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CAMPAIGN 2000

Nader's Different, He Says, and He's Happy to Explain Just How

Green Party: Nominee relishes the chance to tar 'Bore' and 'Gush' with the same brush, as he promises supporters he'll keep fighting the good fight.

November 03, 2000|MEGAN GARVEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SEATTLE — Ralph Nader, Green Party presidential candidate, has gotten a lot of attention for pointing out the similarities of rivals Al Gore and George W. Bush.

That's only half of it.

"Let me tell you where I am different," he tells crowds from coast to coast. "It'll take three minutes"

Them: Pro-death penalty. Nader: Against it. Them: Pro-free trade. Nader: End NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. Them: More money for the military. Nader: Slash the $300-billion annual defense budget. Them: Continue the war on drugs. Nader: Decriminalize some drug possession and end what he calls the "racist" prosecution of nonviolent drug offenders.

From anti-labor laws, to welfare reform, to corporate crime, Nader relishes the chance to tar "Bore" and "Gush" with the same brush, even as he promises supporters he'll keep fighting the good fight. He brings his brand of progressive politics to Southern California today for a final effort to get out the vote at rallies in East Los Angeles and at the 11,000-seat Long Beach Arena.

"I counted 32 times in the second debate when Bush and Gore agreed with each other," he said at a raucous rally in downtown Seattle. "In fact, Bush exhausted his agreement with Gore and started agreeing with Clinton."

Mideast Stance Brings Criticism

Nader also differs with the major party candidates on the sensitive issue of violence between Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East.

He says the Israeli soldiers are using "overwhelming force" against "Palestinian youths throwing ancient stones" and he has criticized Gore and Bush for their expressions of support for Israel, saying they have "taken sides."

Nader, who is Lebanese American, has strong support in the Arab American community. His comments on Israel have led to criticism of Nader in the Jewish press.

Nader also faces a strong attack from liberal groups and leaders who argue that his campaign is hurting Vice President Gore, the Democratic nominee, and helping the Republican Bush.

But Nader argues that there is little difference between the two major-party nominees.

"Do you see what the lesser of two evils gets you?" he asks. "First it gets you Clinton for eight years and now they want more of the same? Just because the Republicans are worse? Don't we deserve the best?"

Wants a Big Bump in Minimum Wage

The best, according to Nader, is a country where the distribution of wealth is more even.

To that end, he advocates a rise in the minimum wage from the current $5.15 an hour to $9 an hour. He would also tie the wage to the inflation rate, providing regular cost-of-living increases.

He also proposes a cap on the tax deduction for mortgage interest, arguing a "disproportionate" percentage of the benefit goes to households where incomes are more than $100,000 a year. While he does not specify what the cap should be, he says the savings from it should be diverted to help low- and middle-income families afford housing.

Pro-Gore protesters at campaign stops this week from Minnesota to Wisconsin to Seattle warned Nader is jeopardizing abortion rights, gay civil rights and the environment by pulling votes from Gore and perhaps tipping the neck-and-neck race to Texas Gov. Bush. Nader responds that they are missing the point.

In recent days he has warned that Democrats also jeopardize the landmark Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision on abortion rights because a Democrat-controlled Senate confirmed Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas for the high court, two justices used as examples of the type likely to be named by Bush.

"A major progressive political reform movement is going to run through that tape [Tuesday] with millions of voters behind us and then on to victories in future elections," he told supporters in Seattle, who whooped and whistled and shouted: "We love you Ralph!"

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