Ralph Nader on Middle East Turmoil, Ron/Rand Paul, Netanyahu, DNC Militarism, and More

MT: I think the major reason I was more appalled by the Democratic Convention was because at least with the Republicans, you know what you’re getting.

RN: Oh yeah — everything was scripted, censored. It was like the Commissars were in charge. All the speakers had to be — to use the terrible term — vetted. Which means they were forced to comply with a formula. And everyone got up — including Elizabeth Warren — and started with the same story: “My parents, my grandparents, I worked at 13,” and so on.

It was the politics of ‘Personalismo.’ It was basically a massive distraction away from what they avoided talking about. Obviously they didn’t talk about minimum wage, they didn’t talk about corporate crimes, they didn’t walk about the wars…

The wars — that’s the big thing. This is why Ron Paul did not speak at the Republican Convention. His son did — who’s very craven by the way — but Ron Paul refused because they would only allow him to speak on the condition that they be able to vet his remarks.

And, total endorsement of Romney. He’s the only principled person — he said no. Unlike his son.

I attended his counter-convention there in Tampa, and I don’t know if you saw any of his speech — but I’ve seen a lot Ron Paul speeches, and this was remarkable. It was the most subversive speech of his I’ve ever heard. You should take the time, if you have an hour or so, to watch it. Because what stood out mostly to me — well, a lot stood out — but what really jarred me was when he defended by name, in the most strident possible terms, both Bradley Manning and Julian Assange.

Yeah, well he’s on the record as saying there should be more WikiLeaks.

He served in Air Force himself, and for him to defend the Army Private who is currently being tried by the U.S. Military with “aiding and abetting Al Qaeda” …?

No, he’s very good. He’s one of a kind. His son is not his father’s son, that’s for sure.

Actually, his son lied to my face, if you can believe it.

Yeah. I can.

I encountered him on the floor of the Tampa Convention. By the way, side-note: it was much easier for journalists to get on the floor of the Tampa Convention than the Charlotte Convention. I was not able to get on the floor at all in Charlotte.

This was a military fortification in Charlotte. The police far out-numbered the demonstrators. And the taxpayer paid for it. Well, you’ll like my column. The most amazing thing though, that everybody missed, is that Obama demonstrated once again why he is the most politically-selfish politician in our modern era. Because he can’t get himself to support the Democratic members of Congress, to take back Congress. He doesn’t campaign with them, he doesn’t talk about them. They’re very resentful, but they’re reluctant to speak out. Clinton, on the other hand, campaigned a lot with Democratic members of Congress when he was in their districts. And what that says about Obama is that he really is not serious, because he can’t get anything through if the Republicans control either the House, Senate, or both. So he’s lending none of his bully-pulpit, none of his resources, none of his aura to getting back the House and Senate. And that’s why veteran Democratic legislators in the House have told me uniformly that they don’t think they’re going to recover the House — that the House will be Republican for the next two years. Which is quite an admission, given the fact that it’s the cruelest, most ignorant, most corporate-indentured, most war-mongering, most most anti-worker, most anti-peace Republican Party in history. Which Democrats should be land-sliding.

Maybe the issue is Obama believes that his aura has diminished to the point that it wouldn’t be politically prudent for him to intervene in any of these races.

That’s not true, because they would all like him to campaign — except some of the Blue Dogs.

Well anyway, let me tell you why I was so appalled by the Democratic Convention. I was progressively appalled throughout, but then during the Vice President’s speech — and you must remember this moment — he had the crowd cry out in exultation: “Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive!” I felt sick to my stomach when I heard that.

That was his low moment. Because it just shows what a cheap politician he is. First of all, Osama did his job right after 9/11, because we did it to ourselves. The overreaction was exactly how to wreck the economy, which is presumably what Al Qaeda wanted to do — to weaken the U.S. economy. So to imply that he was still a major adversary of the U.S. is crazy. But to put the two together is disgusting. It cheapened Biden. It’s like a local politician — and that’s what he is. He’s just a cheap politician.

