to Tim Robbins: Politics is the Art of the Possible
August 20, 2001
Last June, Tim Robbins, an avid Nader supporter, spoke
at the annual dinner of the Liberty Hill Foundation. An edited
version of his
speech appeared in The Nation magazine on August 6. Following
is my response to Tim Robbins.
When our Founding Fathers declared American independence
from England, they had to make compromises about what their
declaration would say. When our Founding Fathers were establishing
a Constitution for our young nation, they had to make major
compromises in order to get the separate states to ratify
But maybe Tim Robbins thinks those patriots were not as idealistic
as he and Ralph Nader are. Maybe Mr. Robbins thinks he has
made major sacrifices for his idealism that the rest of us
haven't. He mentioned "fabulous parties" he may not have been
invited to as payback by some in Hollywood for Robbins' idealistic
support of Ralph Nader. Mr. Robbins hints that he and his
wife Susan Sarandon may have lost out on job opportunities
because of their idealistic support for Ralph Nader.
Gosh, Mr. Robbins even seems to believe he and Susan are
more idealistic than those of us -- who care profoundly about
the very same issues he does -- but nevertheless voted for
Al Gore. Well, why did we do that? Because unlike Mr. Robbins,
we KNEW Ralph Nader was not going to garner enough votes to
be elected, and we also knew the dangers that lay ahead for
this country if the White House, the Senate and the House
of Representatives all fell under Republican control at one
Well, it didn't take one day after George W. Bush's ascension
to power before the poorest and most powerless women in the
world fell victim to Bush's "compassionate" treatment, when
President Bush issued his first executive order denying American
funds to any family planning clinics around the world that
even mentioned the word "abortion." Bush was not denying poor
women abortions; our government, years ago, agreed NOT to
fund abortions for these poor souls. What Mr. Bush cut off
funding for was counseling, preventative medical care, pre-natal
care for women who might otherwise never see a doctor up to
and including the day they give birth. That's what Mr. Bush's
first executive order, on his first day in office, accomplished.
Was I shocked? Maybe a bit at the sheer callousness and speed
of the action, but not shocked that Mr. Bush would be up to
no good -- no good for our country and no good for the poor
and powerless, wherever they lived.
During the campaign, did I think Al Gore espoused every tenet
I believe in? No. Were there things I would have liked him
to have espoused? Yes. Why then did I vote for him? Because
one of two candidates WAS going to win the election: George
W. Bush or Al Gore. I KNEW the devastation that would be wrought
by the present-day Republicans once they had no one in the
White House threatening to veto their selfish, greedy legislation.
My nightmares about what Bush would do if he won the presidency
have come true. In fact, Mr. Bush had wrecked even more havoc
with our nation's well-being than I could have imagined.
But is Tim Robbins sorry? No. Is Ralph Nader sorry? No. They,
along with a few others, sit there on their Thrones of Being
More Idealistic Than Anyone Else and preen and congratulate
themselves on being better than those of us who tried to fend
off this current national nightmare known as the Bush presidency.
Mr. and Mr. Robbins will work again. Mr. and Mrs. Robbins
will be invited to "fabulous parties" again. But the poor
who have had their meager heath options cut back, the women
who are now denied family planning options, all the poor and
powerless among us may never recover from the cruelty this
administration is visiting upon them.
Does Mr. Robbins really fancy himself more idealistic than
the rest of us? How dare he! I am not only more idealistic
than Mr. Robbins; I have been idealistic for more years than
he has been alive.
I had respected and honored Ralph Nader ever since he wrote
"Unsafe at Any Speed" over 40 years ago. I even based some
of my own crusades on his model. So, don't chalk me up as
just one more sourpuss. I am not. I am a disappointed, maybe
even heartbroken person that I feel this way about Nader today.
But I don't -- and I'll be very honest about my sentiments
here -- think Ralph Nader gives a hoot about what happens
to this country anymore. I think he has become just one more
demagogue who has learned to love the applause and the adoration
and the spotlight =96 after so many years wandering in the
Wilderness of Good Intentions without an audience -- and his
only goal nowadays is to get attention to himself.
Do I believe Nader helped to cost Gore the election? Yes
Should Al Gore have been able to win in spite of Ralph Nader's
malevolence? Yes. Do I believe Nader knew exactly what he
was doing and didn't care enough about America to throw his
support to the candidate who could stop the Bush juggernaut?
Yes. Do I think that Ralph Nader understands or cares about
what he has helped to foist on the American people? No. I
don't think that Nader, to this day -- even with all the destruction
Bush has already done -- thinks he did anything stupid or
Well, Mr. Robbins, if you really want to do some good for
this country, get together with Barbra Streisand and a few
others and buy a cable network, so the American people can
have a source for fair, accurate and honest reporting of the
news. Today, we are being spoon-fed a combination of irrelevant
pap and/or right-wing propaganda. If we cannot have free and
open access to the facts of our national political life, we
will never be able to dig ourselves out of the hole we are
Ms. Streisand's idea about buying a cable network was an
excellent one; she should have found widespread support among
the film colony. She didn't, and I have to wonder why. Did
you support her, or did you join in the chorus that ridiculed
her? She had a far better idea for saving this country from
the machinations of the Far-Right than you or Ralph Nader
ever had. So, give her a call; offer your support. Do something
concrete that will truly help OUR cause -- the cause of taking
our country back from the greedy, selfish profiteering right-wing
moguls. Then, you will have proven your idealistic credentials.