Calling Washington, D.C., "corporate-occupied territory," consumer advocate Ralph Nader launched his fifth campaign for the presidency Sunday.
"I'm running for president," said Nader in an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press." Nader downplayed the impact he might have on the ultimate outcome of the race, saying "if Democrats can't landslide the Republicans this year, they ought to just wrap up, close down, emerge in a different form."
Assailing Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., as "the candidate for perpetual war" and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, as someone whose "better instincts and his knowledge have been censored by himself," Nader said he was running to advocate positions he said were being ignored by McCain, Obama, and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, whom last month he called a "political coward."
"All the candidates -- McCain, Obama, and Clinton -- are against single payer health insurance, full Medicare for all," Nader said, saying he also wanted to take on the "bloated military budget," labor law reform, repealing the Taft-Hartley Act, and corporate crime.
"One feels an obligation to try to open the doorways," Nader said. "Dissent is the mother of assent and in that context I have decided to run for president."
Nader, 73, has run for president as a write-in candidate on both the Democratic and Republican tickets in the New Hampshire primary 1992 as a "none of the above" candidate. He mounted more serious, if still quixotic, campaigns in 1996, 2000, and 2004.
Many Democrats resent his 2000 run, believing he sapped enough votes from then-Vice President Al Gore to hand the presidency to then-Gov. George W. Bush. In Florida, where Gore ultimately lost to Bush by 537 votes, more than 97,000 Floridians supported Nader, then on the Green Party ticket.
The Clinton campaign declined to comment on Nader's announcement.
Campaigning in Columbus on Saturday, Obama called Nader a "heroic" figure who "has done as much as just about anybody on behalf of consumers."
But Obama also assailed the consumer advocate as a stubborn egomaniac.
"My sense is that Mr.. Nader is somebody who, if you don't listen and adopt all of his policies, thinks you're not substantive," Obama said. "He seems to have a pretty high opinion of his own work …I do think there's a sense now that ... if somebody's not hewing to the Ralph Nader agenda then you must be lacking in some way."
Obama said the job of the Democratic Party "is to be so compelling that a few percentage (points) of the vote going to another candidate's not going to make any difference."
Nader, calling Obama "the first liberal evangelist in a long time," criticized the Illinois Democrat for having been "pro-Palestine when he was in Illinois, before he ran for the state senate" but now "supporting the Israeli destruction" of Gaza.
Nader said that those who would argue against his candidacy are displaying "political bigotry" against "all of us that think that the country needs an infusion of freedom, democracy and choice," suggesting they "should just sit on the sidelines and watch the two political parties own all the voters and turn the government over to big business."