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Ralph Nadir

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It's finally official, Ralph Nader has become the new Harold Stassen of American politics.

Stassen, who hopelessly ran for President more times (literally) than almost most people have fingers and became a national joke, at least had been elected to something - indeed something noteworthy - governor of Minnesota.

But now, Ralph Nader has said he's thinking about running for President yet again. "I'll consider it later in the year," he said on CNN's Late Edition, having noted, "It's really too early to say."

That he said this on a show called Late Edition should not be taken as cosmic whimsy. It's not "really too early" at all, as Mr. Nader hopes. It's far - oh, far, far - too late.

If Ralph Nader wants to talk about Presidential campaigns on news shows, the only words that should come out of his mouth are, "Oh, my God, what was I thinking in 2000???!!" The only thing you want to see Ralph Nader do on a political platform is fall to his knees, prostrate himself and weep out, "I am so sorry!! I don't know what I was doing. I apologize from the bottom of my soul. Please, o please forgive me. I have had six years to see the horrors in everything I deem holy that resulted from my actions and have lived through the hell of knowing what I helped participate in. And I humbly ask for the entire world to grant me mercy."

Yes, Ralph Nader has spent the last six years explaining that he didn't lose the election for Al Gore. But if you'd lost the election for Al Gore and saw the world spin out of control because of that, wouldn't you try to block the same pain and find denial the only save haven in which to live?

Of course if Al Gore had done better himself, he'd have won. Of course if the Supreme Court had done its job properly, Gore would have won. And of course Ralph Nader being in a race decided by a handful of chads had an impact.

Ralph Nader's reasons for considering getting into the Presidential race yet again may sound noble - he thinks that running for President has become solely about raising $100 million. There are, indeed, problems with money in Presidential politics. But part of those problems were caused by Mr. Nader. After all, if George Bush hadn't proven that an incompetent, unthinking rock with no business running anything, including a toaster-oven could become President by raising hundreds of millions of dollars, perhaps that wouldn't have opened the floodgates. Perhaps if Mr. Bush had not become President, most of those investors would have looked at their empty checkbooks and thought the money used to muck up America could have been better spent elsewhere.

Money will always and has always played a big part in American politics. That not news.

But being elected to something, to anything would be nice. Ralph Nader hasn't accomplished that.

And it's okay not being elected to anything. For much of the early part of his business life, Ralph Nader accomplished much, being an independent, unrelenting voice for the public good. Unfortunately, he threw all that good will into the trash in 2000. If Ralph Nader thinks he did himself and his reputation and his country any good by being an Outspoken Voice in 2000, he's more delusional than anyone who thinks Stay the Course was a swell idea and that a Surge is an even better one.

But that's old news. The new news is that Ralph Nader sees the U.S. political scene in bad shape, and thinks he's the one to fix it. Nader may not have driven the car into the tree, but he handed the keys to George Bush. He wants to fix it? For goodness sake, he's the one who helped muck it up.

What Ralph Nader has lost sight of (okay, sorry, what one of the many things Ralph Nader has lost sight of) is that in the olden days of yore when he Did Good Things, it was as a crusading outsider, an irritant voice who was effective specifically by being outside the system and having the freedom to act on his own terms with vigor. He didn't take on the automobile safety by trying fruitlessly and foolishly to become chairman of General Motors. He succeeded because he ran all around the automotive industry like a dervish and pounded them into the ground.

Now, however, he's hit the bottom and become a dancing clown. A silly little man braying amongst the louder, stronger, more accomplished voices. Thinking that because he says he wants to run for President that he's in the game. Forgetting that his disastrous actions showed how clearly there really is a difference between the two major parties. Ralph Nader is in the game the same way the idiots who jump over the outfield walls at baseball games and run around the field waving their arms until they're tackled by security guards and hauled off to jail are in the game.

And Ralph Nader says he might want to run again. If he does, here's hoping it's far way.