Several Minutes with Mike Gravel


I interviewed Mike Gravel almost by accident, as he was leaving the table where authors signed copies of their books and making arrangements with staff.

"You've got enough," Gravel said, eyeing copies of Citzen Power. "I don't need to bring a box of them with me tomorrow. Good."

Gravel was walking my way, into the hall, so I reintroduced myself as the reason reporter he talked to in New Hampshire. He was overjoyed, and started praising the feature on the libertarian vote that Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch wrote for Campaigns and Elections. "I read that article," Gravel said. "I got to the end, and I read that last line: 'Let the people decide.' You're using my slogan!"

Gravel took me over to a corner and quieted down. "I don't say this in public, but I'm more libertarian than Ron Paul. I took that article over to him this last week—we met for the first time. And the article's got that section with the top libertarian issues. Gambling, choice, immigration. Ron looks at the list and points at each of the issues. 'I'm not for that, I'm not for that, I'm not for that.' He was against half of the things on the list! And I'm for all of those things."

People often ask Gravel about Ron Paul: Their support overlaps for what I can only assume is because both of them fit as awkwardly in the current political rubric as Abbie Hoffman or a clown on fire. "A lot of people have said the two of us should debate," Gravel said. "I don't want some political hack debate, but we could have a real interesting, intellectual debate if we had the right moderator. Bill Moyers would be a good guy to do that."

I asked Gravel about the reports he was going Green and endorsing a Green Party candidate for president. Half of that is true. "I'm still running," he said. "I just endorsed Jesse Johnson to give him a leg up over Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader." But hadn't Nader introduced Gravel at the 2007 TBA Conference? "Oh, yeah. He talked for 30 minutes and I got 15 minutes." Was Gravel raw that Nader started running even though the candidate he endorsed was still in the race? "Ralph Nader is Ralph Nader," Gravel shrugged. "I don't think he's going to be elected president, but he'd be a good advisor to a president."

The obvious question: Since Gravel considers himself a libertarian, would he run for the LP nomination? Yes. "I don't have a big staff, so we haven't done that yet, but I want to reach out to them. If Ron Paul could raise all that money with his libertarian message, you know, I think I could raise a lot of money."