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'There Are a Lot of Reasons to Cover Losers'

Ralph Nader stumped the Post editorial board yesterday. He visited, with a few aides, to ask why his presidential campaign isn't receiving any coverage in the Post or most other media outlets.

Since he's airing lots of important issues, Nader said, the only explanation for his being utterly ignored this year is "unwitting political bigotry toward third parties: 'They can't win.'"

Well, yes, we said, likelihood of winning does seem relevant.

That's when Nader sprung his trap. "On that basis, why would you report on the Nationals?" he asked. "There are a lot of reasons to cover losers."

We had no answer to that one. So we hereby report a number of proposals on which Nader said his campaign is in tune with a majority, or a large number, of American voters, but on which Obama and McCain are united on the other side: A single-payer national health insurance system. A carbon pollution tax, as opposed to what he described as the too-complex cap-and-trade system favored by both mainstream candidates. A national living wage. An opening of presidential debates to third parties, to give voters access to a wider range of views. Impeaching Bush and Cheney for what Nader called a "criminal war of aggression," unconstitutional signing statements and other alleged offenses. Allowing federal law to be made through national initiative, as many states permit.

After a while, Nader drifted back, a bit wistfully, to politics, asking how we could be sure he wouldn't win "if we got into the debates." After all, he said, independent governor Jesse Ventura started out at 10 percent in the polls.

True. And the Nationals are only 26 and a half games back.

By Fred Hiatt  | September 12, 2008; 10:01 AM ET
Categories:  Hiatt  | Tags:  Fred Hiatt  
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Nader's analogy was a false one. The Nationals have a chance of winning any individual game, so each game is covered as it ought to be. Furthermore, the Nationals still put fans in the seats for every game, so in the minds of the WaPo's readers, there's clearly some relevance.

Nader, on the other hand, is not going to win anything, because there's only one thing to win - the presidency - and that will not happen.

Maybe you should hire people who think more quickly on their feet and can spot a false, hyperbolic analogy and respond to it more quickly. Nader's a smooth talker who's no longer relevant in any meaningful way.

Posted by: Charles | September 12, 2008 11:25 AM | Report abuse

I would like to see as much coverage of the other candidates as the republicans and democrats receive. They should all receive equal air time, and be allowed to participate in the debates. We need to break out of this two part monopoly.
Nader has correctly put forth proposals that are agreed upon by the majority.

Posted by: Patricia A. Claves | September 12, 2008 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Yes, Nader is irrelevant except for one annoying point: he's right.

Posted by: Jumper | September 12, 2008 11:46 AM | Report abuse

The media does what is best for business (and possibly their political views), which is legitimate in a capitalist society. However, this doesn't change the fact that we DO NOT live in a true democracy and never will as long as we are forced to choose between Pepsi and Coke (Red vs Blue). So go ahead an be snide and take a witty approach to Nader and other third party irrelevance... you are in a prime position to add more democracy to this country but don't. Equal press coverage won't kill your business but will create and environment that forces the two major parties to consider the opinions of the smaller ones.

Posted by: sequoia | September 12, 2008 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Building on Sequoia's first point, media corporations are still corporations and will thus behave in ways that protect their corporate interests. The WaPo, for example, has a vested business interest in preserving current trade policies, so it makes rational sense (though not necessarily moral sense) for WaPo to avoid giving equal time to a candidate that makes a compelling case against those policies. Another example is the media consolidation issue. I believe self-interest is why nearly every corprate media outlet gave short shrift not only to Ralph Nader but to Dennis Kucinich in '04 and '08.

Posted by: ruark | September 12, 2008 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Baracky Hussein Obama has an extremely liberal Senate voting record - he cannot run and hide from that fact.

Democrats for John McCain and Sarah Palin in 2008

Posted by: Helen | September 12, 2008 1:35 PM | Report abuse

"Well, yes, we said, likelihood of winning does seem relevant."
By this standard, you never would have printed a single word about the American Revolution until the vastly improbable surrender of British forces at Yorktown. But we would read a flippant and dismissive blog about George Washington and some of his aides visiting the Post editorial board asking why their struggle against tyranny wasn't getting any coverage in the Post.

Here are two "Post Principles" (It's your website, Mr. Hiatt; you should be able to find them):
The first mission of a newspaper is to tell the truth as nearly as the truth can be ascertained.
The newspaper shall tell ALL the truth so far as it can learn it, concerning the important affairs of America and the world.

Posted by: filmlab | September 12, 2008 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for posting something about a 3rd party candidate. I don't agree with Nader on the issues, but I do agree with him on his views of the exclusion of 3rd parties. You say "Well, yes, we said, likelihood of winning does seem relevant.", but the problem here is that is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Reporting on the Nationals or not does not change their chance of winning, but not reporting on 3rd parties destroys any chance they might have had.

