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Interview with Ralph Nader

Aired July 1, 2003 - 16:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: Today on CROSSFIRE. Live from the George Washington University, James Carville and Robert Novak.
JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST: Welcome to Crossfire. Our guest today has done some great things for consumers over the years but sure has messed them up in the 2000 Presidential Election. We'll ask Ralph Nader if he's going to do it again. He'll join us live, but first, something we do every day. He's comes the best political briefing in television, our "CROSSFIRE Political Alert".

The Iraqi people aren't the only ones fed up with no security, no stability and no electricity, turns out our troops are sick of it too. Today's "Washington Post" reports on rising tensions between our soldiers and Iraqi police are supposed to be helping. Let me get this straight, our guys don't want to be there and Iraqis don't want us there.

Here's the solution, let all the people who wanted to be there, Mr. Pearl and Mr. Worporwicz (ph) and the editorial board of the "Washington Post" and all the college professor chicken hawks who never served a day in their lives get up off their lard butts and head to Baghdad. Start carrying a rifle in 110 degree heat. That should help them realize that this war over there was ill conceived, ill prepared and ill planned. Tell you what, those guys pack their bags and I'll treat them to a sun block. You know what, Bob, this thing was not thought out.

NOVAK: You know James, you are one of the few liberal Democrats on a country -- you rose to the rank of Corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps and you should know, I was in the service. The one thing soldier -- wait a minute, let me talk. One thing the soldiers do is bitch. They bitch about this they bitch about that. If you're going to make policy on what GI is bitching you're going to be in trouble and I don't think for a minute you want to have those boys come home.

CARVILLE: Let me tell you, I never wanted them to go there in the first place. Let me say one other thing. This thing was not thought out. They ought to have a court-martial for the people who put kids over there and they should have a plan for what they do when they get there. They thought there was a decapitation and all that cocktail parties junk...

NOVAK: All right, my turn. The boxing champion Joe Lewis once said of opponents who tried to back pedal, you can run, but you can't hide. That's what Republicans and the Texas legislature should say to their Democratic colleagues who famously ran away to Oklahoma to escape a vote on a bill to shape up fair congressional districts. They're not fair now, but are gerrymander for the Democrats to have an advantage in a state that is dominated by Republican voters.

The governor has called a special session to try again and the Democrats know they can't pull their go to Oklahoma trick twice. It's awfully tough when Democrats have to bow to majority rule.

CARVILLE: Now let me get this straight. This redistricting took place in 1990 that they did? It was only a ten-year district.

NOVAK: No, no, no, last year.

CARVILLE: Oh I'm sorry.

They come back and say that's not fine, I understand. Man --

NOVAK: Would you like me to explain it to you? I have to explain it because Democrats control the legislature last year and they gerrymandered. Why shoul...

CARVILLE: Republicans didn't have the government, did they? I don't understand.

NOVAK: Can I ask you this?

CARVILLE: I don't understand.

NOVAK: Can I ask you this, James. Let me ask you a question. Why should the Democrats have a majority in a Republican state?

CARVILLE: Was there a Republican governor? Was there a Republican governor? Why don't you tell people the whole truth.

What I'm about to say was so outrageous, you're not going to believe it. The 40 hour work weed has been a staple of American workers since God knows when. And now the same Republicans who brought us huge deficits and millions of lost jobs are going after the sanctity of a 40-hour weeks. Today's "New York Times" reports that the Bush administration has gone through with a plan that would keep an estimated 8 million workers who qualified from overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours a week.

Parents get kiss -- get your kids ready for the assembly line because the next thing you know, they'll repeal the child labor laws.

NOVAK: You know, in a way I don't believe that story and the reason I don't believe it, it's not true. It actually doesn't affect 8 million, it affects 600,000 people who -- just a minute, let me talk -- who are actually in executive positions.

Now one thing this new rule does is it says if you make less than $22,000, even if you're the manager of a burger king, you are on overtime. This is a good thing, but the organized labor and the labor bosses just don't want to pay them.

CARVILLE: They don't like to party all week, do they? Bob, let me ask something. Are you for child labor laws?

NOVAK: I am. I haven't thought about it lately.

CARVILLE: You really don't like child. Let's those little snot noses get on the assembly line. I mean what the hell-- if an 11-year- old can contract his labor, why not have it.

NOVAK: You shouldn't pay overtime to executives.

CARVILLE: You're right.

