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TalkBack Live

What Kind of President Does Ralph Nader Want to Be?

Aired July 5, 2000 - 3:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BOBBIE BATTISTA, HOST: Ralph Nader. He's the consumer advocate, the independent, and now the Green Party's presidential candidate: Pro-labor, suspicious of big business.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM HOFFA, TEAMSTERS UNION PRESIDENT: Ralph Nader understands what globalization means. Money and jobs are going overseas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BATTISTA: The Green Party is ready to leave a mark on the November election. But a vote for Nader is a vote for what?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS LEHANE, SPOKESMAN, GORE CAMPAIGN: People are very, very careful not to throw away their vote. They want their vote to count. It's very, very critical to the Democratic process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BATTISTA: And whose presidential bid is likely to suffer if you do go Green? Ask Ralph Nader why he believes a vote for him is not wasted and why he wants to be your president.

Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to TALKBACK LIVE.

Ah, the joys of live television. Ralph Nader will be with us in just a few minutes. He was running just a little bit late. Not to worry, though, he will be here. And in the meantime, we are going to go to the audience, and ask some of the folks if they've already made up their minds about this fall's presidential election.

Jim is from Florida.

Jim, do you know who you're going to vote for?

JIM: Yes, Governor Bush.

BATTISTA: And why is that?

JIM: Well, not only is he the best man, but he's a Republican. And this third party fiasco is the reason we have Clinton in office now. And I -- you know, they just don't -- I think people that don't -- or like a third party just don't understand the political system, and how you can get things done. And Ralph ought to join the Republican party again.

BATTISTA: So it is your thought that we are getting things done under the two-party system?

JIM: Yes.

BATTISTA: OK, let me go to -- is it Natrina (ph)? You are a first-time voter this fall. Congratulations. Do you know who are you voting for yet?

NATRINA: No, I don't. Right now, I'm trying to keep my options open, see what all the candidates are offering and then go decide on which ones I think have the best qualities to be president.

BATTISTA: So, you are open to third-party candidates, I would guess.

NATRINA: Very much so.

BATTISTA: And, Matt, you told me the same thing. You are in college at the University of North Carolina, correct? You say third- party candidates appeal to people in your age group.

MATT: Yes, they do. A lot of people just have differing ideals that run between the two parties. And there's got to be middle ground somewhere.

BATTISTA: All right, great. All right. Let's get on with the show then, because Ralph Nader says that he would be a voice for regular voters. That is one thing that he believes he can deliver to the American people. He worries about the environment, poverty, and corporate crime. An Ivy Leaguer turned every man, Mr. Nader has spent decades espousing the cause of the ordinary citizen, as you may know, against corporate and government power. And now he wants to be president. Ralph Nader joins us today.

Mr. Nader, good to have you on the show. Welcome to the program.

RALPH NADER, GREEN PARTY PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Thank you very much.

BATTISTA: As I said just a few moments ago, you do feel like you can be the voice for the regular voter, as you call it. But the problem is that you have a problem drawing mainstream voters. I think in our recent Gallup poll -- and this pretty much bears out what is going on in other national polls -- you register about six percent with the voters in this country. So, how do you plan on doing that. How do you plan on appealing to them?

NADER: Well, the campaign has just started. We are trying to get people all over the country mobilized to raise their expectation levels of what they should expect their politicians to be like. I think, in recent years, the expectation level of the public has been very low. And they sort of say: pox on both your houses. And half of the people don't even bother voting. And youth is turned off by politics. So we have to put before the American people what this country really should be like, what it could be like in the future.

We've had 10 years of economic growth, but the majority of the workers are making less today, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than they made in 1973 or '79, which is a remarkable departure from our history. When the economy grows, usually most people are better off. And 47 million workers -- that's over a third of the work force -- are making less than $10 an hour; many of them five and half, six, seven dollars an hour in Wal-Mart, or Kmart, or McDonald's.

That's not a livable wage. And we have all of these problems that just never get solved. Every Western country, for example, makes it easier for people to form trade unions, to bargain collectively with big employers. They cover everybody for health care. They have great day care. If Western countries can do this in places like the Netherlands or France or Germany, why can't we?

