Speaking on CNN's "Larry King Live" on Monday night, the two candidates made similar attacks on the two main presidential candidates, though they offered different remedies for fixing a system they said was out of touch with American voters.
Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush are "Xerox copies" of one another, said Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan.
"The debate system is set up to keep me out of the debates," said Buchanan, referring to the series of presidential debates between the major-party candidates scheduled to begin Tuesday in Boston, Massachusetts.
A 'corporate party with two heads'
Nader, who said he planned to be in the audience on Tuesday night, called the Democratic and Republican parties a "corporate party with two heads" that does not want any competition.
The Commission on Presidential Debates, set up by Democrats and Republicans to manage the debate process, excluded Nader and other third-party candidates last Tuesday. The commission said that such candidates, to qualify, would have to be on the ballot in enough states to have a theoretical chance of winning the election and show around 15 percent support in national public opinion surveys. Nader recently had about 5 percent in the polls, and Buchanan about 1 percent.
Nader, a lawyer who made his reputation as a consumer advocate, said the current economic boom is illusory, because workers have less purchasing power than they did in the late 1960s.
The minimum wage ought to be increased, he said.
Both of the major party presidential candidates have "sold our government to the highest bidder," Nader said at another point.
When asked what he hoped to accomplish with his campaign, Nader said "We're trying to move the agenda to the central issue in politics, which is the concentration of power." In particular, large corporations have too much power, he said.
As a result, Nader said, millions of dollars of public money are spent on the wrong things. "Stadiums rise with tax dollars; schools and clinics crumble, in the same city. Grotesque!"
Both Nader and Buchanan cited a recent poll in which 64 percent of respondents said they wanted to see a four-way debate. Nader said Bush and Gore were "taking advantage" of American voters by refusing to include third-party candidates in their debates. "Just for that reason alone, Bush and Gore should be rejected by the voters of America," Nader said.
Nader called on the major television networks to co-sponsor a four-way
debate that would include himself, Buchanan, Gore and Bush. "Gore and Bush
couldn't say no to that."
He also spoke about oil policy. Nader blamed the Clinton/Gore administration for allowing "these giant oil mergers to occur" which, he said, increased the oil companies' pricing control over consumers.
Return surplus to taxpayers, Buchanan says
Buchanan, a former commentator on CNN's "Crossfire" program and aide to Republican Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, said he would return the budget surplus to the American taxpayers, now that the budget has been balanced.
"I was going to summit meetings in Beijing and Moscow when both of those guys were in college," he said, adding that Bush and Gore were "two Beltway people funded by lobbies and corporations."
By restricting the debates to Gore and Bush, the American people will be
unlikely to hear about issues on which the two sides agree, but on which the excluded
candidates do not, Buchanan said.
"You don't get up in the polls unless you get on the debates, and you don't get on the debates unless you go up in the polls," Buchanan said.
There are no significant differences between Bush and Gore on many issues, Buchanan said. "They both agree on NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), WTO (the World Trade Organization), China policy, Bosnia, both think bombing Serbia was a good idea," Buchanan said. "Neither will raise the issue of immigration."
Buchanan criticized Gore and Bush for supporting last year's U.S. military intervention in Yugoslavia, saying "troops should not be sent to Kosovo when we can't defend our own borders against illegal immigration."
He also said an effective national policy for energy independence is needed to avoid dependence on the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which Buchanan described as "a price-fixing conspiracy designed to loot the United States."
While host King was in Los Angeles for the interview, Nader joined the discussion from Connecticut, and Buchanan, from Maine.
This story was written by David Paulin and Tom A. Hughes.