Well, the mail has been pouring in since my last letter. It's been running about 5 to 1 in support of my view that Bush's "reversals" of Clinton's last-minute orders were not only made possible by Clinton's 8-year postponement of them, but were not even reversals -- as Bush is only continuing the same regulations that have been in effect during the entire Clinton/Gore administration.
Obviously, thousands of you have been feeling the same way. But a number of you have written to me making some very passionate points and asking me some very pointed questions. I feel you deserve some answers. But this is going to be my last letter on Clinton/Gore until I -- and you -- get busy and focus on the present and the difficult work ahead of us: trying to stop the damage George W. Bush intends to wreak upon the planet earth.
What follows are the concerns some of you have raised and my responses to them:
1. "Why do you keep bashing Clinton and Gore? Don't you know they were under attack for 8 years by a rabid right wing? Aren't you just playing into the Republicans' hands with these criticisms?"
A: I voted for Clinton in 1992. I did so with much hope, as I felt here was someone from the working class who I believed, in his heart, wanted to do the right thing. But the promise that was held out to us was never realized. His pushing NAFTA through into law -- something Poppy Bush and Reagan had been unable to do -- helped to drive the final nail in the coffin of my hometown, Flint, Michigan. More GM jobs were lost in Flint under Clinton/Gore than during the entire 12 years of Reagan/Bush. Clinton's decision to help companies like GM destroy the lives of my friends and neighbors was so personal to me that -- and I hope you forgive me for this -- I will never be able to vote for anyone who made this law possible. Perhaps I should be looking at all the good things Clinton did do. But this hit so close to home that, sadly, I can't.
I do not hate Clinton. I actually like him as a person. And I like Al Gore. These are not bad men like the ones who now illegally occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I love Hillary, and worked to get her elected in November -- even though I do not agree with her on many issues. I am not opposed to compromise and do not expect any candidate to stand for everything I do. I thoroughly resented the abuse she and her husband suffered at the hands of the right wingnuts and aggressively fought against his impeachment.
I believe that at one time Bill and Al wanted to do good, but chose the path of expedience and excessive compromise. I wish they hadn't.
2. "How can you say that there is NO difference between Gore and Bush?"
A: This seems to be a popular mantra. I do not understand the motives of those who want to misrepresent or take out of context what I and others had to say about the "choice" in last November's election. It was NEVER stated in such simplistic, unsubstantiated language. From the first letter on the election that I sent out last July, I was VERY clear about where I stood: "The one outstanding difference between Bush and Gore is that one is evil and the other isn't."
Of course there's a difference between the two. There's a big difference between me and Ralph Nader. There's a "difference" between any two of anything!
Of course one of them is worse. One of any two choices is always "worse." Temptation Island is worse than Survivor. Hitler was worse than Mussolini. So what? Arguing over degrees of worseness is a waste of time. I'm worse than my wife. Big deal.
We can make lists all day about how Gore would have been better on any of a number of issues. Of course he would have! He's not the evil one!
But it was also Al Gore who, in the second debate, agreed with Bush's position on 32 major issues! Did I say 32? YES, THIRTY-TWO TIMES, GORE OR BUSH SAID, "I AGREE [WITH YOUR POSITION]!"
From moving American jobs to foreign sweatshops, to keeping the minimum wage low, to his unabashed support of the death penalty, to continuing the bombing and embargo of Iraq, to INCREASING the Pentagon budget (with Gore wanting a larger increase than Bush!), all the way down to both of them opposing the return of little Elian Gonzales to his father in Cuba, Gore and Bush did everything but ask each other out on a date. At one point, Gore moved so close to Bush, I thought he was going to lay a big Tipper wet one on him.
3. "But Bush is going to build the Star Wars missile shield! Gore wouldn't have!"
A: I get the feeling no one reads the paper any more. CLINTON/GORE tried to build the same damn missile shield! Billions were spent by their administration on this nonsense -- billions that could have gone to fix every school in America. The tests failed so many times that they suspended the thing -- but REFUSED to kill it, thus leaving the door open for the Cheney Junta to keep the program going. Am I the only one who knows this? I mean, I'm not that smart, so somebody else must have noticed that Clinton not only promoted Star Wars, he reneged on three key provisions of the Kyoto agreement last October, effectively scuttling it, and did a lot of the things people now believe W. is instituting for the first time.
