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"This war would never have happened had I been president."
February 19, 2002 12:20 PM   Subscribe

"This war would never have happened had I been president." Ralph Nader being interviewed by the Chicago Tribune yesterday. [reg. req'd] Nader says, "because for 30 years we have had an aviation safety group, and we have been urging the airlines to toughen cockpit doors and improve the strength of the locks, and they have been resisting for 30 years." [via Matt Welch.com]
posted by tsarfan (51 comments total)

 
Absolute arrogance.
posted by schlyer at 12:33 PM on February 19, 2002


Has anyone else noticed the author of this article, "John D. Thomas, editor of Playboy"...is this name for real? snicker.
posted by altojen at 12:34 PM on February 19, 2002


Don't they have drugs to cure this kind of problem these days?
posted by SpecialK at 12:42 PM on February 19, 2002


Of course, because the terrorists would have never found an alternative to box cutters.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 12:47 PM on February 19, 2002


What Nader is saying is, if had been elected president in 2000, he apparently would have constructed a time machine and travelled back 30 years to enforce aviation safety laws in a time when he had no political power whatsoever.

I think his running mate for 2004 for should be Judge I'm-holier-than-the-Pope Scalia, under the "Shooting Our Arrogant Mouths Off" platform. Way to capitalize on both 20/20 hindsight AND self-promoting propaganda, Ralph.
posted by Danelope at 12:51 PM on February 19, 2002


I remember reading about cockpit door locks years ago and the airlines doing their best to sidestep the issue. Nader makes a good point about profits above all else, whether or not it would have stopped any attacks is another can of worms.

The rest of the interview is pretty good too. I know a lot of people who were turned onto politics by the last election and mostly by Nader's criticisms and ideals.
posted by skallas at 12:53 PM on February 19, 2002


What Nader is saying is, if had been elected president in 2000, he apparently would have constructed a time machine and travelled back 30 years to enforce aviation safety laws in a time when he had no political power whatsoever.

I think what he's saying is that in the nine months he would have had in office PRIOR TO 9/11, he would have been able to get the cabin door locks put in place. That may still be equally fallacious (nothing in government moves that quickly), but give the guy some credit.
posted by briank at 12:58 PM on February 19, 2002


tsarfan, I don't mean to hijack your thread (no pun intended), but speaking of Matt Welch, I would highly recommend his article on the Iraq sanctions issue that was posted at Reason.com yesterday. You won't find a more balanced account anywhere. I think it's front page material, but I'm in the "refrain from front page post" mode after my too-long asbestos post yesterday.
posted by pardonyou? at 1:00 PM on February 19, 2002


But Nader wasn't elected and never will be elected, so talking about what he would have done if he had been elected is just fantasy. Shelve it next to Tolkien.
posted by kindall at 1:01 PM on February 19, 2002


I remember reading about cockpit door locks years ago and the airlines doing their best to sidestep the issue. Nader makes a good point about profits above all else, whether or not it would have stopped any attacks is another can of worms.

Not really. Airlines resisted cockpit door locks because they added little in terms of safety at a noticeable cost.

Door locks would not have prevented the events of 9/11, as the then-current theory of how to deal with hijackers was to give them what they wanted, spend a couple hours or days on the tarmac of some airport in the middle of nowhere, and end up with a good story to tell your grandkids. The hijacker would have said "Unlock the door or the stewardess gets it!" and the pilots would have said "OK, OK, we're unlocking it. Don't do anything stupid."

Nader is just posturing in a particularly egregious way.
posted by jaek at 1:03 PM on February 19, 2002


He appears to be giving interviews all over the place this week. In each he drops the I told You Sos all over the place.

From this I gather then that all the post election stuff about him putting shrub into the whitehouse really did sink in (and sting quite a bit, though at the time he said he didn't buy it.)

I also can't imagine what his response would have been had Nader been chief executive on September 11. Anyone care to speculate?
posted by BentPenguin at 1:04 PM on February 19, 2002


I think what he's saying is that in the nine months he would have had in office PRIOR TO 9/11, he would have been able to get the cabin door locks put in place.

