Gravel Declares Presidential Bid to Highlight Anti-Interventionism and Direct Democracy

The former U.S. senator, 89, who read the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional record, and ran for president in 2008, says he’s not entering to win but to inject crucial issues into Democratic primary debates.

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

Former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel formally declared his bid on Monday for the Democratic Party’s 2020 nomination for president in an effort to introduce into the primary debates critical discussion of U.S. interventionism abroad and a system for direct democracy at home.

Gravel, who is 89 years old, says he’s not in it to win but to spur debate on what he sees as the two most vital issues facing the United States:  ending militarism and expanding democracy beyond representative government.

Serving as a U.S. senator from Alaska between 1969 and 1981, Gravel became best known for having read the highly-classified Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record at a Senate subcommittee meeting that he chaired on June 29, 1971. Several other senators had turned down copies of it from whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg.

Gravel had immunity to reveal classified information in the midst of a legislative act as laid out in Article 1, Section 6 of the U.S. Constitution, the so-called speech or debate clause. It is rarely invoked by members of Congress to make public secret evidence of governmental criminality or abuse.  The Pentagon Papers, a secret Defense Department study of the Vietnam War, made clear that U.S. administrations had kept the war going while lying to the American people about the chances of victory in Southeast Asia.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled the next day, on June 30, 1971, that the Nixon Justice Department had violated the First Amendment of the Constitution by exercising “prior restraint,” that is, ordering a news organization in advance not to publish.  The court’s decision was a victory for The New York Times and The Washington Post and for press freedom.  But while the court said the government could not tell a newspaper not to publish classified information, the majority also ruled that after publication the state could prosecute a media outlet for having done so.  

Gravel begins reading the Papers at the 7 minute mark:

While Gravel only faced possible censure or expulsion from the Senate (neither happened), he became liable for prosecution when he later had the Papers published in four volumes by Beacon Press in Boston. The FBI investigated the publisher.  

While Nixon chose not to go after Gravel, a grand jury was empaneled in Boston to indict two New York Times reporters who had worked on the Papers’ story. The case collapsed before reaching an indictment when Ellsberg’s trial for stealing the documents ended in a mistrial in part because of warrantless wiretapping against him. The Times reporters asked the prosecutors whether they had also been spied on and received no reply, Ellsberg said in a recent interview.

The attempt by Nixon to prosecute two journalists for possessing and disseminating classified information has gained new relevance with the case of Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder and publisher.

Assange is facing prosecution in the U.S. on what is believed to be similar charges of possession and dissemination under the Espionage Act. He is also being spied on in Ecuador’s London embassy, where he has had asylum since 2102.

2008 Comeback

Gravel reemerged from a long absence in politics to challenge for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.  He entered several debates and shared the stage with Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden among other candidates and mixed it up with them:

It is in the debates that Gravel hopes again to shine a light on what he believes are the most important issues of the day. 

But the Democratic Party has this year changed the rules for gaining entry to the 12 scheduled debates, the first of which will be on June 26 in Miami. Candidates must garner donations from at least 65,000 individuals. And there must be contributions from a minimum of 200 different donors in at least 20 states.

Gravel has a steep obstacle to overcome in less than three months. He is not alone. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii has not yet reached the 65,000 donor threshold. 

Gravel said that despite his run he’s supporting Gabbard. “She’s the only one prepared to take on the military industrial complex,” Gravel said in a telephone interview. “She wants to close bases around the world and that’s music to my ears.” 

Begun By Students 

The idea for a Gravel run in 2020 was hatched by two first-year university students, David Oks and Henry Williams. Gravel gave them control of his Twitter feed after he saw how well they understood his thinking. “That’s what really sold me [on running],” Gravel said.

Gravel’s website lays out his platform with this introduction:  

“Sen. Gravel is committed to ending America’s imperial policies (especially in Venezuela and Iran), rescheduling cannabis, fundamentally reforming our politics through direct democracy, abolishing mass surveillance on American citizens, prioritizing climate change, dismantling America’s carceral state, and building a foreign policy free of undue influence by Israel and Saudi Arabia.”