NOVAK: OK, Jerry Springer, television's king of schlock, is moving closer to a run for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate from Ohio and says he will decide by the end of July. The man who hosts the most consistently offensive program on TV told the Ohio Young Democrats last weekend, quote I could be an incredible voice in the Senate. Why? because the media will cover me every single day" unquote. It's incredible, all right. But who said the Democrats don't believe in family values? They do, except they are dysfunctional family values.

CARVILLE: You know, he was on the show he makes more sense in a minute than Rick Santorum makes in a lifetime. This man is the No. 3 ranking Republican in the United States Senate and made a complete fool of himself with his homophobic remarks. And if Jerry Springer wants to run, why not. Ronald Reagan had a career in entertainment and he ran. Why can't Jerry Springer?

NOVAK: The trouble with you and the Democrats, James, is that you think that a schlock merchant, a guy who sells the sleaze that Jerry Springer does is better than a daily Catholic communicant like Rick Santorum.

CARVILLE: The daily Catholic communion going up there deraining (ph) gay people

NOVAK: Alright, the bell rang. A lot of Democrats are still steamed at Ralph Nader for what he did in 2000. In just a minute, we'll ask him if he had enough fun then to do it again. Stay with us, maybe we'll declare his candidacy for the White House right here on CROSSFIRE.


CARVILLE: Ralph Nader got (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for 3 million votes for president in 2000, but 97,000 of the votes came from Florida where George W. Bush allegedly beat Al Gore by a mere 537 votes. You don't need a calculator to do the math, Ralph Nader handed the White House to George W. Bush.

But that's ancient history. In fact, you can read all about it in his book, "Crashing the Party: Taking on Corporate Government in the Age of Serenity." The question is, will Ralph Nader run again? So let's ask him, let's turn to Ralph Nader in the CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: Ralph Nader, let me ask you, the reason you're on is the speculation that you are running. You were talking about maybe doing another Green Party candidacy. Are you running? RALPH NADER, FORMER GREEN PARTY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm considering, I haven't decided yet.

NOVAK: Will it be strictly for the Green Party and not as a Republican as reported earlier?

NADER: No, it will likely be for the Green Party.

NOVAK: You know, let me -- I collected a lot of things you said about George W. Bush. I'm just going to read some of them. "We have a monomaniacal, one-tract messianic mind here that raises serious questions about its stability." "Bush is acting in effect as a selected dictator." And, "President Bush is a messianic militarist."

That's pretty nasty stuff, Ralph. Do you think that you might not run if you get the Democrats be do that vituperative about the president?

NADER: It's not vituperative. He has concentrated more power in the executive branch (UNINTELLIGIBLE) legislative and judicial branches than any president in the 20th century. Look what the Patriot Act is doing: arrest without charges, imprisonment without lawyers, detainees without names to the relatives that they're being put in prison indefinitely. Going to war in Iraq based on false pretenses, against the advice of retired admirals and generals, against the advice of people in the CIA who said there's no al Qaeda connection, against the advice of people in the Pentagon.


NADER: Well, the point is, he's the president. And what he's done is he refuses to listen to anybody. Thirteen major anti-war groups, clergy, ex-military, labor all begged to meet with him, just for a few minutes in the White House in January and February. He never met with a single anti-war delegation. There's a president who's not listening to anybody, except his own chicken hawk advisers.

CARVILLE: Mr. Nader, while I admire much of your career prior to 2000, as you're well aware, I was not an admirer of your presidential campaign and its effect. And tell me why I'm wrong that you're not more responsible for the election or the selection of George W. Bush than anybody else? Convince me why I shouldn't hold everything -- you responsible for everything in this country.

NADER: Here we go. Twelve times more Democrats in Florida voted for George W. Bush than voted for Nader/LaDuke ticket, number one.

He was sabotaged by some Democrats in south Florida during the recount, number two.

He couldn't even get his home state of Tennessee, which would have made him president, number three.

He couldn't get the state of Arkansas, number four.

And he didn't do well on the debates. Not only that, he didn't listen to you, Jim.


CARVILLE: Gore couldn't carry Tennessee, his own state. George W. Bush couldn't carry the United States of America, his home country. And you know what? If you wouldn't have been in the race, the Supreme Court couldn't have stolen a damn thing.

NADER: Don't you admit that Gore won?

CARVILLE: Well of course he won.


CARVILLE: He would have won by so much that Scalia and Thomas couldn't have selected him.

Now I mean -- I just -- let me be honest. There's no sense...


