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Special Event

Did Ralph Nader Snatch the Presidency Away From Al Gore?

Aired December 15, 2000 - 11:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: OK, did Ralph Nader blow this election for Al Gore?

AMY HOLMES, GUEST CO-HOST: Oh, no, Al Gore blew this on his own.

ANNOUNCER: From CNN Washington and all over the United States, THE SPIN ROOM is open.

PRESS: Good evening, everybody. Welcome to THE SPIN ROOM here on CNN. It's Friday night. Tucker Carlson is playing hookie. We don't know where he is. But we're very happy tonight to welcome Amy Holmes sitting in tonight on the right.

Good evening.

HOLMES: Thanks for having me.

PRESS: Good to have you here. And we want, of course, you are all here. And we're going to continue the normal spin, which is it's us talking, but mainly you talking, don't forget.

So we need to hear from you. Three ways to do it. You can give us your phone calls. It's a free call. 1-800-310-4CNN is the telephone number. We've got the chat room going, or the chad room as we call it, going all the time. You know where to find it, CNN.com.

And you can send us your e-mails. We want to particularly get those nominations for "Spin of the Day." Get them in early. Our address, of course, is spin@cnn.com.

Amy, good to have you here. But you have to start out by -- I mean, just help me out, OK? I mean, who the hell are you anyway? Just walk in here off the street.

HOLMES: Whoever really knows the answer to those questions. After years in policy wars at the Independent Women's Forum, I am a columnist for Voter.com. And I write a guest column for "USA Today."

PRESS: Are you really as far to the right as Tucker Carlson is?

HOLMES: Well, I think Tucker occupies his own category. Am I part of the right? I'm a conservative. But I like to also regard myself as somewhat of a progressive on other issues.

PRESS: You are a conservative?

HOLMES: Yes. It took some time to actually be able to call myself that. I used to read "The Weekly Standard" behind "The Nation" when I was in Starbuck's so people didn't know. But yes.

PRESS: So I mean, I'm going to get you on the spectrum here. I mean, so does that mean that you were like a Gary Bauer conservative or a Steve Forbes conservative, or a George Bush conservative? I mean, if you dare to tell us. In the primary, I mean.

HOLMES: Sure. Well, I really liked Steve Forbes quite a lot. I mean, there's libertarian streaks here, some progressive streaks. I'm pro-choice, for example.

So I think I'm a good mix. I'm kind of where I think a lot of the American people are, actually.

PRESS: OK, there's some hope there. I heard that little pro- choice. A little ray of hope.

HOLMES: I'm not scary...

(CROSSTALK)

PRESS: No, George Bush, President-elect Bush, we have to start calling him, started out today -- tomorrow. Made one appointment today and one tomorrow. I mean, the big one tomorrow. I mean, he starts out, no big surprise, right?

HOLMES: Right.

PRESS: I just want to know what you think about this, Colin Powell as secretary of state. Now here's my question. I mean, I know everybody in the country, they genuflect when you say "Colin Powell," right?

But I mean, here's a guy who didn't want to fight Desert Storm. When Desert Storm was over, he didn't want to go in and did not go into Baghdad and take out Saddam Hussein.

In Somalia, he's the guy who told Clinton to go after the warlords and really screw that situation up. Why do we think Colin Powell is such a great guy, would make such a great secretary of state?

HOLMES: Well, at least we know he won't be chasing after Yasser Arafat in high heels. I mean, I think the future of foreign policy with this guy is in strong black hands. I think it's a terrific appointment.

PRESS: Maybe strong hands, not the strong black hands. You think he's going to be all right?

HOLMES: I think he's going to be. I mean, he is -- one of the things that I think he didn't run for president of the United States because he didn't want to go through the political process. But, of course, he's going to be -- already you're hearing sniping about Colin Powell.

PRESS: Now, he's tomorrow's announcement, OK? Here's today's announcement. Today's announcement, it's interesting. The very first appointment George W. makes is White House counsel. And we're going to see on the screen who he appointed.

He appointed a guy who's on the Texas Supreme Court by the name of Al Gonzales. There he is. Most people don't know Al Gonzales.

I would just like to point out, Al Gonzales has a very long history with George W. Bush. When Governor Bush was called to jury duty, he didn't want to have to answer the question for jury duty, the question, "Have you ever been arrested for a DUI?" He hired an attorney to get him out of jury duty. You know who the attorney was? Al Gonzales was that attorney.