BATTISTA: Let me talk politics with you for just a few more minutes, and then I know there's a number of issues that you would like to talk about, and we will get into that. You are running on the Green Party ticket. You are not a member of this party. You are still an independent. I can see why the Green Party needs you, but why do you need the Green Party?

NADER: I think it has a great agenda. If you read its agenda, it really wants to give the power to the people, so people can run their government and shape the future of their country. It wants to have a strong pro environment, health agenda -- not only water and air pollution, but it wants to shift more of the country's energy to solar energy and renewable power and efficiency. It wants universal health care coverage.

It wants consumer protection vis-a-vis insurance companies and banks. But above all, what really makes me very pleased with the Green Party agenda, is it understands that people have to have the tools of democracy, that they're shut out too often. Their voice is still. They can't get through to their members of Congress or to the executive branch. And the corporate government has taken over our political government.

Big business runs Washington, and that's not the way Thomas Jefferson, or Abraham Lincoln, or Teddy Roosevelt, or any of our forbearers planned it. They didn't plan it this -- they didn't plan a two-party system that is more look-alike Tweedledum-Tweedledee, all beholden to big-business cash in their campaigns.

BATTISTA: Well, we've done a lot of shows on third-party politics. And, as you know, it is a tough sell to the American people. Let me quote something from the "New York Times" editorial page last Friday, where they said: "Ralph Nader's long history of public service, championing the causes of consumers, the environment, and economic justice automatically commands respect, but in running for president as the nominee of the Green Party, he is engaging in a self-indulgent exercise that will distract voters from the clear-cut choice represented by the majority party candidates, Vice President Al Gore and Governor George W. Bush.

Your response to that?

NADER: Just imagine the arrogance of that editorial. I mean, there are reporters in the "New York Times" Washington bureau that were just aghast at that. It's as if the "New York Times" doesn't want more competition, more choice for the American People. If half of the voters stayed home in 1996 in the presidential race, that tells you something; that the two parties are not doing their job. They're not giving people a sense of confidence that they can stand up for people instead of always knuckling under to these big-business lobbies in Washington and their political action committees.

The other day, the Democratic Party bragged that it raised $26 1/2 million at the MCI Center mostly from special interest groups. It bragged that it beat the Republicans, which a month earlier only raised $21 million. Well, it's time really for people to go out of their homes and to spend time on a presidential campaign, to read a little about the issues, and to ask themselves who has got the character, the honesty, the record -- not the rhetoric -- the record to lead this country.

And I think that there's no more powerful background than to have fought with minimal resources against these big companies for workers and small taxpayers and consumers, as I have over 40 years. The problem is that the civil society, the citizen groups that are fighting for a better government are being shut down in Washington because the two parties are in a hammer lock together in the grip of these corporate lobbies. And when that happens, our Democracy becomes very weak, we are unable to solve our problems and to hand this country in good shape to future generations.

BATTISTA: In fairness and in response to that editorial in "The New York Times," let me read something from today's "New York Times." It was a response to that by John Anderson, who's president of the Center for Voting and Democracy, and also a one-time independent presidential candidate. He wrote, "Ralph Nader should not simply be dismissed as a 'spoiler.' His candidacy could raise issues and propose solutions that may elevate the political dialogue. Most important, his candidacy offers the healthy prospect that millions of voters who now feel disenfranchised will become active, interested and involved citizens."

OK. Lots of questions from the audience here. I want to talk with you quickly about NAFTA. In a recent Gallup poll that CNN conducted, nearly half of those surveyed think that NAFTA has been good for this country. Employment at all-time high in America, and imports, as we know, help to keep prices down. So how are we losing jobs?

NADER: We're losing jobs every time you hear an auto plant, or auto supplier plant, shutting down and going to Mexico. General Electric has told its supplier companies they better move to Mexico if they want to keep selling to General Electric. We've had movement of industry south over the border at the maquiladora area, which is a horrible environment. They don't even pay their workers a livable wage in Mexico, and it has not been good for those workers.

