Crazy Like a Fox


Wednesday, September 20—Green Party candidate Ralph Nader may be locked out of the presidential debates, but that hasn’t stopped him from seeking a way in.

Sources close to the Nader campaign say representatives of the progressive politician are talking to the Fox network about somehow including him in the first debate, scheduled for October 3, via simulcast. The candidate would sit before cameras, fielding the same questions the debate moderator puts to Bush and Gore. His answers then could be aired with clips of the debate. The Nader campaign spokesman refused comment on any Fox negotiations.

A Fox spokesperson offered few specifics. “An invitation has been extended to Nader for something revolving around the debates,” he said.

Other plans call for Nader to package his own instant videotape of his answers to debate questions and distribute copies to reporters at the scene. A campaign spokesman said Nader would probably turn up at one or more of the debates, where he’ll host rallies before the event. A spokesperson for C-SPAN said the cable network would televise the debates live, and cover any Nader rallies beforehand, but wouldn’t try to include Nader’s answers to debate questions.

Today, a small group of demonstrators entered the Washington, D.C., offices of the Presidential Debate Commission, which is housed in a PR firm. Dressed in suits, the six protesters from the Open Debate Society unfurled banners, hung a placard reading Corporate Puppet on the door, and played Beethoven on a boombox. After half an hour, D.C. police removed the activists but made no arrests. Organizer Adam Eidinger says the group, which wants Nader and Pat Buchanan included in the rhetorical face-offs, will return tomorrow to try again.

Most polls show Nader garnering a mere 3 percent of the vote. Desperately trying to jump-start a stuck-in-the-mud campaign, Nader picks up filmmaker Michael Moore today for a three-day “Payback Time: The Revenge of the Nonvoters” blitz through the battleground state of Michigan. There, labor leaders have declared support for Gore, but rank-and-file workers have rallied around Nader in the past on trade issues. The state also has a substantial bloc of Arab American voters. Nader is of Lebanese descent. Along with Ohio, Michigan is a pivotal state, where the struggle between Gore and Bush is too close to call.

Nader and Moore plan to hit several college towns, even dipping into Wisconsin for visits to campuses in Milwaukee and Madison. Tomorrow Nader and Moore travel through Michigan, stopping at Ann Arbor and East Lansing—both homes of big universities—and then head for Moore’s hometown of Flint.

While Gore and Bush are pulling in megadonations and hosting gilded-plate dinners, Nader is raising money in increments that amount to cab fare. On Friday, Nader heads to Minneapolis for the first of three “super rallies”—with an announced door fee of $7. On Saturday, Jim Hightower will appear with the candidate in Seattle, at a fundraiser with a door fee of $10. These events are modeled after a rally in Portland, Oregon, a few weeks ago that drew some 10,000 people.

Nader intends to head East for another super rally at the Fleet Center (suggested donation: $10) in Boston, site of the first debate, two days before Gore and Bush square off.