He also called for Assange to be given amnesty, the National Security Agency to be abolished, the U.S. to withdraw from the “Five Eyes” intelligence network, police to be held account for brutalizing citizens, a formal investigation into U.S. government involvement in human rights abuses around the world, and an end to foreign wars.

“There are two things that are destroying us,” Gravel said. “One, on the long arc of history, will be climate change—will this planet survive—and two, is the nuclear threat, which is stronger than ever and could eclipse us overnight.” 

Gravel’s core issue, which he’s been working on for 25 years, is to establish the procedures to create a Legislature of the People in which citizens can use the initiative system, now present in 26 U.S. states, to make federal laws. Power resides with the people who give it away in elections to representatives who then use it for their own interests, Gravel said.

“The people will become the senior partners and representative government will shape up,” said Gravel. 

He announced with this video on Monday:

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston GlobeSunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers. He is the co-author with Mike Gravel of “A Political Odyssey,” published by Seven Stories Press.  Joe can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe .

Mike Gravel is a member of Consortium News’ advisory board.

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55 comments for “Gravel Declares Presidential Bid to Highlight Anti-Interventionism and Direct Democracy

  1. Zhu
    April 11, 2019 at 04:28

    Wael, 10s of millions of US Protestants think they need a Jewish state to bring Jesus back, end the world, punish the wicked, reward the righteous, etc. This theory is called Dispensationalism & has enormous influence inside the US, no matter how absurd it may sound to you.

  2. Andrea Lea
    April 10, 2019 at 12:05

    I’ll vote for this platform regardless of who’s promoting it. Age has no relevance when it comes to endorsing truth.

  3. Wael Ahmad
    April 10, 2019 at 10:31

    The only worthy debate that may bring some positive result,is with the Jewish power house in America,and the subject of it is whether they can be generous enough to ease their suffocating grip on America before it collapse or drop dead,and that is not for the sake of America and American people,but entirely for the well being of Zionist Israel and the Jewish tribes of the world.

  4. April 10, 2019 at 01:02

    We know Gravel is serious, and he’s the, only Democrat I would vote for. Now, we need people with the same “honest” views to run for the Congress. But, given how hard it is to get ballot status for the Green Party, I would vote for him in the Primary, and Howie Hawkins in the General. We have to keep up Green Party ballot status. Of course, if people were to get some sense of morality and Gravel would win the Democratic nomination, I would vote for him.

    • mike k
      April 10, 2019 at 10:15

      “if people were to get some sense of morality” When pigs fly high in the sky…..

  5. Youri
    April 9, 2019 at 20:32

    YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES don’t feel the Bern, FEEL THE GRAVLANCHE or the Gravel hehe! Please Americans support Mike Gravel, he’s a true socialist reformer at home and anti-imperialism overseas unlike Bernie who supports imperialism including on other democratic socialists countries and didn’t support the DNC lawsuit and endorsed Anti-Russia conspiracy theories throwing his supporters and Assange under the bus. Gravel was marginalized and ignored by the Democrats as was Dennis Kucinich and much of the left leaning press ignored both him and Kucinch. Don’t make the same mistake again, Him, Tulsi Gabbard are the real deal, I wish him the best of luck and donate generously three times over to the pair of them.

  6. dean1000
    April 9, 2019 at 19:42

    I voted for Mike Gravel every time he ran for the US Senate. I’ll do it again for president even if i have to put his name on the write-in line or scrawl it across the ballot.

    Tulsi supporters should consider the same if she doesn’t make the debates. But with only 653 more donors needed she is in.

    The field of candidates must be winnowed. It should be done by the voters as it is in most European countries, or by instant runoff primary voting rather than by money. The present rules are as anti-democratic the as super delegates as there will be super donors for the corporate candidates.

    • Zhu
      April 11, 2019 at 04:31

      The laws restricting third parties are undemocratic as well.