You just go to the Midwest, and you'll see plenty of abandoned plants and lost jobs. And the key thing is, it's not very good for Mexico either. It's produced a lot of inflation and a lot of farmers have been dispossessed by the corn and bean imports, and they're heading for the cities, or north, and the Mexican people actually are worse off today than they were in 1980, so. And then the border is a mess, Bobbie. I mean, the border is smuggling. The border is pollution. The border unsafe trucks. And that's why President Clinton is openly violating NAFTA by not allowing Mexican truck drivers at $7 a day to ship their products by truck in 50 states. Under NAFTA, that's supposed to be the case. And fortunately, he's blocking that because of the hazards on the highway.

BATTISTA: I've got to take a quick break at this particular time. I want to ask you about your recent meeting with organized labor. There's also questions coming from the audience, so we'll be back in a moment. In the meantime, go online at CNN.com/TALKBACK and take part in our viewer vote. Today's question, would you support a third-party candidate for president? We'll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BATTISTA: A couple of e-mails that came into us during the break. "The only thing stop someone like me from voting for Ralph Nader is the fear that Gore's campaign would suffer, Nader would not get enough votes and Bush would win. Very scary. But Nader would make a good president. We need to change."

And then, "All politicians, especially a presidential candidate, are corrupt. If one isn't corrupt, he doesn't have a chance to win any political election. Mr. Nader, because of his integrity, doesn't have a chance to be president." A cynical viewpoint there.

You know what, go ahead, Jason. Let me do your question.

JASON: Mr. Nader, you've talked about getting the big money out of politics. I'm wondering what your plan is for doing that. Are you considering publicly financed campaigns, or do you have other ideas?

NADER: That's correct. I think public campaign should be publicly financed, like public schools and public parks are, and there are several ways do it. One way is to have a voluntary $200 check-off on the 1040 tax return. If you don't want to give anything, you don't give anything, but if you do, you can give up to $200 per person. It goes into a public fund, and any valid qualified candidate for federal office can tap into it, and also get a certain amount of free time on radio and TV. If a candidate does that, he or she cannot take private money. That's one big step forward. So candidates who don't want to be beholden to special interest or business money can go the public financing route. Now there's a law in Vermont, a law in Maine and some other states that are beginning to do that. We'll see what the results are in November, but they're pretty encouraging thus far.

BATTISTA: John has got a follow-up to that. JOHN: Yes. I inquired about being a presidential candidate myself, and it takes over $2 million just to get on the ballot. So where are you going to get the $2 million to become ballot accepted?

NADER: Well, we're using volunteers all over the country. We're going to be in at least 45 states, all of the big ones, from Florida to California, Texas, New York. And we are really the only campaign that's using overwhelmingly volunteer petitioners, that are on street corners, in front of office buildings at malls, getting people's signatures.

BATTISTA: Got to work a lot harder than those two mainstream candidates. Justin in the audience, you're not a legal voter, but you're soon to be one, and he had a follow-up question to the minimum wage issue, I think.

JUSTIN: What do you consider a livable wage?

NADER: Well, the minimum wage was adjusted for inflation, if it -- what it was in purchasing power in 1960, and 1970, it would just under $8 an hour, and people who work for $6, $7, $8 an hour knows how hard it is to make ends meet, especially the cost of going to work. The other day I met a 45-year-old mother of one, and she told me she's working at Wal-Mart and had to get a used car to drive to Wal-Mart eight miles away. You see, that eats into the $6.60 an hour that she was earning, because you have to pay for the car and the insurance and the repair. And we've got a lot of good material on our Web site, votenader.org or votenader.com, for people who want to get an idea of what our record has been in contrast to the rhetoric of so many of the other candidates.

I mean, people have safer cars, they have better inspected food, they have freedom of information, getting information from their government. They have environmental advances, less lead in your blood. We've all worked in all of these areas over the year.

But we've got to open up the doorway to democracy, which is being obstructed by these corporate lobbies if we're going to improve this country more.

BATTISTA: You recently had, I would characterize it, as a pretty friendly meeting with James Hoffa and organized labor leaders. Do you feel confident that you're going to pick up that endorsement, is there a chance?

