Ralph Nader calls for D.C. presidential debate

Even before his 2000 campaign for president with the Green Party, Ralph Nader has long been outspoken about the exclusion of third party candidates in presidential debates.{ }

Now, he's shifting his "activism" to debate formats, calling for a debate in D.C. about issues in the District.

Nader says President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney need to answer tough questions about the District's voting rights.

"The difference between Romney and Obama is Romney says the wrong things; Obama says the right things - although not recently about DC statehood and budget autonomy, but he doesn't do anything," Nader said.

With just 617,000 residents and only three electoral votes in November, most political observers agree there's not much motivation for Obama or Romney to participate in such a debate.

Nader added, "So there is going to be a presidential debate with two full chairs - the green and libertarian parties - and two empty chairs - Barack Obama and Mitt Romney."

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, cited by Nader as a backer of the idea, says his letter of support was sent more than a year ago. Still, Gray says he appreciates Nader's efforts.

Gray, (D) District of Columbia, added, "Frankly, it would be good to be able to debate some of these autonomy issues right here in our nation's capital."

However, when asked for her thoughts on the proposal, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton asked, "Who would be debating?"

"I didn't know there was anybody on the other side except for Republicans. I don't understand what the debate is. I mean who would debate it," she continued.

But in recent weeks, some D.C. Democrats and Republicans have expressed frustration that the mayor and congresswoman were "snubbed" at the Democratic National Convention and not given time to speak about voting rights or statehood.

Patrick Mara, (R) D.C. State Board of Education, said, " It's the same reason the delegation was seated in the back row at the convention. We can be taken for granted among the national Democratic Party."

And that's why Nader says such a debate is necessary.

Nader added, "Why are we rationing presidential debates? There should be 21 debates, all over the country, generated by the community, summoning the presidential candidates instead of the candidates choreographing the country with their highly paid political consultants."