- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 22, 2004

Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader is appealing to young voters by emphasizing his antiwar stance as he works diligently to separate himself from President Bush and Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry.

Mr. Nader, who polled at 13 percent in an Associated Press/Newsweek.com survey last month of voters aged 18 to 25, has released a three-step plan to remove U.S. forces from Iraq and continues to hammer Mr. Kerry for his allegiance to the war effort.

During a breakfast this week with reporters, Mr. Nader noted the sentiments of both Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry that the United States “stay the course” in settling Iraq. He made his point by saying that Mr. Kerry is trying to “out-Bush Bush” by opposing withdrawal and supporting the addition of more troops.

“Substantively, he’s stuck in the Iraq quagmire the way Bush is,” Mr. Nader said, adding that because of that position, the choice for the peace movement comes down to “whether they’re going to support two pro-war candidates or they’re going to support a muscular peace candidate.”

“I wish he would just repeat what he said when he was 27 years old, before the Senate — ‘How do you tell a soldier to die for a mistake?’ That sums it up,” Mr. Nader said.



“This campaign is going to provide an alternative to that. The peace movement in this country is going to have a very interesting choice, because that’s the big issue for them. I’m not saying they’re a single issue, [but] that’s the big issue,” Mr. Nader said.

A strong antiwar campaign undoubtedly will draw from Mr. Kerry’s hard left base, while the platform would draw appeal from the youth vote, which Mr. Kerry hopes to claim.

It also could dent his hopes of picking up the devoted, largely youthful following that former Democratic contender Howard Dean left when he withdrew from the race in February.

At the time, Mr. Dean, who ran an antiwar platform, said, “A vote for Ralph Nader is, plain and simple, a vote to re-elect George W. Bush.”

“Ralph Nader once said that your best teacher is your last mistake,” Mr. Dean told United Press International in April. “Too many of us learned the consequences of not standing together four years ago.”

Mr. Nader’s crusade against the war, though, threatens to pick up those stray antiwar constituents that were Mr. Dean’s.

“Our job is not to elect one or the other candidates,” Nader spokesman Kevin Zeese said. “But it is to put out the truth as we see it, and in this case, the primary focus is to get the troops out of Iraq. It is a progressive stance, and sure, we’d like to see Kerry take more progressive positions….”

Mr. Dean tried to appeal to Mr. Nader’s 40-year career fighting for the consumer and for voter rights.

“But if George W. Bush is re-elected, the health, safety, consumer, environmental and open government provisions Ralph Nader has fought for will all be undermined,” he said on CNN’s “Crossfire” in March. “George Bush’s right-wing appointees will still be serving as judges in 50 years from now, and our Constitution will be shredded. It will be government by, of and for the corporations, exactly what Ralph Nader has struggled against.”

Still, Mr. Nader continues to cast Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry as essentially the same person when it comes to the war issue. Mr. Kerry voted in the Senate to approve funding for the war, and he still supports the effort, although he says he would manage it better and include more international forces.

The Massachusetts senator is aware of Mr. Nader’s potential to exploit the antiwar forces, though. And his background shows a longtime admiration for Mr. Nader’s spirit.

In a 1972 speech at Dartmouth, Mr. Kerry told students “to be their own Ralph Nader” in opposing the Vietnam War and advised the audience to “break the cycle of noninvolvement.”

The Kerry campaign did not return calls yesterday.

Mr. Kerry has shifted his statements on the war and the U.S. presence in Iraq in the past four months.

And although Mr. Nader looks to emerge as the antiwar candidate, his trench was plowed early by another Democratic presidential hopeful, Ohio Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich.

“As far as viability for Nader as the antiwar candidate, his stance isn’t substantially different from Kucinich’s,” said Scott Lynch, a spokesman for the Maryland-based advocacy group Peace Action. “So Nader cannot make the claim that his approach to Iraq is not out there.”

• Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.

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