The Nose woke up Sunday morning and headed downstairs and watch Ralph Nader Meet the Press. But after a few moments, he ended up outside, with a pair of pruning shears in his hand. Amid the rosebushes, the air was fresh and invigorating. On NBC, the message was stale and depressing.

Now, don't get the Nose wrong--he loves Nader. The jihad that the young Harvard Law grad launched against General Motors in the '60s birthed the consumer movement. Nader's establishment of Public Interest Research Groups on college campuses, which got its start in Oregon, drove a new generation to civic activism. And his 1996 presidential bid, which this newspaper endorsed, reminded Bill Clinton that progressive voters weren't just a one-night stand on his way to the White House.

Yes, the Nose agrees with Nader that money is corrupting politics and that multinational corporations are still getting away with murder.

But he won't waste a vote on Nader. It's not that the Nose thinks the Green Party's 2000 presidential candidate put George Bush in the White House (Al Gore lost his home state of Tennessee without anyone's help).

Rather, it's because Nader has become a pathetic parody of himself--Michael Moore without the humor.

In an interview with this paper three years ago, Nader talked about his commitment to the Green Party.

"No party was ever built in a day," he said in July 2001. "You're going to have about 800 Green chapters at universities around the country. They're just a step away from running for local office. The Greens are going to win a lot of seats locally. The Green Party agenda is the most detailed, best and deepest agenda of any party in America, so it has something to be cohesive around."

But that "something" ain't Ralph--he dumped the Greens like a hot reactor and is now running as an independent.

There are times when an uncompromising idealism is inspiring. But there are other times when the pursuit of the great is the enemy of the good.

If Nader backers in Oregon want a lesson on the legacy he's forging, they shouldn't look to the left, but to the right. For the past 15 years, the Republican Party has been held hostage to Nader's philosophical mirror image: the conservatives who will not back any candidate who doesn't meet their anti-abortion litmus test. It's no accident that Republicans haven't been in the governor's office since 1986 and can't come up with any legitimate candidates to run for statewide office this year.

Nader sniffs that none of the remaining presidential candidates (except Dennis Kucinich) meets his litmus test--not even John Edwards, a pro-union trial lawyer who shares Nader's disdain for tort reform and NAFTA.

As he did in '96 and '00, Nader insists there's no difference between the Democrats and Republicans. What's he smoking? Does he really think the United States would be the same today if the Gorebot were calling the shots? That American troops would be running for cover in Baghdad? That mining-industry consultants would be writing a development plan for Steens Mountain?

Of course there's a difference between the Democrats and Bush. But apparently not enough for Nader's indulgent idealism.