NADER’S ‘UNSAFE’ AT 40
William Greider writes: Ralph Nader and dozens of old friends got together recently to celebrate the fortieth birthday of a book–Unsafe at Any Speed, his auto industry exposé. It had its origin in “The Safe Car You Can’t Buy,” which first appeared in The Nation in 1959. The book was the starting gun for the consumer movement and, much more, for citizen activism. At the gathering Nader introduced some early collaborators– Village Voice columnist Jim Ridgeway, who wrote a riveting account of Nader’s campaign in the then-liberal New Republic, and publisher Richard Grossman, who created a hard-hitting genre known as “Nader books.” Some of his young deep-digging associates described their work in what is an ongoing fight. The old crusader, we are pleased to report, has not mellowed.
Stephen F. Cohen writes: American officials have a longstanding habit of attributing positive developments in Russia to the United States, which contributes to the ill-informed impression that Russians cannot reform their country without our guidance. A small but telling example appeared in The Weekly Standard (September 26) in a letter from Max Kampelman, US ambassador for nuclear arms negotiations in the Reagan Administration. Kampelman claims to have arranged the first meeting between the great Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov and the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. According to Kampelman, he achieved this feat at a US Embassy dinner in Moscow hosted by President Reagan, which took place May 31, 1988. Considering the significant role the relationship between these two historical Russian figures played in Gorbachev’s reforms and even in the end of the Soviet Union, Kampelman’s claim, if true, would warrant at least a footnote in historical accounts. But it isn’t true, and his mistaken assertion should be corrected, which The Weekly Standard declined to do. In the second volume of Sakharov’s memoirs he writes that “my first face-to-face encounter with Gorbachev” occurred January 15, 1988, at a meeting in Moscow devoted to nuclear disarmament and human rights. It was a memorable encounter. Sakharov thanked Gorbachev for having freed him after nearly seven years in internal exile, and Gorbachev responded with equal warmth. Two other aspects of Sakharov’s account should be noted. The January 15 meeting was organized by a Soviet foundation, not an American one. And it helps explain “the smiles and the immediate warmth” Kampelman observed when Sakharov and Gorbachev encountered each other (again) four and half months later.