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Published: Thursday, 2/28/2008

Nader's nadir

RALPH Nader was once known for his fearless fight against an auto industry heedless of product safety. He offered Americans a political choice different from the usual flavors. Now he's fighting to become the Harold Stassen of his time, a fixated bore who will be the last to understand his own irrelevance.

That, unfortunately, is typical of the type. Egotists like the limelight and don't know when to quit gracefully - and no limelight is so flattering as that shone on presidential candidates. Mr. Nader first started out as a write-in candidate in 1992, and now he has announced that he will be a presidential candidate in 2008 - his fifth run.

Never mind that he never ran with a good result and, arguably, with a disastrous one in 2000. If even a little more than half of the 97,488 votes he picked up in Florida had gone to Al Gore - a reasonable assumption, given the leanings of his supporters - America would have been spared the Bush presidency.

It takes some grand rationalization to keep on going after such mischief and embarrassment, but Mr. Nader is always up to the task. In making his announcement on Meet the Press on Sunday, he cited the difficulty he had in getting on state ballots in 2004, making ballot access an issue in his campaign along with claims that some of his views are not represented by the major candidates.

But he is in no position to make any argument because his multiple exercises in futility have made it clear that the real issue is himself. He just can't stop running. In the absence of any hope of winning, or even any realistic chance of being a spoiler this time, running has become the only point.

Because he has made himself truly irrelevant, it would be easy just to forget him and let him entertain his own fantasies without a comment. After all, anyone can run for president in the United States and no one is obligated to pay any heed.

But it's the pathetic downward spiral that is noteworthy. Here was a great man, a consumer advocate who helped save American lives. At age 74, he is rewriting his legacy so he'll be remembered as a political joke.

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