Especially after Garry Hart's report on America's vulnerability to terrorism came out last spring (anyone remember exactly when?) Maybe Nader wouldn't have ignored it like everyone else did.
posted by homunculus at 1:12 PM on February 19, 2002


Ralph Nader was ahead of his time in the 60's and 70's, but he is still stuck there. He called attention to many things that needed to be fixed in the transportation industry and some of them were good ideas and have been implemented. But this interview shows him be either lost in time or just losted.
posted by bjgeiger at 1:14 PM on February 19, 2002


The hijacker would have said "Unlock the door or the stewardess gets it!" and the pilots would have said "OK, OK, we're unlocking it. Don't do anything stupid."

Actually, they would have had time to radio back to the tower to ask for assistance. I don't know the protocol but I'm damn sure no one is going to give them authorization to open the door. They can only do so much damage in the compartment, when they get ahold of the controls - well you know what happens then.
posted by skallas at 1:15 PM on February 19, 2002


Anyone care to speculate?

Please, don't
posted by briank at 1:19 PM on February 19, 2002


homunculus: "Maybe Nader wouldn't have ignored it like everyone else did."

I don't really want to engage in the "what ifs" war, but it seems to me that Nader would have been far less likely to have done anything in response to the Hart report, since any legitimate response would have involved greater commitment to law enforcement, intelligence gathering, and (most likely) ethnic profiling, none of which Nader has been too keen about.
posted by pardonyou? at 1:21 PM on February 19, 2002


An edited transcript.

Found at the bottom of the interview. I'm just sayin'.
posted by adampsyche at 1:29 PM on February 19, 2002


He appears to be giving interviews all over the place this week. In each he drops the I told You Sos all over the place.

He's shilling for his book. Which is ironic in a capitalist sort of way.
posted by owillis at 1:32 PM on February 19, 2002


They can only do so much damage in the compartment, when they get ahold of the controls - well you know what happens then.

Sure. Before Sept. 11th, what happened then was the hijackers made you fly to Cuba and stay there until their buddies got sprung from jail. Better that than a bunch of innocent passengers dying trying to fight back.
posted by jaek at 1:34 PM on February 19, 2002


Has anyone else noticed the author of this article, "John D. Thomas, editor of Playboy"...is this name for real? snicker.

Hey, I know that dude! Yep, that's his real name, but back when he lived in Atlanta we called him Superstar JT. I can't remember why...
posted by spilon at 1:36 PM on February 19, 2002


owillis: I'm not a Nader fan, particularly, but has large investments in companies such as Cisco Systems. He's never made any bones about it. Why's this ironic? Is he a Marxist?
posted by raysmj at 1:36 PM on February 19, 2002


[whatif] pardonyou, you're probably right on those points, but I think he would have responded to those parts of the report which would have strengthened his own corporation-spanking crusade, like forcing airlines to toughen their cockpit doors as a matter of national security. [/whatif]
posted by homunculus at 1:40 PM on February 19, 2002


He's shilling for his book. Which is ironic in a capitalist sort of way.

He's always been clear and upfront about doing anything to get his message out. He was on The Daily Show last week ferchissakes. And just because he stands up for the working stiff doesn't mean he hates capitalism.
posted by mathowie at 1:41 PM on February 19, 2002


jaek,

Before Sept. 11th, what happened then was the hijackers made you fly to Cuba and stay there until their buddies got sprung from jail.

One plane yes, but not four. By the second or third hijaking it would have become apparent that something unprecedented was happening and that a different course of action was called for.
posted by homunculus at 1:44 PM on February 19, 2002


It's perfectly human to hate Nader's guts if a) you're a Republican or b) you voted for Gore, so basically millions of Americans have good reason to dislike him.
And yes, he is shooting his mouth off with the war comment of course, but many things he's been working on (consumer protection, car safety, airline safety and such) are extremely important issues.
It's hard to deny that a more prominent role of the Federal government in airport security could do very good things ( I mean, 4 hijackings in a day it's a Third World statistic, nobody can deny that. A country where air travel is vital like the US needs to do much much better ).
All those badly trained airport security people hired by private contractors, anyone?
posted by matteo at 1:46 PM on February 19, 2002


pardonyou?, no need to apologize. i'm a big fan of Welch, which is how i found out about this crazy Q&A from my former hometown paper.

