President Tofu

The serial scold who believes the remedy for life's slips and falls is a lawsuit wants ballot status in Arizona

Nader explained that he wanted the corporations to "pledge allegiance to the flag."

Surprisingly, only one company agreed with Nader's suggestion. But the candidate was not discouraged. He had other ideas, too.

He explained that the key to universal health care resided in the Super Bowl. Pointing out that 100 million people watched the big game for five hours, Nader said that was a total of 500 million hours.

"Give us 500 million hours," exhorted Nader, "and we can have universal health care."

It might take a similar commitment of time to explain Nader's point, though, to be fair, no one in the audience seemed the least bit confused. In fact, once the audience was allowed to ask questions, it became apparent that candidate and crowd spoke the same crack skull gibberish.

A wild-eyed gentleman leapt to his feet and exclaimed that he was prepared to work for Nader seven days a week, 24 hours a day. But could the candidate reduce his positions to a one-page, single-spaced, front-and-back sheet?

Nader demurred, saying he did not want to be trapped into sound bites. He was not joshing. His book was available for purchase if you wished to cart home a tome as large as a Viking gas range.

Another woman demanded to know about election fraud perpetrated by electronic voting machines.

Now, any red-blooded politician would know that if a woman is even hinting that somehow, somewhere, someone actually stole an election from Ralph Nader, she is prime groupie material. But Nader went on to address the conspiracy behind paperless ballots.

Another member of the audience announced that he had a theory about AIDS.

I scanned the crowd to see if anyone rolled his or her eyes, groaned or otherwise indicated that perhaps our questioner was not tethered to planet Earth. Nope.

"I see cancer as a virus," said the speaker, who shared the shocking information that he had no scientific or medical background. "Who on your staff can I get into a solid discussion with?"

Nader urged the gentleman to contact the American Public Health Agency, and not just anyone, but the head of that group.

Our consumer advocate did not want this wowser bothering anyone on his staff.

When Terri Mansfield raised her hand, I thought, finally, here is where the sparks will ignite. An attractive middle-aged true believer, Mansfield was at the Nader appearance handing out pamphlets. She asked the candidate how he felt about creating a new cabinet-level office. She is part of the movement to establish the United States Department of Peace.

A bill, HR 1673, has been sponsored in the United States House of Representatives by Ohio's oatmeal eater, Congressman Dennis Kucinich. With 50 other vegetarians co-sponsoring this legislation, they are a mere 168 congressmen short of the total needed to put this up to a full vote of the House.

This beads-and-macramé approach to violence and bloodshed purports to "promote justice and democratic principles to expand human rights . . . facilitate the development of peace summits at which parties to a conflict may gather . . . develop new programs on school violence, guns, racial or ethnic violence, violence against gays and lesbians and police community relations disputes."

I searched the group's literature and later its Web site to locate any mention of the 300,000 Iraqi men, women and children Saddam Hussein slaughtered, according to estimates by credible human rights organizations on the ground in that country. I did not find a suggestion as to what summit without weapons would have lifted his savage rule.

Nor did Mr. Nader address the record of Hussein's carnage in Iraq.

Coming out foursquare for a Department of Peace, Nader expressed puzzlement.

"I don't understand where the idea that peace is flabby comes from," said Nader. "It takes far more courage to wage peace."

Then Ralph Nader stood history on its pointy head. He claimed that a Department of Peace could have dealt with Hitler.

Of course, one gets the picture: "Adolf, take your boot off the Jews' necks or we're going to ban shipments of all hemp products into Germany."

Nader held up the cabinet-level Department of Peace as a meaningful contrast to President Bush's war in the Middle East.

Bush went to war to bring democracy to Iraq, a vainglorious undertaking well beyond the capacity of a guy who was a college cheerleader. Here is what we now have: When Iraqi insurgents took Japanese civilians hostage, they threatened to roast them alive and then eat them.

One cannibal, one vote.

But if you didn't want war in the Middle East, the solution was simple: You shouldn't have pissed away your vote on Ralph Nader.

If Al Gore had won, there would have been no war in Iraq. There would be no Fallujah. No charred American bodies hanging from the bridge. No dead American soldiers. No dead Iraqi civilians. No hostages.

We didn't need a Department of Peace. We just needed Ralph Nader to let go of the microphone.

But if he did that, he wouldn't have a roomful of misty-eyed idealists beaming at him.

And for your information, the groupies look precisely as you imagine. Monica Lewinsky had more red gloss on her two lips than the entire roomful of the faithful combined.

E-mail michael.lacey@newtimes.com, or call 602-229-8404.

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