Calling George Bush a "chicken hawk" and promising that he would never let the Democratic Party "get away" with attempts to kick him off the presidential ballot in swing states, independent candidate Ralph Nader said this morning at a press conference in Washington, D.C., that he would stay in the campaign until the bitter end.
In recent weeks, courts in Pennsylvania and Ohio have booted him from the ballot, ruling that his qualifying petitionswhich contained patently phony signatures, including several instances of his own name and those of cartoon charactersdidn't make the cut.
Some Democrats blame Nader for Al Gore's loss in 2000, looking especially to states like New Hampshire and Florida, where Nader's tally far outweighed the difference by which Bush won.
Today, Nader insisted he was taking votes from Bush, not from Democrat John Kerry. Democrats have been calling for Nader to get out of the race, since polls show him as a possible factor this time around, too, even with relatively little support.
In Minnesota, for example, one poll shows Bush and Kerry tied at 48, with Nader pulling in a single point and undecideds accounting for three. In Wisconsin, one poll shows Kerry leading Bush by 48 to 47, with Nader again drawing a single point.
Another reason he refused to drop out, Nader said, was that he would "never betray our volunteers and our staff." Nader ran on the Green Party ticket in 2000, but the Greens declined to back him this year. He would staunchly refuse to negotiate with Democrats. There will be "no quid pro quo," he said, and no "backdoor wheeling-dealing."
Nader's renewed attacks on Bush and his bitter tirade against the Democrats underscored his determination. He urged supporters to cast write-in votes in states where he isn't on the ballot.
He assailed the Democrats, singling out party chairman Terry McAuliffe, whom he called "a jungle fighter." Nader said McAuliffe had intimidated people collecting names on petitions to get him on the ballot, sending operatives to their homes and threatening them with criminal charges. "Let me say this to the Democratic Party," he said. "You are not going to get away with this." He added, "I hold Terry McAuliffe responsible."
Nader said that when he met with Kerry several weeks ago, he told the Democratic candidate about the harassment, and Kerry promised to look into it. But Kerry never called him back, Nader said, recounting that he put in 25 calls in 35 days to Kerry, but received only one call backfrom Mary Beth Cahill, a top Kerry aide. She wanted to know where Nader could be reached following the third debate should the senator want to talk to him. But no call came, and Nader said he was still waiting.
Nader repeatedly tore into the Democrats, saying they ought to quit "thumb-sucking" and "stop whining." And he said former presidential candidate Howard Dean, who now supports Kerry, had gone from being an "insurgent to becoming a detergent."
As for the former staff members and other supporters who have turned against him in this campaign, Nader said they were a "pitiful" lot and "I feel sorry for them."
He urged people to "vote your conscience," and said his campaign was in the great tradition of Bob LaFollette and the populist movement, from the early part of the last century. He noted that LaFollette's positions were later taken up by Roosevelt.
Nader insisted he never took money from GOP front groups, as Democrats have alleged, and said, "We are building opposition to Bush all over the country."