Recent editorials from New Jersey newspapers

Ralph Nader, who turns 74 tomorrow, remains as obstinate, prickly and egotistical as ever, hewing to the idea that he must run for president because “dissent is the mother of ascent.”

Using political protest to leverage social change is a sound principle. Nader’s execution of it is not. His presidential run in 2000 wounded Al Gore enough to help George W. Bush sneak into the White House.

Events since have proven Nader was delusional when he insisted there was no difference between the major political parties. The deficit-spawning Bush tax cuts, the administration’s assault on crucial environmental laws and, most tragically, the unnecessary war in Iraq _ Nader bears partial responsibility for all of it.

Nader’s 2000 candidacy garnered almost 3 million votes. Nearly 100,000 of them were in Florida, where Bush defeated Gore by slightly more than 500 votes.

Despite eight years of some of the worst political and social backsliding in the history of the republic, Nader still confuses his narcissism with progress for the nation.

Fortunately, this is not 2000. Nader shouldn’t rise to even the level of a distraction. Gore was a solid candidate, but he was not exciting and he didn’t represent change. Nader won’t take votes from Barack Obama or from Hillary Clinton. Both candidates are sufficiently appealing as agents of change that Nader can’t steal their thunder.

Nader, the stinging wasp, has become the irritating gnat. He says he’s not a spoiler. While it’s true he no longer has the power to be, his intentions are suspect. It’s time for him to go away and stop pretending that what’s good for him is good for the country.

___

On the Net: http://www.nj.com

Tuesday’s (Feb. 26) Record of Bergen County on “Freeheld’s” Oscar victory:

On Sunday, a New Jersey story won the Academy Award for short subject documentary. It was a bittersweet moment. In what may go down as the ultimate Oscar irony, a film about gay and lesbian discrimination in Ocean County was announced as the winner by members of the U.S. military serving in Iraq.

Probably no one planning this year’s show thought about the hypocrisy of having the military, which bans openly gay and lesbian soldiers from service, announce a category that included a film about a law enforcement officer’s dying struggle to transfer pension benefits to her legal domestic partner.

“Freeheld” shows how Ocean County freeholders continued to deny Lt. Laurel Hester’s requests to have her pension transferred to her partner, Stacie Andre. The freeholders relented only after Governor Corzine applied personal pressure.

Hester’s publicized battle spurred numerous counties across New Jersey to grant pension rights to their employees in legal domestic partnerships. Since then, New Jersey has expanded rights to same-sex couples with a civil union law. But a recently released report on the one-year-old law shows that benefits discrimination continues despite the state Supreme Court ruling guaranteeing equal rights to same-sex couples.

And while Corzine says he will sign legislation recognizing same-sex marriage if it ever reaches his desk, he also has said that he does not support introducing such legislation in a presidential election year. There is little appetite inside the State House to take on this issue in 2008.

The Oscar win will give “Freeheld” more public exposure. It is a sad, compelling film. Watching Hester slowly succumb to cancer is heartbreaking. Watching her repeatedly being denied equal rights despite her decades of public service is galling. And watching the emotional bond between Hester and Andre as they face the inevitable is proof there is nothing gender-specific about spousal commitment.

“Freeheld” ends in death: Hester died in 2006. It also ends in personal victory. But the struggle for equal rights has never been one individual’s story. Equality for gays and lesbians in New Jersey is a sometime thing. In the U.S. military, it does not exist at all.

It will take more than an Academy Award to change that.

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