Mike Gravel

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The military-industrial complex not only controls our government lock, stock and barrel, but they control our culture.
mike gravel speaking in 2012 politics
Mike Gravel in 2012

Maurice Robert "Mike" Gravel (/ɡrəˈvɛl/; born May 13, 1930 – June 26, 2021) is an American politician who was a Democratic United States Senator from Alaska from 1969 to 1981 and a candidate in the 2008 U.S. presidential election and the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Gravel is known for his anti-war, anti-establishment, and anti-corporate political stances.


  • “The people must be brought into the operation of government, to make the laws that affect their lives, and thereby become the fourth check in our government’s system of checks and balances.” -- Mike Gravel on the 'National Initiative'. Video.
  • “I’m the fellow that ended the draft. I’m the one that stopped the nuclear testing in the north Pacific. I’m the one that brought about the Alaska pipeline. I’m the one that released the Pentagon Papers and had to go to the Supreme Court because Richard Nixon was trying to throw me in jail. That’s what I did 28, 29, 30 years ago. That was leadership then. And I was excoriated by the media at that point. I was a loose cannon. Well, right today, I’ve had the good fortune to live this long, and people look back and say, “My God, were you a courageous leader.” Well, that’s the leadership you’ll get when I become president of the United States. Now, can the American people stand that kind of leadership? That remains to be seen.”Huffpost Debate

MSNBC Democratic Debate 2008[1][edit]

  • "George Bush communicated over a year ago that we would not leave there until he left office. What, do we not believe him? … How do you get out? You pass a law. Not a resolution, a law, making it a felony to be there." — On Gravel's plan to pull out of Iraq. Speech.
  • “But that’s before I had a chance to stand with them a couple of three times. It’s like the Senate. You go there and you say, ‘How the hell did I get here?’ You stay there six months, and you say, ‘How the hell did the rest of them get here?’” — On Gravel's intent to win the Presidency. Speech.
  • “I gotta tell you, we should just plain get out - it’s their country, they're asking us to leave, and we insist on staying there! And why not get out?” — On the Iraq War. Speech.
  • “You know what's worse than a soldier dying in vain? It's more soldiers dying in vain.” — On staying in Iraq. Speech.
  • The military-industrial complex not only controls our government lock, stock and barrel, but they control our culture.

Interview with Chris Matthews[2][edit]

Interview from 2008 election campaign

  • “I don’t know why we’re dancing around. The Congress is not getting us out of Iraq.” — On the Iraq War. Interview.
  • “Because they are running for office and it’s politics as usual, business as usual. And they don’t want to rock the boat! They don’t want to rock the boat! And so they just dance around the issues and they’ll keep on doing so long as you in the media keep lifting them up. Does that answer your question Chris?” —  On being asked why the media does not challenge Democrats on ending the Iraq War. Interview.
  • Chris Matthews: “Where have you been for 35 years, sir?” Mike Gravel: “Hiding under a rock for ten years because I was so disgusted.” -- On Gravel's hiatus from politics. Interview.
  • “What we’ve got to have is a law! A law, not a resolution, a law.. A law that says that if you don’t get out of Iraq, what you’ve got to do is prosecute the President criminally for disobeying the law!” — On how his views on the Iraq War differed from then-candidate Obama’s. Interview.
  • “How the hell do you think I was able to stop the draft with a five month filibuster? I’m a good tactician! And here’s how you do it Chris. You know that he’s going to veto it, so you get 2/3rds vote to override his veto!” — Being questioned on the viability of passing anti-war legislation. Interview.

Interview with Andrew Laughlin[3][edit]

  • “It’s easy to get the troops out. But what are you doing to address the problems, and what are you doing to address the problems you’re leaving behind. I would go to Iran, I would go to Syria, I would go to Saudi Arabia, I would go to Israel, and Russians and Chinese, but primarily the regional group, and say, ‘We screwed up. We screwed up. Help us solve this problem’. So now, that takes a lot of leadership to admit that we’ve made a mistake. And that is one of the primary problems with the legacy of Vietnam: that as a nation, we never admitted the moral wrong.” -- On the comparison between the Iraq War and the Vietnam War. Interview.
  • “First off, what’s wrong with Iran acquiring nuclear devices. Truthfully, look at it. We’ve got ‘em. China’s got ‘em. India’s got ‘em. Anybody’s who’s afraid of us has got them." -- On Iran’s Nuclear Program. Interview.

