How would you restore a bipartisanship spirit to Washington?
Mike Gravel is a former Democratic United States Senator from Alaska, who served two terms from 1969 to 1981, and a former candidate in the 2008 presidential election. He is chiefly known for his efforts in ending the draft following the Vietnam War and for putting the Pentagon Papers into the public record in 1971.
Born in 1930 to immigrant parents in Massachusetts, Gravel enlisted in the Army in 1951 and served in West Germany. A self-stated dyslexic, Gravel was educated at Columbia University%u2019s School of General Studies in New York, where he drove a taxi to support himself. Gravel's first steps into politics were in the Alaska House of Representatives, before he won his party's nomination to the U.S. Senate in 1968. During the 1980s, after Gravel lost his senate seat, he worked as a real estate developer, consultant and stockbroker.
Gravel is a strong supporter of direct democracy, and specifically, the National Initiative, which refers to proposals to allow for ballot initiatives at the federal level.
Question: How would you restore a bipartisan spirit to Washington?
Mike Gravel: Well first off bipartisanship is a little bit of a canard. You know, “Oh we’re gonna reach across the aisle and we’re gonna be friendly.” There’s too much of that. There’s too much of that. If anything . . . here, you’ve got principles. And if you have your principles, are you supposed to compromise and reach across the aisle and go for principles? Let’s just take the marriage act. Oh let’s have . . . Let’s only take care of the gays someplace – not in the military of course, or not with marriage. And so we have a compromise. And what do you get? You get a lot of mush. No, there’s time for compromises; but on some issues – civil rights, human rights – no compromise. I don’t want to compromise. And so if somebody wants to compromise . . . Here, I’ll tell you what you get for compromise. You get the Lieberman amendment that took us into the Iraq War, and you get the Lieberman amendment too which is now setting the stage to take us into war with Iran. That’s compromise. Both parties vote for it. The Democratic Party and the Republican Party of Congress led us into Iraq. They gave George Bush the tools. That’s compromise. I want no party to that kind of compromise.
Question: What aspect of the Democratic platform do you disagree with most?
Mike Gravel: Well first off I confess I haven’t read the platform. And they’re gonna be doing that at the convention, and I’ll read the platform. I’ll be informed by it. I won’t be bound by it. I’ll be informed by it. There’s a difference, because if there are some planks in there . . . See I take exception to American triumphalism. You know we think we’re so important, we’re smarter than everybody else in the world. My god we’re not . . . we don’t do a good job on all of the things that count. Education, healthcare, our crumbling infrastructure. Sure we’re number one in weaponry. We’re number one in the people we put in jail. We’re number one in consumer spending. We’re number one in public debt, private debt, and corporate debt. Oh yes we’re number one. We’re number one in delusion, and we Americans have to get off of that kick and realize that what we need to do is treat . . . is stop this idea that we need or that we’re an empire. We spend more on defense than all the rest of the world put together. Who are we afraid of? One of our nuclear submarines could hold the world hostage. It’s our leadership. And here too let me just touch on another area that’s very, very important. Big think. We take . . . and I’m talking liberal conservative right across the board – the east coast liberal, the west conservative – when they say, you know, “My country right or wrong.” Or when they say “our vital interests”, well if we’re always putting our vital interests first, that means that’s a “beggar thy neighbor” policy. Well that kind of policy in the world makes everybody beggars, and including ourselves. And so we need to take a whole different approach. As a people we need a moral base. And when I mean a moral base, when you get members of Congress and the President of the United States going to war for nobody that’s a threat to us, what does that mean? When you take the nation absorbing the fact that we now torture people, we have rendition. How can we stand like the President did talking to the UN, pointing at that country and that country telling them how immoral they are? It’s the pot calling the kettle black and that is terrible. People know and realize our hypocrisy, and that’s the reason why they hate our leadership. They still love what we stand for in principle. We have to, as Americans, get back to our principles.
Question: What aspect of the Republican platform do you agree with most?
Mike Gravel: I gotta tell you the only one that I would agree with is Huckabee who talks about the fair tax. And I talked about the fair tax. I think until we get the fair tax, we will never, never get a handle on our domestic issues. Our system of income taxes are corrupt. Corrupt. The middle class carries the load; the wealth has gained the system; and the poor gets zip. That’s . . . so that’s the only thing I can spot. The Republicans have been pushing for the fair tax for the last six years in Congress, but I suspect it’s more cosmetic than anything else so they can get donations from conservative people. But they were in control of the Congress. They never even got the legislation out of committee, and they were in control of Congress for six years. And every two years this was introduced as House Bill 25, Senate Bill 25, never moved it. Had some funky little hearing. That’s cosmetic. If you believe something in the Congress, you get up and you fight for it and you pass it. But the reason why they can’t get it passed through the Congress, and the reason why it will never pass through the Congress – changing from an income tax system to a retail sales tax system which could be made very progressive dilutes the power of the Congress. And these people claw their way to get into power. They’re not about to share it with the people they get it from.
Recorded on: 10/23/07
Compromise does not get us into situations we don't want to be in, Mike Gravel says.
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