But it wasn’t even that — it was the fact that a major refrain of the Democratic Convention was that we sent Navy SEALs into a sovereign nation without their consent to pump bullets into the skull of this man, and also kill others along with him, then dump his body into the ocean — and this is what’s being celebrated by the Democratic Party?

Well, that isn’t even on the screen. The criminal illegality of our wars, and our drones, and our invasions and our incursions — that’s the Empire. And the Emperor is Barack Obama. So why should they talk about it? That’s why they didn’t want Jimmy Carter —

Carter was neutered.

Yeah. Basically, they taped Jimmy Carter endorsing Obama. But they didn’t want him speaking, because he tends to speak his mind. Just as they didn’t want him in Denver four years ago. They had him trot with Roslyn across the stage to applause.

And you know Jimmy Carter himself must be outraged by drone strikes, for example.

Well, so is former CIA Director Hayden. A lot of them think it’s a boomeranging operation — you just create more of what you’re trying to control and prevent. No, this was — the title of my column is, “Two Conventions: Profiles in Decadent Cowardliness.” Because that’s what it is. When you’re running a criminal regime, what are you going to do? Parade that? No, you’re going to avoid it.

Did you see what David Brooks said? He read through or heard 80 Convention speeches for the Democrats. Not one major, specific proposal. So he went around the Convention asking Democratic legislators and governors — “Tell me one significant bill you would like to see enacted into law in the next Obama term.” Not one of them gave him any idea.

One of the few signs of hope I found at the Democratic Convention was when I came across our friend Kucinich, who actually was commanding a decent following there — people were very happy to see him.

Yeah, I saw him yesterday at the Tavis Smiley and Cornel West poverty tour in Alexandria. He’s good, but he’s on his way out.

Exactly, so that’s what I asked him — with the tandem of he and Ron Paul leaving Congress, who’s going to be standing up against all this militarism?

Walter Jones is the only one left.

And Barbara Lee.

Well, she’s not very visible. She doesn’t really like to make waves. She’s not like Kucinich. The problem is, Ron Paul decided to retire. Why, I don’t know — it could be fatigue. But here he was, subcommittee chair overseeing the Federal Reserve, and he didn’t really use that power for some reason.

Well, I think the Republicans were making overtures to him publicly, but working against him behind the scenes.

They might’ve said, “If you make too many waves with the Federal Reserve and start subpoenaing people, we’ll take it away from you.”

Did you hear that his campaign manager for the 2012 primaries (Jesse Benton), whom all the Ron Paul grassroots people always suspected was a traitor — actually his son-in-law — just signed on to manage the reelection campaign of none other than Mitch McConnell?

Oh my Lord.

There’s long been a theory circulating at the grassroots that I’ve found credible, which is that people within Ron Paul’s apparatus — maybe sabotage is a strong word — but they were not doing all they could to actually help him win.

Rand Paul restrained him. I don’t know how much was voluntary by Ron Paul. But he didn’t make a big fuss at the Convention because of Rand Paul. Rand Paul has ambition, you see? Ron Paul had no ambition. He had a message; he had a mission. Rand Paul has ambition. He is extremely arrogant. He will not return calls, for example. He will not answer letters.

I couldn’t believe how brazen a lie he uttered to me. I asked him, what did he make of the plight of the Ron Paul delegates at the Republican Convention, who were just arbitrarily not seated — for absolutely no good reason. He said he hadn’t heard anything about it.

Well, he’s a liar. You ought to make that point.

I hear that there were a lot of Nays at the Democratic Convention on the Jerusalem thing. What caused that? I thought they were all a bunch of patsies.

It just goes to show that neither Party’s bosses care a lick about what the delegates think. You saw that with the Ron Paul people. The Ron Paul people actually won a voice vote in Tampa, and it was just disregarded. And then in Charlotte, it was at least unclear who won the voice vote on adding the Jerusalem language. But then Villaraigosa just proceeded on. There was actually a good clip done by a local TV station that showed that on the teleprompter they were reading from, the outcome of the voice vote was preordained.

