In the new issue of Newsweek, which hits newsstands tomorrow, Howard Fineman interviewed Ralph Nader and asked him a wide range of questions about Eliot Spitzer, the Democratic candidates, and the role of reform minded politicians. Nader was asked if personal behavior should be a test of how we measure public officials and candidates. He replied, “If what [Eliot Spitzer] did … was basically something that compromised his public policies, or what he proposed or what he didn’t propose, then that would move it to a much higher level. But at the present time, we’re not seeing the kind of outrage vis-à-vis politicians whose behavior results in devastating consequences—economic, health and safety—to the public the way the media and others zero in on personal moral turpitude.”

He was also asked if he felt and guilt or responsibility for George W. Bush being president. “I think the Constitution says that we all have an equal right to run for election. And if that’s so, we have an equal right to try to get votes from one another … But more important is, would Al Gore have been president if there was no Electoral College? Yes, because he won the popular vote … So, let’s focus on the Electoral College and stealing elections instead of focusing on small parties who have every First Amendment right to try to run and make this country a better place to live.”

Nader also expressed his belief that Clinton and Obama really don’t want to leave Iraq. “I don’t believe Obama and Clinton, that they want to get out of Iraq and they actually will get out of Iraq … There is no way, given their behavior in the Senate, which is about all we can predict from, when they supported again and again the funding for this criminal, unconstitutional, boomer-anging war in Iraq, that they are going to, if they reach the White House, actually have a six-month—or some specific—deadline.”Fineman asked Nader about reform minded candidates and their ability to push the major parties towards change. Nader answered, “My concern is not them. My concerns are the voters and giving voters a broader choice when they go to the ballot box in state after state. We, for example, want to reduce the bloated military budget, which is full of waste … They’re not talking about that: McCain, Obama and Clinton.”

Lastly, Nader talked about what, at the age of 74, his motivation is for another presidential campaign. “Well, you’re asking a personal question. So I will give you an unusual personal answer. I have a very deep well of empathy, and I take my motivation from what I see around the country. And I’ll give it to you just briefly, statistically: 47 million people who make less than $10.50 an hour—six and a half, seven, eight dollars an hour before deductions; 45 million people without health care, 18,000 of whom die every year, according to the National Academy of Sciences, because they can’t afford health care; 13 million children who go to bed hungry every night; 45 million people in dire poverty; 58,000 people who die from workplace-connected diseases and trauma every year, according to [the Occupational Safety and Health Administration]; 65,000 people who can’t breathe, and die because of air pollution…”

For the record, I don’t believe that Ralph Nader had anything to do with Al Gore’s loss in 2000. Gore lost because he ran one of the worst campaigns in modern history. How does a sitting Vice President in good economic times blow an election? I think ignoring states, including your home state, is a good start. Having no personality, and coming off as a know it all in the debates sealed the deal. Ralph Nader has done more for the safety and well being of the American consumer than any other private citizen. I don’t like the closed two party system. I believe that people like Nader have something to add to the national debate, and should be heard, not shut out.

Nader could have an impact on the 2008 race if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee. Clinton is a conservative Democrat, who doesn’t appeal to the very liberal element of the party. In a Clinton/McCain match up, Nader could become the candidate of the people who dislike both options. If Obama is the Democratic nominee, Nader will be a non-factor. Obama has stronger popular appeal with both liberals and Independents than Clinton does. Nader won’t win much of the vote, but could add a liberal voice to what may be a very ugly general election campaign.

Read the full interview:

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