Nader’s Role | Washington Monument Spy-Cam | TV Wasteland

A Broiler or a Spoiler?—The presidential candidacy of Ralph Nader as an Independent—he and the Green Party have split—raises again, as it did in the 2000 election, the question of whether his searing whacks at the Bush administration will offset the Democrats’ fear that Nader will take away enough votes in November to throw the 2004 election to the Republicans.

Nader’s criticism is bipartisan. His statements on NBC’s Meet the Press on February 22, including his attack on the two major parties’ political “duopoly,” was strong stuff. “Washington is a corporate-occupied territory,” he said, “and the two parties are ferociously competing to see who is going to go to the White House and take orders from their corporate paymasters.”

We should say that we have been, and still are, career-long admirers of Nader’s consumer, driver, environmental and worker-protection crusades. In the 1960s, in the good old days as a reporter at the New York Times, we wrote the first story it published about Nader. We spent weeks one Washington summer tracking “Nader’s Raiders,” the college kids he recruited to help create public interest in his reformist agenda. But we won’t vote for him in November.

Here’s Looking at You—It’s not just Big Brother who’s peeking, it’s also the Founding Father.

The towering Washington Monument, as much a visual trademark of the nation’s capital as the domed U.S. Capitol building, is turning out to be both a tribute to the “father of our country” and a “monument to Big Brother.” That’s the judgment of Jim Berard, a former National Park Service volunteer who used to help staff the visitor handling crew at the monument.

In an op-ed piece in the Washington Post remarking upon an irony on Presidents’ Day, he revealed for the first time that, to monitor people on the National Mall below, the government has installed video surveillance cameras in four of the Washington Monument’s eight top-most windows. The other four of the few see-below openings at the peak—or maybe the peek—of the 555-foot granite monument are now the only available outlook spots for tourists who go to the top. The rest are boarded up to hide and protect the cameras.

Arguing that the government “should remove the cameras and end this desecration,” Berard added: “Are cameras in the eye sockets of Abraham Lincoln’s statue in the Lincoln Memorial next?”

Asked for comment on this apparently unwelcome development, the media relations people at the National Park Service, a branch of the Interior Department, declined to reply.

No surprise in that. Interior Department folks are not supposed to talk to the press. The Interior Department, which runs the National Park Service, fired the chief of the U.S. Park Police, Teresa Chambers, in December for telling a reporter that her force was being underfunded and was undermanned (such disclosures are a no-no in the Bush administration).

Chief Chambers, highly regarded as one of the few women police chiefs anywhere, filed a whistle-blower complaint and was placed on paid suspension pending an Interior Department investigation.

None of this is unexpected at what the Washington Spectator (March 15, 2002) renamed the “Inferior Department” under Interior Secretary Gale Norton. She was a founder of an anti-environmental group funded by the chemical and mining industries.

The Boob Tube—The parents of this journalistic household so named the television set decades ago when our kids turned on anything but Sesame Street. Now someone has spammed us a picture of a beaming Miss Piggy, the cutesy Sesame Street muppet, smilingly baring her right breast.

It must be a reaction to the public flap over the “wardrobe malfunction” afflicting singer Janet Jackson on the CBS-TV broadcast of the Super Bowl during the half-time show. Congress and the Federal Communications Commission say they are shocked—shocked! And the networks claim they’ll be cleaning the screen.