Mike Gravel, with his crotchety avuncular charm, captured the imagination of the American public in the first Democratic presidential debate that took place on April 26th. He was considered a sideshow, yet when the American public saw his courageous, honest performance, they let the political powers-that-be know that this man rightfully needs and deserves a forum. And due to an amazing outpouring of support from the blogosphere, the former senator has finally been invited to the
New Hampshire Democratic presidential debate as well. The mainstream media could no longer justify its efforts to censor this man. Folks, this is true democracy in action—a la Gravel. But the sad truth is that the mainstream media stacks the deck against any candidates who are not already entrenched in the incestuous cesspool that is the American plutocratic power structure. Let us examine why the media wanted to exclude this distinguished American from the debates in the first place.
Now, I don’t pretend to be an expert on all things political, but I consider myself a reasonably well-informed person with an inquisitive mind. But I had never heard of this guy before the debate! No major news network or publication had given this guy anything approaching significant coverage, in spite of the fact that Gravel was the first Democrat to formally declare his candidacy on April 17, 2006. So I decided to do a little bit of research on my own. I figured that at best, he had been a marginal politician from a bygone era who was making a quixotic quest to amuse himself in his golden years. Unfortunately, the only part I may have been right about is the part about his quest being quixotic. But in terms of experience, accomplishments, positions, and integrity, I was totally wrong.
In 1970, Gravel, as a first-term US senator from Alaska, led the opposition movement to stop underground nuclear testing by the
U.S. government in the National Wildlife refuge at Amchitka in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. The opponents of the testing formed a protest movement calling itself the “Don’t Make a Wave Committee.” And this movement eventually became what is now known as Greenpeace. That qualifies him as a true green environmentalist in my book. Eat your hearts out, Gore and Kerry.
Then in 1971, Gravel played a key role in the release of “United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense” or what is more familiarly known as the Pentagon Papers. Most of the Pentagon Papers were leaked to the New York Times, but not all. But Senator Gravel once again came to the rescue of the American people, adding some 4,100 missing pages. So finally, the complete Pentagon Papers, called the “Gravel Edition”, edited and annotated by Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, were published by the Beacon Press. As we all know, this event was a triumph of the American democratic process, exposing the lies of the Johnson administration and preventing the Nixon administration from expanding the immoral war.
We see the current crop of leading Democratic presidential candidates carefully gauging the public opinion and saying whatever their pollsters tell them would win them most votes. The ones who voted for the
Iraq war say they wouldn’t have done so if they knew what they know now. Uh huh. Sure. And then the ones who either voted against the war or expressed opposition to it smugly try to take credit, while dancing around the issue of how and when they would actually stop this war. What did the Gravel do in a similar situation? Our stalwart hero staged a one-man filibuster, resorting to every parliamentary procedure in the book, and eventually got the Nixon administration to agree to let the military draft expire in 1973. Mr. Gravel went to
Washington, all right. And he pointedly reminded his fellow Democrats during the first debate that they too could have filibustered to prevent Bush from waging this bloody war in
In addition to all of this, John Gravel is a true man of the people. The leading Democratic candidates are falling all over themselves to metamorphose themselves into just regular folks. Yes, we know that John Edwards is the progeny of a poor Southern family and that his father worked at a mill his whole life. He rarely fails to remind us of that. Yet he writes off a $400 haircut as a campaign expense-that’s what an American making minimum wage takes home in a two-week pay period. And Hilary should really spare us the faux black preacher affectations whenever she finds herself before a predominantly African-American audience. It really is disingenuous and Americans will eventually find it insulting. Many people in the black community have lovingly referred to her husband as the proverbial first black president. Well, in spite of all his warts, Bill Clinton is a preternaturally gifted man when it comes to making emotional connections with people. Hilary on the other hand… Well, remember how ridiculous and ultimately patronizing Al Gore sounded during the 2000 campaign when he tried to sound “black” before predominantly African-American audiences? Well, she sounds worse. She has to stop. And whatever she does, she and Bill better not reenact an open-mouthed kiss a la Tipper and Al at the convention. The stench from the collective regurgitation of the American people will permeate the entire nation worse than the mysterious toxic smell that enveloped the
New York City area. On the other hand, Gravel actually worked as a New York City cab driver! That is true common man pedigree.
As a general rule, I am not big on conspiracy theories. But if a man eminently qualified to run for the presidency also happens to be the first person to throw his hat into the ring, doesn’t the media in a democratic society have the obligation to inform the public? What is the duty of the American media? To tell us how much money Clinton and Obama have raised? The American public does not need to know how much money they have raised. We have a pretty good idea. We are not the proverbial retarded stepchild. What we do demand to know is that there are candidates with provocative ideas besides the ones who are already anointed by the media. And Gravel is no kook, as many in the media have tried to portray him. Gary Coleman, the former child star, and Mary Carey, a porn star, got more publicity when they ran for governor of California. Ugh. This kind of gross oversight on the part of the media does raise red flags and feeds into conspiracy theories. It makes thinking Americans wonder out loud if certain types of candidates are indeed purposefully marginalized by the media at large. Could it be that Gravel, much similar to the effectively shut-out intellects like Noam Chomsky, mentions uncomfortable subjects like the military-industrial-complex?
Well, the whole situation of American politics in general is that it is a GAME. A charade. As John Stewart so astutely points out, it’s the Harlem Globetrotters versus the Washington Generals. The media institutions are somewhat like the referees and the league officials. They are supposed to make sure that everyone plays fair and everyone gets to play. But when some other guys shows up on the court and want to play, to try to win for a change…the powers-that-be who benefit from the current game do not want to let those new guys play!
It is an indictment of American politics that a 76-year old man is the only true agent of change in the current crop of major party presidential candidates. While
America tries to force-feed its ideology down the throats of other supposedly less civilized peoples of the world, its own democracy has been compromised beyond recognition. We need a man who believes in protecting the environment, reducing America’s nuclear arsenal, supporting marriages for all people, providing universal health care, fighting terrorism not just on the battlefield but in the hearts and minds of our so-called enemies, restoring America’s good name around the world, and ending America’s ineffectual drug policy. Mike Gravel has delivered for the American people before, and we need this man more than ever.