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Nader on Real Time
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I've been waiting for Bill Maher's website to post the transcript from when Nader was on, and now, finally, they have.

Let me just say, I agree with Nader's assessment about the entrenchment of the two-party system. And I think third party candidates can be healthy if they offer viable alternatives to the status quo. I think they're also healthy in their ability to talk straight about issues that the other candidates are unwilling to talk about. Which is why Nader is such an utter disappointment on all counts.

When asked what issue he was talking about that the big party candidates weren't, here was his answer:

MAHER: Okay. Well, one of the key points, I thought, was when Al Sharpton ' and by the way, Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich, who are both getting about one or two or three percent ' which means to me that they're either very optimistic or homeless'[laughter]'they're staying in it. They said ' Al Sharpton said, 'There's nothing I know of that Ralph Nader is saying that Kucinich and I aren't saying. He should have endorsed one of us.' What do you say about that?

NADER: Well, first of all, they're not going to go to the election day. They're just going to go to the Democratic Convention. And there are a lot of things I'm saying that they're not saying.

MAHER: Like what?

NADER: For example: There's a coming pandemic from China, in terms of virulent flu, that the Centers for Disease Control is very worried about.

MAHER: Oh, stop!

This is the issue that delineates Nader from the rest of the field: a hypothetical Chinese flu.

Um...whatever, Ralph.

So if Chinese killer flus are really large and looming problems, what's Ralph going to do about them? Well, here's an article he wrote on the subject.

Ever wonder why so many of the annual flu strains have Chinese names? Because ducks get infected on Chinese farms, give the virus to pigs who then transmit it to farm families who live in very close proximities to their animals. Then the virus takes off across the pacific and over the past century has taken millions of American lives.

This is not, however, the weapon of mass destruction that concerns President George W. Bush. He has spent over $400 million taxpayer dollars since March looking and not finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. were we talking about Chinese flus, or Iraq? Anyway, Nader says he wants new health treaties, more American scientists in China for early detection (by the way, why do they have to be American? Other countries don't have infectious disease experts?). And he wraps up with this:

The chain of infections from domesticated Chinese ducks to pigs to humans can explode into a world war of mutant viruses taking millions of casualties before vaccines can be developed and deployed. Mr. Bush must pay serious attention to this form of biological warfare and listen to his scientists and physicians now too far down his chain of command and control.

Gosh, I'm glad Nader's not resorting to the politics of fear.

Anyway...back to the interview. Maher asked Nader about Social Security:

MAHER: Alan Greenspan is talking about the fact that Social Security has to be reformed. And the people who are going to pay the huge bill are the young people who are not voting. They are the ones who are going to get stuck with this check. Is that not true?

NADER: First of all, Alan Greenspan is wrong about Social Security--

MAHER: What?!

Yup...that's right, folks. Here are some population pyramids every ten years for the past 50 years, showing the population makeup of the U.S. by age group.

At the turn of the previous century, the graph really did look like a pyramid...that's why they name these things that way. But the pyramid is growing fatter at the top, as more and more people live longer and longer. Notice how much more the top of the graph has grown, and how the fattest part in 2000 are those in their 40's and 50's. Guess what? A lot of those people are going to stick around. They're going to retire, and they're going to want the money they paid into Social Security, and it won't be there.

We need to get real about Social Security, and start transitioning it to a needs-based program, which is what it should have been in the first place. Not a perk that millions of elderly people get on top of their regular pensions...not walking around money for old folks who are living comfortably anyway, but a safety net for those who would be homeless or starving otherwise.

Nader, on this issue, has got his damned head in the sand.

As Maher puts it:

MAHER: You know what? I disagree. I do believe it is not sound. I do believe that we cannot continue this situation we've been having. Social Security was invented 70 years ago when people lived to be 61. Now they live to be 81. There are not as many workers paying in. Baby boomers are retiring in huge numbers in a few years.


Anyway, then Maher asks him about his interview on Hardball:

MAHER: All right. All right, listen, I saw you ' I saw you on with Chris Matthews the other day'


MAHER: And I got very angry. I mean, Chris is a friend of mine. I like him a lot. But he was berating you about the fact that you were not mature enough to be president because, unlike President Bush, you had never married and raised a family. You know, Chris? It's the year 2004, okay, buddy. That is not the only measure of maturity. It was so demeaning to all single people in this country, that the only way you can demonstrate maturity is to spawn? [laughter] [applause] And I would just like to ' I wish you'd punched him in the nose, but you didn't, so I'd like to give you a chance to'

NADER: Well, you know, Chris Matthews has turned into media staccato. He's turned from entertainment to caricature. I could hardly stop from laughing when I was on the show. [laughter] I just couldn't believe it. What is this? No wonder he's parodied on 'Saturday Night Live.'

MAHER: Right.

NADER: So, that's the point.

MAHER: All right.

NADER: In the media today, we're going from sound bites to sound barks, like four-word answers to'[grunts] [laughter] [applause] It's media.

Okay, so don't actually address the issue Maher brought up, Ralph...that many people think that being married and having kids is the ultimate sign of maturity. Nope...his answer is just that Matthews is a parody of himself. I guess this issue was beneath him.

So then Maher brought out a cake shaped like a flaming Pinto, since it was Ralph's 70th birthday. And yeah, it was funny.

But the interview had already left a sour taste in my mouth. You could tell that Maher, having voted for Nader, actually wanted to like him. You could tell that he served up questions he thought Nader could hit out of the park.

But all Nader did was sit there on the stool and mutter a bunch of inane bullshit. The Chinese flu? Social Security is fine?

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Oh, how I wish there were a decent third-party candidate this year. But there's not. And there's no way I'd be able to even bring myself to vote for Nader as a protest vote.

Matthews may be a bit of an idiot, but it is Nader, in fact, who has become a parody of himself.

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