What's interesting is Welch covered Nader during much of his presidential run and convinced me that it was ok to vote Green for the Presidential candidate.

Although I can't say that I know why Nader would have said such things (I seriously doubt it was to sell a few more books), if I had to do it again, I would still vote for him again, given the choices we had, despite this nonsense that was published yesterday.

I guess it just goes to show you that loonacy is not limited to the major parties.

I just hope Gore has the good sense not to put his foot in his mouth on this topic this week.
posted by tsarfan at 1:48 PM on February 19, 2002


i don't think nader is trying to concentrate on specifics as the cure for 9/11. it sounds to me like he is talking about the system in general and how, given some reform, things like this might be less likely to happen had there been groups in place 30 yrs ago to monitor it. those groups would need some economic stimulation and some encouragement, at the very least, to get going but have not received either so it's no wonder a self-policed industry, like aviation, would choose not to implement safety features that could have reduced the chance of hijacking. i think nader has good ideas and that most people, after the 'elections,' have opted to critisize him as a whiney loser rather than listen to anything he has to say. at least he's confident enough to voice HIS opinion and face issues that most don't even admit exist.
posted by ggggarret at 1:52 PM on February 19, 2002


And just because he stands up for the working stiff doesn't mean he hates capitalism.

If Ralph is so much for the working stiff (which I don't doubt), why is he so blindingly against corporations - which provide livelihood for said working stiffs? It's not like you have to be "hip hooray for corporations" but the attitude of being "all corporations are evil" is just as silly.

He's always been clear and upfront about doing anything to get his message out.
The more cynical of us would say running for an office you've got no chance of winning is a great way to sell a book (Nader, McCain). But I didn't put my tinfoil helmet on this morning either...
posted by owillis at 1:53 PM on February 19, 2002


Owillis: Also, St. Martin's is owned by a international communications conglomerate, but not a name you'd probably recognize. So it's not a Giant Media Corporation of the sort Naderites and other progressives rant about although, again, Cisco Systems and others he's invested in are corporations (It's a responsiblity question, I imagine he would say). I say all this having voted for Gore, and say so mainly out of fairness.

For the record, the publisher is a U.S. subsidiary of (brace yourself) the German-based Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck.
posted by raysmj at 1:59 PM on February 19, 2002


If Ralph is so much for the working stiff (which I don't doubt), why is he so blindingly against corporations - which provide livelihood for said working stiffs? It's not like you have to be "hip hooray for corporations" but the attitude of being "all corporations are evil" is just as silly.

Ralph doesn't have that attitude. He works with a lot of corporations. Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities was also a supporter of his 2000 campaign. Nader's against unaccountable power, which tends toward unresponsive government and large corporations.
posted by Ty Webb at 2:05 PM on February 19, 2002


... By the second or third hijaking it would have become apparent that something unprecedented was happening and that a different course of action was called for.

Nader isn't the only one with 20/20 hindsight vision, I guess. Nothing personal here, I just can't remember anyone reacting with anything but pure shock as that day unfolded.
posted by whatnot at 2:16 PM on February 19, 2002


If Ralph is so much for the working stiff (which I don't doubt), why is he so blindingly against corporations - which provide livelihood for said working stiffs?

He's always been clearly about corporate accountability, that corporations take responsibility for their actions and don't get all the protections and special treatment many former administrations have handed them. He's also against corporations endangering the lives of workers. If you're going to support things like worker safety above profits (why have OSHA and any skilled labor if it would be cheaper to pay unskilled workers less, pass $2 of savings onto the consumer, but have 1000s of deaths each year on the job?), some people might see that as "against corporations." I'm not going to sit here and support Nader's every policy, but I think your views of him are a bit simplistic.

It's not like you have to be "hip hooray for corporations" but the attitude of being "all corporations are evil" is just as silly.

