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Gore vs. Nader: The Real Story

Just when we thought we'd finally put the 2000 election behind us, Nüz got a surprise audience with Ralph Nader, who blames former Democratic nominee Al Gore for his defeat four years ago and attributes Dubya's win to Gore's divisive presence in the general election.

Almost spilling his cup of fair-trade coffee in the process, Nader crunched numbers on the back of a paper napkin to show that with Gore out of the race, he, Ralph Nader, would have won outright.

"Our candidacy on the Green Party line drew 2 percent of the vote nationwide. Al Gore siphoned off the other 49 percent we needed to get a majority," said Nader. "In state after state, including Florida, if Gore had not been on the ballot and those people voted for me, I would have won."

He then proceeded to ball up the napkin and surreptitiously toss it at a "Kerry in 2004" T-shirt-clad passerby.

"Without Gore mucking up the race," Nader continued, "the Green ticket would have pulled clear majorities in both the popular vote and the archaic but crucial electoral college--and Jeb Bush and the Supreme Court Five would never have gotten the chance to steal Florida and hand the election to George W. Bush."

Nader, who is undertaking his fourth run for president, despite the pleas of friends and allies, ended the interview by reminding Nüz that "whatever his credentials on paper, Gore always had a bad case of anti-charisma. People just don't like him."

Reached while vacationing in Fiji, former Vice President Al Gore took full responsibility for the disaster in 2000.

"It was all my fault," he said, ordering another zombie. "Of course, I knew deep down that Nader was better qualified to be president, but, well, gosh, I guess my ego just got out way of whack--my dad was a senator and all, and I was vice president, just a heartbeat away--and I guess I really thought I was presidential. I thought charisma really didn't matter, or shouldn't matter. Or maybe I could download some. I did invent the Internet, you know. In hindsight, I see I was delusional, that I should've stayed out and let Nader clean Dubya's clock. But that's all in the past."

Gore also admitted his recent endorsement of former Vermont governor and erstwhile Democratic frontrunner Howard Dean was tantamount to the kiss of death.

"Howard had the nomination practically sewn up before a single primary shot had been fired. So to stay relevant-- since I'm still the titular head of the Democratic Party-- I thought I'd catch up to, and lead, the Dean parade," said Gore. "But my endorsement made Dean the Outsider look like Dean the Insider. It's as if I had cooties or something."

Asked if his best strategy to help defeat Bush in 2004 would be to shut the hell up, the former vice president had no comment.

In Non-April-1st News ...

Local law professor Paul Sanford says he's "doing terrific" after appearing alongside atheist Dr. Mike Newdow before the Supreme Court last week as Newdow argued that "under God" is a divisive addition to the Pledge of Allegiance.

"It was somewhere between humbling and intimidating to get that close to history. I felt a burst of adrenaline," said Sanford, noting that this was the first case that Newdow (whom The New York Times categorized as a "nonpracticing lawyer") has ever handled.

Describing Newdow's performance as "composed, brilliant and passionate," Sanford said some might categorize Newdow as "a zealot," but the participation of zealots has been "critical to the success of social movements."

Sanford said it was "a challenge for Mike" to contain that zeal and be neither strident not intimidated by being within spitting distance of the justices, and that the California atheist prepared for the task by sitting in on the court ahead of time.

"He saw that the justices are human beings, who sit in huge chairs that make them look smaller,' said Sanford, as he gleefully recalled how it was Newdow who managed to make Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist look smaller, after Rehnquist asked Newdow if he knew the vote when Congress adopted "under God" in 1954.

"When Newdow said it was unanimous, Rehnquist said that didn't sound divisive, at which point Newdow replied, "That's only because no atheist can get elected to public office," at which point the audience erupted into applause, which apparently is almost unheard of in the decorum-bound chamber."

Still, Sanford, who was ordering milk in Peet's last time we saw him, isn't cracking open the bubbly, at least not just yet.

"Mike is predicting an 8-0 win. I hope he's right, but I think it's more likely than not that he'll lose. He knocked back every argument the justices threw at him, but they seemed to be looking for excuses and reasons why he should lose the case."

Sanford, who was by Newdow's side to handle the running dogs of the press and choreograph Newdow's appearances on the The Larry King Show, CNN, ABC and MSNBC, et al., recalled how "they all send cars. It's rather heady stuff for two people who don't live in the city, it's tiring in a city with traffic, but it's been the most meaningful and empowering experience of my career."

That said, Sanford asked Nüz if he looked "terrible" in the photo that ran in the March 25 issue of The New York Times.

Not terrible, but definitely a tad concerned--which is hardly surprising given that he and Newdow are flanked by a crowd wielding signs that say, "One Nation Under God," "In God We Still Trust" and other non-atheist-tolerant things.

As Sanford puts it, "It was a wild, wild scene."

A ruling is expected by June 2004.


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From the March 31-April 7, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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