NADER: Well, there's always a chance. I think there are some labor unions whose members are terribly hard-working -- the auto, the steel, the Teamsters -- who are being taken for granted by Mr. Gore and the Democratic Party as if they have nowhere to go, because the Republicans are worse on labor issues, it's alleged.

And I think the problem here is that when you're taken for granted, you're likely to be taken. And the heads of these unions are saying let's take another look at other candidates.

I think they know that historically third-party candidates spearheaded the labor movement back in the 19th century. They spearheaded the anti-slavery movement. They spearheaded the women's right to vote movement. They spearheaded the farmers progressive populist movement that gave us the greatest political reform of our history over 100 years ago.

So I think that it's good that they're thinking about that, and they're getting a real earful from their workers as they go around to the various factories. There's a lot of upset, particularly in the Midwest.

BATTISTA: Let me take an Internet question, if we could. We'll put it up on the screen there. What would you do about the influx of illegal aliens?

NADER: Well, first of all, let's break that down. The employers who want illegal aliens to come so they can exploit them at cheap wages and not have to pay any benefits because the workers can't object, they're illegal, we have to enforce the law against these employers, No. 1.

No. 2, if we had a more decent foreign policy toward Mexico and Central Mexico where we sided with the peasants and the workers once in a while instead of the oligarchs and corrupt government, there wouldn't be such a desperate economic condition for these desperate people to move north and expose their entire lives to crossing the border like that.

And third, I don't think this country should be engaged in a brain drain of highly talented scientists and computer specialists from Third World country that desperately need them in order to bring them here instead of paying American specialists an adequate wage. And that's what's called the high-brow part of the immigration issue. We are hogging too much talent from other countries where these countries and their peoples need their entrepreneurial, their scientific and their technical talents. So we need to pay attention to that.

BATTISTA: We need to take another break. And as we do, let me pose this question from Paul off our e-mail. "It seems to me that the biggest hurdle you and Pat Buchanan face is exclusion from the debate process. What can I as a concerned citizen interested in true democracy do to help change that?"

We'll talk about voter power with Ralph Nader right after this.

Ralph Nader's candidacy will qualify the Green Party for federal matching campaign funds for the 2004 election if he wins at least 5 percent of the vote this fall. It would also assure the group a spot on the 2004 ballot.

Nader won 700,000 votes nationwide when he ran for president on a $5,000 budget four years ago.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BATTISTA: In 1965 Ralph Nader's book "Unsafe at Any Speed" accused the Detroit auto industry of putting profits above safety. He named General Motor's Corvair, which he said was unstable and more likely to roll over than other cars even at lower speeds.

All right. We're back, and Paul had asked the e-mail question just a few moments ago about what he could do about -- as a citizen to help get third party and independent candidates into the debate process. And unfortunately, Mr. Nader, that is -- this feeling that the voters don't have much power is very pervasive in this country.

NADER: That's the issue we're addressing: the feeling of powerlessness by people, the feeling that they're shut out. You know, as a consumer, they call up the HMOs and get brushed off for health care, or they call their bank, or as taxpayers they watch their stadium being built for corporations in the sports area with tax money while their schools and clinics are crumbling. The powerlessness issue is key.

But let me talk about the debates. If you want to protest about the two parties excluding third party candidates, just contact Mr. Gore, Vice President Gore, White House, Washington, D.C., and Governor George W. Bush, Austin, Texas, in any way: by phone, by e-mail, by letter. I think the debate commission, which is a private entity created by the two parties, has to be some sort of responsive to public opinion.

The majority of the people in this country, according to the polls, want me and Buchanan on the debates with Gore and Bush, for heaven's sake if only to stay awake. You know, to watch those debates, the drab debating the dreary, is just a way to turn more people off.

They don't talk about a lot of issues that third party candidates are talking about: They don't talk about WTO and NAFTA and corporate globalization, how it affects people's jobs. They don't talk about cracking down on corporate crime, fraud and abuse, and the health care area and so some many other industries that the big newspapers have reported about repeatedly but nothing gets done.

