President Gravel? (Archives)

From Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit

Former Sen. Mike Gravel (D) likes to boast that when he first arrived in Alaska in 1957 he didn't have enough money to buy a pack of cigarettes. A dozen years later the Massachusetts-born Gravel was elected to represent The Last Frontier in the United States Senate.

After serving 12 years, Gravel failed to win a third term and faded away from national politics just as quickly as he entered. The 75-year-old Gravel re-emerges today as he files papers to seek the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 2008.

"I am extremely angry with the direction the nation is going and the lack of leadership in the Congress and what I would call terrible leadership in the Executive Branch," Gravel said in an interview with the Grind. "I am ashamed there is no leadership in the Democratic Party and the Republican Party is worse."

Gravel is number 1653 of the elite club of 1885 people who have served in the Senate. But unlike most of the Senators who failed to distinguish themselves and are now footnotes in history, Gravel did make a mark by using the protections of his office and a bit of showmanship to express his opposition to the Vietnam War. Gravel filibustered the draft and he released the Pentagon Papers in 1971 by using his position as a subcommittee chairman to insert them into the public record. Gravel intended to read the full content of the papers in this dramatic late night hearing, but emotions overcame him.

"I was exhausted," Gravel said. "I probably hadn't slept for three days and I started crying. All I was thinking is my country is making a terrible mistake in Vietnam. I asked unanimous consent to put the Pentagon Papers into the record."

Why did he do it? "I took my position as a United States Senator and said they got no reason to lie to the American people," he said.

Gravel has similar thoughts about the Iraq War, an issue he said "angers him the most" and vowed to remove U.S. troops immediately if elected.

"This is a mistake we made and it is absolutely immoral to hang onto the mistake when we are killing Americans and killing Iraqis," he said. "I would pull back the military and concentrate on aggressive diplomacy."

While Gravel embraces the concept of being a dove, the former Senator said he is not a liberal. He points to his Senate record of championing the Alaska Pipeline and opposing the Alaska lands bill, as well as his current support for a national sales tax and a desire to reform Social Security. He also wants to see the power to make laws put into the hands of the voters -- in essence diluting the power of the legislative body he once served.

Gravel was described in an August 28, 1980 Washington Post story as having "earned a reputation as one of the Senate's heavier hands in campaign fundraising, shaking the Washington money tree for all its worth." For his presidential bid, the former Senator predicted he would raise $40 million to $50 million. But he has yet to hire a professional campaign staff, and said he would follow Howard Dean's example of reaching out to donors through the Internet.

"If my message resonates with the American people, the money will be there," he said.

At the very best, Gravel is a long shot for the nomination but he is following a similar path blazed by the likes of former Sen. George McGovern (D-South Dakota) and the late Sen. Eugene McCarthy (D-Minnesota), who sought the Democratic presidential nomination after leaving the Senate.

Comments

Gravel compares himself to Reagan - I agree

I just caught Gravel on a short bit on MSNBC, said he is starting a formal campaign HQ besides his apartment, and adding another staff member. Not a whole lot was said, but they are now talking about the Republican debate, to be aired tonight on MSNBC, and whether anyone can "pull a Gravel".

Gravel compared his age and wisdom to Reagan. I am not a Reagan hater, I was just a child when he was president, and he did exude a sense of pride and optimism in America and made me feel without question that America was by far the greatest country in the world. I think Gravel has a confidence and hope in the American people that is indeed reminiscent of Reagan. Both share a sharp sense of humor that is comforting and makes us feel like they know who we are.

Then some guests came on to give their perspective on it, saying, Gravel had "nothing to lose" in the debate, and that was the only reason candidate should have to speak so candidly. They thought it was appropriate for the front-runners to keep a tight lip and just avoid "screwing up". This is how the media wants the debates to go? I can't imagine it's helping their ratings, but it is a tactic to keep money, rather than policy, as the primary determinant of who gets the candidacy. The guests went so far as to call the Republicans in the debate other than Guiliani, McCain, and Romney, as "filler" that no one should or will be paying attention to.

Everyday, more and more, I feel this country sliding further into a mind-control society with no political debate of any substance ever taking place. And the networks, if they had their way, would not put any but the top two or three candidates up for a debate.

Mike Gravel for President in 2008

Gravel had "nothing to lose" in the debate

Boy you nailed it Swiharta!

' ...Gravel had "nothing to lose" in the debate, and that was the only reason candidate should have to speak so candidly.'

And what is it exactly that the others have to lose? The millions of dollars in special interest "campaign contributions" they have amassed as "outsourced employees" of those self-same interests!

Yeah. Mike has nothing to lose from the mob because he was never on the take to begin with!

Nothing to lose. If we allow the gangsters in control of our government to remain in control we will soon have nothing left to lose. They will have taken it all! They have built a bonfire of dollars and T-bills, and T-notes in the deserts of Iraq and they're feeding it every day! Bremer actually disappeared tons of hundred dollar bills, $4,000,000,000.00 and more in actual cash in Iraq.

