help elect Al Gore.
[Todd Gitlin, School of Journalism, Columbia University] The day after the election, Ralph Nader was the happiest man in America, outside the State of Texas and Florida. I won't forget that. His exultation at what he had proved. To whom?
[Pat Buchanan] And I would currently advise Ralph, given the numbers I've seen, that he may be interested in Secret Service protection when he comes in here this morning from some angry Democrats.
[James Ridgeway, Journalist] Up and down the street, people would stop me and say things like, "God, Nader lost us the election, and it's so horrible." And, you know, I'd say, "Well, Gore lost you the election."
[Todd Gitlin, School of Journalism, Columbia University] For Nader to say that he has no responsibility in that matter is a level of ethical dishonesty and incomprehension that I find absolutely flabbergasting.
[Theresa Amato, Nader Campaign Manager] Every third-party candidate got more than the difference between Bush and Gore in the 537 votes in Florida, but the Democratic Party was looking for a scapegoat and I think effectively tried to paint -- and did paint -- Ralph Nader as the reason why they were not in office. Not the fact that 10 million more Democrats voted for George Bush than voted for Ralph Nader. I mean, they should have been asking, "Why are the people who are registered Democrats voting for George Bush rather than Ralph Nader?"
[Todd Gitlin, School of Journalism, Columbia University] You know, there were registered Democrats who voted for Bush. There were registered Republicans who voted for Gore. You know, this is like, "The dog ate my homework." Except it wasn't my dog. Everybody else's dog ate my homework. This is nuts. This is not intellectually serious. It is not ethically serious.
[Theresa Amato, Nader Campaign Manager] Why did they lose their own states? Al Gore was from Tennessee. He didn't carry his own state. He didn't carry Clinton's state, Arkansas. He's our incumbent vice president for eight years who doesn't carry his home state and the state of his, you know, president? Those are the kinds of questions, not that a third party, be it the Greens or the Libertarians or any third party, got some sliver of the vote.
[Eric Alterman, Columnist, "The Nation"] You can invent all kinds of excuses as to why other people are responsible. Bill Clinton is responsible because he didn't carry Arkansas. Al Gore is responsible because he didn't carry Tennessee. Bullshit. One man could've stopped it. That's Ralph Nader. He chose not to.
[Theresa Amato, Nader Campaign Manager] Why did they do so poorly in Florida in terms of the post-election legal strategies? Why didn't they insist every vote should count?
[Eric Alterman, Columnist, "The Nation"] I can spend all day listing the mistakes the Democrats made but before and after Florida -- before and during Florida. But I don't care. Nader professed to be standing for one thing, when in fact he was deliberately causing another thing. The Democrats were just incompetent. Nader was dishonest. And the country is paying the price for it.
[Phil Donahue] These people are -- these people are the -- their certitude is borne out of the fact that this is -- they know now what happened.
[Eric Alterman, Columnist, "The Nation"] It was entirely predictable what the likely outcome of that race was, and this megalomaniac thought that his campaign was more important than the potential destruction of much of what he claims to stand for.
[Todd Gitlin, School of Journalism, Columbia University] To claim that they were Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum, is to be politically idiotic. It's the responsibility of a serious person not to be a fool. And that was garbage.
[Theresa Amato, Nader Campaign Manager] A lot of people say, "Well, he said there was no difference." He didn't say there was no difference between the candidates. He said there were few differences for which they're willing to stand up and fight.
[Morton Mintz, Journalist] Okay, you have two corporate parties, but the differences [on the things that don't matter] are simply enormous. You don't get from the Democrats, you don't get big pushes for constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage, and you don't get the Labor Department telling Wal*mart it'll have 15 days to, notice before an inspection of possible child labor abuses. It's on and on with this STUFF.
[Phil Donahue] They killed him for saying there's not a dime's worth of difference between the parties. They killed him. And then the Democrats spent the next four years proving that he was right. The Democrats folded on the war. They folded on health care. ["No Child Left Behind."] They hid under their desks.
[Todd Gitlin, School of Journalism, Columbia University] If the game was to get five percent so that you could get standing for the 2004 election under the Election Code, then he should've campaigned in safe states like New York and California where he had many, many potential votes to pick up.
[Ralph Nader] Our campaign was not gonna play favorites between the two parties. We were gonna go for as many votes as we can get, and we were gonna be the only campaign to go with the candidates in every state.