I suggest to you, Amy, that this is a payoff for the cover-up of the DUI. First White House appointment.

HOLMES: The conspiracy theories abound. Maybe it's just because he's a good lawyer. Possibly?

PRESS: I'd never buy such a simple answer.

All right, hey, let's go to our e-mail here. You know, Amy, we always start off with what we call on the show, as you know because you've been watching it, we talked about that, the megalomaniac moment.

HOLMES: Right.

PRESS: These are the nice things that people say about us that we would never, never read on the air if we weren't such ego freaks. Now, in Tucker's absence, I'll let you do the first megalomaniac moment.

HOLMES: So on behalf of Tucker I get to chat us up. OK, megalomania. "What can I say? I just love your show. There is no better way to end the day than sitting in front of the TV cheering for Tucker" -- that's me -- "and jeering at Bill." That's you.

PRESS: People actually jeer for me? I can't believe it.

You also know, megalomaniacs, we get a lot of megalomania mail from Canada. This is the very first one that we ever got from south of the border. I mean, north and south. We've got this place surrounded.

Here it is. From Miguel and Brook Cervantes (ph) in Queretaro (ph), Mexico. "Estimados Senores Press y Carlson. This is just to let you know that you have ardent aficionados south of the border as well as north in Canada. Please give your amigos in Mexico equal time. We hope you go on forever and ever."

Isn't that very nice? To which I just have to say estimados, amigos. Muy, muy gracias. Una cerveza, por favor. That's the only Spanish I know.

HOLMES: That's your Tijuana Spanish.

PRESS: And we also have some bumper stickers tonight. Thank you. The bumper stickers are coming in fast and furious. Let's go through a few of them, through a few of them. Amy, bumper stickers.

These are Florida bumper stickers. "It ain't over till your brother counts the votes." I like that one.

HOLMES: Bitter.

PRESS: No.

HOLMES: We have here, "Don't blame me, I voted for Gore I think."

PRESS: Very good.

HOLMES: Right.

PRESS: Bumper sticker from Florida. "Disney gave us Mickey. Florida gave us Dumbo." Oh, ouch.

HOLMES: Oh, a lot of bitter viewers.

PRESS: I like that.

HOLMES: And this next one. "Don't throw away your vote, let Katherine Harris do it for you."

PRESS: Good. Bumper sticker from Florida, "I didn't vote for his daddy either." I want one of those.

HOLMES: All right. And then the last one, "Bradley versus McCain sounds better now, huh?"

PRESS: It does sound better.

HOLMES: It sounds better.

PRESS: Better and better.

OK, George Bush comes to town on Monday. He may not have come to town at all if Ralph Nader hadn't been on the ballot. We want to get into that a little bit tonight.

And we've got a great guest joining us from Denver. His name is David Barsamian. You probably know David from talk radio. He's producer of the syndicated program "Alternative Radio." And he's a longtime friend and supporter of Ralph Nader.

Hey, David, good evening. Thanks for joining us.

DAVID BARSAMIAN, PRODUCER, "ALTERNATIVE RADIO": Thanks very much, Bill. PRESS: All right. Good to have you here. Amy, fire away.

HOLMES: Yeah, so I have a question for you. Maybe you read, it was election night at Hillary Clinton's election party, having won the Senate seat from New York.

And Harry Evans, Tina Brown's husband, says at this party after seeing the votes coming in, "I'd like to kill Ralph Nader." And Hillary chimes in, "I don't think that would be a bad idea." What did you make of this remark?

BARSAMIAN: And everyone immediately shouted, "Off the record."

PRESS: Just kidding, right, David?

BARSAMIAN: The amount of vitriol and abuse that Ralph Nader has been subjected to, even before the election. It started pretty soon after his nomination right here in Denver when he got the Green Party nomination in June, it's been quite astonishing. And it continues right up until today.

From the "New York Times" to "The New Republic" to "The Nation," there's been a constant barrage of abuse and invective toward I think one of the great American heroes of this era.

HOLMES: Well, you know, it's funny because I'm thinking about the Democrats saying that every vote must count and every voter must speak his conscience, except those Naderites. And they must be crushed. That seemed to be the message.

BARSAMIAN: Well, you know, I think Nader ran a very principled campaign. And the kinds of issues he raised simply were not on the agenda of the, as he calls them, the Republicrats or the Demipublicans.