CARVILLE: I can tell you that you've done many good things in your life. Giving Bush the presidency is not one of them. All right? And I'll admit that you have many accomplishments which I think make you one of the most distinguished people -- until the year 2000. And I got to tell you, Ralph, I just will never get over it. I just can't get over it.

NADER: Jim, you just finished saying Gore won the election.

CARVILLE: No, if you wouldn't have been in there, they wouldn't have been able to -- the Supreme Court wouldn't have been able to select him.

NOVAK: Ralph Nader...

NADER: It's amazing how he doesn't go after the 12 percent -- 12 times more Democrats voting for Bush in Florida.

NOVAK: I'm going to try once again why is it that you don't think that Dennis Kucinich, Howard Dean, they're saying exactly what you're saying. Well, why do you have to run again when you've got people on the left and the Democratic Party saying the same thing you are?

NADER: Well, you raise an interesting point. If Dennis Kucinich gets the nomination, it'll be less reason to have a third-party challenge. He's a very progressive Democrat and his views actually are closer to Jim Carville's than many of the nominees, potential nominees, not to mention Gore and Lieberman.

Number two, around Labor Day I'm going to send a progressive agenda to the Republican, Democratic Parties, not the candidates, and see how they react. We've got serious problems in this country that are being ignored, we've got serious necessities...

NOVAK: Why don't you run as a Democrat?

NADER: First of all, it's not the Democratic Party any more that I know. It's not Carville's Democratic Party, it's the Democratic Leadership Counsel, it's the corporate Democrats, it's Al Frome (ph). It's a party that is selling itself to the same corporate interests that the Republican Party's been selling themselves to.

CARVILLE: You think, you think the Democrats would appoint a Charles Pickering to the federal bench? You think that Al Gore would try to do away with overtime pay? You think Al Gore would try to have more mercury emissions in the air or more arsenic in the water? Do you really think that Al Gore would have run this country $44 trillion according to their own Treasury report deeper into debt? You think Al Gore would have sent these soldiers and corporals to Iraq with no plan whatsoever how to get to them out?

You don't really believe that, Ralph. You can't say that and you know it. Al Gore's too good a man for that.

NADER: Most of -- except for the last point on Iraq, most of what you say is true, he wouldn't have done that. But, didn't you want the Democrats to block the first tax bill? That $1.3 billion tax cut for the wealthy when they controlled the U.S. Senate?

CARVILLE: More Democrats voted against it than voted for it.


CARVILLE: ... had a Democratic president which you stopped them from doing, they would have never brought it up.


CARVILLE: ... with all this debt.

NADER: Jim, don't make your arguments by overtalking.

CARVILLE: I'll make my arguments anyway I want to.

NADER: Let's -- wait, wait, wait. I'm going to get him to agree with me. I think the Democrats in Congress could have made huge opposition against the war. They gave him, enough of them gave the war resolution. They abandoned their authority to declare war as the U.S. Congress and gave it to Bush. They could have stopped both tax cuts and it was the Democrats, you know...


CARVILLE: ... that Speaker Hastert's office is clapping for you wildly. You know why? Because they want to cling to power and they know that you're their ticket to power.


CARVILLE: They know that you're their ticket to power. You're Tom DeLay's ticket to power, you're Bush's ticket to power, you're all of their tickets to power.

NADER: How come "The Hill" newspaper reported a year ago that Democrats on the Hill want me to run in 2004 because of the spill over votes so they can recover the Congress?


NADER: Yes, go ahead, Bob. You've got a turn here.

NOVAK: I'd like to ask one philosophical question. I've heard you for years attack corporations, you attacked them here on this program, you attack them in speeches (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

The corporate system has made this the richest country in the world, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) people all over the world envy us. They want to come here, they wish were doors were open. Hasn't the corporate system made this a garden (UNINTELLIGIBLE) greatest garden in the world?

NADER: Only when the laws prevented the cotton plantations from having slaves, only when the anti-trust laws prevented the corporation monopoly to monopolize against small business, only when they had to respond to consumer and environmental laws, then they tend to shape up.

What about the corporate crime wave that's just taken trillions of dollars and millions of workers, their jobs and their pensions?

NOVAK: Small number.

OK, let's ask our audience if anyone thinks Ralph Nader should run for president in 2004. Take out your voting devices and press one if you think Ralph Nader should run. That doesn't mean you'll vote for him, you just want him to run. Press two if you think Ralph Nader shouldn't run, shouldn't bother running at all in 2004, press two.

We'll have the results right after a break and the news headlines.