[Joan Claybrook, President, Public Citizen] He told a lot of his contributors he wasn't gonna go in the swing states in 2000.
[Ralph Nader] No, I said I'm not gonna go out of my way to go into the swing states.
[Joan Claybrook, President, Public Citizen] But then he changed his mind, and then he couldn't resist the competitive part of it. And so he went into the swing states.
[Theresa Amato, Nader Campaign Manager] From the very beginning, we were very clear on two things: one, Ralph would not drop out, and this would be a 50-state campaign.
[Eric Alterman, Columnist, "The Nation"] He promised he wouldn't run hard where it was gonna be close, and then he went and spent all of his time at the end of the campaign in swing states.
[Ralph Nader] I spent 27 or 28 days in California and two and a half days in Florida. I mean, if anything, I neglected a swing state like Florida.
[Theresa Amato, Nader Campaign Manager] It's true that he was in Florida right before the election.
[Ralph Nader] I think we spent half a day there and then came up the East Coast.
[Eric Alterman, Columnist, "The Nation"] I think Nader intended to be a spoiler. I think Nader is a Leninist. He thinks things have to get worse before they get better.
[Barry Burden, Associate Professor, Government, Harvard University] So I viewed those as empirical questions that needed to be answered by a social scientist, that launching opinions back and forth probably wasn't gonna solve the debate. So I simply went out and looked at his campaign schedule from Labor Day of 2000 to Election Day. I looked at all the campaign stops he personally made. These were places where he held a rally or some other event that was open to the public and gathered media attention, and I matched those to the media markets in which they happened. And I also looked at his TV advertising. Where did he run ads? And as I cut the data in every possible way -- both his candidate appearances and his TV ads -- I couldn't find any evidence that he was trying to spoil. There was nothing there. There was lots of evidence he was trying to maximize his vote. I've been a Democrat as long as I've been involved in politics. I voted for Al Gore. Actually, my interests are with the Democratic Party first, and yet when I look at the data, I find the pattern you wouldn't expect -- that there's no evidence that he was trying to hurt the Democrats, and that most of my fellow Democrats' complaints are just sour grapes or a misunderstanding or something else.
[Eric Alterman, Columnist, "The Nation"] Fifty-two percent of the country voted against Bush -- either for Nader or Gore. The only way those numbers could have insured a Gore victory is if Ralph Nader had gone on television the night before the election and said, "Okay, we've run a good race. We've raised a lot of important issues. But there is a dime's worth of difference between these two parties, and I was wrong to say what I did. There's too much power in this office. There's too much at stake to risk a Republican takeover of the presidency."
[Barry Burden, Associate Professor, Government, Harvard University] I have no memory of a candidate ever dropping out at the presidential level because of fear of costing anyone a victory. I've just never seen that.
[Theresa Amato, Nader Campaign Manager] Why would somebody who has gone and recruited, you know, tens of thousands of volunteers -- donors, young people -- and gone all around the country, why would they drop out at the last minute? What message does that send? "I'm sorry. You supported me for no good reason. I'm sorry. These issues don't belong on the table"? That would never have come out of Ralph Nader's mouth.
[Barry Burden, Associate Professor, Government, Harvard University] The Nader campaign was polling at close to five percent near the end of the 2000 campaign. So a campaign that was geared towards that goal would absolutely keep going. It would make no sense to drop out. It would be irrational to try to avoid an outcome that really puts you close to the goal you've been pursuing all along from his entrance in February to Election Day in November.
[Eric Alterman, Columnist, "The Nation"] If Nader meant what he said, he would've run his race inside the Democratic Party and tried to take it over the same way the Christian Coalition took over the Republican Party.
[Gregory Kafoury, Nader Campaign Organizer] You run as a Democrat, you're done in March, and you're no longer part of the debate. You're making it too easy for them to channel you and to get rid of you and then ultimately to silence you; that's how they treat it.
[Lawrence O'Donnell, Political Analyst] If you want to pull the party -- the major party that is closest to the way you're thinking -- to what you're thinking, you must, you must show them that you're capable of not voting for them.
[William Greider, Journalist] Because the way the Democratic Party has run now for quite a number of presidential cycles is they pick a nominee in a kind of half-assed process that doesn't really represent much of anybody, and then they tell everybody to just shut up. Don't bring up anything that will complicate life for your nominee. "You know he's not for you on this. Why badger him? He's not gonna be for you for reasons that you don't understand, but are good reasons. Shut up. Turn off your brains."
