With George W. Bush’s approval ratings hovering in the low 30s, the Iraq war grinding on with no end in sight and costs spiraling into the stratosphere, and a field of Republican Presidential candidates as inspiring as corned beef, the Republican base finally has something to cheer about: Ralph Nader is back. This is the same Nader, you may remember, who handed the 2000 election to Bush on a silver platter. If not for Nader, there would have been no recount, no Katherine Harris, no 5-4 Supreme Court decision, and no Iraq war.
The 72-year-old activist, self-promoter, and multimillionaire, rose to fame with his 1965 work Unsafe at any Speed, a very poorly-conducted study of automobile safety that purported to show how horrible many cars were, heaping gratuitous abuse on General Motors. Rather than argue the safety of their vehicles or dispute the study, GM foolishly decided to go after Nader personally, and in comically inept fashion: They tapped his phone, they followed him around, they hired hookers to try and entice him into sexual escapades they could use for blackmail. Nader won a lawsuit against GM easily, garnered just under $300,000 for himself, got tort law rewritten in the process, and landed himself in the spotlight. And like a grinning high school girl at her Sweet 16 birthday party, Nader has loved the spotlight ever since.
His foray into presidential politics began in 1980 when he urged voters not to support President Jimmy Carter, his reasoning being that "Reagan is going to breed the biggest resurgence in nonpartisan citizen activism in history." Actually, Reagan’s election led to the birth of the Reagan Youth, who were very active in moving this country far to the right. Reaganomics devastated the working class. Support of the paramilitary death squads in El Salvador left tens of thousands dead. Plus we financed a costly war and gave illegal support to the Contras in Nicaragua, which led to trading arms for hostages in the Iran-Contra scandal. As in Iran, that pesky soon-to-be Nuclear Iran, which is currently using weapons technology supplied by the US against US soldiers in Iraq. Nader proved to be as wrong about the harm that Reagan could do as he was about most things. But being wrong never stopped Nader.