WASHINGTON--Ralph Nader just told NBC "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert he will make this third run for president. Nader demonstrated off the bat on Sunday that he can whip up controversy for front-runner Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), saying he flip-flopped on support for the Palestinian cause. This will touch a nerve because the Obama campaign has been working to lock-in Jewish voters by stressing his strong backing for Israel.
Nader was seen as a spoiler in 2000 when he siphoned votes from Al Gore, with the most critical and protracted battle taking place in Florida. Nader won some 97,000 votes in Florida and Gore lost to Bush in Florida by 543 votes.
Obama, on a trajectory to win the Democratic presidential nomination, on Saturday said Nader has "a pretty high opinion of his own work" at the same press conference in Ohio where he called him a "heroic figure."
Nader said it was "political bigotry" to assume that only two candidates should run for the White House. Calling him a spoiler is "astonishing," Nader said. He said was a Obama a "liberal evangelist." Nader hit Obama right off on what for Obama is a very sensitive, hot button issue. Nader said Obama " was pro-Palestinian" when he ran for the state senate in Illinois.
Obama on Saturday, asked about Nader's anticipated entry, portrayed Nader as being in the race to satisfy his own ego, thus diminishing him, while at the same time praising Nader for his work on behalf of consumers.
Obama revealed that Nader had called him and "reached out" to his campaign.
"My sense is is that Mr. Nader is somebody who, if you don't listen and adopt all of his policies, thinks you're not substantive. He seems to have a pretty high opinion of, of his own work. Now -- and by the way, I have to say that, historically, he is a singular figure in American politics and has done as much as just about anybody on behalf of consumers," Obama said.
"Now -- and by the way, I have to say that, historically, he is a singular figure in American politics and has done as much as just about anybody on behalf of consumers. So in many ways he is a heroic figure and I don't mean to diminish him. But I do think there is a sense now that if somebody is not hewing to the Ralph Nader agenda, then you must be lacking in some way," Obama said.
The Obama campaign may use the Nader entry as a peg to make a fund-raising appeal.
Obama Obama used the occasion to make the argument that Democrats need a candidate who is capable of pulling out a clear-cut win, so a Nader entry is not going to be a factor.
" I think anybody has the right to run for president if they file sufficient papers. And I think the job of the Democratic Party is to be so compelling that a few percentage of the vote going to another candidate is not going to make any difference," Obama said.
With that, Obama may have hinted that if Nader's paperwork to get on the ballot was not in order, there may be a problem. Obama knows about throwing people off the ballot; he snared his first elected office, a state senate seat in Illinois after successfully challenging the nomination papers of the incumbent, then state Sen. Alice Palmer (D-Chicago). Palmer's political career was ended. She is supporting Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) for president.
Here's what Nader said about Obama and his Palestinian-Israeli views on "Meet the Press."
But Senator Obama is a person of substance. He's also the first liberal evangelist in a long time. He's run a brilliant tactical campaign. But his better instincts and his knowledge have been censored by himself.
And I give you the example, the Palestinian-Israeli issue, which is a real off the table issue for the candidates. So don't touch that, even though it's central to our security and to, to the situation in the Middle East. He was pro-Palestinian when he was in Illinois before he ran for the state Senate, during he ran--during the state Senate. Now he's, he's supporting the Israeli destruction of the tiny section called Gaza with a million and a half people. He doesn't have any sympathy for a civilian death ratio of about 300-to-1; 300 Palestinians to one Israeli.
He's not taking a leadership position in supporting the Israeli peace movement, which represents former Cabinet ministers, people in the Knesset, former generals, former security officials, in addition to mayors and leading intellectuals. One would think he would at least say, "Let's have a hearing for the Israeli peace movement in the Congress," so we don't just have a monotone support of the Israeli