[Lawrence O'Donnell, Political Analyst] If you don't show them you're capable of not voting for them, they don't have to listen to you. I promise you that. I worked within the Democratic Party. I didn't listen or have to listen to anything on the left while I was working in the Democratic Party, because the left had nowhere to go.
[James Musselman, Nader Campaign Organizer] I mean, it was absolutely the most brutal thing to support Ralph in the 2000 election.
[Joan Claybrook, President, Public Citizen] Oh, there was a terrifically bad fallout. A terrible fallout. A lot of members quit, and we were in terrible financial straits for a year and a half, two years, as a result. It took a long time to build it back up again.
[James Musselman, Nader Campaign Organizer] I had artists leave my label. I had one very famous artist say he wasn't gonna do a song for me anymore because of my support for Ralph. And it was probably the hardest day of my life, and I could not imagine what Ralph was going through at the time.
[Peter Camejo, 2003 Gubernatorial Candidate CA] Ralph Nader came to a press conference in support of my candidacy for governor. Somebody came in and threw a pie in his face.
[James Ridgeway, Journalist] The Democrats just totally trashed the guy, and they have been trashing him for four years. They're the meanest bunch of motherfuckers I have ever run across.
[Ralph Nader 2004] I want to thank you very much for coming. I'm Ralph Nader, and I'm on the Independent ticket for president with my vice presidential running mate, Peter Miguel Camejo.
[Todd Gitlin] No rational person could believe that it was a gift to the world to do what he did in the year 2000. So in order to protect his belief that he was, after all, doing the right thing, he needs to repeat; he needs to do it again.
[Eric Alterman, Columnist, "The Nation"] To me, he's a very deluded man. He's a psychologically troubled man. To continue to argue that he's a force for progressive forces when he's the single most important reason we have the most reactionary president perhaps in the history of the United States, is a form of delusion that I don't understand its source.
[Bill Maher] We are not convincing you with any of our words, so I'm just gonna say, because of all your great service, and because we do really love you but we disagree with you on this, Michael and I are going to get down on our knees and beg you not to run.
[Audience Cheering] [TOO MUCH CORPORATE POWER]
[Michael Moore] Please. Please. Ralph. Ralph. Ralph.
[Bill Maher] Please. Please.
[Michael Moore] Don't run for president.
[Bill Maher] Please, Ralph. You're a great American. Don't run.
[Michael Moore] Don't do this to the country. Please. Please.
[Bill Maher] Don't do this. Don't do this, Ralph.
[Bill Maher] Don't do this, Ralph.
[Michael Moore] Come home, Ralph.
[Bill Maher] Come on. We're on our knees. Come home Ralph. We're on our knees.
[Michael Moore] Come home.
[Bill Maher] Fight these Republicans!
[Theresa Amato] A number of people tried to convince Ralph not to run, and amongst that were people who thought, because they had very little first-hand knowledge of Ralph Nader, that they could bribe him.
[Gregory Kafoury, Nader Campaign Organizer] Let me tell you, there were carrots and there were sticks. Nader was told, "If you don't run, we will lavish money on your organizations. We will lavish money anywhere you want it." Very extravagant sums of money were mentioned, and he was told face to face, "This is just the beginning."
[Ralph Nader] Oh, yes. I mean, I -- through third parties, millions of dollars were offered for our programs and projects if I would drop out or if I would not decide to run.
[Gregory Kafoury, Nader Campaign Organizer] And at the same time he was told, "If you do run, we will strangle your organizations. We will smother them. Your people will scream in pain at you for what we're gonna do to you."
[Ralph Nader] Again, there was far more at stake in terms of focusing on the redirections of our country than some ample foundation grants to initiate programs which would hit a stone wall here in Washington.
[Donald Ross, NYPIRG - 1973-82] The lesson Ralph took from the 1960s when lots of close friends of his said, "You can't go after General Motors. You're a promising lawyer. You're out of Harvard. You'll ruin your career." And he did -- was, trust your own instincts, and don't listen necessarily to people who are close to you.
[Gene Karpinski Laughing] As I talked to him, I slammed down the phone on him. "Gene, Ralph." I go, "Who? Oh, you're calling --" He goes, "Well, I've been kind of busy the last 10 days." [Laughs] 'Cause he'd just -- I said, "Yeah. No shit. Well, uh, I'm busy right now, so I gotta go." [Laughs] And that was it. I was surprised I did it, but it was the right thing to do.
