Well, folks, history was made last night at the Republican Convention, and we’re not talking about Dick Cheney’s speech. It was what happened on the convention floor while he spoke. In what is believed to be the first time in US history, a candidate for president held an impromptu but well attended press briefing on the convention floor of an opposing party. We’re talking about Ralph Nader. In fact, we had asked him to come to the convention. We wanted him to provide commentary and analysis. The networks think nothing of bringing in opposition Democrats, but these political figures still invariably reinforce the official line. We brought in Ralph Nader as the voice of an outsider who has been excluded from the political process in many ways. From the moment we arrived, scores of bored reporters desperate for a story, as well as delegates and politicians, swarmed around Ralph Nader as we began our journey to the convention floor. [includes rush transcript]
- Ralph Nader, on the Republican Convention floor.
You’re listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now!, broadcasting live from downtown Philadelphia Center City and the Independent Media Center, where we have been broadcasting all week, as we move into the fourth day of the Republican National Convention. I’m Amy Goodman, here with Juan Gonzalez.
Well, history was made last night at the Republican Convention, and we’re not talking about Dick Cheney’s speech. It was what happened on the convention floor while he spoke. In what’s believed to be the first time in US history, a candidate for president held an impromptu but well-attended press briefing on the convention floor of an opposing party. We’re talking about Ralph Nader. In fact, we’d asked him to come to the convention. We wanted him to provide commentary and analysis. The networks think nothing of bringing in opposition Democrats, but these political figures still invariably reinforce the official line. We brought in Ralph Nader as the voice of an outsider who has been excluded from the political process in many ways. But from the moment we arrived, scores of bored reporters desperate for a story, as well as delegates and politicians, swarmed around Ralph Nader, the Green Party presidential candidate and well-known consumer advocate, as we began our journey to the convention floor.
CROWD: Go, Bush, go! Go, Bush, go! Go, Bush, go!
Are you running for office here, Ralph Nader?
How are you doing?
Paul Greenberg is my name, from Arkansas. Are you going to campaign in Arkansas? You already have campaigned in Arkansas.
Yeah, I was in Arkansas. I’ve been to all fifty states.
Good. I hear you’re very strong in the west.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Mr. Nader, good luck to you.
Well, thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yeah, yeah, happy to hear your message. Well, most people are going to see you on prime-time TV on the network coverage. What impression are they going to walk away with from the convention? Are they going to buy the Republican line, all the diversity and economically and racially?
I think, you know, most people look at it as political entertainment, a lot of mutual backslapping, a lot of corporate promotion, a lot of hot-air politicians. And that’s unfortunate, because it leads to a cynicism. When they see someone like Senator John McCain, who stood for political reform in the primaries, suddenly morph himself into George W. Bush, a man he thought stood directly contrary to his views on campaign finance reform, that’s what leads people to be cynical, to drop out, not to vote. And we’re trying to bring them back into the political process with the new Green political party and our candidacy.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You know, we’re from New Jersey, and you’re going to lose big-time.
Hey, wait a minute —
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: But good luck to you, pal.
You wouldn’t want that, would you?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We would love it. We would want it with a passion.
What party do you think I represent?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You represent the party of your own twisted ideas, my friend.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I just think the little guy’s the one at the disadvantage, as far as bringing a lawsuit — the corporate and the large companies do have the advantage of large dollars to fund lawsuits to defeat legitimate claims.
Ralph Nader, what about George Bush’s approach to tort reform?
Well, he is — contrary to this delegate, a state senator from New York, he wants to make it more difficult and erect more barriers for wrongfully injured Americans to have their full day in court against the companies whose dangerous or defective products harm them. And I think that’s one of the few differences between the Republicans and the Democrats.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: What do you hope to accomplish by being here?
Well, I want to observe the thing in action. It’s hard to believe when you see it reported. You have to see it to believe it. I mean, this is the most spectacular display of political cash-register politics with corporate fat cats in the history of the country. And it’s always good to see the state of the art shamelessly paraded on national TV.
What’s your message for the delegates here?
My message is to go home and rethink what they’re doing to the country when they sell politics to corporate fat cats in return for political favors. And that’s what I say to the Democrats, as well. Our democracy is being hijacked by large commercial interests against the interests of everyday people. And we’ve got to have political reform in this country. I’m very sorry to see John McCain, who had millions of supporters standing for political reform, morph himself into George W. Bush today.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Sir, some stations are saying seven or eight percent. Do you think — would you be the spoiler if this race is close?
You can’t spoil a political system that’s spoiled to the core. We need a new political reform movement in this country, and it’s not going to come from the Democratic or Republican parties.
What about the political debates, Ralph Nader? Are you going to be included, and what are you going to do about that?
Public opinion is burgeoning in favor of a four-way debate with me, Buchanan, Bush and Gore. I think that’s what the American people want. They want more choice; they want exciting debates; they don’t want to fall asleep in front of the TV set watching the drab debate the dreary.
Ralph Nader, on a historic moment on the floor of the Republican National Convention here in Philadelphia, as George Bush was being nominated to be the Republican presidential nominee. Just afterwards, Dick Cheney spoke, and Ralph Nader came out again and sat with delegates and alternates as people came up to him and asked him to sign their delegate badges. And one woman said her brother was going to be voting for Ralph Nader, and she liked a lot of what he had to say.
Well, Nader is one — is a candidate that doesn’t need a big publicity machine, because he’s already well known for his record in the country by people of all political persuasions.
That’s right, Juan. Well, as we left the Republican National Convention, we headed over to the press tents, where Nader made his way through the rounds of TV and radio shows. And as he was being interviewed on NBC, we bumped into Illinois Governor George Ryan, who had just been interviewed on ABC.com.