The Halliburtons, the Blackwells, the LockheedMartins think they have a lot to lose. That the War Profiteers have a lot to lose.

But we are the ones who have lost it all, our country, our balance sheet, our self-respect as nation. More than 3,500 Americans have lost their lives, 20,000 are maimed and wounded, 650,000 utterly blameless Iraqis have been murdered by the United States of America because we allowed these thugs, these utterly corrupt gangsters to seize the reins of power in our country.

We must take back our country before there is in fact nothing left to lose.

The corrupt politcal class is utterly indifferent to the reality of their disastrous moral collapse. We the people must finally stir our stumps, drive the Demoplicans out of our Democratic party, drive the Republicrats out of our Republican Party for that matter, and take back our country before there is nothing left to lose.

US Government Bodyguard, Baghdad Iraq

Eli,

I am intrigued by your signature, "US Government Bodyguard, Baghdad Iraq"

Are you a mercenary? Do you work for Blackwater?

jfl- "Intrigued by signature"...

I'm a Protective Service Agent for the Army JVB (Joint Visitors Bureau). My paychecks currently come from the Army. I have worked with and trained with Blackwater in the past, among others. I have seen this war (and it's orchestrators) from the inside out, and I'm telling anyone who has "ears to hear", that Mike Gravel is the only voice of reason that is speaking. Eli

The message is resonating! And we are here for you!...

We're here for you, Sir. You make us proud. Thank you for helping to wipe the smudges off the mirror that we (Americans) see ourselves in. YES...to the Gravel Democratic vision.

Eli, U.S. Government Bodyguard, Baghdad, Iraq

Neocons for Obama

Robert Kagan wrote a piece about Obama in the Washington Post a few days ago, quoting from a speech of his on foreign policy which Kagan thought was great. Robert Kagan is a neocon. This is just the latest example of why Obama = "More of the Same." I suppose it's early to start going after other Democrats, but I am afraid that many liberals are being deluded by the "Do Nothing Dems" who currently sit in the United States Senate. Now is the time for all of us to engage our friends, our neighbors, or even the people we pass on the street, and let them know about Mike Gravel!

Power to the People! Power to the People! Vote for Mike Gravel...Power to the People, right on!!!

Obama lost me to Gravel last Thursday on MSNBC

Prior to last Thursday's debate I had Obama and Ron Paul as my two stomach-able candidates. Obama because I really liked The Audacity of Hope and felt he would be a pragmatic centrist; Ron Paul because he actually understands why sound money is important and he truly respects the Constitution.

But then Obama revealed that he's much less skilled at thinking on his feet than he is at delivering prepared material. I already knew that Obama was receiving a lot of hedge fund money, but it wasn't until he gave his Israel answer that I knew for sure. Obama is either covertly wooing the neocons, or he is the Decoy Candidate put in place to fool the Winston Smiths of this election that The Resistance Is Real.

It was during the last 30 minutes (not broadcast except on MSNBC, funny that) that I really began to realize how original Kucinich and Gravel are. But Mike won me with the cantankerous outbursts, all of which I agreed with. What a breath of fresh air! I'm sick of all this Machiavellian memory loss and quibbling over what "is" is. We need more great YouTube moments like "WHO WOULD YOU BOMB" -- those rekindle my hopes that America still has a chance to avoid the fate of previous world empires.

Our government is now so loaded down with special interests that it's become a cancer on society -- it should be no surprise that topics like true spending cuts and scaling back the military-industrial complex are taboo in politics today. The perma-pork is determined to suck the bone marrow out of our economy, damn the consequences. Sooner or later the debt party must end, and we'll need an Apollo project (say, energy independence) to keep the economy from going into a tailspin.

So of course they are trying to shut Mike out of the conversation. I think they're genuinely afraid!

I'm mad as hell about where our country is going -- and I want a President who is just as mad about it as I am!

Obama is another "outsourced" corporate employee

Yeah. Someone else pointed out the Kagan op-ed and the speech; which he quoted. Barack Obama is clearly another outsourced corporate employee. The speech is nothing more than a pledge to use the American military in the service of corporate and far-right-wing Israeli interests. If it weren't for Mike's arrival on the scene I would be in despair at this point. But that's melodrama. The fact is such corporate hubris among the plastic people in the media bubble created a powerful vacuum in the real world that was bound to draw someone in to smash the image on the giant monitor. We're just lucky it is Mike, a man with the integrity to see it through and the experience to actually govern when we win.

Obama is another "outsourced" corporate employee

Dunno about that, I'm not ready to really X obama totally out yet. If it wasn't for Gravel Big heart for his country and its People. Obama would be my choice. But Mike Gravel all the way. And how Obama won't even appear on fox cause of how they tried to smear him so much. Take alot to do such a thing. Time will tell how Obama really is.