Huffington post Mash-up: 2007 Democratic Online Debate[4][edit]

  • "Well, I don’t enjoy running for president. I’m running for president because I don’t know of anybody around that’s prepared to end this war. And it should be ended. And the sooner we can pull American troops out, as soon as possible. And it can be done in 120 days, Charlie. And what we can then do is begin an aggressive diplomacy. And that would mean to go to Iran, go to Saudi Arabia, go to Syria. And tell these people, help us restabilize the region that we destabilized, and tell them we made a mistake in doing this. A tragic mistake, and it puts the whole world at risk of a possible nuclear confrontation." [4]
  • “No, we are failing, and it’s our leadership that’s failing, and the American people, if they had the power to make laws in partnership with representative government, they could correct this."[4]
  • "The country is run by corporate America, particularly the military-industrial complex, the medical-industrial complex, and we do nothing about it. Look at this election and it’s all money. Follow the money, and you’ll find out what you’re going to get in the way of leadership"[4]
  • “Well, we’re failing our children, and let me give the figure, how bad it is. 30%, one-third of our children, do not graduate from high school, and that’s a good number. I’ve been in parts of the country where it’s 40%. We’re failing? Of course, we’re failing. How can we not fail when we make the No. 1 priority in this country the military-industrial complex? We’re spending more money on our defense than all of the rest of the world put together. There’s no money left to make what should be the No. 1 priority, and that’s education.” [4]
  • "The only way you’re going to pay for it is not by saddling business. All you do by forcing business to pay for health care or passing a law telling people they have to go buy insurance, which is a subsidy for the insurance companies, all these plans are going backwards."[4]
  • When the industry that profits from health care calls the shots on the way health care is going to be delivered, then you are going to see the anomalous situation that you have in this country where they can’t even deliver it to everybody fairly."[4]
  • "If things are going bad, just remember who put these people in power. What I’m trying to say to you Americans, and that is you have to become empowered. You’re too busy trusting your leaders, thinking they’re going to do the job for you. They’ve proven they cannot do the job, whether it’s war, whether it’s education, whether it’s health care. Please go to nationalinitiative.us and vote to empower yourself. Because that is the only answer. Representative government and our government is broken. It’s in pieces, and the people are the only ones that can do something about it. There’s only two venues for change. One is the government, where the problem lies, and the other is with the American people. And that’s the message of my campaign, is the American people have to step forward and solve the problem. Don’t wait on your leaders, because they’ll never get the job done.”[4]

PBS Third Democratic Primary Debate [5][edit]

  • “Stop and think. When he’s talking about the money we’re squandering. 21 million Americans could have a four-year college scholarship for the money we’ve squandered in Iraq. 7.6 million teachers could have been hired last year if we weren’t squandering this money. Now, how do you think we got into this problem? The people on this stage, like the rest of us, are all guilty and very guilty, and we should recognize that, because there is linkage!”
  • “The scourge of our present society, particularly in the African-American community, is the war on drugs. I’ll repeat again as a challenge to my colleagues on this stage, that if they really want to do something about the inner cities, if they really want to do something about what’s happening to the health of the African-American community, it’s time to end this war.” [5]
  • “Education? Yes. Health care? Yes. But understand that the health care that we’re talking about, by and large, is going backwards, going backwards. We’re subsidizing the insurance companies. And all the plans that I’ve heard of, except Dennis’s, is a continued subsidization of the insurance companies.[5]
  • Is it a surprise to anybody in this room that if you don’t have any money, you don’t get any justice? (Laughter.) Is that a surprise to you all? (Applause.) My gracious, the only way you’re going to get justice is to turn around and empower yourselves to become lawmakers so you can change the system, and there’s no thought of really changing the system today. It’s politics as usual. (Applause.)”[5]
  • “No, outsourcing is not the problem. What is the problem is our trade agreements that we have that benefit the management and, of course, the shareholders, and have neglected on either side of the issue, whether it’s in Mexico or in other countries or the United States. That’s the problem that must be addressed.”[5]

Univision Democratic Debate[6][edit]

