Friday, October 27, 2000

Nader's UC talk light on politics

He stumps for social justice

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Although he is increasingly being seen as a force in the presidential election, Ralph Nader largely steered clear of partisan politics Thursday night before about 800 students at the University of Cincinnati.

        Mr. Nader, the Green Party presidential candidate, spoke to an enthusiastic crowd at the university's Zimmer Auditorium.

        The Nader speech was billed as a non-campaign event and was sponsored by a campus group called the UC Skeptics, a group that espouses “critical thinking, free speech, free thought and social responsibilty.”

[photo] Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader visited the University of Cincinnati Thursday night.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
        Mr. Nader was highly critical of the U.S. participation in the World Trade Or ganization, a group he says is “dragging down our standards on human rights and freedom.”

        “This is something you will not hear discussed in the presidential debate,” Mr. Nader said. “It is because both political parties suppprt the WTO unequivocally.”

        The crowd in the auditorium was made up mostly of college students, many of them bearing Nader campaign T-shirts and carrying campaign signs.

        The longtime consumer advocate pleaded with the young people in the audience to “devote your lives to social justice.”

        Mr. Nader will be listed as an independent on the Ohio ballot because his party did not qualify for a party designation under state laws.

        Mr. Nader, who registers between 2 and 4 percent in state polls, has said his goal is for the Green Party to reach 5 percent nationally so that the party can receive federal funding.

        Earlier Thursday, in Cleveland, Mr. Nader countered Democratic attacks by criticizing Al Gore for hiding behind surrogates and describing a conversation with a Democratic congressman who asked Mr. Nader whether he would be interested in meeting privately with the vice president.

        Mr. Nader said he told U.S. Rep. John Conyers, from Detroit, “No, not at all.”

        The candidate touched on his talk with Mr. Conyers at a news conference before two campaign appearances. He gave a speech in the morning to a city forum about his work as a consumer advocate, and later spoke to roughly 1,000 supporters at Cleveland State University.

        With roughly 5 percent of the vote in national polls, Mr. Nader had long been ignored by Mr. Gore's presidential campaign. But Mr. Nader is now a target in several states where he could threaten the Democrat's chances of beating Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush.

        According to Mr. Nader, Mr. Conyers called him within the past couple of days and was “very worried about the swing states.”

        But Mr. Conyers didn't ask Mr. Nader to withdraw. “He was trying to make the best of it in many ways, trying to get progressives together on the same page,” Mr. Nader said.

        A telephone message seeking Mr. Conyers' comment was left at the lawmaker's office.

        Mr. Gore told tens of thousands in the Green Party enclave of Madison, Wis., on Thursday that a vote for Mr. Nader plays into the hands of corporate forces backing Mr. Bush.

        “If the big oil companies and the chemical manufacturers and the other big polluters were able to communicate a message to this state, they would say vote for George Bush or, in any case, vote for Ralph Nader,” Mr. Gore bellowed to his largest throng to date.

        “They would say whatever you do, don't vote for Al Gore!”

        Mr. Nader said that receiving attention from the Democrats will just make his campaign stronger. He attacked Mr. Gore for enlisting big names in the party such as Jesse Jackson and Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota to stump for him.

        “Al Gore, in his typically cowardly way, is sending out surrogates, most of them progressive Democrats who he has not supported, to criticize our campaign,” Mr. Nader said. “This is typical of Gore. He has a serious character deficiency. If he wants to challenge me, he should challenge me directly.”

        Outside Mr. Nader's appearance at Cleveland State, people from several interest groups passed out literature urging voters to choose Mr. Gore over Mr. Nader to keep Mr. Bush out of the White House.

        But Mr. Nader said the two parties are “morphing into one corporate party with two heads wearing different makeup,” and a vote for him isn't wasted.

       The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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