Nader Responds to Liberal Onslaught

After a week of intense attacks on his campaign by Democrat Al Gore and his liberal supporters, Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader responded to detractors over the weekend with little more than a shrug.

And rather than be offended by a heavily publicized letter from a few of his former "Nader's Raiders" calling upon him to withdraw from the race, he termed their undertaking amusing.

"Most of them have not been in civic activities for years," Nader said of the former cadre of his decades-long consumer rights battles who signed the pro-Gore plea. "They're well-intentioned but they have terribly low expectation levels that settle for the least worse choice."

Describing themselves as among the "hundreds of idealistic young people you brought to Washington to became the vanguard" of a citizen reform movement," the letter's writers praised Nader as a leader standing "for the principle that only informed and active citizens can ensure the strength and integrity of our democracy," before pleading with him to reconsider his presidential campaign.

"To ask voters to support your candidacy on the basis that there are no major differences between the Republican and Democratic Parties is a serious misstatement of fact. No Nader Report would support that assertion," wrote the 12 signees who identified themselves after each signature as a "Nader Raider" along with the years they worked with the activist. "There are major differences between the parties on the environment, social security policy, health care reform, tax policy, and reproductive rights, to name just a few."

Nader claimed that those who drafted the letter tried to get a larger number of former colleagues behind the effort but were only able to convince 12 out of the thousands who have worked with him over the years. He noted that of those, one now works for the Clinton/Gore administration and several are corporate lawyers.

"I think they timed [their letter] beautifully," he added, joking that "they learned their lessons under my tutelage."

But Nader denounced the Democratic Party for what he described as a smear campaign designed to frighten his supporters from voting for him. He urged his partisans to vote Green even in swing states teetering between Gore and Republican George W. Bush.

"There are only two languages the major parties understand," he said. "One is money, and that's what the corporations have. The other is denial of votes, and putting them in another competitive column instead of staying home out of disgust with politics as usual."

On Sunday, Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) said Nader has the right to run for president but warned traditional Democratic supporters that voting for the Green candidate could help Republican George W. Bush win the presidency.

"I ask those who are thinking about voting for Ralph Nader to decide how they feel -- how George Bush feels -- about protecting the environment, protecting consumers, protecting a woman's right to choose, because all of those may well be in jeopardy if George Bush is elected president," Lieberman said on CBS' Face the Nation .

With polls showing that Nader could swing as many as eight states from Gore to Bush, Nader wasn't backing down. "If he (Gore) cannot defeat the bumbling Texas governor with that horrific record, what good is he?" Nader said on ABC's This Week. "It should be a slam-dunk. "

"'He's half right,'" Ari Fleischer, a Bush spokesman, told USA Today. "Many Democrats are questioning what the value of Al Gore's candidacy is, and that's why many Democrats support Gov. Bush."

Nader also responded over the weekend to the Republican Leadership Council's decision to promote Nader with advertisements designed to pull liberal votes away from Gore. "I think they have more money than they know how to spend, they rake in tens of millions of dollars," he said.

Not having not seen the ads, Nader was concerned about being misconstrued or misquoted, and said he opposed them on the grounds that they were purchased by soft money contributions, which he is uniformly against. "But there's nothing we can do about it legally, we don't have the tools to do anything," he added.

In New York City on Saturday night, Nader struck out at the New York Times, which issued a scathing editorial against him last week echoing an earlier editorial that called his campaign "a self-indulgent crusade."

"Here's a newspaper that doesn't even know how to cover it's own city," said Nader. "You know the New York Times -- if it doesn't happen in a certain part of Manhattan, who cares about it?"

Nader campaigns this week in Michigan, Wisconsin, California and Colorado -- the first three of which are currently considered toss-up states to varying degrees.

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