They're not talking about repealing the restrictive labor laws that keep millions of Americans from forming their own trade unions to protect their own interests and those of their families.

They would never talk about repealing Taft-Hartley, that very restricted 53-year-old law that is keeping labor in this country below 10 percent -- of the private work force is unionized. That's the lowest in 60 years and the lowest in the Western world.

BATTISTA: They do, however, talk about the environment a fair amount these days, although you refer to Al Gore as an impostor in that area, which most people have the impression that he's the environmental candidate.

Annie, from California has a question on the environment.

ANNIE: Sure. Can you discuss a little bit about the environmental implications of NAFTA? I think many people don't realize how strong they are.

NADER: Yes, NAFTA and the World Trade Organization's mandate is trade is supreme over environmental, labor, and consumer considerations. And that means that, if we have a strong environmental law in this country that applies to imports from another country, that country can take the United States to a court in Geneva, Switzerland, under the World Trade Organization that's closed to the press -- no public transcript, no independent appeal -- and say that the U.S. is restricting trade in violation of NAFTA or WTO with this strong environmental standard.

It could affect food, pesticides, auto pollution, whatever. And that's not the way we operate in this country. In this country, we progress environmentally by subordinating commerce and profits to the health of men, women, and children in this country. And that's what NAFTA and WTO do. They subordinate the health and safety issues and make them vulnerable to these trade challenges. And there are all kinds of laws on our books that are viewed by foreign countries as illegal under these trade acts.

And they're beginning to go after them, like the dolphin-tuna fish protection act.

BATTISTA: I've got to take another break at this time.

Health care and education coming up, right after the news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BATTISTA: If you're in the Atlanta area, and you'd like to be part of our live studio audience, fro pre-tickets, call 1-800-410- 4266.

Heidi, from New York, has been hanging on the phone here for about 10 minutes or so. Heidi, I'm sorry. Go ahead with your question.

HEIDI: Oh, no apology necessary. I'm so grateful to CNN and to you, Bobbie, for your extraordinary show. Thank you, Mr. Nader, for a lifetime of dedication and sacrifice. My prayers have been answered. I finally have someone to vote for. Mr. Perot taught us that participating in the American system by voting for principle never harms the system. I will never vote again for a Democratic or a Republican unless they throw out the present funding system.

My question to you is, how do you defend what appears to be a lack of experience in foreign affairs? I recently was able to hear a part of an interview with you on PBS, through WPBS, the public radio station.

NADER: Well, as I mentioned at that time, I specialized in international affairs when I was at university, and have traveled over lots of the world working on environmental and consumer issues, met all kinds of government officials. The key thing in a presidential position on foreign policy is, how badly do you want to advance justice? How badly do you want to further the health and safety and life's fulfillment for the people of this world to the extent that we can; such as mounting assault on global tuberculosis, and global malaria, and other deadly, infectious diseases that are coming our way and in drug-resistant form.

I have known a lot of super experts in foreign policy. They have gotten us into wars we can avoid. They've supported dictatorships, and oligarchies. They have oppressed the poor peasants and the workers. They haven't given the best of our country abroad, in terms of our ideas and how we can lift the standard of living of other countries by liberating their own genius. So the motivation of what you really care about and who you really care about is absolutely the most important qualification.

BATTISTA: Question on health care from Mary. Go ahead.

MARY: Yes, I myself am only about a year, a little over a year, away from Medicare, but I worry about other people in this country who can't afford Medicare, especially young people who are outside of their parents' umbrella, but they're still getting their education or trying to start a business. So I just wondered just how you will go about making health care fair to all of the people in this country?

NADER: A very good question. We now have 47 million Americans without health care coverage. It's growing by about one million a year, even though we're experiencing a growing economy with growing corporate profits. We have 20 percent of our children living in deep poverty. They often don't have health care. In California, by the way, it's 25 percent children living in deep poverty, by far the highest percentage in the Western world.