  • “I'm first-generation American. My parents came here like many of your parents, and I spoke French before I could speak English as a child. And my parents carved out -- my dad was very humble, didn't have a third-grade education, but he was able to work and prosper in this country, and so I honor anybody that comes to this country as an immigrant, because we're all immigrants. There's been nobody else but the Indians in this great land.”[6]
  • “Well, the first thing that you would do is to realize that terrorism is not a war. Our war on terrorism makes no sense. We've had -- (interrupted by applause) -- we've had terrorism since the beginning of civilization, and we'll have it to the end of civilization.”[6]
  • “Totally. I think it's abominable that they go out and do these raids, separate families. (Applause.) Stop and think -- all these people want to do is earn enough money to feed their families, whether they send them money back home or they bring their families here. If we made it easier for them to go back and forth on the borders, you wouldn't have this problem.”[6]
  • I am embarrassed at the thought of building a wall on the southern border. (Cheers, applause.) Embarrassed. And I want to tell you, you don't know the fence that's in Canada. You don't -- I just recently went to Canada. I went into Canada, it took me three seconds. Coming out took two hours. Two hours in line to get back into our country. Something is wrong. We need to stop scapegoating people. People come here because they want to feed their families because they're starving in other locations. We need a foreign policy that addresses the entire Western Hemisphere in this regard.”[6]

CNN Democratic Primary Debate[7][edit]

  • “We don't need a minimum wage; we need a living wage. We don't have that in this country because of what they passed.”
  • The Democratic Party used to stand for the ordinary working man. But the Clintons and the DLC sold out the Democratic Party to Wall Street. Look at where all the money is being raised right now, for Hillary, Obama and Edwards. It's the hedge funds, it's Wall Street bankers, it's the people who brought you what you have today. Please wake up. Just look at the New York Times of the 17th of July that analyzes where the money's coming from.”
  • “George Bush's oil war was a mistake. We need to stop killing Americans and Iraqis. Been around since the beginning of time. It's not a war. It should be a police action based on global intelligence. It's the most serious problem facing humanity today.”
  • COOPER: How many people here a private jet or a chartered jet to get here tonight? GRAVEL: I took the train…
  • “I've advocated, people, follow the money if you want to find out what's going to happen after any one of these individuals are elected. Follow the money, because it's politics as usual is what you're seeing.”

NPR Democratic Candidates Debate[8][edit]

  • “Iran's not a problem, never has been, never will be. What you're seeing right here is something very unique, very courageous. What the intelligence community has done is drop-kicked the president of the United States. These are people of courage that have watched what the president is doing, onrush to war with Iran. And so by releasing this information, which is diametrically opposed to the estimate that was given in '05 by showing that there is no information to warrant what the White House has been doing, they have now boxed in the president in his ability to go to war. So, my hat is off to these courageous people within the bureaucrats — bureaucracy of the intelligence community.”
  • “The tremendous increase in their defense. They're only 10 percent of American defense. They haven't had a tremendous increase. Ten percent of our defense. And I want to take all of them to task. Clearly, none of them are running for China — president of China — because this amount of demagoguery is shameful. Here, the Chinese people have a problem. And when we continue this rhetoric of beggar thy neighbor, where our interests always come first, there should be the interests of human beings, the interests of human beings.
  • “Because when you have a foreign policy that's beggar thy neighbor, we all become beggars. And so when they talk about the currency of China, what about the — what manipulations we do? What about the American companies that dump things abroad?”
  • “Hasn't it become obvious in this discussion that there has to be a reason why over the last 15 years we haven't solved this problem as a nation? Stop and think. Our unemployment level is about 4.5, and that's about as low as you can get it. So, where is the problem? We have to have people fill these jobs. They come in and fill these jobs. We call them illegal. Are they illegal? They're filling jobs that need to be done.
  • “If we were to chase them out, aren't we playing to the nativists, the crazies, who are opposed to anybody coming in since they got here? And the media plays into this. The Congress plays into this. Just open our doors. When the jobs are there to be filled, they'll come in. If the jobs aren't there, they'll go home. We can deal with all these other problems in trade.”
  • “We're making a mountain out of a mole hill. We're creating laws. We're trying to deal with this. Deal with the obvious: We do not seem as a nation to be able to solve this problem the way we've been approaching it.”

Quotes about Mike Gravel[edit]

  • Gravel attempted to read the Pentagon Papers into the public record. He went to the floor of the Senate to filibuster a bill he opposed that would extend the military draft, but a Senate quorum was not present, so that ploy failed. He then called a late-night meeting of the Subcommittee on Buildings and Grounds, which he chaired, and began reading the papers aloud there. He opened with a statement: "Recently I gained possession of the Pentagon Papers. I do not have all of them, but I believe that I possess more than half the work. I did not seek these papers. When they were offered I accepted them ... It is a remarkable work." He continued, "As I speak now, the war goes on. Immediate disclosure of these papers will change the policy that supports the war. If we act today, perhaps one life will be saved, one village not bombed..."
    • Amy Goodman Democracy Now!: Twenty Years Covering the Movements Changing America (2016)
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