Tuesday :: Apr 18, 2006

Tilting At Windbag Mills

by pessimist

He should be rocking on his porch, watching his grandchildren play in the yard, yet he's undertaken on a Quixotic mission to promote a couple of ideas that he thinks might save his nation.

"Our country needs a renewal," he said.
"Renewal ... of democracy itself."

Mike Gravel, former U.S. senator from Alaska, is running for president in 2008 (his name is pronounced the French way: Gra-VEL).

In spite of the fact that no one sees him having a chance at winning, he's already under assault for his past actions, long before anyone has heard his message. Hillary is reported to have $200 million stashed away for her run in 2008, yet Gravel "spent about $1,500 to rent a room and microphone at the National Press Club and to get U.S. Newswire to send out his press releases."

Can someone from outside the Beltway frighten the insiders that much?

He's gone through a fair amount of trouble to take up the cudgels one more time, not all of it from outside his own home:

[H]e has the critical asset of the long-shot candidate: nothing to lose but his pride. Approaching his 76th birthday, he could become a late-night television laughingstock. "You subject yourself to that," he admitted. "My wife was very fearful of that."

Despite all those who say for him to go back home and leave the political fights to the big boys, Gravel still feels it necessary to have his say, no matter what the costs to his wallet and his pride.

[From the two linked articles:]

It's surprisingly cheap to exploit the media's presidential obsession... If Mike Gravel, 1970s-era senator, held a news conference about ballot initiatives, nobody would show up. But as Mike Gravel, presidential candidate, he lured 50 people to his news conference, drew 30 interview requests, and landed on the Drudge Report, Hannity & Colmes and C-SPAN.

[I]ntroduced as "a true American folk hero," and a "re-Founding Father", Gravel went immediately to the need for a constitutional amendment allowing nationwide ballot initiatives -- thereby creating a fourth branch of government. It's been working "for more than 150 years in what may be the most advanced political culture in history: the democratic republic of Switzerland," Gravel said.

He represented Alaska in the Senate from 1969 until 1981. He was against the Vietnam War then. Now, his opposition to the Iraq war is a key part of his message. "I believe America is doing harm every day we remain in Iraq," he said.

The obstacles to his candidacy hardly need a mention. There's the problem of near-zero name recognition unless, as he puts it, "you're a political junkie" who remembers his two terms in the Senate from 1968 to 1980, and particularly his finest hour, when he read the Pentagon Papers at a hearing. There's the lack of paid staff, and his "extremely modest" war chest allows for little travel and no campaign rallies. Nor does Gravel offer a geographic advantage. A Massachusetts native, he lost the Democratic primary in his 1980 reelection bid in Alaska and decamped for Virginia a few years later.

If he already has eight strikes against him, why are there already allegations intended to cause serious harm to his chances? Gravel is accused of being an anti-Semite for speaking at a conference of Holocaust deniers?

"I didn’t know they were deniers," Gravel said. "I walked in, I was there 20 minutes. I made my speech and left." He said he felt the crowd was none too interested in what he had to say.

Maybe he was set up. He made some enemies when he was in the Senate:

Gravel enjoyed Jewish support for his first Senate campaign, but it dried up after he voted in 1978 to sell fighter jets to Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Gravel preceded the jet vote with a “blunt speech about pressure from Jewish constituents and supporters,” according to the Washington Post’s account. His last election, the 1980 Democratic primary, ended with questions about Jewish influence. Anchorage businessman Barney Gottstein, active in the pro-Israel lobby, was Gravel’s chief fundraiser in 1968, but sponsored ads against him in 1980 and was helping his opponent, Clark Gruening.

He remains determined to pursue service to his personal Dulcinea, planning to take the mandatory candidate tour of New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina to protect his early primary chances, slim as they are. His only real campaign problem: he's not taking current reality into account.

If the real electors in our nation are now Diebold, ES&S and Sequoyah, of what use is a national initiative process? It would just be used and abused to legitimize an already corrupt system centered in the Sell-Your-Soul Sodom and Get-Mine Gomorrah that is today's Washington, DC. And to propose a tax increase while America is still in spendthrift mode? What are you thinking, Gravel? Trying to force reality to intrude while the party is still going on is a sure way to lose support - not that you have much.

But it's still your right to have your say, as long as you can afford to pay the xosts of that privilege. I just hope that you can still salvage some of your pride after the mauling you are going to receive for daring to play with the big boys.

It's the only way that someone else will see that such a necessary challenge to the established elite can be survived and be inspired to try themselves.

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