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A Debate on Empire: Is Donald Trump One Terrorist Attack Away from the Presidency?

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Ralph Nader, former presidential candidate, discusses what expanding the presidential debate to include third-party candidates would mean for the discussion of this weekend’s attacks in New Jersey and New York. Nader says, “Brute force doesn’t work. … State terrorism kills far more people than stateless terrorism.” He says Clinton is “more systemically hawkish” and Trump is “unpredictably belligerent.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I mean, let’s take something like what this community has gone through this weekend.


AMY GOODMAN: I mean, we are sitting in Chelsea between where, on 27th Street, a pressure cooker with wires linked to a flip phone was found, and 23rd Street, where some kind of device went off, injuring 29 people. They’re all out of the hospital now. It was put in or near a dumpster that was a part of construction in front of the home of the blind on 23rd Street between 6th and 7th. Some have said Donald Trump is one terrorist attack from the presidency. We’re now looking at—we don’t know any details yet about whether the explosion on 23rd Street, the pressure cooker on 27th Street, the backpack in Elizabeth that was just blown up this morning, New Jersey, outside of the train station, or five men who were detained earlier in a car, as well as another New Jersey attack this weekend—we don’t know any more information than that, though I’m sure the authorities do. How does a debate that includes four different candidates impact what we’re dealing with this weekend?

RALPH NADER: Because candidates like Jill Stein and Gary Johnson of the Green Party and Libertarian Party, respectively, will show that when we are in their backyard supporting their dictators overseas, military attacks everywhere—it’s been going on for a hundred years—eventually, they’re going to want to come into our backyard. Now, Trump’s not going to say that, Clinton’s not going to say that. But these two parties are going to say that. What’s really important is, we don’t have a debate on empire. We don’t have a debate that we’re all over the world, that we’re breaching national sovereignties, violating our Constitution, killing anybody the president wants to kill. And we see it in Yemen. You see it in Afghanistan, Iraq, now Syria, and many other countries. So, it’s not working. What started with a criminal gang in northeast Afghanistan has now spread into 20 countries. They’re more trained, they’re more adept in social media, they’ve got more people, and they’re heading this way.

So, Trump will only exacerbate that, because he takes everything personally in terms of his ego. He has no impulse control. And he’ll lash out with brute force, and it will only come back. And we are far more vulnerable than other countries. I mean, we totally freak out with an explosion here or a shooting there, compared to what happens in Baghdad or in Afghanistan every day. So we are extremely vulnerable. The last thing we want is someone in the White House who believes in brute force. And I’m sorry to say that Hillary Clinton has that tendency, as well, when she advances U.S. foreign policy.

AMY GOODMAN: Would you say Hillary Clinton is more hawkish than Donald Trump?

RALPH NADER: Well, she’s more systemically hawkish, like she’ll go and try to persuade—successfully—Barack Obama to topple the Libyan regime, which has resulted in huge areas of Africa now in total chaos and violence. What the problem is with Trump is he’s unpredictably belligerent. And he brings his personality into the White House. You cannot, as president, take every slur, every criticism, every affront from Congress or some foreign leader personally and translate that into military options.

AMY GOODMAN: What is the answer? You’re a four-time presidential candidate. How do you think you deal with what is referred to as terror in the world? Terror, certainly, the killing of innocent civilians. The question is what we consider a terroristic act and what we don’t consider a terroristic act.

RALPH NADER: Well, first of all, the state terrorism is killing far more people than stateless terrorism. What’s important is, the brute force doesn’t work. You’re going against people, many of them in their twenties, who have nothing to lose. There’s nothing more dangerous than an unemployed person who has no purpose left in life except to attack the invader. And so, it’s a losing proposition.

We have to wage peace. We have to use a fraction of the money we use for armaments abroad, making things worse, dealing with healthcare and clean drinking water and agricultural co-ops—all the things—and education—all the things that will build support for a peaceful resolution of disputes and support for the United States. You know, it’s—as they say, it’s not rocket science. The proof in the pudding is that our government does not learn from its failures. There is no flunking grade for brute force in military and foreign policy. And the essence of it has to go down to us, we, the people. I mean, if—we got reasonable arms control and reduction because a few thousand people in this country organized groups like SANE in the past and led to arms control agreements between Washington and Moscow. It never takes more than 1 percent of the people representing the public sentiments of the majority to change power, to break through power. I mean, we have historical records of that going back 200 years.

Why don’t we learn from that? Because if we sit down as spectators—yeah, we’re spectators; we’re watching the debates—what an absurdity. Every city in this country is full of people who want presidential debates. So why don’t people organize? We’ll start with the Chamber of Commerce, the labor unions, the neighborhood groups in every city—Atlanta, in Seattle, in Los Angeles, in New York—and say, “The heck with this corporation that limits debates, we want the candidates to come to our city.” There’s nothing that can stop that. Why are we rationing debates? We don’t ration cosmetics. We don’t ration all kinds of trivia. Why are we rationing debates? Because we’re spectators. Because we’re told, “Shut up and shop, and once in a while look at politics,” because it’s now entertainment. I mean, Trump has turned elections from circuses to burlesque shows. And it’s making money for these corporations—CNN and Fox and others. And we’re sitting around watching it, when we have the sovereign power under the Constitution? Corporation isn’t even mentioned in the Constitution. Political parties aren’t even mentioned, Amy. Why are they controlling us? So, we have to look at ourselves in the mirror and grab the reins of our country for ourselves and our posterity. There’s nothing stopping us from doing this. It’s just a sort of a, you know, resignation—whatever will be will be; let’s go back to our private lives, not be public citizens.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then come back to this discussion. We’re talking to Ralph Nader, longtime consumer advocate, four-time third-party presidential candidate. His new book is headlined—or titled Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think. This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: By The Magnetic Fields, “The Book of Love.” Congratulations to Michelle Lau Burke and Mike Burke. Mike Burke is our senior producer. That was the music for their first dance Saturday night when they got married.

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