The following is a transcript of my interview with Senator Mike Gravel, who is running for President on the Democratic ticket. I know he has peaked some interest with liberals and progressives. I’m happy to have asked some of the questions that you gave me. Enjoy.
Gatto: I want to thank you for giving me the time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions that liberal/progressives have asked me to ask you, after I mentioned that I had obtained an interview with you. We received so many responses that we had to narrow them down so that we wouldn’t keep you here all day. Ready?
Senator Gravel: Let’s go.
Gatto: Senator Gravel, would you have gone to jail over the release of The Pentagon Papers?
Senator Gravel: Those were good likelihoods that it would happen. When the attorneys and I were working on the details of how to release them, and what was involved, they did not have any idea, since there were no precedents. The attorneys had no idea what would happen to me, so I was scared stiff. I thought that the possibility that I would go to jail were very real, the least of what would happen to me would be censure in the Senate, but that never happened. The case did go to the Supreme Court and The Supreme Court ruled that I could release all kinds of information in the confines of the Senate, but if I published outside, which I did with Beacon Press which is what I was doing, I would be subject to indictment. What happened was that Nixon and the Watergate break-ins had taken place and Nixon was getting overwhelmed and running for election so they never bothered to pursue the indictments of me and Dr. Rothberg and The Beacon press in 1972. So it’s interesting that neither I nor Ellsberg went to jail, but three of the people in the justice department Woodrow, Bonian (sic?) and another whose name escapes me did go to jail. All three of those people went to jail.
Gatto: Those must have been some times. Do you think the chances of your Iraq Withdrawal Bill will pass the committee phase?
Senator Gravel: I don’t know, that’s a problem. The Withdrawal Act means just that. If the leadership, Pelosi and Reid, and of course the Democratic candidates that say they are running for President, want to be leaders for the nation and can’t even show any leadership inside of The Senate, the likelihood is that there will be not be much of a change in “politics as usual if” one of them gets elected. The hope is that Pelosi and Obama and Dodd, and the Chair of the Committee would exercise their influence as honorees to bring the call the bill up, to introduce the bill, it’s guaranteed …it’s guaranteed, to end the war by September, the test is…Do the Democrats really have the gumption, the leadership, the strength of character to do something about it? That’s a big question mark. All we know is that’s why the Democrats have turned around and passed a non-binding resolution and now what they’ve done, is force symbolic votes, but they are going backwards. Rather than strengthen the leadership to force Bush to get us out of Iraq, there’s not much we can do otherwise.
Gatto: Do you intend to institute a paper ballot trail doing away with private electronic voting to combat election fraud and bring accountability back to the voting process?
Senator Gravel: I think we can do both. Right now people can go to the web site to vote for the National Initiative. They have accountability, they can see how you voted, and they can change your vote. I think there is a combination of both electronic; e-voting plus a paper trail that goes with it so people can know exactly how they have voted.
Gatto: This is a side question, I just read Armed Madhouse by Greg Palast, and he talks about the Republicans “caging” different districts, basically African-Americans, Hispanic and low-income people that are inclined to vote Democratically. Don’t you think that there should be some kind of investigation on this kind of activity by the Republicans?
Senator Gravel: No question about it at all. However, here again the Democrats are focusing on Gonzales in the Senate and in the House Waxman is holding some oversight hearings. My hope is that they’ll do more. It takes time to gear up, they have to hire investigators and they can begin to do the research and back-up. So I think the time to judge this, is going to be in the fall, but if the Democrats don’t get to revealing what all these terrible things they’ve done to the Constitution and the American people then I think that Americans are really going to be disenchanted with the Democratic leadership in the Congress. So I think it’s too early to tell. My point of view; I become President …all of this investigation is going to take place because 80% of what the government holds secret, should NOT be secret and I intend to make that stick, and they’ll be a lot of revelations of what’s gone on against the American people by this government.
Gatto: Great answer Senator. I have seen what Cocaine, Heroin and Meth do to good people. What would you do to stop the abuse of these drugs if they are legalized?
Senator Gravel: First of all, I do have a program to legalize the regulation of hard drugs. I think we ought to stop the prohibition of Marijuana and let marijuana be sold in liquor stores. You get a much bigger high off of drinking a fifth of scotch, than you would off a couple of packs of marijuana. That’s why it should be legalized. Now the regulation, the legalization of hard drugs is a whole other matter. What we have to do is stop criminalizing this whole drug problem, the addiction problem. This is a public health problem. It’s not a criminal problem. What we need to do is to one; to identify these drug users so that they can get their drugs by prescription from a doctor, they are thereby registered to a registry, so that we can begin to monitor these people and try to proselytize them, and help them to get off of drugs. That’s not what happens today, what happens today… you’re criminalized, you’re thrown in jail, half the people in jail have a drug problem, and we don’t address that at all. It’s a health issue and we don’t look at it for what it is, it’s a health issue, ,so my hope would be, this whole war on drugs is a hoax we spend 50 to 70 billion dollars a year on it, and it’s no more effective than prohibition was against alcohol back in the 20’s. All it does is criminalizing a major segment of our population and cause another major segment to break the law, lose respect for the law, because it is just bad law, and so I would really push on both sides of that and keep in mind, those that try to tell the American people that they have nothing to fear but fear itself. That’s what I would try to do under this present situation is that you don’t need all this fear of the terrorists, of people of color, gays this is overblown, totally overblown, in addition to fighting this problem of fear with the American public through leadership, I would call on the courage in us, not the fear in us to address our collective problems. Then, at the same time like Roosevelt, I would do away with the prohibition that we have in respect to marijuana, and bring the legalization of hard drugs, legalization of the regulation of hard drugs.
Gatto: I wrote an article on the war on drugs it’s the same as the war on terror, it’s a never-ending thing, it’s a self-perpetuating thing. When are the American People going to realize that? Maybe when you’re the president?
Gravel: Yes we engage these issues. You don’t hear the front tier candidates talking about this on the drug war. You don’t hear them talking about the military industrial complex. With their interviews, its politics as usual, they say a lot, but don’t say anything.
Gatto: That’s exactly what’s happening, exactly. That was my next question, fear, but we already just discussed the politics of fear. I have some questions of my own. If you are elected President, what kind of changes would we see in regard to foreign policy?