I'm fairly sure he's ever said that publicly or privately, but I frequently heard his viewpoints boiled down to that on mainstream news outlets.
posted by mathowie at 2:23 PM on February 19, 2002


If Ralph is so much for the working stiff (which I don't doubt), why is he so blindingly against corporations

There's really no win for Ralph for some people. Working within the system to change it makes sense, and is very effective. Its not hypocrisy. Would you rather him live a Unabomber lifestyle so knee-jerk commentators couldn't call him a hypocrite?
posted by skallas at 2:36 PM on February 19, 2002


“all corporations are evil" is just as silly”

Good, I'm glad you agree. The Nader of your straw man dreams may be anti-corporation, but the one back in reality land has lead a fourty year campaign against corporate crime and abuse. Big difference, I hope you can see it. It’s not exactly a subtle rhetorical shift. Compare that to politicians who are tuf on street crime. By your forumla it’s not the crime they don’t like it’s the person. “All people are evil” is just silly, Oliver.

You should hear him talk about Interface, Inc. Damn near gets teary-eyed he likes them so much.

I also expect everyone here to impugn every politician who voted to federalize airport security and strengthen cockpit doors so another terrorist attack wouldn’t happen. That's most of the House and Senate. Imagine the gall! They think they can change airport security so terrorists can’t hijack planes! Just like Nader is saying he wanted to do thirty years ago! Go get ‘im team!

(I see mathowie and I seem to agree and mostly repeated one another. Sorry about that.)
posted by raaka at 2:50 PM on February 19, 2002


If this turns into another "how great ralph art" thread, I will ralph, and not in a nader kinda way.
posted by whatnot at 2:54 PM on February 19, 2002


I have long disliked Nader for reasons I won't go into here but he is not anti-corporations but rather for corporations being strictly controlled, as they were under Teddy R., so that Enrons could not have taken place...we have de-regulated a heck of a lot, and Ralph seems to know that you don't let greedy money makers loose without controls.
As for Ralph being for the working man. He would not allow folks at his organization to form a uynion and I have a locse friend who has just left working for him because she says he has no benefits whatsovever as part of work conditions and she needs medical insurance etc which she can not get unless she pays for them entirely on her own.
Hindsight as so many have said is worthless. But he and he alone would not have been able to prevent the hijackings. After all, it only became policy to shoot down a hijacked plane after Sept 11.
posted by Postroad at 3:09 PM on February 19, 2002


I'm going on the Ralph Nader I've seen give interviews and speeches on television. The Ralph Nader I see rails against the evils of corporations (and they certainly can be) without even giving lip service to the fact that they provide jobs, etc. to a good lot of Americans. I just feel Nader projects this holier than thou little guy attitude that has some truth to it, but not completely.
posted by owillis at 3:26 PM on February 19, 2002


I also expect everyone here to impugn every politician who voted to federalize airport security and strengthen cockpit doors so another terrorist attack wouldn’t happen. That's most of the House and Senate. Imagine the gall! They think they can change airport security so terrorists can’t hijack planes!

There's a difference between changing things so they look more secure to the casual observer, and changing things so that they are more secure. Doing the former is worthless at best. At worst it's bad, because it hides the problem and discourages any effort towards a real solution. An awful lot of people did impugn the recent "Aviation Safety" laws because they added a lot of cost and bureaucracy for little actual gain in safety.

If Nader actually believes that adding door locks would have prevented the events of Sept. 11th it only shows just how poorly qualified to make policy in matters of aviation safety he really is.
posted by jaek at 4:09 PM on February 19, 2002


If Nader actually believes that adding door locks would have prevented the events of Sept. 11th it only shows just how poorly qualified to make policy in matters of aviation safety he really is.

You can make that kind of "If he doesn't know about [x], he's not qualified to make policy on it" remark about any politician about any issue. So he's not an airline security expert, big effing deal. If he needs expertise, he'll call in a consultant. The consultant will tell him, "You need more than door locks, you need [x], [y], and [z] to make an airplane safe." He'll then take that knowledge and make policy.
posted by RylandDotNet at 4:35 PM on February 19, 2002


And maybe door locks aren't enough, but they aren't even doing that now. At least locking the door is a start, geez!
posted by RylandDotNet at 4:36 PM on February 19, 2002


RylandDotNet, good points. A fortified door with locks would buy time and contrary to what postroad wrote the US has always had the authority to shoot down passenger planes, its just the order to do so has now been moved down to subordinates. Also, NORAD had already planned out what to do if this scenario ever happened and was confident that it could send out fighter jets with enough time to make a difference. Obviously they were wrong, or possibly were waiting too long on a decision, or events happened too quickly, etc.