  7. mike k
    April 9, 2019 at 17:57

    I guess I should run for Prez too. After all, my ideas are even farther out than Gravel’s. The problem is that real ideas don’t have a chance in the fake world that propaganda has created in the minds of the majority.

    • mike k
      April 9, 2019 at 17:59

      And please do not vote – it only props up our fake democracy. Don’t buy it, you are being had.

      • Sam F
        April 9, 2019 at 21:47

        Very true, with some uncertainty on the value of actually not voting, versus understanding that major parties are as corrupt as you suggest.

  8. Mike Ehling
    April 9, 2019 at 16:48

    Mike, if you support Tulsi, then DON’T RUN!!! You’re playing into the DNC’s hands. It’s limited to 20 in the debates; and if more than 20 qualify, then the DNC is going to further winnow the field by applying some as yet undefined polling standard. I’m skeptical about all these new candidates like Swalwell coming in. Even us paranoids have real enemies, and I’m concerned there’s something afoot to enable the DNC to monkey with Tulsi’s eligibility even though she hits 65,000 (which she’ll likely do today). She’s also ranked 1% in two DNC-recognized polls (Monmouth & Univ.N.H.), but Emerson (where she’s been doing fairly decent) can’t be the third because it isn’t DNC-recognized. And I’m not sure Tulsi’s name is being included in some of these DNCr-recognized polls.

    Mike, I know you’re acting in good faith, but GET BEHIND TULSI. You’re presence as a candidate might give te DNC a means of manipulating her out of the debates!

    • Sam F
      April 9, 2019 at 17:47

      No, Gravel isn’t trying to win or compete. He won’t detract in any way from Gabbard, and will add progressive mass to any debate. People should contribute something to both Gabbard and Gravel to get a real debate. Gravel asks for only $1 to qualify, so give the rest to Gabbard.

    • Martin
      April 13, 2019 at 22:27

      Look at Gavels campaign against Greuning in the 68 primary. Look at his real impact on the McGovern campaign and the Kucinich campaign. Once a spoiler always a spoiler.

  9. leon anderson
    April 9, 2019 at 15:37

    I support Mike. We need to force politicians to discuss the US’s dismal foreign policy and utter disregard of human rights.

  10. mike
    April 9, 2019 at 15:04


  11. April 9, 2019 at 14:09

    Senator Gravel should be our next President!!! Not the peacocks or peahens (except Bernie) who think they’re presidential material.

  12. Paul Surovell
    April 9, 2019 at 13:58

    There’s already an antiwar candidate, Tulsi Gabbard. Why doesn’t Gravel use his time and energy to support her?

    • Paul Surovell
      April 9, 2019 at 14:02

      And it might be of interest to supporters of Consortium News that Tulsi re-tweeted the VIPS memo on Venezuela published in Consortium News. She’s not afraid to associate with dissidents and dissident publications.

      • Anne Jaclard
        April 9, 2019 at 14:55

        Wow, can you post the link?

    • geeyp
      April 9, 2019 at 17:24

      I had read his ongoing and expanded platform the other day and it was added to with continuous suggestions almost live as I read. I agree with 98% of his ideas. The Gravelanche is way ahead of Tulsi’s plans, even though I used to think Tulsi had it together.

      • geeyp
        April 9, 2019 at 18:18

        Look at those clip(s) from 2008. Sen. Gravel is on fire and continues it to this day. Wouldn’t it have just helped this country tremendously if he would have, along with Dennis Kucinich, served this country as chief executive?? Then you see those three losers on the Kucinich’s right. It is not too late for Gravel and Kucinich. It is too late, unfortunately, for JFK, RFK, and MLK.

    • Typingperson
      April 9, 2019 at 20:36

      Having Gravel run to the left of Gabbard gives her cover–and widens the Overton Window of what’s acceptable to talk about.

      His platform is fantastic. The kind of leader USA needs–and, at the least, he surfaces the essential issues USAians need to be thinking and talking about.