If every other Western country can provide universal, accessible health care for all their people, why can't the richest country in the world do so? And I would propose and really press for the kind of universal health care system where you reduce enormous amount of billing fraud and waste, enormous amount of administrative expense, and just in those savings alone, you can cover the 47 million people who aren't covered.

Just to give you one fact: The General Accounting Office of the U.S. Congress estimates that 10 cents out of every health care dollar goes down the drain through billing fraud and abuse. You know all these computerized bills are in code. You can't figure them out. You try to call the company to figure it out. It's press one, press two. Well, that's $100 billion this year that's down the drain with a bee, and that could cover a lot of people who don't have coverage.

And by the way, health care, in my dictionary, is not just how to finance and pay for it. It's what kind of health care. Does it emphasize prevention? Does it emphasize workplace safety and environmental cleanup, and consumer safety, which will prevent the deaths and injuries and the number of people who have to go to the hospital, like safer cars have in recent years? And it also means giving consumers a structural power to monitor the health care institutions in their own communities through organizing consumer groups. I very much believe that a function of government is to facilitate people banding together as taxpayers, workers, consumers, and voters, so they can shape the future of this country instead of leaving it up to global corporations.

BATTISTA: Got to take another break. As we do, another e-mail to ponder: "How would you respond to the argument that a Republican president will use three or four appointments to move the Supreme Court too far to the right, and that is why people should vote for Al Gore?"

We will talk about that when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BATTISTA: All right. The question was: Do you vote for Al Gore just to keep a Republican president from having influence over the Supreme Court makeup? That also ties in with an Internet question as well that asks whether or not you are pro-life or pro-choice.

NADER: Well, I remember Warren and Brennan and Blackmun and Stevens and Souter: They were all appointed by Republican presidents, and a lot of progressive would think they were good Supreme Court justices. You know never how justices are going to turn out, and there have been Democratic appointments that haven't turned out very well at all either, from my point of view.

But the important thing is that if Gore is president, his choice is going to be very limited, because the Senate is controlled by Republicans, and they have a veto over any nomination that he sends up.

But if you look at the larger issues in the country, you can't simply say, well, we're going to vote for the least of the worst of the two-party nominees and every four years vote to get worse. And the logic of that has no end.

There are so many people in this country who are alienated and repulsed by the state of politics that we have to give them move choice, we have to give them a broader agenda. But the main thing we have to do is look them in the eye and say: "Do you as an American want to be more powerful as a voter, as a consumer, as a worker, as a taxpayer? Do you think you have enough power? Do you think you're being pushed around? Or do you think you hold the reins of government the way Thomas Jefferson, James Madison thought we should?"

BATTISTA: Did we answer the question on pro-life or pro-choice?

NADER: I don't think government should force a woman to either have a child or not have a child. We should try to have policies that reduce the need for abortion, but that decision's got to be made by the woman, the family, the clergy, the doctor.

This is a situation regardless of where we are on both sides of the issue that is beyond the effective limits of legal action. That doesn't mean we don't try to reduce the limit, the need for abortion, like teenage pregnancies.

BATTISTA: Let me go to Amanda in the audience from Virginia who is a teacher.

AMANDA: Good afternoon, Mr. Nader. Please tell us your opinion about education today. And if you have any concerns about it, how do you expect to improve those conditions?

NADER: Well, great concerns. Obviously, you see how our children are not learning enough history, they're not learning how to write. Their attention span is being shrunken by all this entertainment on TV and videos that are beamed to them.

Obviously, we have to repair our schools and bring the material infrastructure up. Obviously, we have to try to get better teachers and make sure they're paid adequately. And obviously, we have to make the schools safe.

But that's just the beginning, because I have seen schools that are ship-shape physically and have greatly paid teachers, et cetera, but that doesn't mean the children are learning. And I think that the best way for them to learn is to develop a civic curriculum, civics, where they learn about history, and reading, writing, arithmetic in terms of understanding the reality of the world around them, starting with their own community's history and their own community's problems and challenges.

And if we do that, starting with the elementary school, we will develop the beginnings of strong, upstanding, confident citizens who know how to learn way after they finish their formal education.

BATTISTA: I've got to read this e-mail from Ed in Florida. It's kind of funny.

