Camejo Debates Cobb, Attacks War and Democrats

by Mike McCallister

MILWAUKEE, Friday, June 25, 2004—In his second debate in as many days, Peter Camejo, Ralph Nader’s 2004 running mate, assailed the continuing occupation of Iraq and the two corporate parties that support it.

Referring to the other leading candidate for the Green Party presidential nomination Friday, Camejo told Green Party delegates: “David Cobb will lead millions of people to vote for war.”

“You cannot ask people to vote for one of these (Democratic or Republican) parties without supporting this war,” he said.

A deeply divided convention of nearly 800 delegates will decide Saturday whether to nominate Cobb, a Texas lawyer recently transplanted to California, and his running mate Pat DeMarche of Maine, or endorse the independent candidacy of Nader and Camejo. Two other candidates, Kent Mesplay and Lorna Salzman, participated in the 90-minute debate Friday, but are not expected to factor in the party’s decision.

Cobb has stressed party-building in his campaign, and rarely mentioned the issues facing working people in this debate. He said that he would campaign everywhere if he got the nomination, “but what will I say in a battleground state? ‘Vote your conscience.’”

“I have a problem with George W. Bush,” Cobb said. “He is a deep and profound danger, and needs to be out.”

The day before the convention opened, Camejo and Cobb appeared on Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! program, where the “safe states” strategy again came up. There, Cobb referred to Nader’s recent meeting with presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry. “It’s the Nader campaign that’s met with John Kerry, and it’s the Nader campaign that says that his first priority is to help un-elect Bush.”

Camejo responded that it was appropriate for Nader to meet with Kerry, noting that “I did that and I asked for, when I ran for governor, I asked both the Democrat and Republicans to meet with me...I have met with all the leaders of the Democratic Party in California, except for Steve Wesley, and I never insult them after a meeting.”

Both candidates claim to support U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, but Cobb said, “We can’t just cut and run.” In his debate with Camejo on Democracy Now! Cobb said the question is “not how quickly the U.S. troops withdraw and how safely that can be done and how quickly UN troops can come in and UN troops from Arabic-speaking worlds that can act as a transitional peacekeeping force. There is a responsibility. U.S. bombs destroyed that country. There is a responsibility. We can’t just cut and run and leave the mess for the Iraqi people to deal with. We have a responsibility in figuring out how to work with the Iraqi people as the first priority.”

Camejo was livid. “You heard him here say we can’t cut and run. That is the expression Kerry uses to justify continued U.S. occupation.”

Pro-Nader forces at the convention are concerned that the deck may be stacked in Cobb’s favor when the nomination balloting occurs Saturday. Floor rules adopted by the party’s national coordinating committee (which cannot be amended on the convention floor) will count votes for people who will not accept the party’s nomination as Abstentions. Because some delegates may be legally bound to vote for Nader, this lowers the total number of delegate votes needed to win the nomination, raising the specter of one candidate (presumably Cobb) winning the nomination with less than a majority of delegates.