It’s dictatorial politics, that’s all. With a democracy sheen. And it keeps getting worse and worse. I mean, twenty, forty, sixty years ago, it was less so. The way they controlled these demonstrations and shoved them miles away — that’s the worst thing that the Democratic Party did.

So what do you make about the turmoil going on right now in the world? I’m getting to the point where I’m physically nervous about it. I feel like one false move, and Netanyahu — if he feels threatened, who knows what could happen?

Yeah, of course. That’s why they’re worried inside the Obama Administration. They’re furious over what he did a few days ago. Furious.

And that was before all this happened!


And then you have Romney just spewing falsehoods. I’m not interested in really defending Obama any more, but Romney is saying — Romney falsely suggested, and really vilely suggested, that Obama sympathized with the attackers in Egypt.

Well, he’s getting beat up on that.

But he’s standing by it! And you have his boosters in the conservative media defending him still.

Well, he’s going to narrow his base. Obama is very clever. He doesn’t make mistakes like Romney.

So comment broadly on the turmoil, if you would. It’s spreading all throughout the region — you have protests everywhere from Jerusalem, to Tunisia, to Kashmir, to Indonesia. I mean, what the heck is happening?

I don’t know what’s happening. As far as the U.S. foreign and military policy — it’s the latest delayed blowback. We think we could go into Libya without a declaration of war, without authorization or appropriations for the money, without a War Resolution even — and let the President decide when we’re going to go to war? And he rustles up a billion dollars from some military budget, and then they say, “Well look, we freed Libya from Gaddafi.”

But look at Mali. Thousands of fighters went south over the border with their weapons, and now they control over half of Mali, and Mali’s in total chaos with thousands of refugees. And now we have Benghazi — the chaos in Libya has never been resolved, it’s full of sectarian separatist conflict and militias.

This is what happens when you have Empire. You get blowback. That’s what’s happening. Now, with the Internet, the blowback is much easier to spread right across the Islamic world.

You hear the American right-wing saying, “Oh, this is what the Arab Spring was about all along — Islamic extremists who support Al Qaeda trying to take over these governments. And Obama should have stood against it. He should have stood with Mubarak,” etc.

Well, maybe the right-wing ought to be drafted into the Military and go over and fight America’s wars. They have no credibility whatsoever. They’re led by draft dodgers during the Vietnam War, who liked the Vietnam War but wanted their friends to go fight and not them. Like Cheney, and Wolfowitz, and Perle.

And Romney.

And Romney. They don’t have any credibility any more.

It’s out of our control now. Because we didn’t have any real humanitarian foreign policy. It was all brute force. And when you engage brute force in the swirling turmoil of Asia and Africa, you lose control. You’re not going to put troops on the ground any more — it’s all about drones. And that is extremely illegal, and it produces huge boomerangs because of the innocent people who are destroyed by the drones. So I think we’re going to see the start of a slow withdrawal from that area, just as Reagan withdrew the Marines from Lebanon.

Well, Marines were just sent to Yemen to fortify the embassy.

Yeah, well they’ll do that obviously. They have to do that. And to Tripoli and Benghazi. But the reason why the U.S. isn’t intervening directly into Syria is because they’ve now realized that the blowback is overwhelming, and they can’t handle it.

What I’ve been saying is, I’m not a religious man, but — I’m considering taking up prayer.

Heh. Well, stay cool.


  1. Actually, they changed the powers of Ron Paul’s subcommittee, quietly, while they gave it to him with great fanfare. He was not ABLE to subpoena without the overall Chair’s approval.

    And, yes, I am sure that is one reason why he decided to retire. He had gotten what he had been working towards to make a difference, and they took the position’s biggest power away.

  2. Nader is right. Things are a lot worse (everywhere) than people think. The world is on fire and Americans are still down at the sports bar watching Fox News or some other version of the official (corporate) press. JWC

  3. Hello Mr. Tracey,

    A great, wide- ranging interview with a great wide-ranging man. You’re both spot-on when as regards the whiny and mealy-mouthed Randall Paul. I’d be willing to wager that Ron Paul is more than a little disappointed.

    You should forward this to the Daily Paul!

    Cheers, JQP

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