In an interview with the Rocky Mountain News, independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader says the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, is trying to "talk white" by downplaying poverty issues.
Nader -- who launched his 5th presidential campaign in February -- says the only thing different about Obama from previous Democratic presidential candidates is his race. "I haven't heard him have a strong crackdown on economic exploitation in the ghettos," Nader says. "Payday loans, predatory lending, asbestos, lead. What's keeping him from doing that? Is it because he wants to talk white? He doesn't want to appear like Jesse Jackson? We'll see all that play out in the next few months and if he gets elected afterwards."
Asked if he thinks Obama is trying to "talk white," Nader said, "of course….The number one thing that a black American politician aspiring to the presidency should be is to candidly describe the plight of the poor, especially in the inner cities and the rural areas, and have a very detailed platform about how the poor is going to be defended by the law, is going to be protected by the law, and is going to be liberated by the law," Nader said. "Haven't heard a thing."
Nader also says Obama wants to show he's not "another politically threatening African-American politician. He wants to appeal to white guilt. You appeal to white guilt not by coming on as black is beautiful, black is powerful. Basically he's coming on as someone who is not going to threaten the white power structure, whether it's corporate or whether it's simply oligarchic. And they love it. Whites just eat it up."
An Obama spokeswoman, Shannon Gilson, said "we are obviously disappointed with these very backward-looking remarks."
Obama's skin color aside, on Tuesday, the Nader campaign assailed Obama's decision to support the revised domestic surveillance bill, pointing out that Obama had previously said he would support a filibuster of any bill that included retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies.
But now though Obama says he will try to get retroactive immunity removed from the bill, he will ultimately vote for it either way.
Said the Nader campaign: "Liberal Democrats are surprised and outraged that Obama would flip-flop this way. But we're not surprised. From the beginning, we saw through Obama's 'Change You Can Believe' mantra. Obama is just another corporate candidate. At times, he might sound like a progressive. But he's not. That's why we're here. We're here to give the American people a choice in November."
Note - The headline of this post originally misquoted Nader; it has been corrected.