Mike Gravel is a former Senator from Alaska, current Democratic Presidential candidate, and has his fingerprints on all sorts of accomplishments we're grateful for, and take for granted, these days: ending the draft in America (by filibustering, for FIVE MONTHS, a bill that would have extended it), ending nuclear testing in Alaska, establishing the Alaskan Pipeline, which now provides 20% of our country's oil, and playing a role in the release of the Pentagon Papers, secret government documents relating to the Vietnam War. He also played the role of "cranky old man" in the South Carolina Democratic Presidential Debate last week. Here he is either saying something Awesome, or complaining about what he had for lunch:
I can't say my vote would go to Mike Gravel in a primary, but I'm glad he's running. His exasperation over play-it-safe-politics is refreshing from a candidate on the national stage, and he provides a kick-you-in-the-nuts alternative to Kucinich if you like the idea of a candidate who wants to end the War in Iraq immediately. Here he is with a mustache:
He's been excluded from a planned New Hampshire debate hosted by CNN, WMUR-TV, and the Union Leader. CNN says this:
"Because Mike Gravel has not demonstrated measurable public support for his campaign to date, he has not received an invitation. But we have not excluded him (or anyone) from the debate. If he meets our criteria between now and the debate, he will certainly get an invitation."
And Mike Gravel says this:
"What was Orwellian in my not meeting certain criteria which the media organizations would not divulge becomes Kafkaesque when I am now told that I have not been excluded and can still be invited if I meet this mysterious criteria."
I think, especially in light of the post-debate interviews that featured Gravel on MSNBC last week, CNN is writing him off as the crazy/longshot candidate, and since Kucinich already fills that role without being as likely to spout off on uncomfortable topics (like in last week's debate, when he laid out how Senators Clinton, Obama, Dodd and Biden could practically end the war by filibuster starting tomorrow, if they really wanted to), they're closing the door on Gravel's face.
Gravel has practically stated outright that he doesn't expect to win the candidacy, much less the Presidency -- he's running to have a national spotlight on the issues he wants to discuss, and I'm grateful for it. When most politicians are more interested in soundbites, and too afraid to be candid with regard to the issues and their beliefs, I'm counting on the occasional crazy old man to stumble into the room and lay out some uncomfortable truths. In Gravel's case it's that, you know, "war is over, if you want it." It's more than likely he'll run out of cash long before the first primary is held in 10 months, but I'd rather the lifespan of his campaign be decided by the support or non-support of the public than by CNN's decision that his voice doesn't deserve to be heard.
Gravel went on to say:
“The statement said that there are literally dozens and dozens of declared presidential candidates. That is true but out of those dozens of candidates, how many are former United States Senators who have been given the stamp of legitimacy by the Democratic National Committee, SEIU, AFSCME, ABC, the Nevada Democratic Party, the Center for American Progress Action Fund etc? Only two, former Senator John Edwards and myself.
“Though this is not the only criteria for deciding the legitimacy of a candidate as other aspirants may have contributed distinguished public service as an appointed official or as an officer of an NGO or excelled as individual public figures such as Ralph Nader, the Reverend Jesse Jackson and the Reverend Al Sharpton making them eminently worthy, it is one indisputable criteria for defining a legitimate candidate.”
Complete statements from both sides here.