Letters

Readers weigh in on the lively conversation between Salon editor David Talbot and presidential candidate Ralph Nader.


Salon Staff
July 16, 2004 12:59AM (UTC)

[Read "On the Phone With Ralph Nader."]

Thank you to David Talbot. When I saw the blurb introducing the article, I thought that it would just be another of the "Oh, Ralphie, you're so noble and wise" puff pieces we've been spoon-fed by both the mainstream and joke media (the "Daily Show" interview was particularly embarrassingly fawning).

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But David Talbot actually asked the hard questions. Not only that, he kept driving at those points when Nader peevishly responded and tried to change the subject.

This interview truly showed how delusional Nader and his self-selected advisors have become. It's sad to see the decline of a once-great man, but the pity I feel does not overwhelm my anger at Nader's blindness to the political situation that he has helped to create.

-- Laura Schaefer

Back in the elections of 2000, even though I was only 16, I stood behind Ralph Nader as an honest and viable candidate. Of course we all knew he wasn't going to become president, but we also knew that what he represented was important for the American political system, to break the two-party stronghold on the Oval Office and to pave the way for new and different ways of thinking. There was no denying that he was a fiscal genius, and his stance on issues from war to gay rights was perfect. This was the candidate for me, I thought. If I could have voted, it would've been for him.

This election I'm able to vote, and it will not be for Ralph Nader. I'm saddened and honestly, a little disgusted at the way he's handling things. Dealing with dirty money, refusing to drop out of the race for the greater good, and choosing instead to stay in it for his own personal, selfish agenda.

While Nader says his views have stayed the same, and that he is here to serve the people, I have to call his bluff. While I still respect his right to be on the ballot, his campaigning has turned ugly. The greatest act of public service here would be realizing that what he's doing could harm this country immeasurably for the next four years.

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-- Jennifer Still

I'm all for getting Bush out of the White House, even if it means voting for the unseemly Kerry. If there was ever a time to choose the lesser of two evils, here it is.

But though I'm opposed to Nader, I think he deserves to run. Maybe it was true that Nader's presence on the ballot in 2000 gave Bush a boost, but certainly, anyone who wants to vote for Nader this November knows what's at stake and should be allowed to cast a butterfly toward him, regardless of the consequences.

It's with great disappointment to see Salon's naked bias against Nader's candidacy. How dare you join in the left-wing conspiracy! Yeah... I said conspiracy.

Perhaps you feel threatened by Nader. Fine and dandy, but it's not your place to discredit him. When Nader rants that the Dems are playing dirty tricks, he is not all hot air. Salon not only refuses to condemn these muddy tactics, you pile on.

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-- Walt Miller

In this interview Ralph basically told it like it is and kicked your journalist's ass. Get off his back -- he is a true American friend of the common man.

-- Richard Belcher

It may just be the south Georgia summer heat making me delirious, but I am getting a very scary Lyndon LaRouche-vibe from Ralph Nader these days. I think printing the transcript of his phone call with David Talbot shows more of his true attitude than can be divined from his (rare) TV sound bites or newspaper quotes. Between the possible financial improprieties involving the use of his nonprofit's resources for his political activities, and his "if you aren't with me, you are against all that is good and decent and a tool of the corporate criminals" attitude, he is projecting a very paranoid, polarizing, self-deceiving attitude at every turn these days.

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Hopefully we will not soon see him babbling like LaRouche on late-night infomercials about how Henry Kissinger and the queen of England are controlling the pharmaceutical lobby's assault on Medicare. This would be a sad, sad end to the legacy of a man who has done untold good.

I am hoping against all hope that he will suddenly have a "What am I doing?" moment and bow out gracefully from this race, but I am not holding my breath.

-- Justin Sullivan

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I was shocked at your phone conversation with Ralph Nader. It is a clear indication of what power will do to the best of American citizens.

His constant rationalization was unsettling. His handing off of certain questions to his aide was unsettling. His cutting off the conversation was settling.

Most of all though, his inability to see that his hard line, paranoid, "the world against me" attitude is a lose-lose situation for him and his supporters. Should Bush win, aided by Nader, his credibility as a politician is totally gone. Not to mention that none of his agenda will even be considered. Should Kerry win, his failure to aid in the ouster of Bush will give him and his supporters absolutely no say in the new government. Ralph Nader has become a sad, sad man.

-- Steve Sheldon

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The Talbot-Nader conversation was mere bickering since they are actually trying to change each other, the way siblings or quarreling friends might.

The big issue is that Nader wants deep, wholesale change in this country to reduce the political power of big business. This is a more ambitious program and a gamble. The Democrats are willing to settle for less, for incremental change, rather than risk losing all.

All this quibbling about where the campaign money comes from is ridiculous. Sure, it hurts Nader's image to take money from enemies, but that's his business. It's stupid to believe that his message and beliefs are actually altered or suspect because of that. And he's right -- it's good to find common cause where you can. It's also true that Democrats aren't fussy about where their contributions come from. You do what you have to do in an imperfect system.

I wish Talbot and Nader could be honest. It's incremental change versus wholesale change. The stakes are high and each is trying to win, with whatever means, presumably legal means, necessary. The debate should be about the fundamental differences, not the minutiae of campaign finance.

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-- Gordon Fearey

Great interview. You somehow managed to append dialogue tags without actually appending any. I could almost hear the 'he squealed' or the 'he sniveled' at the end of such Nader quotes as "Wait, wait, wait!" and "Give me a few seconds, will you?" The use of exclamation points (always, to my mind, a subjective thing) was also judicious and helped to further paint the picture of a whiny, pouting child. And poor campaign spokesman Kevin Zeese. Boy did that guy come off as a high-school-age girl. "Oh my God [squeals Zeese]... They're [The Reform Party's] for repealing the Patriot Act..." Thank God then (whichever one you wish) for Talbot---the rudder, so to speak, in the storm. Calm, smooth, almost condescending in his overuse and placement of 'Ralph's. Examples: "Look *Ralph*..." "You of all people, *Ralph*..." "I support your right to be on the ballot, *Ralph*..."

Look, Talbot, you can tell me the conversation printed is a faithful transcription, but such a thing isn't possible. Transferring anything from one medium to another (in this case aural to visual) always, always (!) changes it. (What's the answer: no more phone interviews? No. But at the very least, lose the exclamation points!!!) Subtleties of editing and punctuation have huge repercussions to the tone and portraiture of a piece -- can often reveal a bias. But you already knew that, would probably be the first to admit it (no shame in having biases -- our brains weren't raised in bell-jars after all).

Nader may or may not be self-delusional, may or may not be a hypocrite, may or may not believe, regardless of his backers' motives, that their money is an unfortunate but necessary means of getting what he feels is a greater, more powerful overall message *out there* (then again, aren't all motives suspect?)... The point is, he deserves a little less pettiness. The guy, after all, got us safer cars. What did you get us, Talbot? Wait, hold that thought, I've got to take this call.

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-- Mike Keeper

Salon, you have me piqued.

In David Talbot's phone interview with Ralph Nader there is an editorial substitution that's just begging to be explicated:

"But the reason they're giving money to you is not to buy access -- it's to keep Bush, a man you say [has been a disaster for the country], in the White House."

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What did those brackets hide?

A man you say ... sucks? A man you say ... has sunk us into another Vietnam? A man you say ... has the intelligence of an average gerbil? Which was it?

-- Laura Maschal


Salon Staff

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