The 2 major parties get hours and hours of free publicity every day, but any 3rd party candidate is lucky to get an hour over the whole election year. It is accepted knowledge that candidates win or lose largely on name recognition, but how many people have even heard of say Bob Barr (liberatarian candidate for president), despite to possibility that he could effect the outcome of the election (could draw votes from a major party)?

Posted by: Doug | September 12, 2008 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, but the Nationals are compelling.

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | September 12, 2008 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Those were good reasons. Perhaps because he is a 'loser' he can give voice to these ideas, which I share. There is nothing resembling direct democracy in this country, even on a local level. I am a loser too, because I am not even in the game. I feel I am among company, a nation of losers without a voice. (Go Obama - you're doing the best you can in the context of the current political realities, but as I live in MD, I will probably vote Nader or Green Party. If it were Virginia, different story.)

Posted by: Alex Thuronyi | September 12, 2008 2:41 PM | Report abuse

I think I know the reason they're reluctant to report on the third parties. Because they don't want to impact their favorite. Nadar would take from Obama and put a win at risk. Barr would take from McCain and put him at risk. So the allegedly unbiased reporters really don't want their guy to lose so they don't want to play-up their own guy's competition. Bottom line, it's lower risk to find dirt on your own guy's competition than to find anything positive about any of the other candidates since it risks exposing your own guy's true beliefs.

Posted by: Brad from Michigan | September 12, 2008 3:54 PM | Report abuse

The views of Nader and Barr should be covered. And both should be in the debates. Third parties keep the two main parties honest and are MUCH BETTER AT IT THAN THE PRESS. There's never been a greater need for that.

Posted by: mnjam | September 12, 2008 7:58 PM | Report abuse

Let me see: Nader's proposals to which the "majority of Americans agree":

Universal Health Care - no, not really. In more conservative parts of the country, the shortfalls of the Canadian / UK systems are regularly pointed out. Most people I know (I live in Idaho) would not think it a good idea. But if you live in CA or MA and hobnob with Michael Moore ....

Carbon Tax - I don't know. Most people I know don't even discuss cap and trade, so I doubt most even give this a passing thought.

A National Living Wage - Socialism, anybody? Around where I live, this would be derided.

An Opening of National Debates to Third Parties - Many feel that because these events are organized by the candidates (private function), that the people doing the organizing should be able to decide whom to invite. Not that this would be a bad idea if done voluntarily, it is just that people have some 1st amendment issues with a law requiring this. Many people I know distrust McCain because of McCain Feingold, again because of first amendment concerns.

"Impeach" Bush - Some here actually like Bush, and some who do not would hesitate to claim that Bush had acted criminally.

I think if Nader wants to be more successful, before he engages in a third party media coverage whinefest, should get out there, including into "Red State" parts of the country, and get a broader view of what Americans actually think. If people agree with him, fine, if not, then he should be prepared to argue for his beliefs.

Leland Davis

Posted by: Leland Davis | September 12, 2008 11:40 PM | Report abuse

Hey Ralph -- They already recalled the Corvair. Get lost.

Posted by: Former Nader Supporter | September 13, 2008 5:15 AM | Report abuse

Nader should be thankful for being ignored by the Post. Look how they cover the issues and the candidates. We have a hockey mom and the fact she can see the coastline of Russia sixty miles away makes her a foreign policy expert. McCain campaigns on lipstick and pigs. Obama is aloof. Biden is a Washington insider.

Nader your lucky that this crappy newspaper, that you wish would cover you, ignores you. The war, economy, corruption, taxes, health care, intelligence, all are unimportant when evaluating the candidates. Hiatt and the gang could find some quirk of yours that clearly shows you are not qualified to be president. Dude, no one cares about issues, get real.

Posted by: Tom | September 13, 2008 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Nader stumped the WAPO's editorial board? My dog could stump the WAPO's editorial board.

Posted by: Ralph Brouchoud | September 13, 2008 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Loosers to you Fred.

Posted by: Tom | September 13, 2008 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Re Executive Experience:

George W. Bush, touted as our "first CEO president," had lots of executive experience at his various failed businesses.

Cheney was an executive at Halliburton.

Executive experience is a disqualifier for national office.

Posted by: Connie3 | September 13, 2008 11:08 PM | Report abuse

Well, Nader's program is what Social Democrats and Greens in Europe fight for and often managed to achieve.

Changes in USA political system can be achieved only if whole or part of Congress is elected on bases of proportional vote. I am sure Greens could get at least 5% vote in California. Or Social Democrats in Rust Belt. Or Christian Democrats in Deep South. With currently used First Past the Post (FPP) system those votes would be wasted. And two big parties like status quo. It ensures their duopoly... So even if you like pineapple juice you still have to decide between Pepsi and Coke.

Posted by: Mladen | September 15, 2008 6:12 AM | Report abuse

Did Nader arrive in his vintage Chevy Corvair? Will an imaginary future headline read: PRESIDENT SHOOTS SELF IN FOOT CONGRESS FOLLOWS ??

