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Jewish World Review Feb. 26, 2004 / 4 Adar, 5764

Roger Simon

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Dumb politicians and the fools who vote for them | Why is everybody so angry at Ralph Nader? He didn't cost Al Gore the election in 2000. The goofs who voted for Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the election in 2000.

And where is it written that only two parties have a right to run for the presidency? If that had been put in the Constitution, we would have the Federalists vs. the Democratic-Republicans today.

Also, how did Nader get those people to vote for him? He doesn't exactly have a silver tongue. He does not cut a dashing figure. ("Ralph Nader's so serious about running this time," Jay Leno said, "he's actually thinking about pressing his suit.") He didn't have millions to spend on commercials like the Democrats and Republicans, he didn't have fancy consultants, pollsters and advisers, he didn't even have a speechwriter. So what did he do? Cast a spell?

The answer is simple: Some people were so disgusted by the choice between the Democratic and Republican candidates that they "threw their vote away" on Nader.

So who is to blame for that? Nader or the Democratic and Republican candidates?

Truth be told, however, Nader did very poorly even for a third-party candidate.

Nader got only 2.7 percent of the vote in 2000, which is the third worst finish for a major third party candidate in our history. Only Strom Thurmond of the States' Rights Party in 1948 and Henry Wallace of the Progressive Party that same year did worse: They each got 2.4 percent. The highest total was by Teddy Roosevelt in 1912, who got 27.5 percent of the vote, followed by Millard Fillmore in 1856 with 21.5 percent, and Ross Perot in 1992 with 18.9 percent. When Perot ran four years later, his total plummeted to 8.4 percent. And Nader, who will have difficulty getting on the ballot in all 50 states, will almost certainly do worse this time than last.

So maybe we should just "relax and rejoice" like he says. Though as a theme that is pretty close to George H.W. Bush's "don't worry, be happy" campaign of 1992. Which Bush lost.

We have seen and heard presidential candidates do some pretty dumb things. We have seen candidates pick up sleeping babies (they tend to wake up and scream), we have seen candidates try to eat tamales with the cornhusks still on (Gerald Ford) and we once heard a candidate say, "Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?" (Oh, come on, you know who.)

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But we don't think we have ever heard of a candidate doing what John Edwards reportedly did during a speech in Rochester, New York Monday when, according to the Center for Disability Rights, Edwards "patted the heads of people in wheelchairs."

According to the group, as reported by the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, one member of the audience, Debbie Bonomo, said that just because she is a woman who is in a wheelchair "does not mean anyone should be patting me on the head."

Edwards spokesperson Colin Van Ostern said: "I'm sure his interaction with them was intended to be respectful"

He patted their heads? Is Edwards confused between disabled people and collies?

Edwards should watch old videotapes of Al Gore and learn a thing or two. Gore was a master of dropping to one knee to talk to people in wheelchairs. Didn't matter if he was kneeling on a wet tarmac or on a muddy lawn, he would drop to one knee and talk at their level. I never saw him pat anybody on the head.

But that was not the biggest gaffe of the day Monday. That honor goes to Secretary of Education Rod Paige who called the NEA, America's largest teachers' union, a "terrorist organization." Aside from being offensive, it is just dumb politics: Does anyone think teachers are grossly overpaid in this country?

John McCain, a Republican, always got big applause whenever he said during the 2000 campaign, "Good teachers deserve to be paid more. Why should a good teacher be paid less than a bad senator?"

The reaction to Paige's comment was swift. NEA President Reg Weaver said: "I think it is absolutely pathetic."

Democratic Chairman Terry McAuliffe said: "President Bush and the Republican Party should immediately renounce Secretary Paige's hate speech."

Republican Chairman Ed Gillespie said: "It was a poor attempt at making a joke."

John Kerry said: "These remarks are inappropriate."

Paige later said: "It was an inappropriate choice of words."

And John Edwards said he would like to pat Paige on the head.

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