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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > DNC – Chicago Convention

Chicago: Strolling through the walkways and inside the giant

United Center, where the Democratic Party convened last week to nominate the Clinton/Gore ticket, one has to recall Shakespeare’s title Much Ado About Nothing Fifteen thousand members of the media, hundreds of corporate hospitality occasions and a couple thousand Party delegates came together to observe a foregone conclusion — the nomination by acclamation — and a trade show unperturbed by any significant agenda.

No debate, plenty of music and dancing; no controversy but plenty of balloons and confetti. Lots of glitz and glitter.

Four football fields away was the first grim high rise housing project that Chicago calls home for the down and out and the drug dealers. Surrounding the Convention Center were hundreds of police. The first gate to enter the premises was two city blocks away. Protestors were held in a large cage of a field away from the Convention and press.

The massive number of reporters and production personnel were, as in the Republican Convention earlier, bored. The press likes to cover political conflict and there was none. It was enough for Bill Clinton to show that he is not Newt Gingrich to unify the Party faithful. Conflict was covered over. Jesse Jackson told me “November 6th” meaning wait until Clinton gets re¬≠elected and then the political sparks will fly.

But if there were no major political disagreements surfacing, there was plenty of hypocrisy and contradictions. Start with Wishy Washy Willie. He finally approves the Food and Drug Administration’s classification of nicotine as a drug and some restraints on tobacco marketing that reaches youngsters three weeks ago. Almost immediately he has the usual “wants to be loved by the powerful” second thoughts. He allows himself to be photographed with a cigar in his mouth and then, incredibly enough, lets his chief of staff, Leon Panetta, tell the press that the White House would consider a deal with the tobacco companies to withdraw the FDA regulations in return for large cash contributions to the government and fifteen years of litigation immunity.

His Democratic Party accepted hospitality from the big-time drug dealer, Philip Morris Co., at the Convention, while Clinton was denouncing street drug dealers from podium.

It was family values week at the Convention. Speaker after speaker extolled the family values record of the Clinton Administration. This mantra came only a few days after Clinton signed Republican legislation that will throw over a million children into poverty, take away public assistance for 350,000 disabled children, reduce food stamps and provide no job or day care programs to get people off welfare. Family values??

No school children should be near any toxic hot spot, Clinton told an audience in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Back in 1992, Al Gore promised worried and rebellious people around East Liverpool, Ohio that a giant incinerator project would not open under a Clinton Administration. A few months later, Clinton let it open right near a school.

On the same 21st century railroad trip to Chicago, Clinton praised a “clean car” joint venture between his government and the three domestic auto companies. Now moving into its fourth year of taxpayer boondoggle, this billion dollar do-nothing program lets the auto companies collude instead of compete for pollution controlled vehicles, lets them avoid upgrading standards requiring more fuel efficient autos and lets them take taxpayer money to do what their huge annual profits should be doing. Yet Amtrak is left to fade away.

At a time of harmful concentration of wealth, power and profits, 80 percent of the American people are slipping behind. The bottom ninety percent of American households have wealth about equal to the top one percent, making this disparity worse than it has been for sixty years and worse than any other western nation.

Yet Clinton cannot get himself to spare a few words about what Franklin Delano Roosevelt called the “malefactors of great wealth” — presently the global corporations who no longer call

America home as they scour the globe for serf-labor and enabling dictatorships.

In his address there was not a mention of the corporate crime epidemic (regularly described in the Wall St. Journal), not a mention of huge corporate welfare payouts that taxpayers are financing, not a mention of universal health insurance, energy independence, the assault on the American people’s historic right to go to civil court to hold perpetrators accountable. Mr. Clinton could not spare a few paragraphs in his lengthy speech on the corporate responsibility to obey the laws to go along with his exhortation for personal responsibility.

Why the silence? Significantly, the Democrats are taking too much business cash for their campaigns. The payback is silence and a warm and fuzzy Convention that explodes with relentless flattery, mutual backslapping and collective boasting. A trade show, a social occasion and making contacts for campaign cash are what the two parties’ political conventions have become. No wonder millions of people are drifting away in droves, because they have to choose between the bad and the worse or stay home.