And in "Fireback" one of our viewers wants to know if it's time for Tucker Carlson to eat yet. Whatever that means.



NOVAK: It's time for "RapidFire," the fastest question and answer session in television. Our guest is consumer advocate, former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader who's considering running again for president.

Before the break we asked our audience, should Ralph Nader run in 2004? And let's take a look at the results. Republicans said, yes, 75 percent, he should run. Democrats, no, 62 percent said.

What do you think of that, Ralph? Democrats don't want you to run...


NADER: There are 100 million people out there who should vote and who don't. Someone's got to start a political movement to bring them in and most of them would support progressive policies which I assume are the positions of the Democratic policies.

CARVILLE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). If the Green Party nominates Cynthia McKinney and the Democratic Party nominates John Kerry, who would you be for? John Kerry or Cynthia McKinney?

NADER: I don't deal with those hypotheticals.


CARVILLE: Well it's a real question.

NOVAK: You've never belonged to the Green Party. Are you going to join the Green Party?

NADER: No, I'm an independent. I want to appeal to the biggest slice of voters in the country who are independents. I think we have to get over this going Democrat because you inherited it from your great-grandparents or going Republican for the same reason. This country's got to have a new political movement, a new progressive political movement. It's in deep trouble.

CARVILLE: Why do all the Republicans want you to run? Why should all the Republicans clap for you and all the Democrats don't? What is it about you that is so appealing to Republicans?

NADER: Because, appealing to Republicans because I don't like corporate welfare, because I don't like child pornography on television, raising kids commercially...

NOVAK: You indicated that you think Dennis Kucinich would be a pretty good presidential candidate. Any of the other nine Democrats you think would be a good candidate?

NADER: You want me to rank them?

NOVAK: Just name another one that you think is good.

NADER: It all depends on how strong the base is for the citizens. They're not good, per se, unless they're representing a mass movement. I like John Kerry, for example. I knew him when he came back from Vietnam as a young veteran. The question is how much better would he be if the people were mobilized, if more people voted. And I don't see any of these candidates exciting a lot of people.

NOVAK: Ralph Nader, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Next it's your turn to "Fireback" at us. One of our viewers has a suggestion for a presidential ticket that includes our guest from yesterday, conservative author Ann Coulter. And you won't believe who they want for her running mate.

Plus an update on another on whether Tucker Carlson will be eating his shoes.

Stick Around.


NOVAK: Time for "Fireback."

Our first e-mail from Blair of Canada. "Ann Coulter is amazingly brilliant, witty, and I wish she was running for president. She could make Michael Moore vice president. Wow, what a country it would be.

Blair, you're a typical confused Canadian.

CARVILLE: "I just wanted you to know that while I was not so interested in reading Hillary's book I had to buy a copy so I could be a part of the make Tucker eat his shoes' group. Thanks for the laughs and be sure to keep some Tums handy." Frank C. Bartlett Boulder City, Nevada.

Well, I think we will have some interesting.

NOVAK: She hasn't sold a million yet.

CARVILLE: No, I just talked to David Rosenthal, (UNINTELLIGIBLE). and the target date is 10 days from now. It is a 100% sure that she will. And (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Bob, much to the chagrin of you and your right wing buddies.

NOVAK: I would like to see the system work. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My names Andrew I am from Stanford. I am just wondering do you think Nader's campaign would make people like Kucinich and Dean seem more moderate?

NOVAK: Nothing could make Kucinich seem more moderate. That's a physical impossibility.

CARVILLE: I agree with Bob.

NOVAK: OK. Next question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Karen Gilbert (ph) from Sugarland, Texas. I was just wondering if you feel that the Democrats should leave their more moderate platform to take on a more progressive stance?

CARVILLE: I think some areas need to be more progressive and some areas more moderate. But in terms...

NOVAK: That's a good answer.


NOVAK: I think the Democrats should go as far to the left as possible. I think that's the way to go.

CARVILLE: I don't. To tell you, I don't.

NOVAK: Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Kimberly Ollie (ph) from Alabama and with no real hope of winning what does Nader really hope to accomplish by running?

NOVAK: I think he's trying to make a point that we have to be principal and not have these unprincipal people like Clinton, and Gore and Lieberman and people like that.

CARVILLE: Yes, what we need is people who get us in a war and have no an idea of how to get us out of it. What principle people to run 44 trillion dollars on everybody, these clowns.

From the left I am James Carville. That's it for CROSSFIRE.

On the right I Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.


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