They were not willing to talk about corporate power. They were not willing to talk about the seamy aspects of globalization. They weren't willing to talk about media concentration.

And I don't have to remind you that just today, AOL-Time-Warner, that's us, that's you, was just approved. The merger just went through. Those kinds of issues were simply not on the agenda.

PRESS: David, I just want you to know you're not alone. There are a couple of other Nader supporters out here. We got one on the phone.

This is John from California, who has got a point he wants to make. Hey, John, welcome to THE SPIN ROOM.

CALLER: Thanks.

PRESS: Hey, what's your point?

CALLER: Yeah, I voted for Nader here in California. And I'm completely insulted by the Democrats' reaction to Nader and what he's done in this election.

I mean, neither party were addressing some very serious issues that are facing our country. And I want to believe in our government. And I can't. And the way they're reacting to Nader and the points he's raising, and these points I believe in, is just completely discouraging. I mean, I have less respect for Democrats now that they're making these points about Nader.

PRESS: All right, John, I thank you for the call.

David, let me make one of those points. You lost Al Gore the election. Don't you feel guilty? You gave us George Bush. Don't you feel guilty? Is that what we get for Ralph Nader?

BARSAMIAN: I don't feel guilty at all. In fact, I voted for Nader-LaDuke. Let's not forget Winona LaDuke, the Native American who ran as vice presidential candidate along with Ralph Nader, who happens to be an Arab American. Not many people know that.

I don't feel guilty at all. I felt really good about voting for Nader-LaDuke.

And I think the issue that's being avoided, particularly by the Democrats and the so-called liberals, is the enormous ineptitude of Al Gore. He went into this campaign with unparalleled advantages. He should have wiped the floor with Bush.

Instead, I mean, as is well documented, could not carry his home state, could not carry Democratic strongholds like West Virginia, could not carry Clinton's home state of Arkansas. What went wrong with Al Gore and his campaign? They should not be blaming Ralph Nader.

HOLMES: Right, I agree.

PRESS: We're going to have to take a break, David. As much as I want to come right back and ask you another question and Amy does too, we're going to take a break. We ask you to stay with us because we have more phone calls, more e-mails about Ralph Nader coming back up.

And don't forget, as we go to a break, folks, please get in your nominations for "Spin of the Day," that moment when you're so outraged you want to throw a beer bottle at the television. That's what we call "Spin of the Day."

1-800-310-4CNN is the telephone number. You can join our live online chat room, CNN.com. Or send us your nominations for "Spin of the Day" to spin@cnn.com.

Amy Holmes, Bill Press, we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Hi. Welcome back to THE SPIN ROOM. I'm Amy Holmes sitting in for Tucker Carlson. Don't worry, he'll be back on Monday.

And we've been talking with David Barsamian, a supporter of Ralph Nader.

PRESS: And I'm the same old Bill Press here night after night, except last night when I got stuck in the blizzard, never made it back. Jake Tapper filled in.

Good to be back with you. And, Amy, good to have you here.

As always, we have some e-mail to read. But before we get to the e-mail, I have to tell you I think something that's worth noticing today. I don't know whether you noticed what the market did today. This is the first day -- second day -- that we knew that George W. Bush was going to be the president-elect.

Yesterday, the market went down a little bit. Today, look, the Dow went down 240 points, the NASDAQ down 75 points.

Amy, I'm starting to feel the second Bush recession coming on.

HOLMES: Ah, well, you know, they've been spinning that today about the recession and thus the tax cut to spark the economy. But I just look at that and I think thank goodness I don't have a portfolio. I haven't got my savings plan together.

PRESS: Yeah, but for those who do, it ain't real comfortable. We've got us some e-mail here to THE SPIN ROOM.

Here's one. "George Bush should show his compassion and unifying spirit by giving Bill Clinton a presidential pardon when he takes office in January." That's a nice idea, Pat.

HOLMES: Point of fact, a compassionate conservative there. "Spin of the Day, is it even possible for Breaux to suck up any more than he is? Breaux didn't even pause as he rocketed past bipartisan and into lap dog territory."

PRESS: Oh, John Breaux is a good man. He was just down there, just meeting with the president-elect like any good American will do.

Our guest tonight, we had also talked about Ralph Nader, his impact on this election. David Barsamian joins us, a talk radio host, and a good friend and supporter and still loyal to Ralph Nader.

