Nader Rallies Greens for Head to Head Offensive

By Brian Hansen

WASHINGTON, DC, September 25, 2000 (ENS) - Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader today blasted Vice President Al Gore's environmental record, saying that the Democratic Party's presidential nominee has failed to live up to many of the promises he made in his best selling 1992 book, "Earth in the Balance."

Nader

Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader (Photo courtesy U.S. Green Party)
Nader, an attorney who specializes in consumer advocacy, went on the offensive as his campaign announced the formation of a Citizens Committee that will work to support the insurgent candidate.

Prominent environmentalists are represented on the fledgling Citizens Committee, including the venerable 87 year old David Brower, founder of Friends of the Earth in 1969 and Earth Island Institute in 1982, who has been engaged in conservation battles since 1938.

Nader said he was "distinctly honored" to win the endorsements of Brower and the other members of the Citizens Committee.

The committee's first task is to work for the inclusion of Nader in the upcoming presidential debates.

"The support of more than 100 prominent leaders in their respective fields is more evidence of the broad based appeal of our campaign and the momentum that is building up across the country," Nader said.

Many of Nader's supporters say they were long time members of the Democratic Party who became disillusioned with the party's move towards the political center.

Nader was quick to elaborate on that theme Monday, arguing that the Democratic Party is now no better that the Republican Party in terms of helping the poor, combating racism, investing in cities, and protecting civil liberties.

Gore

Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore makes a point at a medical privacy event September 19. (Photo courtesy Gore/Lieberman 2000)
Nader drew some comparisons between the records of the two major parties to make his point. In the area of civil liberties, the Clinton/Gore administration has authorized the filing of fewer lawsuits to combat police brutality and to uphold affirmative action than did Ronald Reagan and George Bush during their 12 years in office from 1980 through 1992, Nader noted.

Moreover, neither of the mainstream parties has taken any decisive action to curtain the "bloated" military budgets that persist even though the nation has "no known major enemies ten years after the demise of the Soviet Union" Nader added.

Nader said Republican presidential candidate Texas Governor George W. Bush would conduct a similar administration to that offered by Vice President Gore. "It doesn't matter who is in the White House, Gore or Bush," Nader said. "All of these things will be the same."

However, the most "astonishing" similarity between the Democratic and Republican parties is in the area of environmental violence and environmental racism, where poor communities and communities of color are singled out to serve as dumping grounds by industrial polluters, Nader said.

Nader

Ralph Nader carries a sign at the Green Party nominating convention June 24 in Denver, Colorado (Photo courtesy Assn. of State Green Parties)
"The Justice Department of the Clinton administration - and under Vice President Gore - has filed over 20 percent fewer lawsuits in the area of environmental crime prosecution than [were filed in] the Reagan/Bush years," Nader said.

According to Nader, Gore has no right to cast himself as the environmental candidate in the presidential race.

"Basically, he has betrayed most of the promises he outlined in his book, "Earth in the Balance," in 1992," Nader said.

Specifically, Nader said that Gore has given the automobile industry a "free ride" by not proposing stringent fuel efficiency standards.

Gore has also been very weak in calling for stricter regulations on the use of pesticides and herbicides, and he was a staunch supporter of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) even though environmental groups spoke out against it, Nader noted.

Nor has Gore pursued his dream of transforming the United States into a solar based economy, Nader said.

"But [Gore] has made sure that he has taken money from all of these special interests, while he goes around the country saying he's going to fight big oil, big HMOs, big insurance companies and big corporate polluters," Nader said.

Nader's point was echoed by Tim Hermach of Eugene, Oregon, who last month helped to organize a group called Environmentalists Against Gore.

"We're angry at the broken promises, the lies, and the abandonment," said Hermach, who joined Nader Monday at the press conference in Washington. "This isn't an aberrant thing - is a consistent pattern of the Democratic Party becoming more and more like the Republican party - if not worse than the Republican party."

More than 100 grassroots environmental leaders from 25 states have signed on with Environmentalists Against Gore.

enviros

Don Kegley maneuvers a wheelchair for David Brower at a University of Oregon environmental law conference in March. (Photo by S. Lewis )
Among the group's members are Don Kegley, a locked out steelworker who helped to forge the so-called "blue/green coalition" of trade unionists and environmental activists that last winter joined forces to protest the environmental and human rights abuses allegedly perpetuated by the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Also on board is Lois Gibbs, who in the late 1970s led the fight to get the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean up toxic pollution in the infamous Love Canal neighborhood in upstate New York.

Hermach said he started the group when he heard that the Sierra Club was going to endorse Gore, even though the vice president had clashed with the group over NAFTA, the World Trade Organization and other matters.

"Al Gore stopped, blocked or obstructed every single one of those campaigns, and the Sierra Club endorsed him anyway," Hermach said. "That really begs the question - or the conclusion - the Sierra Club is a political front group for the Democratic Party."

That was the conclusion reached by David Brower, who resigned in protest from the Sierra Club's board of directors earlier this year.

"Al Gore talks tough about protecting the environment, but whenever money and political dealers ask him to, Gore uses his power to hurt working families and the earth," Brower said. "Gore seems to think that because he wrote about how to save the planet in "Earth in the Balance," he can get away with the same cheap and short sighted political behavior he criticizes in his book."

To that end, Brower, Hermach and the other environmentalists who have joined forces with the Green Party are calling for Nader to be included in the upcoming presidential debates.

Bush

Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush (Photo courtesy Office of the Governor)
The Commission on Presidential Debates has said that Nader cannot participate, because polls show that he would not receive at least 15 percent of the vote.

Nader and his supporters reject that reasoning, calling it artificial and completely arbitrary. Nader cites other polls that indicate that voters want the debates opened up to third party candidates, and that they want subject matter like environmental racism discussed in the public forum.

Nader says he will be in Boston, Massachusetts on October 3, the evening of the first scheduled debate between Gore and Bush.

"The two parties are not going to get away with this kind of exclusion," he said. "It's outrageous that our democracy is not strong enough to put an end to it."

Nader supporters and others who advocate opening the debates to third party candidates last week occupied the Commission on Presidential Debates' offices in downtown Washington, DC. Police removed the protesters, but there were no arrests.

The protesters say they will be back in force this week. They also vow to disrupt or delay the October 3 debate in Boston if Nader and other third party candidates are excluded.

In 1971, Nader founded the national organization Public Citizen, to be the consumers’ eyes and ears in Washington, working for consumer justice and government and corporate accountability. More than 150,000 people are now involved in the six branches of Public Citizen: Congress Watch, Health Research Group, Litigation Group, Critical Mass Energy Project, Global Trade Watch and Buyers Up, which "work to protect Americans from government and corporate power," the Nader campaign says.