      • glitch
        April 10, 2019 at 05:56


    • Martin
      April 13, 2019 at 22:38

      Take a good look at his ’68 campaign against Greuning. He later stabbed McGovern and Kucinich in the back.

  13. Jacquelynn Booth
    April 9, 2019 at 13:27

    Well, All Right! I left the Dems after the 2016 convention—who would want to be affiliated with that group of grifters? But I donated to Tulsi and I will donate to Gravel. We have got to get both to the debates! Mike has always been a brave man; now it’s time for Truth Seekers to show their classiness and their sass! Dig out some cash to get honorable people on the Democratic Party Presidential Debate Stage. Please!

  14. April 9, 2019 at 13:05

    Good for Gravel to try.

    There is however already at least one candidate injecting such issues, Tulsi Gabbard.

    I praise all efforts, but at the same time I remain a complete pessimist concerning the United States and its role in the world for the foreseeable future.

    Those things just cannot change without more fundamental change.

    Expecting that they can resembles confusing today’s weather with climate change.

    The US has become a society only serving wealth and elites, and it does so quite brutally.

    Its empire, its Frankenstein resource-eating military, its money-drenched elections, its tolerance for all kinds of dark lobbying – those and other characteristics guarantee nothing, absolutely nothing, of substance will change.

    You get a new face every 4 to 8 years as national spokesperson.

    Obama, Trump, despite immense differences in style, both have done the same things – kill, kill, kill.


    • Skip Scott
      April 10, 2019 at 07:01

      I agree that more fundamental change is what is ultimately needed, and that the current levers of power prevent any president from going outside the preset boundaries. That said, society needs to hear from people like Gravel and Tulsi. Other than violent revolution, getting the people informed enough to demand real change is the only path forward. If the Oligarchy sees revolution as imminent, maybe they will be swayed to evolve.

  15. Alex Cox
    April 9, 2019 at 12:27

    Another old white guy enters the fray! Just what we need. If he supports Tulsi, why doesn’t he support Tulsi?

    • Jacquelynn Booth
      April 9, 2019 at 13:28

      It’s about setting the dialog for the debates.

    • anon4d2
      April 9, 2019 at 21:53

      Alex, the bad guys in power are the old guys among the bad guys, but that does not argue that old white guys are bad. The problem is that the bad guys get the power in an unregulated market economy with no protection of elections and mass media from economic power. Otherwise you would see good old guys (and gals) in power. Beware of divisive concepts.

    • Skip Scott
      April 10, 2019 at 06:52

      I agree. I think he should just stump for Tulsi. The Dems are flooding the field too much already with the goal of having the DNC superdelegates control the final outcome.

    • Martin
      April 13, 2019 at 22:46

      Gravel isn’t who he seems at first. Research his primary campaign against Gruening, a real anti-war senator.

  16. Patricia Victour
    April 9, 2019 at 12:04

    Obviously, Gravel’s platform will never see the light of day, thanks to the corrupt DNC and the equally corrupt Democratic Party. His is the polar opposite of their stand on any of the concepts he proposes that would actually benefit people and the environment. We will once again be faced with voting for the lesser of two evils – and the Democrats have basically handed Trump a Royal Flush with the debunking of their witch hunt, Russiagate. which has brought us to the brink of war with Russia. Thank you, Hillary. So far, except for Gabbard, I have not seen one candidate on the so-called left that I would want to vote for.

  17. April 9, 2019 at 11:21

    It was music to me ears, except for his embracing of the initiative process. Until we get money out of politics, initiatives can promote a mob mentality. In California, voters passed two pro-death penalty initiatives, but Gov. Newsom did the right thing and ended the death penalty with his executive power. But yes, let’s talk about peace!

    • Mike Perry
      April 9, 2019 at 16:29

      By the numbers, far and away the country is now registered as “Party Not Declared”. That makes a pretty strong statement that the U.S. democracy – it isn’t working.