Amy.

HOLMES: So I have a question for you. Maybe you saw this last night. We're going to have a clip of it, of Ralph on "Larry King Live" talking about his regrets with having run for office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RALPH NADER, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The regret is that I didn't get more votes. I mean, after all, if you're building a new party, you want to take as many votes away from all the other candidates as possible and bring non-voters -- half of the voters are non-voters -- back into the political and electoral process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: So my question to you, David, Nader did not get up to five percent. Are we going to see some new partnership here with Jesse Ventura in 2004? What's going to happen next with you guys?

BARSAMIAN: With the Green Party? I think the Green Party is now established as a genuine third voice in American politics. And one of the reasons -- two reasons that I could cite that Nader did not reach that five percent plateau, which was the goal in which a lot of people were really aiming for, was that he didn't accept large donations of cash. That was very carefully monitored.

And he was not committed to participate in the presidential debates. One of the reasons Perot made such an impact in '92 you'll recall was that he was allowed to debate Clinton and George Bush the elder.

And that helped his campaign enormously. I think had Nader been allowed to participate in the debates, his vote total would have gone up significantly.

PRESS: David, I watched that "Larry King Live" interview last night too. And there was something else that Ralph said, which he said a lot during the campaign, which he repeated last night on "Larry King Live." Please listen up. And I've just got to ask you about this cockamamie theory of his. But let's let everybody listen to it first, please.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NADER: We I think sent a message to the Democrats that they can't turn their back on progressive Democratic senators, representatives, and governors because they have nowhere to go because now progressive people have a place to go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS: So, David, the theory is that by Ralph running it's going to force the Democratic Party farther to the left, not in the middle where Bill Clinton took it. I mean, that's just wacky. That's not going to happen.

BARSAMIAN: Well, I mean, do you support the actions of the Democratic Leisure Council, as Jesse Jackson calls them, the DLC, which has embraced the WTO and NAFTA and corporate globalization, media concentration, and these other issues?

PRESS: Look, I've never been a member of the DLC. My point is that I think both the Democrats, Bill Clinton, George Bush have proven the way to win is in the middle. But let me just give my time left here to another phone caller, Mike from Nebraska. You mention Ralph Nader, people come out of the woodwork.

Hey, Mike, thanks. Welcome to THE SPIN ROOM.

CALLER: Hey, thanks a lot. PRESS: Hey, what's your comment tonight?

CALLER: Well, you've kind of sort of hit it on the head a little bit. But I'm just kind of curious why a lot of the Democrats are unwilling to acknowledge that Perot is essentially even knocked more damage to Bush in '92 than Nader ever could have done to Gore in 2000?

HOLMES: You know, Mike, I think that's a really good point because when Perot, as you know, was coming onto the political scene, the Democrats thought that this was a great shot in the arm to the political process until it becomes a shot in another part of the body when it's their guy who's taking votes away.

PRESS: So, David, Mike, Ross Perot was a serious third party candidate, and Ralph Nader wasn't. I guess that's the point, right?

BARSAMIAN: Perot had the advantage of enormous amounts of money, his own great personal wealth. And he had access to the debates. I mean, Nader did not have those advantages. But I think, Bill, you still need to come back to Gore and the campaign that he ran.

PRESS: I must say I was critical of that campaign during the campaign. And I'm still critical of it. And he could have done a hell of a lot better.

David Barsamian, sorry, we're out of time. Hate to let you go because we have so many more questions. We'll have to have you back on THE SPIN ROOM.

That's David Barsamian, a friend of Ralph Nader's.

And coming up, Amy, the best part of the show, our "Spin of the Day." You've still got time to get some of them in. You can send them to our e-mail address at spin@cnn.com.

Amy Holmes and I will be back with our "Spins of the Day" and yours, coming right up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PRESS: Welcome back to THE SPIN ROOM. The moment you've been waiting for, the "Spins of the Day," that moment when you hear someone say something so outrageous you expect lightning to strike them dead on the spot.

Amy Holmes here tonight filling in for Tucker Carlson. And, Amy, our first "Spin of the Day" is by phone, comes from the state of Delaware, my native state.

Tamara (ph), hi, Tamara. Good evening.

CALLER: Hi. How are you?

PRESS: Good. Thanks for your call. What's your "Spin of the Day."

