Paul Jacob

Nader's back, spoiling again. That's the story according to Democrats, at least. But exactly what is Nader spoiling? John Kerry's latest makeover?

Nader damages Kerry more than by merely siphoning off liberal votes; Nader blows Kerry's anti-special interest jive right out of the water. Nader is the real liberal populist that John Kerry plays on TV.

Two Sides?to a Personality

If you like Kerry's rehearsed attacks on Washington lobbyists--the same fellows funding Kerry's campaign--Nader can give those lines off the cuff, with feeling and, more importantly, believability.

Kerry claims his special interests "haven't gotten anything" for their contributions. That may be true; they likely gave the money simply to be left alone (as I point out in my Common Sense e-letter. But why then is Kerry attacking President Bush and his Democratic rivals for similar fundraising?

For John Kerry there are two sides to everything: if done by himself it is above reproach; if done by President Bush it is a shade of evil. Arrogance this thick gives extra meaning to Kerry's statement: "If you liked the first eight years of Bill Clinton, you'll love the first four years of John Kerry."

When we get beyond personalities to issues, it only gets worse for the Senator. Kerry has managed to compile a lifetime congressional voting record more liberal than the other Massachusetts Senator, Ted Kennedy, while also voting for huge chunks of the Bush agenda. But Kerry's pro-Bush voting record certainly hasn't stopped him from hitting Bush for these Kerry-supported policies.

Trade

Kerry's most ferocious attacks on Bush come on trade policy. "President Bush is promoting the outsourcing of American jobs," he told ABC News. "I don't think he's stood up and fought for the American worker."

But as Kerry's Democratic opponent John Edwards points out, Kerry voted for NAFTA, for "fast track" authority for the president, and for the president's Chilean, China, Singapore, Caribbean and African trade agreements. And Kerry recently admitted to The New York Times that even in a Kerry Administration "outsourcing will continue."

So if you oppose Bush on trade, do you vote for Nader, who agrees with you, or for Kerry, who voted for the Bush policies?

Iraq

"Kerry voted against the Gulf War in 1991, when there was a military attack by Iraq against its neighbor Kuwait. But Kerry voted _for_ giving President Bush the authority to go to war with Iraq this time. Then, after the war had commenced, and Howard Dean was pummeling Kerry's vote for the war, Kerry voted against the funding bill to rebuild Iraq."

"Now Kerry says, "No one will be tougher in fighting the war on terror than I will. . . . Much more would be possible if we had a president who didn't alienate long-time friends and fuel anti-American anger around the world."

Again, his disagreement with Bush is not on policy, but on Bush's feelings and demeanor. Kerry will support any war that helps him politically. Kerry will be more patient, though. Foreign leaders will like him better. Remember that.

Nader actually opposed the Iraq war. Since this difference on Iraq is the very element that fueled the Howard Dean take-off, it certainly could deliver anti-Bush votes into the Nader column this November.

Gay Marriage

Unless one considers the contortions of candidate Kerry, the issue of gay marriage is not very amusing. Kerry says he now favors the Defense of Marriage Act. But he voted against it. That act does the same thing, with some questions as to its constitutionality, that President Bush's constitutional amendment would do with certainty. But Kerry opposes the amendment.

For all his flip-flopping, Kerry's position is indistinguishable from that of President Bush. Still, for holding the same view, Bush must be seen as a bigot and Kerry an enlightened intellectual.

If you disagree with President Bush on this issue, should you vote for Ralph Nader, who supports gay marriage, or for John Kerry, who agrees with Bush?

Taxes

Kerry differs from most Democrats on taxes, or so he told The New York Times: "I'm not a Democrat who approaches this in a punitive, confiscatory way."

Boy, I sure am relieved about that!

Kerry explains: "Only the wealthiest Americans will have any possibility of an increase under my proposal, and it's not really an increase." By "any possibility" he means "for certain." By "not really an increase" he means it really is an increase.

"I will protect the middle-class," pledges Kerry. However, if you're in some other class, you might have to take a long walk off a short pier. And, of course, Kerry often reminds us that Bush is dividing us.

No Politician Left Behind

Kerry also rarely misses an opportunity to attack the president for No Child Left Behind, another Bush item that Kerry supported. What's the problem with No Child Left Behind? Kerry says that the Bush Administration isn't "respecting teachers." The Senator didn't really elaborate, but apparently no matter how jovial Bush seems on TV, he's one mean, disrespectful dude.

"I want standards. I want accountability," Kerry clarifies. It just seems that for politician Kerry, if holding people accountable to those standards hurts some feelings, well, we'll need to make exceptions rather than risk the self-esteem of a teacher or union official.

An End in Sight

When Nader entered the race, Senator Kerry said, "I'm going to appeal to everybody in this race and we'll make it unnecessary in the end for an alternative." Easier said than done. In claiming to be everything to everyone, Senator Kerry shows he is no Ralph Nader.

Yes, Kerry will win the Democratic nomination. And he's certainly going to wallop Mr. Nader. But Nader is still a threat, though different from last time around. In a tight election like 2000, Nader presented a formidable challenge at even one, two or three percent of the vote. But this election will not likely be that close. For every voter Nader pulls away from Kerry, how many dozens will simply not show up at the polls? After all, why bother to vote if the man of your principles is unelectable and the man supposedly electable is little more than a hairdo?

Of course, Democrats argue that's why Nader shouldn't be in this race. They couldn't be more wrong. That's why Nader should be in--to give voters real choices instead of phony ones.

It's the phony who shouldn't be running, and it will be Kerry himself who spoils it for the Democrats.


Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.