      In today’s environment of tyrannical organized money, I would in fact, argue the opposite. Issues like campaign finance, corporate person-hood, or just who really does own “our” airwaves, etc., these issues will never even come close to being a discussion, leave alone acted upon, unless we have something like the power of an initiative or a ballot measure system in place. .. And, I would say that the 16 other currently declared Democratic Candidates should be dogged, hounded and harassed to adopt Mike’s National Initiative; as well.

  18. Guy St Hilaire
    April 9, 2019 at 10:49

    If I was a US citizen ,I would certainly support this man . His ideas are so much what the country needs.And best of all he supports Tulsi Gabbard who thinks pretty well much the same .Tulsi especially needs to win .Mike Gravel supports her and can help her win .

  19. Antonio Costa
    April 9, 2019 at 10:48

    At this stage I support Tulsi Gabbard. I do have problems with Democrats of any stripe. For one thing they all must sign a pledge to run as Democrats AND support who ever is nominated.

    I won’t go as far as some (BAR’s Bruce Dixon) and say Tulsi is a “sheepdog” who will herd those who support her into the Dem Party at voting time ala Bernie Sanders. Dixon is a Green and fully supports the yet to announce Howie Hawkins (Eco-Socialist-Green). I’m not convinced that the “sheepdog” moniker applies to Tulsi because I don’t think her goal is to “herd” people toward the corrupt DNC (which she has sp0ken out against). Her attitude toward Trump is more nuanced than Sanders (Anyone But Trump) for one thing.

    From Dixon:

    Gravel is an honorable man whose positions I completely agree with. Nevertheless this is a hydrocarbon imperial empire. I don’t see any candidate changing that. Total system replacement is called for. Only a major revolt (and that’s iffy by many counts) or collapse (highly likely through rampant global warming) or utter annihilation through intended or unintended nuclear war or extinction.

    • Piotr Berman
      April 9, 2019 at 13:46

      I suport “sheepdog principle”. In a democracy, you should convince a sufficient number of citizens to change their opinions to bring a change. Small splinter parties have poor record as a platform to propagate new ideas to a wider audience. Initially, the “solidarity principle” benefits the entrenched powers in a party, but then there can be a drastic change, viz. Labour Party. Of course, at that point entrenched interests do not seem to recall any “party solidarity”, but he may benefit from that principle in the end.

    • Ken
      April 9, 2019 at 13:47

      Any one candidate cannot change empire, but with the mega voice of the people behind them, they indeed could.

    • John McCarthy
      April 9, 2019 at 13:50

      Are the Greens even having a Primary this time around? They seem to have already picked Hawkins.

    • ML
      April 9, 2019 at 15:23

      Good post, Antonio. I concur. Thanks!

    • Skip Scott
      April 10, 2019 at 06:48

      How could that pledge be enforced? The DNC breaks its own rules all the time, why couldn’t a candidate?

  20. Jack Siler
    April 9, 2019 at 10:48

    Much as I deplore the circus of the Democrat’s circus car of candidates, I’m delighted to see the brilliant thinking of Mike Gravel speaking up. He and Tulsi Gabbard are apparently the only two with a balanced domestic/foreign policy program. The others hope that their easy-on, easy-off band aids won’t pull out too many hairs when post-election reality replaces false promises, lies, and simplistic BS.

    What they are really doing is preparing for a candidate – approved by the DNC that Hillary still controls – to lose to Trump and his neo-fascist gang. Divide and Conquer is a strategy to defeat an enemy and it looks as though the Democrats are their own worst enemies.

  21. JRGJRG
    April 9, 2019 at 10:23

    Now, he’d be good! I’d support him over Bernie Sanders or Tulsi Gabbard.

    • Skip Scott
      April 10, 2019 at 06:43

      At 89 yrs old, you’ve got to be kidding. I’m glad to have him speak his mind, but the pressures of the presidency would be too much for anyone that age.

