Ralph Nader, who helped give us George Bush in 2000, has ended his latest unsuccessful campaign in disgrace, referring to Barack Obama as an Uncle Tom. Even Fox News is outraged by his attack on Obama as seen in the video above. Hopefully this is the last we hear of Nader.
Update: There has been considerable reaction to Nader’s comment now that the video has gone viral. Check out some of the blogs with track backs here in the comments. Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice has provided some of the links below, preceded by his own view:
Yes, Ralph Nader ran again and place bets now that he’ll run in 2012 or beyond, even if he has to be wheeled from appearance to appearance. This year he received a sliver of the kind of support he got at the ballot box, which in itself would have been enough to decrease his shrinking legacy. But on election night 2008 he seemed determined to reduce his legacy even more.
On election night — as even GOP strategist Karl Rove expressed awe at the historical moment and Obama’s achievement — Nader framed Obama’s choice in a way that raised eyebrows. Watch the video below showing Ralph Nader with Fox News’ Shepard Smith, one of the network’s most unpredictable and watchable anchors. Watch Smith frame Nader’s role in 2000 and this year in a way that many voters now feel — and watch his response to Nader’s comment about Obama.
PERSONAL NOTE: Watching Ralph Nader now is very painful for many of us who grew up in the 1960s. I can remember driving from my parent’s house in Woodbridge, CT back to Colgate University in Hamilton, New York in a brutal snowstorm, listening to a newscast detail the latest battle of a young crusading Connecticut lawyer named Ralph Nader. Many baby boomers wanted to be just like him. When Nader ran for President in 2000 — like him or not — it was all about content. Since then, Nader seems to be all about someone who craves attention.
His legacy was already diminished by election day. His comments here reduce it even more. And, yet, he doesn’t seem to realize the impact of the way he framed his question, and the inappropriateness of his language.
From Tim Goodman at The San Francisco Chronicle:
As if Ralph Nader wasn’t a big enough tool already, he went on Fox News on election night – the very night Barack Obama broke the racial barrier on the presidency – and uttered the words “Uncle Tom.” Not only that, after being called out on the words (which he initially said in a radio interview) by Fox News anchor Shepard Smith – and given a point-blank chance to apologize and take them back, Nader said he wouldn’t. It’s a stunning bit of television and a lot of people missed it. (No doubt a good portion of the Bay Area, not exactly a bastion of Fox News watchers, did). Up until he spewed out the words, the biggest shocker in this scenario was A) That anybody still cared enough to talk to a washed-up political hack like Nader and B) That Nader could actually hear Smith call him on the offensive language. Nader rarely stops his mouth moving – he’s always so caught up in his monotonous blather and meritless belief that he’s making points people want to listen to.
Give Shep Smith a lot of credit here. “Really? Ralph Nader – what was that?” And then he just fried Nader. (I love the look on his face when Nader calls him a bully – it’s that same look people should be giving Nader right about now for completely not getting it.)
So, let’s go to the big board here for the tally: Nader helps the Democrats lose the election in 2000 and then slanders the Democratic winner in 2008? Well played, Ralph. At least this moment brings you (temporarily) back out of obscurity and irrelevance.
Tim Molloy at TV Guide writes:
Dubious congratulations are in order: Ralph Nader became the first public figure to make an inflammatory public remark about our first African-American president, telling a Fox News affiliate that Barack Obama has to choose between being “Uncle Sam for the people of this country, or Uncle Tom for the giant corporations.”
Grilled by Fox’s Shepard Smith early Wednesday morning, after the election was decided, Nader declined to back down from the remark, which he made in an earlier interview on Election Day.
“Really,” Smith said after playing a clip of Nader’s remarks. “Ralph Nader, what was that?”
Nader continued to press his point – Obama is too beholden to corporate interests – without acknowledging that many find the term Uncle Tom offensive. (Taken from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the 1852 anti-slavery novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe, the term is used to accuse a black person of behaving subserviently.)
Smith soon cut Nader off: “You had a number of supporters out there, you were running a percentage, this year you were reduced to irrelevant and I just wonder if that’s what you want your legacy to be: the man who on the night that the first African-American president in the history of this nation was elected, you ask if he’s going to be Uncle Sam or Uncle Tom. Stunning.”
Nader’s answer: “Yeah, of course, he’s turned his back on a 100 million poor people in this country, African-Americans and Latinos and poor whites. And we’re gonna hold him to a higher standard.”
Later in the interview, Nader told Smith: “Look, I don’t like bullies like you. I can’t see you. You can pull the plug on me, I’m looking in a dark camera.”
Nader later used the word “toady” the same way he had previously used the phrase “Uncle Tom,” but said he had no regrets about the latter phrase.
Nader, a consumer advocate, has run in every election since 1996 but had a significant impact only in the 2000 race, in which many Democrats blame him for siphoning off enough votes from Al Gore in Florida to allow George Bush to win the election.
David Weigel of Reason wrote:
It’s going to take a while for Americans and pundits (often the same thing!) to adjust to a black president. There are cliches and turns of phrase and narratives that simply won’t sound right if applied to a black man. Ralph Nader’s getting a head start on this.His choice, basically, is whether he’s going to be Uncle Sam for the people of this country, or Uncle Tom for the giant corporations.
During the campaign, Nader suggested that Obama was “acting white” by not barnstorming the country and talking about poverty or something. But the irony is that Nader’s one of the sorriest practitioners of ethnic politics out there. “Sorry” in the sense that it never works. He’s run for president four times and each time chosen a hilariously unqualified ethnic minority running mate: Winona LaDuke (American Indian), LaDuke again, Peter Camejo (Hispanic) and Matt Gonzalez (Hispanic).
Nader’s long nightmare is over, in a sense, because I don’t think liberals can stay mad at him when they’ve won the presidency in a rout and he couldn’t stop them. But his race obsession looks even worse compared to Bob Barr. “It just illustrates the tremendous demographic changes, generational changes in this country,” Barr told me last night, discussing Obama’s win. “This really is a very different country, in some ways much better country, than it was several years ago.”
Ugh. NADER. He’s been such a dick the last few days. His communications guy has been sending out all of these sarcastic (”pathetic”) e-mails; for example, there was one about how Nader won a mock election in some hippie high school and then decided that they were all more ethical than Obama. And then there was that snippy soundbite press conference. And the shit-flavored hummus. And now this: calling Obama an “Uncle Tom” after his victory and thereby forcing us to side with SHEP F*#$@$ SMITH in the above clip.
It’s not the first time Nader’s played this cheap identity shit, either. He really does have some psychological attention-craving disorder, the end. The man has saved countless lives over the decades by advocating for safer automobiles, cleaner air, water, and food, worker safety regulations, and most importantly the election of George W. Bush. Now he’s just some crazy racist losing an argument to a relatively mild-mannered Fox News anchor.
Andrew Sullivan wrote:
Can you believe that Ralph Nader used the phrase “Uncle Tom” to describe Obama last night? Shep Smith couldn’t. And he showed again he’s the only reason to still watch and respect Fox News.
Ta-Nehisi Coates writes:
Owned–By Shep Smith, no less: This is, like, a mixture of tragedy and humor. I laughed, and then I was embarrassed for Nader. Tragicomic, I guess. Sorry, I’m not making thoughts…so. .good. Anyway, what’s truly tragicomic is that I can’t not blog. I love the O.C. shout-out at the end… Time’s Up indeed.
Steve Benen of Washington Monthly’s Political Animal blog sums it up succinctly (kindly linking back here):