WASHINGTON -- The Yankee Doodle Tap Room in Princeton displays old black-and-white photographs of some fresh-faced undergraduates who subsequently became exemplars of what President (of the university) Woodrow Wilson called ``Princeton in the nation's service.'' There are young future Cabinet members John Foster Dulles, Class of '08, James Forrestal, '15; James Baker, '52, and George Shultz, '42; future Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan, '20; future Sens. John Danforth, '58, and Bill Bradley, '65; future Govs. Pete du Pont, '56, and Adlai Stevenson, '22. And Donald Rumsfeld, '54, whose future is still unfolding, as is that of:
Ralph Nader, '55.
Even then he had the slightly cadaverous mien of the severely health-conscious, and the ascetic look of one who, like Longfellow, believes that life is real, life is earnest and we are not put on Earth for pleasure alone. Recently, he ate a virtuous lunch (cod; he says he last had a hotdog ``in the early Sixties'') and explained why, four years ago, at the same table in the Jefferson Hotel dining room, he told the same columnist that if Al Gore lost, the Democratic Party would return to the true church of progressivism: ``The decadence,'' he says almost cheerfully, ``is deeper than even I thought.''
Pointing to a nearby table, Nader says that is where Robert Rubin, President Clinton's treasury secretary, who lived in the Jefferson, frequently dined. Rubin, a master of the Wall Street universe, is warmly praised by Kerry but deplored by Nader, who says the apotheosis of Rubin, a deficit hawk, by Democrats proves that the party remains in corporate America's iron grip.
So Nader is running again for president. Successful independent candidates have had at least one of three assets: a regional base, a vivid personality or a burning issue. George Wallace in 1968 had all three. Nader lacks the first (unless faculty clubs count as a region) and the second, but he certainly has the third: Iraq.
In his incessant travels he talks about all the left's traditional domestic issues, and says that one of the war's ``untabulated costs'' is ``journalistic crowding out'' that distracts attention from domestic matters. But Iraq gives Nader renewed relevance.