Ralph Nader and the Komodo Dragon

The third-party candidate’s bungled gotcha moment.

Radio-comedy duo Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding

The brilliantly deadpan comedy team of Bob and Ray used to do a hilarious routine called “The Komodo Dragon.” (To listen to it, click here.) Ray Goulding played an inattentive radio host interviewing an extremely dull expert on Komodo dragons played by Bob Elliott. The gag was that Goulding kept asking questions without listening to the answers, with the result that Elliott had to repeat the same facts over and over. As in:

A: The Komodo dragon, the world’s largest living lizard, is a ferocious carnivore. It’s found on the steep-sloped island of Komodo in the lesser Sunda chain of the Indonesian archipelago and the nearby islands of Rinja, Padar, and Flores.Q: Where do they come from?


A press release put out on the afternoon of May 20 by Ralph Nader’s presidential campaign possessed a similar quality.


The headline was “Nader Asks McCain: Are You Still Good on Your Promises From 2000?” The press release said that in 2000 McCain told Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter that, if elected, he would submit to weekly questioning from House and Senate members of both parties, just as the British prime minister does with other members of parliament during Question Time. In the release, Nader demanded to know whether McCain still adhered to this eight-year-old promise:

“People say that John McCain is a changed man,” Nader said. “That he has changed from a reformer to being a player. Well, I’d like to know, Senator McCain—a weekly press conference when you become President? Question Time? Give me a call.”


The trouble was that five daysbefore the Nader campaign issued this press release, McCain gave a widely covered speech in which he stated the following:

I will hold weekly press conferences. … I will ask Congress to grant me the privilege of coming before both houses to take questions, and address criticism, much the same as the Prime Minister of Great Britain appears regularly before the House of Commons.

McCain’s restatement of his Question Time promise from 2000 did not go unnoticed. In Slate’s “Trailhead” blog, Christopher Beam posted an item about it the day McCain gave the speech. So did the Washington Post’s Dan Balz in his blog “The Trail”; Mike Allen of Politico; Noam Scheiber in the New Republic blog “The Stump”; Caren Bohan of Reuters; Matt Welch of Reason magazine; David Nather of CQ; and Richard Brookhiser of National ReviewOnline’s “The Corner.” The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz wrote about it in his “Media Online” blog on May 16. Slate’s “Fighting Words” columnist Christopher Hitchens wrote about it on May 19. Alter wrote a column about it for the Newsweek issue that hit the stands on May 19 and was available online on May 18. This is, mind you, only a partial list.

The Komodo dragon, the world’s largest living lizard

Reached by phone, Nader campaign spokesman Chris Driscoll commented, “Thank you for letting me know about that.”