Kerry, Nader have 'friendly talk -- ELECTION 2004
[Ralph Nader] The meeting with John Kerry was very constructive. He had been saying just the right thing. I'm gonna appeal to everybody in this race. We'll make it unnecessary in the end for an alternative, and I look forward to that. Fine. Just exact kind of competition. I relish it. Take all the issues. Here they are -- 25 pages. I sent them to you in December. Take them all. No "proprietaryship" here. Uh, and then I said to him, "Look, let's try to do something counterintuitive. Let's pick three major issues that we both believe in and run with them. And that will make a real contrast with Bush. [Cash Register Dinging] Corporate welfare. The hundreds of billions of dollars out of taxpayer coffers going into corporate subsidies, handouts, giveaways, bailouts. Let's also crack down on the corporate crime wave. A lot of Republican voters there. Bush is never gonna come out against corporate crime. And the third thing -- labor law reform, 'cause you know that Bush is not going to come out for labor law reform given his corporate paymasters." He wouldn't buy it. Instead, May 2004 was when the massive coordinated attack [Dems Sue to block Nader] by the Democratic Party to harass us, to intimidate us, petitioning drives, to file more and more lawsuits against us, hiring Ken Starr's old law firm, Kirkland Ellis and other corporate Republican firms. That was the fork in the road. Those three issues would've gotten him more votes, and the election wouldn't even have been close.
[John Kerry] I'm -- I'm John Kerry, and I'm reporting for duty.
[Ralph Nader] I have never seen a period in American history so devoid of any tactical and strategic sense by the liberals.
[John Kerry] And I will hunt down and kill the terrorists wherever they are.
[Ralph Nader] What are they scared of, the Democrats? When Kerry was running for office, there was a poll where 42% of the American people wanted the troops home yesterday. Without any leadership by the Democratic Party. Without saying to Bush, "You don't have the decency even to count the casualties on our side, 'cause you're not counting injured and sick troops." And when you can't even go after him for something like that --
[John Kerry] And what we have to decide is that we're going to keep coming back until this war ends.
[Ralph Nader] You let the Swift Boat Veterans turn you on the defensive because you were in Vietnam and Bush was a draft dodger? It's like they've lost their nerve completely, and they basically said, "Okay, the Republicans are so terrible, we'll go for the Democrats and then work on 'em later." But the point is, if you work on 'em later, it's too late. You gotta work on 'em during the election campaign, to make 'em look better, to make 'em stand taller, to make 'em be more authentic. Then you might get 'em into office.
[Man] Kerry's not perfect, but he's so, so much better than what's there now.
[Girl] The united goal should be to defeat Bush.
[Woman] Anybody but Bush.
[Ralph Nader] Now, let's say he did win. He wouldn't owe any of these people anything, because he knew that he got their vote because they disliked Bush so much. What are you gonna win if you win? So he would have no mandate. He would float into Washington, D.C., and be surrounded by 25,000 corporate lobbyists and 9,000 corporate political action committees, and all kinds of demands to put high-level appointments in the hands of corporate selectors in his administration. And what do we end up with? What is the victory worth? See? I mean, it was a flawed strategy. And for all their efforts, they lost.
[John Kerry] Earlier today, I spoke to President Bush and I offered him and Laura our congratulations on their victory.
[Ralph Nader] They lost with a candidate who should've landslided Bush -- who should've landslided one of the worst presidents in American history. And it's not an unwarranted perception to say that this Bush regime, and the ideological hijackers who've taken over our government, is a different cup of tea than Reagan or Bush I or Nixon. Then you better start making your candidate stand for the things you believe in, that will oppose and thwart this extremely dangerous incumbent administration. So not making Kerry better, they made him worse. They made him less electable.
[Susan Sarandon, Actor/Activist] When your guy Ralph Nader is close to filing something about what went on in New Hampshire --
[Bill Maher] Oh, now he's my guy?
[Susan Sarandon] Well, our guy.
[Bill Maher] Boy, you got away from him awfully quick. He was your guy the last time too, as I recall.
[Susan Sarandon] Our guy.
[James Musselman, Former Nader's Raider] Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon had a lot of backlash after the election. The worst part is that people aren't gonna be venturing out on those ledges again, because it's -- there's nothing in it for them except a lot of criticism.
[Michael Moore, 2004] You want me to take a second here and talk about Ralph? Yeah.