Posted by: hillhopper | September 15, 2008 8:25 AM | Report abuse

The difference:

The Nationals are LOCAL and a SPORTS TEAM.

Nader is neither a local boy, nor a recognized sport (though I like to make sport of him, personally).

One thing I'm sure of is that the Nats don't get much airtime outside the DC Metro area. Oh wait, I'm sure of another thing: Nader shouldn't get much airtime, period.

Posted by: Tori | September 15, 2008 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Ted Land (907) 762-9269 of KTUU TV an NBC affiliate in Alaska who did the news story of a hugh rally in Alaska against Sarah Palin. I told him that I was amazed that none of the networks carried or asked for any of the footage. He said that he was just as amazed as I was especially when NBC did not request any footage. He also said that CNN was there. I told him the only story that I heard concerning a protest on CNN was about Oprah. What's going on here folks? I found out about the story at KTTU.COM There are a lot of people especially women, democrats and republicans unlike who disagreeD with Palin and thinks she's dangerous for the country. The protest started with 8 to 10 women sitting around realizing that Palin doesn't represent them. A nasty radio host broadcast their names over the airways and others tried to stop the rally. It was big news in Alaska and you can see the story on KTTU.COM website. This goes to show you that Rick Davis has far reaching arms. Palin will be hidden from the legit media as well as any negative press. Alaska is a small community so there will be some backlash but still these people weren't afraid to speak out. What happen to our press coverage here about the protest IN ALASKA. CALL TED AND ASK HIM ABOUT THE STORY

Posted by: NBC, CNN NEVER AIRED THE PROTEST | September 15, 2008 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for at least meeting with Nader! I definitely do not agree with his views but am glad that I was able to hear about them (albeit in this blog).

This is the whole point. I can now make a more informed decision on who to vote for (or not vote for) because it was reported. let me repeat...REPORTED! your blog post had no attack, no lipstick, no # of houses, just reported what he said, and now I know more.

I'm voting for Bob Barr because I have done research on candidates and had thoughtful discussions with others. I have concluded that he has my vote. Not based on pointless reporting of back and forth attacks of two candidates that hail from the two parties that have BOTH put this country into our current state of problems and offer no way out other than more government (which is why I'm not for Nader).

When the media returns to reporting, we will be better off. "Reporting" on polls, is not reporting. "Reporting" on personal attacks is not reporting.

Newspapers today are suffering horribly due to declining readership. I find it amazing. A paper could set itself apart from the others by REPORTING!! Funny that we don't see them doing this.

Posted by: Dave g, Minneapolis | September 15, 2008 2:04 PM | Report abuse

I’ll probably repost this thought in many other forums, but

Please frame this question/analogy in your mind: Your only choices are Vanilla or Chocolate milkshakes. You “HAVE” to choose from these two because they are the only choices you’ve ever been offered…they’re the ONLY ones on the menu.

In Polling, people are asked: Do you want Vanilla, or Chocolate or haven’t you decided? And People, as we all will do, will probably decide given those choices…I mean, who can’t decide between the “obvious” two “best” choices? And really, I wouldn’t want to be “undecided” because my peers would look upon me as a moron who can’t see the light…the choices are OBVIOUS!!!! Chocolate or Vanilla, I mean how hard can it be? You MUST be a moron if you can’t decide.

Or…you are a person. A voter. A thinker. You see that things could be different. There could be choices of “Strawberry”, or “banana crème”, or “mocha blend”, or the great multitude of choice that has allowed business and Americans to thrive.

So, why is it that the media continues to only “report” on vanilla or chocolate (this is NOT a racial reference, please…)

They only report two choices! And Americans fall in line and accept that those are their only choices.

If people thought of presidential candidates in these simple terms, many questions could be answered:

Does choosing Chocolate “take away from” the sales of Strawberry? Yes, but this doesn’t influence the sales of Vanilla. Those who choose strawberry would probably always choose strawberry. In fact, having other choices probably DOES take away from BOTH the “vanilla” and “chocolate” choices. This is not bad, because the consumer gets what they want, and it’s conceivable that the “third” choice could be bigger than either of the two choices. Really, if anyone has taste-buds, why would they continue to choose “vanilla” as a majority??

Posted by: dave g, Minneapolis | September 16, 2008 12:59 AM | Report abuse

I love Nader. The Nationals reference is a little annoying. But he's right - the candidates agree a little too much, and a lot of popular ideas are not supported. Many countries less "civilized" than ours have things like run-off voting and national healthcare, why can't we?

Posted by: Drew | September 16, 2008 2:59 AM | Report abuse

It's too bad you don't give more coverage to Nader and other candidates, especially considering what the two biggest parties are offering us. If the U.S. electorate really wants "change," it needs to break out of the Democrat/Republican gridlock. Unfortunately, that doesn't look likely to happen any time soon.

Posted by: ttj | September 17, 2008 2:19 PM | Report abuse

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