Nader belittles call by Dean to quit

Consumer activist resists Democrat's pleas

to stay in presidential campaign

Election 2004

July 10, 2004|By Kimberly A.C. Wilson | Kimberly A.C. Wilson,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON-Democrats have tried reasoning, cajoling, begging, so far to no avail. Yesterday, fellow maverick Howard Dean tried sarcasm, pique and, yes, anger.

When it was over, though, consumer advocate Ralph Nader remained a candidate for president, and a potential spoiler in Democrat John Kerry's bid for the White House.

"In the long run, it's not important that Howard Dean be president, or that Ralph Nader be president," Dean said during an hourlong radio debate. "I am desperate to send Mr. Bush back to Crawford, Texas."

The debate, organized by the Annenberg Public Policy Center and aired on National Public Radio, included terse exchanges and moments of tense laughter in a discussion about the role of third parties and independent candidates.

Throughout, Dean, the former Vermont governor who sought the Democratic presidential nomination this year, offered reasons against what many perceive as a Hail Mary run for the presidency by Nader. Nader gave back as good as he got.

"I'm not running for president right now not just because I lost in Iowa but because I made the calculation that if I did I would take away votes that otherwise would go to John Kerry and the result was going to be the re-election of George Bush," Dean said.

But Nader wasn't buying it.

"You were an insurgent who is now adopting a role of being a detergent of the dirty linen of the Democratic Party," he said to Dean, winning scattered applause from the audience of 200, half for Dean and half for Nader.

Afterward, Nader turned to Blake Murphy, 10, a reporter for Scholastic News, a magazine distributed in U.S. classrooms.

"You know what a maverick is?" Nader asked. "A maverick says `no' when the power structure says `yes.' ... A maverick is someone who will wear short pants even though the other boys are wearing long pants because he's going to be a leader in this country later on."

Nader and Dean, both political firebrands in their quests for the presidency, and both dressed yesterday in long pants, spoke against the war in Iraq and for a living wage, universal health care and the rights of gays and lesbians.

Acknowledging their similarities, Dean, who dropped out of the race after fizzling in the Wisconsin primary, urged his supporters to vote for Kerry and called Nader's reasons for running "disingenuous nonsense."

Nader bristled.

"Here on the one hand, Governor Dean says he likes third parties, and they've done a great thing throughout our history," he said. "Abolishing slavery. Women's right to vote. But not this time. Well, you never postpone democracy."

Blake, a Fairfax Station, Va., fifth-grader, was convinced that Nader is in the race to stay.

"He's gonna continue to run, definitely," Blake said. "But when I asked him whether he thought John Kerry was better than Bush he stammered and was like, umm. He wasn't sure.

"Then, he said some of the best questions come from 10-year-olds."

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