[Ralph Nader] Michael Moore was an example of the switch, of aggressively supporting our agenda and our candidacy in 2000 and turning against us in 2004.
[Michael Moore] Leave him alone? [Chuckles] Well, he needs to leave us alone. Um, yeah.
[Ralph Nader] In 2000, he went to our rallies, and he was the most articulate critic. He made people laugh and cry.
[Michael Moore, 2000] If you don't vote your conscience now, when will you start?
[Ralph Nader] Then 2004 comes along.
[Michael Moore] And when you go in the voting booth, don't go in there like, "Oh, this is gonna make me feel good though. I'm gonna feel good voting for Ralph Nader, because he's pure, and I'm pure, and I want to feel good. [Audience Laughs] So I'm gonna vote for Nader." Listen, my friends, your parents must've told you when you were 14 -- Five minutes of feeling good, you gotta pay for it for the rest of your life. Come on!
[Ralph Nader] And I'm trying to say why.
[Joan Claybrook, President, Public Citizen] When he's involved in politics, and it's that controversial, it doesn't help a nonprofit organization. And I think that everyone knows Ralph founded Public Citizen. His picture's all over the building. But it looks like we're politicking for him when we send out letters, you know, thousands of letters every single day with his name on them. And I think that that puts us at risk, both legally and politically. [Public Citizen, Congress Watch, Critical Mass, Global Trade Watch, Health Research Group, Ralph Nader, Founder] It's a time for us to be our own organization. He gave us a lot. That's it.
[Harvey Rosenfield, Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights] Uh, I wish Ralph hadn't run. You want me to say more? [Stammering] I'm wrestling with both -- both the personal answer to your question and the -- and the professional answer. On a professional level, I think the election distracted Ralph from issues that, you know, he would've been a leader, leading figure on. For example, Enron and WorldCom and the energy crisis here in California. I also think that some people were offended by his run and angry with him for it, and that's probably hurt him with those people. On a personal level, I just -- I miss him.
[Gene Karpinski, Congress Watch 1977-81] My son's 11, and my daughter is 9. And they go, "Dad, you used to work for that guy?" [Laughs] It's like, I should be proud of this. You know, I was proud of this. My parents -- You know, when I first started, I was so proud of all that. And my parents come down, meet Ralph Nader. He's from Connecticut. That was so cool. They were so proud of it. Now every time, you know -- "What's that crazy guy up to?" And I, you know -- that's like a focus group of, you know, middle America -- people who actually, again, care about the same things. But, uh, you know, it's like -- just lost it. It's sad. Let's just not talk about it. [Laughing] In case you haven't figured it out, angry and sad. Okay. That's enough. [Laughing] Very good. Thank you.
[Mark Green, Congress Watch 1970-80] Part of the reason he's running is, he wants to be heard. Is that ego? I guess. But it's not just the ego of fame, which he's had. It's the ego of trying to make a difference. If that sounds sappy, that's the way he operates. He is privately on the phone the way he is in public. It just com -- Outraged by injustice. It's not an act. And that's what motivates him. That's what's motivating him to run for president.
[Sidney Wolfe, M.D., Public Citizen Health Research Group] You cannot know him and even imagine that this is an ego trip. If anything, it's the opposite, because people who are soothing their egos and gratifying them don't do without sleep, don't run on shoestring budgets, don't withstand the kind of abuse that he's gotten.
[Mark Green, Congress Watch 1970-80] In fact, if it were ego, he wouldn't do it. Because the likelihood that he ruins a 40-year reputation as being this pro-justice hero, would lead most people, if they have an ego, to go, "I'm not gonna risk hurting myself like that."
[Ralph Nader] If you get things out in the open, you'll get some action.
[Joe Tom Easley, Former Nader's Raider] One of the things, along with my dismay at what he's doing about the country here with this running for president, is a real concern that Ralph could harm, seriously harm his legacy.
[David Bollier, Public Interest Historian] Ralph's legacy is insinuated into the fabric of our daily life in ways we don't even appreciate.
[James Musselman, Former Nader's Raider] Imagine if you got in a car, and the air bag said "Nader" on it. You know how everything says "Trump" on buildings? If the air bag said "Nader." Or the seat belt said "Nader." Of if you get bumped from a plane, and it says your "renumeration" on your ticket, and you get "Ralph Nader" on your ticket. Or, you know, you look at the air, and it's cleaner, and it says "Ralph Nader." Of if you look at your food, and it says, "This food was made safer by Ralph Nader." If people would see that on a day-to-day basis, they'd understand the effect that this guy has had on their daily lives.
