I was at the gym, walking by a television tuned to one of the many insipid morning chat shows...but that's not what stopped me dead in my tracks. What got my attention was the guest: Ralph Nader. I watched the host begin the interview with yet another rehash/accusation/question about the 2000 election. You know the drill by now: Nader spoiled it for Gore, ruined his own legacy, blah, blah, blah. It's been repeated so often that most Americans accept it all as fact.
After having read New York magazine the night before, that first question was all I could stomach. You see, David Edelstein, the magazine's film critic, just reviewed An Unreasonable Man, a new documentary about Nader. The self-important Edelstein spoke of receiving an invitation to see the film and meet Nader afterwards. "I wrote (that) I couldn't make it," said Edelstein, "but to leave my seat vacant in the name of the Iraqi and American dead."
Left unsaid, of course, is his belief that Nader cost Al Gore the election and that Gore would never have invaded Iraq. While neither point can ever be fully proven true or false, I do have a question for Edelstein: If Al Gore cares so much about the Iraqi dead, why didn't he speak out against the murderous sanctions when he was vice president? A half-million dead Iraqi children and Gore did not say one fuckin' word in public to condemn it. I'm also wondering if, during the Clinton-Gore years, Edelstein peppered his film reviews with similar self-righteous political statements. How about when Clinton bombed Iraq in response to an alleged plot to assassinate Bush the Elder and ended up killing Leila Attar, that country's best-known female artist? What did the millionaire morning chat show hosts and the haughty New York magazine film critic say about that? Better question: Were they even aware it happened?
"What we have with Edelstein is the typical liberal phenomena: blame Nader instead of facing the facts," says Joshua Frank, author of Left Out: How Liberals Help Re-elect George W. Bush. "The reason Nader even made any headway in 2000 was due to his ability to tap into the mounting anti-globalization movement that was launched in Seattle one year earlier. Progressive, and even radical voters saw Nader as their chance to hold the neoliberals' feet to the fire."
Also in his "review," Edelstein declares Nader to be "obviously nuts" for making the assertion that there wasn't "a dime's bit of difference" between Bush and Gore. This statement is presented as an article of faith as Edelstein offers no evidence. Why should he when probably 99.9% of his readers agree with him?
"Nobody can say Gore wasn't a neoliberal," says Frank. "He supported NAFTA, pushed WTO/China legislation-Al Gore was a proud New Democrat for many years and that was only part of it. Under Clinton/Gore environmentalists got the Salvage Rider and the derailment of Kyoto. The working poor got welfare reform. Labor got free trade. And Iraqi kids got deadly sanctions. Those are the reasons Nader had such a powerful campaign in 2000. I think if liberals can't face that, they are the ones who are 'nuts'."
Take-home message: If all those Gore voters had pulled the lever for Ralph, we all would've been spared both the Bush administration and the Nader witch-hunt...plus, David Edelstein could to stick to writing about film.
Mickey Z. can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net.