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May 23, 2007

An Exclusive Interview with Senator Mike Gravel

By Timothy Gatto

This is a transcript of my interview today with former Senator Mike Gravel who is running for President as a Democrat. I was astonished at his candor and his great ideas. I hope that you are too.


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?

Senator Gravel:  With regards to foreign policy?

Gatto: Yes

Senator Gravel:  Oh… Radical change!  First off, I don’t believe in sanctions, all sanctions do is punish the innocent in trying to get at the guilty and you don’t even get at the guilty. Two, if you can then drop the sanctions like in Iran, North Korea, other areas you can begin to negotiate with these people, treat them as equals. We Americans are so arrogant!  We think we’re better than anyone else in the world and we act that way. But we’re not better than anyone else, and we’ve used our superpower status to intimidate people rather than use our power to bring people along and try to negotiate and bring out peaceful solutions. And integrate the global economy so that we can protect the working person both in the countries on one end and ourselves at the other end. All of our trade agreements need to be reexamined, not to be done away with, but re-examined, make sure that the beneficiaries are the working people in the countries involved. Not just the management and the investors of the corporations, it needs to be broader than that. The kind of foreign policy that I would bring forth… it would be based on and using our military capabilities, that wherever there is a natural disaster in the world or a human disaster that we would be there… “Johnny on the spot” to help people get through the crisis that they’re suffering in that way we are doing what I think is an empathetic for lack of a better word, a charitable act that would inure to our benefit,  as people in the world, as inure as well to the people we  are helping.

Gatto: It would do more to help get people on our side than threatening them and sending aircraft carriers off their coast.

Senator Gravel: Exactly right.

Gatto: If you show significant support among Democrats, but fail to capture the Democratic nomination, and that nomination goes to someone that you believe will not bring the changes we need, will you run as an independent?

Senator Gravel: I think it’s too early to say or to speak to that issue. I think that with the proper campaign, proper financial support, we don’t need the support that Hillary and others are getting. No they are  getting that from the Pharmaceuticals, the various industries of the Military Industrial Complex. They don’t give to my campaign, but the average citizen donating to my campaign could well give me enough voice that I could win the Primary. If that’s not the case then obviously I would look for alternatives, but right now I want to focus on winning the Democratic Primary and I think it can be done. Keep in mind, I may be marginal, I may just be coming to peoples notice right now this is very near May coming into June. I won’t have to become the top Tier candidate until November. There is just a lot of work to be done between now and then. A campaign is a linear task. You do your work now and it will pay dividends later on. And that’s what I’m doing. We just received enough money from people so that we can now open up our campaign office, would you believe? I’ve been running this operation with some virtual backers, virtual people and volunteers, from my 300 sq. ft apartment.

Gatto: You’ve certainly done a good job so far. Here’s just one question I have to ask you. Are you familiar with the theory of “Peak Oil” that says we are about to run out of oil in the near future? Are you familiar with the book “Armed Madhouse” by Greg Palast who claims that the threat of running out of oil is a trick by Big Oil and OPEC to drive up the price of oil?

Senator Gravel:  Well, I think it’s more complex than that. Ido have a great deal of expertise in that area and there is a whole school of thought on ‘peak oil” and that we may be on the other side of that issue and there’s  a school of thought that says we keep making discoveries. What we do know, is that we have to get off of carbon. So I would advocate a carbon tax in the United States when I become President.  I would try to set up a global institution; It will be an energy-environmental institution. This organization would invite other countries to put a carbon tax on their people. Now I’m talking about a carbon tax at the source: The barrel of oil, a lump of coal…so that it filters through fairly, through the economy, and that with all of this money  that these various countries would raise, would go to an international global organization would take this money to integrate the global engineering community and the global scientific community to get us off of oil, to get us off of carbon within a decade. We can do that. We know that the Chinese are ahead of us on fusion, the French are ahead of us in fission. We have a whole plethora of energy alternatives uh…production devices, that could be implemented if we had the will to do it. This is not a national problem, this is not an American problem, this is a global problem. This problem needs to be gone after with a global point of view. We can provide the leadership, but we are going to have to tax people with a carbon tax, which would then provide the wherewithal to get this job done within a decade.

Gatto: That’s a very good answer. Well Senator, that’s my fifteen minutes, and I really am so pleasedglad that you took the time to address the progressive wing of our nation,  and I have to admit, that for me, your candidacy is like a breath of fresh air. You’re like Captain Kirk of “Star Trek”, you go where no candidate has gone before, as far as honest truthful answers, and I salute you for that.

Senator Gravel: I thank you very much, and keep in mind your work here is helping my candidacy more than you realize, and so the more that you can help  get the message out, the more you take this questioning forward and the more people are aware of it. That’s what will really make the difference. I would not worry about the polls as they exist today, as I pointed out, it’s a linear campaign, it’s like the hare and the tortoise, I consider myself the tortoise.

Gatto: I think so too. People are fed up with these pat answers, and the “same old, same old”, “cookie cutter” politicians, and like I say…you are a breath of fresh air and people are going to catch on.

Gravel: I think so too, and when that happens, I will become President of the United States, and the most important thing I do will bring about your empowerment as a law maker. There is no reason that the American people cannot make laws on all of the policy issues that affect their lives.  I have a plan to do that on my website  or on my national website that will take you there and that’s  The future lies in the hands of its people and not their leaders.

Gatto: Well Sir I want to tell you, it’s been a pleasure, and when you become President, you can make me your National Press Secretary, and I’ll be the best that you ever had.

Senator Gravel:  Well if that happens, make sure you come and see me and jerk my chain.

Gatto: I will Sir, I hope that I get a chance to do just that.

Senator Gravel:  Goodbye.

Gatto: Goodbye.

So, there you have it. I hope that the next interview I have with Senator Gravel will be after he clinches his first primary. Meanwhile, it took me FIVE HOURS to transfer that interview to paper. I’m glad that I’m not a medical transcriptionist, I wouldn’t have the patience. So let’s hear your comments. Did I ask your question?  I’m sorry about not being able to ask them all. I appreciate the ones that you gave me. Maybe I’ll get another shot.

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Submitters Bio:

Tim Gatto is Ret. US Army and has been writing against the Duopoly for the last decade. He has two books on Amazon, Kimchee Days or Stoned Colds Warriors and Complicity to Contempt.