4. "So, it sounds like you hate Clinton and Gore more than Bush."
A: Quite the contrary. I and all other good Americans consider George W. Bush our mortal enemy. We're just disappointed in Bill Clinton and Al Gore. I and others fought for 37 days after November 7th to stop Bush's theft of the election. Gore IS the president. He got the most votes in the country and he got the most votes in Florida. He won. Some Nader supporters thought I shouldn't have been so vocal in my support of Gore's effort to assume the seat that was rightfully his. I told them that our drive to see that this country is run by the true will of the people has no integrity if we do not speak out loudly about the will of the people being subverted by Bush, his brother, his cousin at Fox News, and the Supreme Court. I wish more Nader supporters -- and Ralph himself -- had been more aggressive in fighting for what was right in November and December.
5. "So why on earth did you support Ralph Nader? There was no way he was going to win. He has a huge ego, he purposefully tried to hurt Gore more than Bush, and I heard he owns stock in the very companies he attacks!"
A: I believe one should always vote their conscience. The voting booth is not a negotiating table. It is the one place where every American needs to be completely honest so that whoever is elected is a true representation of what people want to see their government do. I do not believe in the lesser of two evils theory, even though I employ it in every other aspect of my daily life ("Let's see, I think the A train will not be as bad as the D train at rush hour" or "Drinking Coke will give me heart disease, drinking Diet Coke will give me MS and cancer. Hmmm. I'll take my chances with the heart attack."). In the voting booth, if you always end up settling for less, you will keep getting less and less with each election -- because lowering your expectations only creates lower and lower candidates of any worth or integrity. With the lesser of two evils, either way, you still end up with evil.
Ralph Nader, of all the candidates, most closely represented how I felt on the issues. I believe every American should have health care, every college student should go to college for free, the minimum wage should be at least $8/hour, anti-abortion terrorists should be vigorously hunted down and prosecuted, and on and on. Why shouldn't I support the candidate who supports me?
Ralph Nader has many faults, as do all of us. But I've know him for a long time -- and, trust me, having an inflated ego is NOT one of them. If anything, this guy needs more ego. I set up an interview with him and a Nightline crew. But he didn't want to do the interview. He preferred to sit in a room and rework his speech. Who would pass up a chance to be on Nightline? A guy who would rather make sure he gives a good speech to 10,000 than to talk in sound bytes to 10 million.
Ralph owns stock. I don't. Never have. To some people, I guess that makes me nuts, considering the boom of the past decade. But I do not judge others on things like this. I mean, I'm on AOL! What's important are your real actions and what you do with the money you may be blessed with. Ralph has put nearly every dime of what he makes into his projects. And he attacks those very companies he owns stock in, which, in turn, may prevent his stock from making any money. I'm not defending it, I just say to each his own.
Many signed on to the Nader campaign at the suggestion of Molly Ivins who wrote that, if you live in a state where Bush or Gore is already going to win by a big margin, then vote for Nader and make a statement with your vote. But if you live in a swing state, then it is your duty to stop George W. Bush.
Sometime in early October, the Nader campaign reversed itself and disavowed the "Ivins Rule," perhaps because it was becoming clear that they were not going to make the 5% threshold. Thus, they began an aggressive second campaign tour in the swing states of Wisconsin, Oregon, Washington State, and Florida. I declined to join that tour as I thought there was no reason to anger the very people we would have to work with after November.
In fact, I went down to Tallahassee on my own two weeks BEFORE the election and held a press conference. I also spoke at a gathering of thousands at Florida State. I said that it was easy for me to vote for Nader because I lived in a state where Gore was going to win by a huge margin. But you here in Florida have a different job to do. Your job is to stop George W. Bush. In the next two weeks, Ralph's poll numbers in Florida went from 6% to 1.7% on Election Day.
In the interests of full disclosure, I must admit that, in large part, it is for very personal reasons that I put in countless hours helping Ralph Nader. Yes, I supported his platform, but real life is not about platforms and policy statements. It's about people and what they mean to you on a personal level. In 1986, when I was broke and unemployed, Ralph Nader called and offered me a job. It didn't pay much but it got me through a tough time. He then made it possible for me to shoot "Roger & Me" while working out of his office over a two-year period. Without his support and the help of the people in his office, I don't know if that film would have ever been made.