  22. Bob Van Noy
    April 9, 2019 at 10:00

    Thank you Joe for this. I first realized how timely and important Mike is by watching him speak for Julian Assange right here.
    Below is a link to his web page. Many thanks…

    • Mike Perry
      April 9, 2019 at 16:21

      Thank You Bob – Volunteer/Donate, Great Stuff!

      As far as I can tell, he has close to 11,000 donors, and that was while he only had an Exploratory Committee.

      If I remember right, the Democrats blocked Mike from the stage in November 2007. They tried it with Dennis too. But, Dennis was in the Clarke County Courthouse, right up until minutes before the debate, fighting for his First Amendment Right. I believe, that this was the night where he got on stage and said, “Impeach. Don’t wait. Impeach Now!”

      Mike, he deserves something very special for his very long distinguished career. Among other things, maybe, on June 26th & 27th, their could be some earmarked campaign billboards of his for the front entrances of the Pentagon, Langley, etc.. … I also believe that in Russia, the defense industry is publicly owned. But, for the investor class with their perpetual war machine in this country, maybe their should be a few of Mike’s billboards on Wall St. too.

      Thanks Again, Bob!

  23. April 9, 2019 at 09:08

    I think that Gravel is a valuable voice in the debate, but not necessarily as a candidate. People definitely age very differently, and Gravel shows that he watches how the world changes and poses new challenges, something that makes me worried a bit about Bernie Sanders — he exhibited excellent “message consistency” which is definitely helped if you do not remember too much. More to the point, when he was challenged by constituents on the massacre that Israel at that time committed in Gaza, he seemingly thought that 10,000 were killed rather than 2,000 and yet defended the policy of supporting Israel and just got irritated. The general impression is that this is a very painful topic for him (a good sign) and he just does not want to think about it (not so good for the leader of the nation).

    I did not spot any such problems with Gravel. Nevertheless, isn’t 89 the age when the senior should give us precious advise and have plenty of time to rest?

    In conclusion, I would like to make a bold (you may say, shameless) plug for Tulsi Gabbard who needs more donors to satisfy Democratic debate criteria. She is surely an eloquent voice for the same issues, and she does it with grace and energy. Even 5 dollars will help her to get the threshold of 65,000 individual donors (actually, even 1 dollar, but well…). It seems that the debates will be packed with bland candidates like [some strange name from South Bend, Indiana] or senators with plenty of corporation donations in the past and policy stands to match, we need fresh voices of reason to be articulated on national TV and, who knows, leading the nation.

    • Anonymot
      April 9, 2019 at 11:12

      Absolutely! Tulsi Gabbard is missing only a few independent donors from the required 40 states. If you live ANYWHERE, donate a few dollars just to keep her in the debate. If you live in a smaller state or one not inclined to have many Democrats it is URGENT that you respond. She’s the only serious, balanced voice really in the running. Sadly, as you point out, even Bernie is lacking breadth of vision.

  24. Steven Langhorst
    April 9, 2019 at 08:17

    Mike Gravel stood for the people of Alaska. He still stands for the American people who are sick of bleeding for American Imperialism and Endless Wars of Choice.

  25. Miranda M Keefe
    April 9, 2019 at 07:33

    Tulsi is my choice. That’s why I get emails from her. I got one just now sent out from her campaign about dinner time Monday the 8th.

    It said she was only 653 donors away. As I write she may have crossed the threshold already!

    • Joe Tedesky
      April 9, 2019 at 13:43

      Miranda thanks for the update on Tulsi I just donated and notified 5 of my friends…let’s hope Tulsi gets into the debates.

  26. john wilson
    April 9, 2019 at 04:37

    He can say what he likes, but one things for sure, if its anything that puts the deep state and militarism in a bad light or even questions endless wars, the MSM won’t allow him to be heard. Its one thing to have a message, but quite something else to deliver it.

    • michael
      April 9, 2019 at 16:54

      The MSM is a product of overturning Smith Mundt in 2014. Propaganda can be delivered through the six owners by passing a CIA narrative, or it can work just as well by squelching dissident voices. Our advanced technology means we are much better at it than the old USSR ever was.

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