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Nader Steps Up His Criticism of Gore


MIAMI — Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader whisked through South Florida on Saturday and stepped up his increasingly harsh criticism of Democrat Al Gore as "a bully to the powerless and a coward to the powerful."

Speaking to reporters before an afternoon rally at the Radisson Mart Plaza convention center in Miami, Nader condemned Vice President Gore for failing to take public positions on two dominant local issues: conversion of the closed Homestead Air Force Base into a commercial airport and the state's cutting of thousands of orange trees to stop the spread of citrus canker.

Nader agrees with environmental groups that the base, which is eight miles from the Everglades and even closer to Biscayne Bay, should not become a commercial airport because of the possible danger to the fragile ecosystems.

Nader also sides with homeowners who are angry that state authorities have been chopping down blighted trees to prevent the canker from spreading to commercial orange groves. Nader, citing studies that question the seriousness of the problem and its threat to orange groves, called for a moratorium on the cutting until public hearings could be held.

Nader used the issues to belittle Gore, describing the vice president as a "whiner" who let rich Florida developers and the agriculture industry buy his silence with campaign donations.

"People's rights are being trampled," Nader said. "Mr. Gore and the Democrats have taken money from the developer who wants to convert this base . . . , so we have a perfect example of money corrupting politics."

Nader said the Homestead airport proposal "had been considered a risk by the [Environmental Protection Agency] and the Department of the Interior. Al Gore is waffling as usual. He refuses to take a position as usual."

Nader said he traveled to Florida to energize support and was unconcerned that his candidacy could toss the state to Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the Republican nominee, whom he also criticized as a political front for corporate interests.

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