Is it a president's job to solve moral questions?
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: Is it a president's job to solve moral questions?
Mike Gravel: A very, very good question. Just stop and think. One of the things you learn by becoming a legislature – you cannot legislate morality. People are what they are. You need a culture. You need the policy that sets a standard . . . a moral standard, and then people will live up to that standard. But when they see the Vice President of the United States and his companies ripping it off; when they see the war profiteers right out of the White House making millions and millions of dollars, what do you think that instructs the average man that he says, “Well if they’re stealing, why can’t I steal?” You need to set a new standard. Here just look at . . . When you take a family that’s been in politics all of their lives and they’re now have a net worth of $50 million dollars; and they go out; and Bill Clinton went out and got an honorarium for the Boys . . . from the Boys and Girls Clubs of America for $150,000 for making a speech, do you not think that the Boys and Girls Club could have used that money for Boys and Girls rather than for the personal enrichment of Bill and Hillary Clinton? Now these are the good people. I haven’t even attacked the Republicans on this score. But no, what is going on with our leadership? It’s politics as usual, locked in to a form of representative government that is broken, broken, broken. We need to change politics as usual, set a new moral tone. And that can only come about two ways. And the least of it is having a person, president who can do the leadership; but you have to empower the people to participate in their government as lawmakers. You can’t do it alone as president. The people must come in. And if I am fortunate to be elected President of the United States, I will devote all of my power initially to make sure that the people empower themselves so that we are truly partners. Mind you this is a little unusual for people to understand. Most politicians tell you, “Oh empower me and,” you know, “I empower you.” That doesn’t happen. You vote for the normal politician, he has the power, you write him a letter, or go protest, or go chain yourself to a fence in opposition to those policies. No, what we need now is the people to have power and what I’m . . . and that’s why it’s so difficult for the people to understand. Or why the media . . . or a good part of the media wants to marginalize me. They don’t want to hear this. The mainstream media controls the information sources of the American people, and they’re misleading. Stop and think on the . . . I am cut out of a debate on the 30th . . . and I don’t know when this will play; but on the 30th of October in New Hampshire . . . Not in New Hampshire – in Pennsylvania, the City of Brotherly Love. I’m cut out of the debate by MSNBC, which is NBC, which is owned by General Electric. And so it means that corporate . . . a war profiteer, General Electric, is now fixing it so that I cannot be in the debate so that the American people can hear my views when I criticize Hilary for saying . . . for voting for the Lieberman Amendment that would put this country at war with another country that’s not a threat to us. This . . . It doesn’t get any worse. And this is corporate America, the military industrial complex trying to silence me. I gotta tell you they won’t get away with it, not as long as I have breath.
Recorded on: 10/23/07
You cannot legislate morality.
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