Oprah Talks to Phil Donahue
Phil (continued): And 40 years from now, will my grandchildren be waking up wondering what color the alert for the day is? I'm also very angry. One of the insidious features of terrorism is that the 19 guys who did this are dead—so we don't even have the satisfaction, imperfect as it may be, of dragging them to trial. I want to punch somebody out myself. But where is dissent? And who gets shushed? We're in a time when this fabulous thing called the Constitution is most needed. Over the years, we've sent millions of young people to war, and so many have died in foreign countries defending our way of life. And now our way of life is at risk, not so much from these foreign enemies but from our own cabinet members who just can't wait to listen in on our attorney-client conversations, check our e-mail, knock our doors down—freeze! The most ominous thing is an administration with an 80 percent approval rating. You want to keep real close scrutiny on these people, regardless of party. When they're up in the 80s, it's easy for them to swagger, and that's when dissent can be silenced. The whole point of the Constitution was to keep that from happening.
Oprah: During the first show I taped after September 11, a woman in the audience had the courage to say that we should think before we go to war.
Phil: Did she get booed?
Oprah: Literally. After we did the show called "Is War the Only Answer?" I thought, "Can't you even ask the question without people attacking you?"
Phil: That gets a little easier as we get further from the event.
Oprah: For years people have speculated about whether you have political aspirations. Do you?
Phil: I really don't.
Oprah: What made you campaign for Ralph Nader?
Phil: I believe him. Corporate campaign cash is controlling the democratic process. Corporations want to ensure that there are only two candidates to put their money on. Then they're in a win-win situation. I recently said, "For those of you who thought of us as spoilers and complainers and exaggerators, we have one word for you: Enron." It's unbelievable the control that company had.
Oprah: Some said your support for Nader was undemocratic.
Phil: [Harvard law professor] Alan Dershowitz said that—and I called him on it. Kids stood in the rain and the heat in the Southwest, on street corners, getting petitions to put Ralph on the ballot in spite of all the barriers. You should try to run for president! It's impossible. Incumbency is king. Ralph's name got on the ballot in 44 states. He never took a dime more than was allowed by the Federal Election Commission. Obeyed all the laws, reported everything. And we're undemocratic? Campaigning for Ralph was an interesting buzz for me. I had never been able to go out and do that. I felt like a real American. I was pitching for somebody I believed in. I first met him back in the sixties—he was a guest on the show. I was very proud to stand next to him, but I figured it was the end of my broadcasting career. After what I've said about how corporate power has taken away the rights of citizens, I never thought I'd be hired by a corporation.