Reid and Nader

A longstanding dispute between Nevada’s senior senator and activist leader Ralph Nader seems not to be interfering with the two men working together.

In 2000, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, now the Democratic floor leader, was nearly apoplectic in his denunciations of Nader for running for president and (in Reid’s view) endangering the election of Al Gore.

“Ralph Nader is a very selfish person, and he’s on an ego trip,” Reid told the New York Times shortly before that election (prompting one commentator to observe, “You can say a lot of things about Ralph Nader, but selfish?"). After the election, Reid called Nader an “egotistic bum” who “can wallow in his mud.”

Reid wasn’t the only one. Another senate Democrat, Joe Biden of Delaware, said the Democrats would be laying for Nader in Congress to seek revenge. “Ralph Nader is not going to be welcome anywhere near the corridors,” Biden said. “Nader cost us the election.”

However, in an interview with the RN&R on Nov. 15, Nader said that Reid has not been particularly vengeful. He said the Democratic antagonism has hampered his work in some ways, but that it’s less Reid’s doing than that of others.

“It has [interfered] with some senators like Sen. Biden and Sen. Lieberman, but I have access to Sen. Harry Reid. He’s listened to what I have to say. I don’t think he’s on a grudge trip or a vengeance trip. But there are other senators and representatives who are. I mean, they just really are political bigots. And I think that’s a word, phrase, that has to be used, because they would never say to voters, ‘Don’t vote,’ and they should never say to candidates, ‘Don’t run.’ They can oppose candidates, but they should never say to candidates, ‘Don’t run’ because that’s the consummate expression of the First Amendment right of speech, petition and assembly.”

In an interview last week, Reid said, “I have a good relationship with him. … Open door. I talk to him and his sister [Claire Nader, chair of the Council for Responsible Genetics] whenever they want to talk to me.”