lunes, 1 de septiembre de 2008

Criticism of Ralph Nader -- Accuracy in Reporting?

So I read Lisa Chamberlain's article on from 2004, "The Dark Side of Ralph Nader." I've also read similar articles, and it seems there are a lot of former Nader supporters who have been burned by him. So maybe Nader, despite all the good he has done and his wonderful presidential platform, is a vindictive egotistical maniac.

Even so, I estimate he's a safer choice than the corporate sell-outs Obama/McCain who want war on Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. McKinney also seems like a good choice (the only dirt I've found on her is a misuse of office-supply money and that she punches cops when they harass her, and that last part actually endears her to me even more).

But I really wish journalists would cite sources like academics, because otherwise it's hard to take them seriously. Chamberlain did seem to actually talk to a lot of people Nader burned, so that part I accept to some extent. But then she made a few claims which she seems to have pulled out of a hat. On page 5, she says:

In 2000, again with the Green Party, he ran a full-fledged campaign, raising and spending money to get on the ballot in all 50 states.... While he assured Democrats that he wouldn't campaign late in the election season in key battleground states, he reneged on that promise, zeroing in on Florida, Oregon and New Hampshire in the last few weeks before the election.
I've tried to google the source for this accusation that Nader promised not to campaign in all 50 states in 2000, and all I've found is other people saying the same thing and Nader supporters saying it's a lie and Nader saying he never said it. People also say Nader said this in 2004 and again reneged. So there's no proof that he ever said this, and the idea that he would have said it in the midst of trying to get on every state's ballot seems really odd. Why get on the ballot of swing states if he's not campaigning in swing states? This logical problem doesn't seem to have occurred at all to Ms. Chamberlain.

Ok, let's move onto Ms. Chamberlain's next unsourced accusation, on page 6:

Every study after the election determined that almost all of Nader's votes would have gone to Gore if Nader hadn't run, but Nader continues to insist that he bore no responsibility.
First of all, she ignores the data which seems to disprove such a thesis. But in any case, this is going back to assuming that Nader is somehow not trying to compete with the Dems, or that he at some point promised not to, or that if he is, he has no right to. Well, the Dems have no right to our votes anymore because since McGovern they've sold us down the river on every progressive issue: on the wars, on single-payer health care, on the environment, on impeaching Bush (to make sure our next President doesn't have precedent on his side to ignore Congress and the Supreme Court), and on making sure we have a real democracy (i.e. paper ballots so Diebold's Chris Riggall (yeah that's his real name!) doesn't count the votes even after he admitted their software miscounts, and of course instant-run-off voting is off the table even though the DNC's Chair, Howard Dean, *says* he supports it.

I asked the directors of "An Unreasonable Man" why the issues Ms. Chamberlain brings up regarding Nader were not much treated in their otherwise excellent documentary. Here is Steve Skrovan's response:

Dear Mr. Rosenblum,
Thank you for the note. Glad you enjoyed our film.
We weren't trying to depict Nader as a saint. That's why we gave so much screen time to so many of his critics. The majority of our reviews have cited that balance as a strength of the film The dominant story was that Nader was an "egomaniac spoiler." Our aim was to allow Nader to answer those charges, then let the audience decide whether his arguments were convincing.
We asked Mr. Nader about the union busting charges and although I agree it is a bit of a contradiction and potentially hypocritical, it turned out not to be enough of a story to include in the two hours we had to tell our story. Nader contends that the young people who came to work for him were college grads looking to get work experience before they went on to graduate school or to more lucrative positions in the private sector. He, himself, never took a salary from any of the public interest groups he started. And the organization he is most associated with, Public Citizen (although he's had no official affiliation with it since 1980, is in fact a union house.
We also looked into the Ted Jacobs relationship. Unfortunately, Mr. Jacobs passed away some time ago and was not available to tell his story. Anyone else trying to tell it would have been second hand. From what we were able to gather, it was more of a personal issue of a close friendship that broke up than anything having to do with policy. We chose, instead, to tell a similar, more public story of a conflict that Nader had with long time associate, Joan Claybrook, during the Carter administration. We felt it was important to illustrate that Nader is harder on the people closer to him and his views (ie Joan Claybrook, Al Gore) than he is on those farther away (ie George Bush). He expects more from those closer. That theme carries through to his foray into electoral politics. Many people found his views on personal loyalty expressed in that segment to be chilling and anything but saintly. That story had the added benefit that Ms. Claybrook could speak for herself. Had Mr. Jacobs still been alive, we may have included it. I don't know.
Nader has always been an unapologetic supporter of the plaintiff's bar, even though he has never tried or otherwise benefited from a personal injury case. He believes it is a basic right of a democracy for individuals to have their day in court. I refer you to the Center For Justice and Democracy for some mythbusting on this issue I would expect a magazine like Forbes to demonize trial lawyers and spin Nader's association with them in a negative way.
Steve Skrovan

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