He says: "There must be a better choice of a name than the Green Party. The Democrats and the Republicans are both part of the `green party.' That's all they're interested in."

Though you'd appreciate that.

NADER: That's right. That is funny. This is a different kind of green, Bobbie.

BATTISTA: Yes, exactly.

OK, let me do -- I'll take the Internet question first. Let me go ahead here. And that is from Andy, who says, "Are you a Marxist?"

NADER: No, I'm a -- I believe in democracy. I believe in competition. I think big corporations are destroying capitalism. Ask a lot of small businesses around the country how they're pressed and exploited and deprived by their big business predators.

I think we've got to cut through the myth here that small business when it's mismanaged is free to go bankrupt, isn't it? But big business, like the big banks, when they mismanage themselves -- speculation, corruption -- they head to Washington for an Uncle Sam bailout on the backs of middle-class taxpayers.

BATTISTA: Let me get a question in here quickly. We don't know that much about your personal life. We know that you're not married, that you do not have children, that you're pretty much married to your cause and your causes. How much do we have a right to know about those things?

NADER: I think you have a right to know certainly about all financial disclosure, which all candidates have to make. I think you have a right to know about the character, background, honesty, steadfastness of the candidate, and above all, whether the candidate means what he or she says or just says what he or she means. That's the key thing.

You hear a lot from these other main candidates about environment and about small children, poverty. It's all, it's all talk.

We've had years and years of economic growth, and it hasn't diminished the problems of health care, the problems of retirement security, the problems of children poverty. What's wrong? It's because they don't really mean what they say. And I think the American people want to have someone who means what he says.

And win or lose in November, Bobbie, this Green Party and my candidacy can reach a level of millions of votes so that on the next round it can be a real watchdog over the Republican and Democratic parties and their politicians.

Washington needs a real watchdog that basically says as a political party, if you don't shape up, parties, you're going to shrink down.

BATTISTA: Patricia (ph), question?

PATRICIA: You said that we need better teachers, and that's not exactly true. I'm going to the 10th grade, and I've been learning pretty much the same things in geography and history since I started school. We need a better curriculum.

And about us not learning, you know, we learn the same thing over and over again, then you kind of lose wanting to learn, you know. You learn that Christopher Columbus discovered America from kindergarten all the way up to seventh grade. By the time you get to seventh grade, you're like "I know this. I don't care. I don't want to hear it anymore." So you don't want to come to school and learn. You want to come to school, and see your friends, and walk around, and talk about lunch and what happened on television.

That's not exactly true, we need better teacher. We need a curriculum that's going to keep the attention of the students, because we're going to have the nation some day, you know. We need something better than that.

NADER: You couldn't -- you couldn't have said it better. That's why I emphasize the civics curriculum. Couldn't have said it better.

BATTISTA: We've got to take a break. We'll be back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BATTISTA: Let's take a look at our TALKBACK LIVE online viewer vote. The question was today, would you vote for a third-party candidate? And a whopping 86 percent said yes, and 14 percent said no.

One more quick question from Gloria. It's an e-mail question. "Ralph Nader would not have any support from the House or the Senate. How could he be an effective working president?"

NADER: Were I elected president, they would have to follow a major civic mobilization all over the country. You know, these politicians in Congress, they have their finger to the wind, and that would be a lot of wind. So we would have I think a lot of good success with the members of Congress.

BATTISTA: All right. Ralph Nader, thanks very much for sharing time with us this afternoon. I appreciate it.

NADER: Bobbie, thank you very much, and thanks to your show, TALKBACK LIVE. Remember, our Web site is votenader.com, and if you want to reach us in any way, log onto the Web site.

BATTISTA: All right, good deal. Thanks very much.

Tomorrow on TALKBACK LIVE, when you go out to dine, is it a case of eat, drink and be weary? Ask the men who know. World famous chef Jacque Pepin will join us and Anthony Bourdain, author of the book "Kitchen Confidential." Believe me, you'll never look at a chocolate mousse the same way again.

We'll see you tomorrow for more TALKBACK LIVE.

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