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"It seemed to all of us like a prearranged question," Maslin said. "We all thought this was Nader's way of asking to be Dean's running mate -- or else. It was carrot and stick."
Kulchur puts the question to the man directly: So, Mr. Nader, did you ask to be Howard Dean's vice president?
"If there's a word to exceed completely false, I would use it," Nader answers sharply. "I hear all kinds of rumors. You wouldn't want to cite the New York Daily News for very much, would you? I'm not particularly enamored of their accuracy over the years, other than their sports reporting on the back pages."
Not that he didn't drop by Dean's Burlington HQ. "We visited them in Vermont just to pay our courtesy," Nader says coolly. "We talked about ways Mr. Dean's agenda could be more progressive. We had a good discussion."
Perhaps one of your aides inquired about the vice presidency, just out of your earshot?
"Not even close, not even close," he repeats firmly. Forget about any horse trading or backroom deals as November approaches, Nader insists, bristling. Rather his game plan is simple, from Florida to California: "To get as many votes as we can. Isn't that what candidates do?"
And if you happen to re-elect President Bush in the process, as the Democrats warn?
"That won't happen," Nader counters, his voice rising. "We're going to get more of our votes from independent conservatives and liberal Republicans."
Let's play devil's advocate. If George W. Bush is re-elected, will your presidential run still have been worth it?
"I'm not clairvoyant!"