CALLER: Well, I can't take credit for this, I didn't make it up. But...

HOLMES: Take credit anyway.

CALLER: ... It references those MasterCard commercials.

PRESS: Yes.

CALLER: And the "Spin of the Day" was running for president, $84 million, having your brother fix the election, priceless.

PRESS: Oh. Tamara, very good, I like it. Delaware comes through. We also have some "Spins of the Day"...

HOLMES: Yes we do.

PRESS: ... from our viewers. You go first.

HOLMES: E-mail, apparently we have a lot of embittered Democrats on Al Gore's invention, sending this in. "Spin of the Day, I'm tired of the media trying to tell me to calm down and play nice to someone who I know stole this election using every slimy tactic he and his family could come up with to do it."

PRESS: Maybe that came from a Ralph Nader supporter. I'm not sure.

Here's a "Spin of the Day" unsigned. "My "Spin of the Day" was listening to Gary Bauer babble on, on "Crossfire" about the vast conservative majority that elected Mr. Bush. May I remind him that the vice president won the popular vote?"

Where was the conservative majority? It didn't really exist.

HOLMES: Yeah, apparently they were shunted to the side in this election here.

Another SPIN ROOM e-mail, "Spin of the Day." "Did Ralph Nader blow the election for Al Gore? No way. The partisan win from the Supreme Court blew the election right to G.W."

PRESS: I like that. One more before we get to ours. "The Bush presidency reminds me of Milli Vanilli. There's going to be a lot of lip synching. And in four years, nobody is going to admit to actually buying the record."

Oh, I like that.

HOLMES: I didn't buy their record. But I loved their music.

PRESS: Very good.

Our "Spins of the Day." You've got yours. I've got mine. You want to go first?

HOLMES: Sure. My "Spin of the Day," Hillary Clinton's book deal. Apparently she's negotiating for $8 million with Simon & Schuster as if there were going to be any new revelations. Didn't we read everything there was to know in the free Ken Starr report?

I mean, what is she going to talk about, her cutting the grapefruit with her husband in the kitchen that she told "Talk" magazine? I think if we think there is going to be any new news from this book that we're fooling ourselves.

PRESS: Let me just ask you this. If you were offered an $8 million advance...

HOLMES: I'd take it.

PRESS: ... You'd take it.

HOLMES: Oh, yeah.

PRESS: You go, girl. That's what I say to Hillary. You go, girl.

Listen, nobody thought she was going to get elected to the Senate. And she did. And now she's senator-elect. And she's got the biggest book deal, I think even bigger than Colin Powell's book deal. And so I say, hey, you know what? Good for her. She deserves it. After all she's had to put up with, she deserves it.

All right, here's my "Spin of the Day." It's one of my favorite, very favorite, people. He actually told me once that I'm his favorite Democrat. He's my favorite religious conservative, the Reverend Jerry Falwell.

And he had some advice for George W. Bush today. Let's put it up on the screen. Here was his advice to the president-elect.

Reverend Falwell: "As far as I'm concerned, the worst thing Mr. Bush could do is bring Democrats into his administration or reach out to Governor Christie Whitman or Governor Tom Ridge for key positions when those people do not believe what his constituency believes or what he believes." So saith the Reverend Jerry Falwell.

I think he is dead wrong. I think George Bush wants to reach out to Democrats. He met with John Breaux today. And, Amy, I don't know what you think.

I think he should. I think he should try to bring some Democrats into his administration. I think he should try to build some bipartisanship in this town.

HOLMES: Right. But I'm sure what Jerry Falwell is also thinking about is this trap that the Democrats are laying for George Bush, which is, "If you pursue our agenda, we'll reward you." I think he's damned whichever way he goes on this. So...

PRESS: But don't you think the American people would like to see some bridge building?

HOLMES: I think they might like to. But do you think Tom Daschle, Dick Gephardt, they're going to want to bridge build to G.W.? PRESS: More than Jerry Falwell would. And we are out of time.

Amy, so great to have you here tonight.

Thanks, folks. Thanks for watching us. Good night, everybody. Thanks for joining THE SPIN ROOM.

Amy.

HOLMES: Thanks for having us. And we'll see Tucker Carlson Monday night.

PRESS: And Monday we start at a new time. That's 10:30, every night next week at 10:30. Tucker will be back.

Amy, good to have you here tonight.

Good night, everybody. Thanks for watching.

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