I owed him so much, yet when the film came out and received this incredible response, Ralph felt slighted and ignored for the contribution he had made (suddenly he had some ego!) and attacked me in the New York Times. I was stunned. For a long time I just attributed it to his pettiness and eccentricity. But as time went on, I wanted to heal this wound, because the world wasn't getting any better, and it sure didn't help that Ralph Nader and I weren't talking to each other.
So, I invited him to the premier of "The Big One" and he came. I stood at the back and watched him laugh all the way through the film. Afterwards, I went up and apologized to him for any pain I may have caused him. I offered to give some of the proceeds from my film to his Center. He didn't know what to say, but his look said it all. Reconciliation is never a bad thing.
When he called last summer to ask for my help with his campaign, I felt it was a debt I needed to repay. It also didn't hurt that I agreed with every damn thing he had to say! But I had met Al Gore, and immediately liked him. So I wrote him a private letter asking him to explain why I should vote for him instead of Nader. He sent me back a four-page response. I decided I had to help Ralph.
6. "So, thanks to you and that little pity-party story you just told, you and Ralph put George W. Bush in the White House! Bastards!"
A: I have decided to come clean on this one. I've wasted a lot of time since November explaining how Ralph actually did quite poorly around the country (except among young people and people who earn under $15,000 a year, his two largest voting blocks that surpassed the 5% mark), and that he didn't hurt Al Gore because, in Florida, Al Gore won the election. Why aren't you angry at the Supreme Court and the political machine that rigged the whole damn thing? How odd you would go after someone who is your ally on so many issues when it was Al Gore, not Ralph Nader, who voted to put Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. And blah, blah, blah.
I told Ralph that, from now on, when he is accused of costing Gore the election, he should say, "You bet I did! It was all me!! I alone, the mighty Thor Nader, hold enough votes to deny him or any Democrat the White House or control of Congress should they not straighten up and fly right. If the Democrats don't stop acting like Republicans, we will deny them all power. If they start behaving like the true opposition party that fights for working people, women, minorities, the environment, and an equitable distribution of the wealth, then we shall allow them to enter the Promised Land!"
Of course, that would take too much ego -- but I sure would like to hear Ralph deliver those words in the mighty voice of Thor!
7. "OK, enough of this! Baby Bush is destroying the country! What do we do to stop him?"
A: Well, I guess, seeing how we are responsible for this mess I guess we better clean it up. In my next letter, I will propose a plan for what I think we need to do to stage our countercoup.
In the meantime, my good Democratic friends, lets stop the blame game and join forces for the common good. Blaming is the tool of the coward who is afraid to confront his or her own culpability. Don't blame Nader, blame yourself. I blame myself for not being able to persuade enough people to see that there was a better way to go. Al Gore needs to accept responsibility for blowing his own campaign and all three debates. How you could not defeat the dumbest man in America when you've been given a high IQ and three chances to do so is beyond me. Al, after you screwed up, I had to get my ass down to Florida to try and save yours. And I don't even believe in half of what you stand for! I just couldn't have it on my conscience that a Shrub would be running the country. My trip there, and all the notice it received around the state, cost Ralph, my friend, perhaps thousands of votes, most of which went to you!
But at least 537 didn't make the switch. So, I'll devote the next four years to being the biggest pain in the ass ol' George has had since that cop made him take a Breathalyzer. To the Gorestopo out there who still won't let up with their bellyaching and fingerpointing after this letter, let me remind you of one final thing. Those greens and activists you keep attacking for voting for Nader? Lay off 'em, 'cause they're your only hope.
THEY are the ones who will lead the marches, hold the sit-ins, organize door-to-door until they drop to protect our environment, fight for women's rights, and stand up against racism and war. You don't think the party hacks down at the local Democratic headquarters are going to risk going to jail or mobilize millions to stop the Bush tax cut or save the Alaskan wilderness, do you? You had better stop trashing the very people who are going to be doing all the work for you in the next four years. Disagree with their electoral choices, fine. But give 'em a bit of gratitude for always being the ones who fight the fights that need to be fought.
Enough. On to our mission.....
PS. Thirty-one years ago today, four students were murdered at Kent State. Take a moment today to remember them and what they died for. Thanks.
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