Democratic Underground

Earth to Tim Robbins: Politics is the Art of the Possible
August 20, 2001
by Lois Erwin

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 the Constitution.

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 time.

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 wrong.

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 in.

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.

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