Ralph Nader likes to paint himself as a quintessential Washington outsider, when, of course, he is not. It is undeniable that Mr. Nader and Public Citizen led to three decades of growth of the Washington bureaucracy. So, Mr. Nader pretends to run against the grain of Washington every four years. This election year is no different - except the outsider card that Mr. Nader has repeatedly played has landed in Barack Obama's winning hand. What does Mr. Nader play? The race card, of course?
In a June 23 interview with the Rocky Mountain News in Washington, Mr. Nader was asked, among other things, to differentiate Mr. Obama from "Al Gore or any of the other Democrats that you've opposed over the years?" After calling Mr. Obama deceptive for accepting campaign donations from special interests, Mr. Nader said this: "There's only one thing different about Barack Obama when it comes to being a Democratic presidential candidate. He's half African-American. Whether that will make any difference, I don't know. I haven't heard him have a strong crackdown on economic exploitation in the ghettos. Payday loans, predatory lending, asbestos, lead. What's keeping him from doing that? Is it because he wants to talk white? He doesn't want to appear like Jesse Jackson? We'll see all that play out in the next few months and if he gets elected afterwards."
Next, Mr. Nader was asked to put "talk white" into context, and he said this: "I mean, first of all, the number one thing that a black American politician aspiring to the presidency should be is to candidly describe the plight of the poor, especially in the inner cities and the rural areas, and have a very detailed platform about how the poor is going to be defended by the law, is going to be protected by the law, and is going to be liberated by the law. Haven't heard a thing.
"I mean, the amount of economic exploitation in the ghettos is shocking. You'd think he'd propose a task force to at least study it. I mean, these people are eroded every day. The kids, bodies are asbestos and lead, municipal services discriminate against them because it's the poor area, including fire and police protection and building code enforcement. And then the lenders, the loan sharks get at them, and the dirty food ends up in the ghettos, like the contaminated meat. It's a dumping ground for shoddy merchandise. You don't see many credit unions there. You don't see many libraries there. You don't see many health clinics there. This is, we're talking 40-50 million Americans who are predominantly African-Americans and Latinos. Anybody see that kind of campaigning? Have you seen him campaign in real poor areas of the city very frequently? No, he doesn't campaign there."
Sounds like political jealousy: A politician who built his career fighting on behalf of "the average citizens," as John McCain puts it on Public Citizen's Web site, now finds himself politicking for the White House against a politician who, well, built his career fighting for the average citizen.
But the battle Mr. Nader is waging against his own ilk is demeaned when he uses race to discolor the campaign scene. How dare Ralph Nader say that black presidential candidates should not only subscribe to his socio-economic stereotypes - poor black folk. If only the white man would give them a break - but he applies all the politically correct terms when he tries to further explain himself. Yet, he never pinpoints what, precisely, "talk white" means.
If Mr. Obama talks "white," then what are Mr. Nader, Mr. McCain, Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney and Independent Bob Barr speaking since none of them are hanging out in the ghetto or barrio?
Mr. Nader says Mr. Obama "wants to appeal to white guilt," that the Illinois Democrat wants to appear nonthreatening to "the white power structure."
Well, let's peek for a moment at "the white power structure." Mr. Nader and Public Citizen have accomplished some good. But mostly they harmed "the average citizen" by successfully lobbying and suing the government into creating federal mandates and a bloated federal bureaucracy that "the average citizen" cannot afford to sustain. The record of Mr. Nader and Public Citizen prove they are part of "the white power structure" and have been for decades. They helped to make lots of alphabet soup - from OSHA to the EPA to the CPSC.
What does Mr. Nader want Mr. Obama to do: Ship his white-American half to speak to "the white power structure"and take his African-American half to "ghettos"?
Politicians like Ralph Nader are good at fooling some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time. But even Mr. Nader, an Old Washington Hand who long has benefitted from pretending to be an outsider, can't fool all of the people all of the time.
Deborah Simmons is editorial page editor of The Washington Times. dsimmons@washington times.com.