Lastly, even in the worst case scenario at least the flying would be done by commercial pilots and not by terrorists regardless of how many people they could kill or torture in the cabin.
posted by skallas at 4:50 PM on February 19, 2002


from an earlier post "corporations - which provide livelihood for said working stiffs?" or perhaps we could say working stiffs which provide profits for corporations. It's a symbiotic relationship. There are many examples of imbalances between workers and corporations. I think that Nadar simply has a more balanced view of the problem. Enron is an example of unbridled capitalism we are now beginning to realize what that will cost. If paying attention to the years of pleas to improve airline safety were ignored becuase the corporations wanted larger profits and had (bought) a louder voice with government, you might say that greed is responsible for 9-11. There was a problem it would costs money to fix corporate greed made sure that nothing was done. Would Nadar have made a difference, there is really no way to know, but it is likely that he would have tried.
posted by onegoodmove at 6:27 PM on February 19, 2002


the only people that would be remotely qualified to claim that the terrorists attacks "might not have happened if you assholes had listened to me!" are the nameless obscure academics and lower-level intelligence analysts that probably got laid off sometime during the last few years of peacetime declines in defense spending. i was writing my college senior paper on adherence to normative constraints in terrorist behavior in 1998, and i remember wading through tons of articles on potential terrorism scenarios based on terrorist planning documents and interviews. now they're popping up on 60 Minutes. Some 'investigative journalist' breathlessly covers a "what-if" scenario as if no one's ever thought of it before.

there were certainly people in the field that saw it coming. they weren't people whose names you'd recognize and they certainly weren't running for office. at the time, many of them were dismissed as being overly paranoid by many of the same people that are indignantly protesting that this "would have never happened if *I* had been in charge!"
posted by lizs at 8:01 PM on February 19, 2002


Nowhere in that interview did I read Nader say that the United States wouldn't have been attacked by terrorists, merely that the War On Terrorism™ wouldn't have been waged if he were president.

I'm not a Nader-lover, but I agree with his quote that "this kind of terrorism is tolerated and bred by poverty, injustice, dictatorships, destitution and human suffering." He also states that, if he were elected, "we wouldn't foment aggressive war."

I think the frothy-mouthed Nader-bashers are jumping all over the cockpit door quote and missing the forest for the trees.
posted by johnnyace at 1:44 AM on February 20, 2002


like my dad always said, "hind sight is 20/20".
posted by RunsWithBandageScissors at 3:09 AM on February 20, 2002


This kind of pontificating is a perfect example of why so many people can't stomach Nader and his supporters, even if they agree with him on many of the issues. His tone is smug, petulant, self-righteous, and generally unbecoming of a person who likes to portray himself as a reformer or a resident of the higher moral ground. Nader and the "left" (i use the term loosely) in general will never become a relevant political force until they can learn a bit of humility and self-control. Saying "nya nya nya we told you so" will only alienate potential supporters and reinforce the left's image as elitist and condescending.

Here's a tip: if you want to be the voice of "the people," you should probably stop talking down to those who you claim to champion.
posted by hipstertrash at 4:10 AM on February 20, 2002


[Judge I'm-holier-than-the-Pope Scalia]

You might have misunderstood where Scalia was coming from on the death penalty. Pretty much everyone did...
posted by revbrian at 4:41 AM on February 20, 2002


Well, Nader just convinced me he's capable of greater gaffs than Bush (wouldn't have thought that possible). Now - I might be hallucinating, but I think that there already were locks on cabin doors. If I remember correctly the "open the door or the stewardess will get it" scenario is what they believe really happened.
posted by xammerboy at 6:25 AM on February 20, 2002


Improve the strength of the locks is what he said. Look up at the front page excerpt.
posted by mblandi at 7:20 AM on February 20, 2002


Here's what Ralph had to say about airline safety in 1999. Not one word about cockpit doors. The guy is blowing smoke.
posted by beagle at 12:37 PM on February 20, 2002


but if he were president, we'd be "blowing smoke" too ;Q
posted by kliuless at 1:25 PM on February 20, 2002


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