Maverick Mike

Presidential candidate Mike Gravel on joining the Libertarian Party, the Democrats' self-destructive nature and John McCain's 'stability.'

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After the crowded presidential primary shrunk from eight Democrats and 11 Republicans to only three viable candidates between the two parties, what's a spurned presidential hopeful to do? Well, if you're Ron Paul, you ignore John McCain's inevitability and keep running anyway. If you're former U.S. senator Mike Gravel, you switch parties.

Last Monday, the former Democrat swung by the Libertarian Party's national headquarters and defected. "We handed him a [membership] card on the spot," says Shane Cory, the party's executive director. Two days later, Gravel formally announced he would run to be the Libertarian candidate for president, joining a field of 15 others. Cory wouldn't comment on Gravel's chances at the convention, which will take start in Denver on May 22, but he did say that Gravel's party swap has garnered some much-appreciated exposure for the Libertarians.

Gravel spoke to NEWSWEEK's Sarah Elkins about the 2008 race and why he's still running. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: You've been a Democrat for your entire political career. Was it a tough decision to switch parties?
Mike Gravel:
It had been eating at me--believe me--ever since I was a senator [he served from 1969 to 1981]. When I was in the Senate, I was a maverick and, at the end of my term, I was not particularly happy with my progress in terms of partisanship with the Democrats and Republicans. So when I left office, I stayed away from partisan politics altogether. But when I decided to get back in the game and to get my message out to the American people about the National Initiative [a political movement that would allow ballot initiatives at the federal level], I had to pick a party that would allow me to get into the debates … But of all the parties I was probably closest to the Libertarians.

It sounds like you've been interested in leaving the Democratic Party for some time. Why didn't you make the move sooner?
It wouldn't have made any sense for me to enter the race as a Libertarian. [As a Democratic candidate], I got into the debates and got a fair amount of visibility up until General Electric [which owns NBC] along with the Democratic Party leadership, said they would get me out of the debates. And they did. GE said I did not meet their criteria for participating in the debates. I think it's very interesting that a defense contractor said I had to meet their criteria in order to participate in the MSNBC debates. We've really come down in democracy when a defense contractor can decide what the American people hear from a candidate. It was a [Democratic National Committee] sanctioned debate, so we complained to the DNC and found out that Howard Dean had agreed to it and that not a single one of the other Democratic nominees raised a finger in protest, meaning that they were totally tone deaf to the censorship of the military-industrial complex.

So you didn't consider running as a Libertarian from the get-go?
I would have preferred to run as an independent or Libertarian or Green Party, but I knew that none of those candidates would have gotten any traction. So I used my position as a legitimate Democratic candidate to get my name out there.

You still have to win the Libertarian primary in order to run as the party's candidate.
I am probably the most well known and certainly the most experienced in terms of running for president and as a government official. I have 16 years of experience in elected office and have been a senator, and I have a great deal of foreign-policy experience.

Member Comments
  • Posted By: sgrimes @ 04/25/2008 11:32:24 AM

    Comment: "sounds like a ego driven publicity stunt to me."

    I'm sorry, but I just met Senator Gravel last weekend. Ate lunch with him, talked with him about his Ni4D amoung other things. He is a caring, considerate human being who does not have a big ego AT ALL. He doesn't even care about himself. He cares about the American people. That is why he ended the draft, that is why he read the Pentagon Papers into public record with fear of being imprisoned. That is why he established the Alaska Pipeline and ended nuclear testing in the north pacific. What have mainstream candidates done? Barack Obama wrote a bunch of books about HIMSELF. Thats not ego?

    Mike is couragous, strong, opinionated. Bankrupcy & divorce? And your point is? I guess you would rather a war-mongering billionare in office who is completely out of touch with America? I guess so.

    Mike is my only choice. Mike is our only hope.

    Gravel 08.

  • Posted By: codedigestion @ 04/14/2008 12:37:11 PM

    Comment: Mike has the most pragmatic solution to the problems: Let the American People become lawmakers.

  • Posted By: Jennifer Hope @ 04/14/2008 8:27:44 AM

    Comment: Mike, your flying under the radar, and avoiding going on camera, is a smart move. However, Not many people know about you. I just found out that you are running for President from my mom recdiently in our local newspater. You have just a good chance for running for President as Oboma, Clinton, and McCain.
    Just do not run out of money in the meantime. With the way the race is going, Clinton and Oboma might
    lose ground and you gain ground. I do not know how McCain is doing This primary in May, I may switch parties and not vote for Clinton and Obama. Show me that you are a better canadate than what I have seen
    so far. I want to vote for you.

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