[Joe Tom Easley, Former Nader's Raider] Lead protections when you get X-rays in the dentist's office. Warnings -- drugs. Nutrition labeling on foods. Crash testing for automobiles. Labeling for cigarettes in tar and nicotine. Labeling for tires on their tread wear and safety. The right to know on the job if you're exposed to any chemicals. This was a cause, and we bought into it, we believed it, and we continue to believe it. And anything that affects Ralph's legacy affects us. So I wouldn't want this to hurt his legacy.
[Ralph Nader] I don't care about my personal legacy. I care about how much justice is advanced in America, and in our world day after day, and I'm willing to sacrifice whatever "reputation" in the cause of that effort. And also, what is my legacy? Are they gonna turn around and rip seat belts out of cars? Are they gonna tear air bags out of cars?
[Robert Fellmeth, Children's Advocacy Institute] Nader really kind of taught me to have that future perspective. Go into the future and look back and don't care what people are saying about you now, because they're not as important as the people in the future are. That's who you're working for. You're working to pass it down the line. You're working to pass it on to the next generation after that and after that, and that's why you're here.
[Mark Green, Congress Watch 1970-80] I can't think of anyone in American history who better embodies the ethic "you can fight city hall" than Ralph Nader. So often people go, "Oh, my vote doesn't count." Or, "These big interests -- I can't affect it." His whole life -- just this no-name from Winsted, Connecticut -- not because of pedigree or money, talks and wills his way into the national consciousness, and then stands for the ethic that consumers can stand up to corporations and voters can stand up to incumbents.
[William Greider, The Washington Post] I've been in Japan, I've been to Eastern Europe, Hungary right after the Berlin Wall fell, Southeast Asia, reporting with various kinds of citizen groups whether they were campaigning for laws or to take some of the brutality out of sweatshops, and they will invoke Nader's name as a kind of, "You know what we're doing. It's like Ralph Nader, right?" Where did they learn that? Who knows? But it's in their, it's in their vocabulary that this man Nader did what we're doing, what we're trying to do.
[Richard Grossman, Publisher "Unsafe At Any Speed"] I suspect that he'll suffer waves over the next hundred years of discovery, rediscovery and abandonment, that periodically as the cultural heartbeat [Laughs] hears a different song, it will yearn for his song and find him. It's happened to many people.
[James Ridgeway, The New Republic] Ralph is a -- He believes in the legal system. I mean, it's really incredible. The guy is like -- He's pushing all this stuff, and he actually believes in the legal system. And he believes in small businesses, family small business. And he believes -- He's a devout small business supporter. Um, and he believes in the marketplace. I mean, it's just amazing to me that he believes in the market, he believes in all these really American things of the American grain, and he's getting -- he gets trashed for it. I mean, he's one of the very few people who has ever been in this city who actually believes in the American myth.
[Ralph Nader] I see how people up against enormous abuse, deprivation, uh, dictatorships, you name it, taking it on, not giving up, persisting, persevering. That's what life's all about. There'll never be a hill that you don't have to climb when it comes to injustice in this world. But you have to keep climbing. And the important thing is not to say democracy's a myth in our country. It's to have better gradations. Democracy's very weak today in our country. We have to make it stronger and stronger until it becomes the profoundly realistic American way of life and crowds out the myths.
[Man, Woman Singing Funky Pop]
written & directed by HENRIETTE MANTEL, STEVE SKROVAN
executive producers: HENRIETTE MANTEL, STEVE SKROVAN
producer: KEVIN O'DONNELL
original music by JOE KRAEMER
motion graphics by RYAN NELLIS, EYELUMINATION STUDIO
editors: ALEXIS PROVOST, BETH GALLAGHER
production coordinator: ELLIE KNAUS
consultant: BYRON BLOCH
associate producers: K.D. GULKO, DESIREE CADENA
Web Site design by www.Fifty6.com
special thanks to
Boston supplied by
services and equipment
footage courtesy of:
footage provided by
Truth" Nader Campaign 2000
photographs courtesy of
photographs courtesy of
House photo courtesy of
"The Dick" by
and the Fresh
U.S. News &
Are Inside the Gates"
Supporters Fill Madison
"I Am A Patriot"
"The Times They
"Stand up, Rise
© 2006 -- TWO LEFT LEGS, LLC