Posted: August 27, 2007 7:11 PM
Gravel Conjures Up 'Sister Souljah' Moment
Former Alaska Democratic Sen. Mike Gravel kicked off the week with a new criticism against one of the Democratic front-runners, Sen. Hillary Clinton, N.Y. In an Aug. 21 post on the political blog the Huffington Post, Gravel accused her of adopting her husband former President Clinton’s methods of triangulation and ingratiation in her statements on the troop surge. Concerning her speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, Gravel said, “After securing the Democratic base, the Clintons always sacrifice their allies to the Right. (Remember Sister Souljah?)”
Sister Souljah is a black activist and author whose 1992 comment in the Washington Post, “If black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?” spurred retaliatory comment from then-candidate Bill Clinton. A “Sister Souljah moment” now commonly refers to a repudiation of more extreme views that are tentatively associated with a politician or party.
Clinton’s speech provided more fodder for Gravel’s campaign: “Last week Hillary sandbagged the [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender] community with her states rights argument against gay marriage. This week she throws the anti-war movement under the bus. I’m curious to see who’s going to be next week’s victim,” he said.
Gravel, meanwhile, joined fellow Democrats New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio at Prez on the Rez, a forum on Native American issues on Aug. 23. More than 200 American Indian leaders and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean also attended, although the other Democratic candidates did not, citing scheduling conflicts.
According to a USA Today article, “Tribes contributed $7.6 million to federal candidates in 2006, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. They spent $16.7 million on Washington lobbying last year,” the funding of which comes largely from casino tribes.
The candidates largely agreed on the attention due to Native Americans in the political arena, but it was Gravel who brought the house down with comments that volleyed between the serious and the self-deprecating. He alone pledged, if elected, to free Leonard Peltier, an American Indian serving time after being convicted of killing two FBI agents in 1975, and received a standing ovation. According to a local paper, the Press Enterprise, “one particularly loud moment came after [Gravel] said that when he goes to sleep at night, he does so smiling because he knows that Indian gaming is taking back money from “white men” and putting it in casino coffers. ‘My God, is there some justice in the world?’ he said chuckling.”
On Aug. 23, the Wall Street Journal’s Ruben Navarrette Jr. defended the presence of those eccentric ‘long shots’ at the debates. He concluded, “The field will be winnowed down soon enough. So why speed up the process? It’s not fair to the candidates, and it’s not healthy for America’s democracy. That’s the message we hear over and over again from the long shots. And by spreading it, they’re making a valuable contribution.”
Gravel closed the week with a democratically-infused measure on “Facebook,”: http://www.facebook.com/ the youth-oriented social networking Web site. Through the new application “AskMeSomething,”: http://apps.facebook.com/askmesomething/ Gravel posed this question Saturday: “In all Democratic presidential debates I’ve said that politics as usual (by both parties) should end. What do you dislike about politics in our country today?” After a day, Gravel’s question had 12 responses. Some were simple, “the lies and the media” while others were longer pieces decrying “the close ties that all of the major candidates for both parties have with special interests.” Most also used the opportunity to express their support for the senator.
Gravel appeared on Alaska Talk Radio 8.us/?q=node/2068 on Aug. 24, where he discussed Alaskan issues at length and his extensive history with the state even though he now lives in Virginia.
Next week, Gravel plans to travel from Las Vegas to Alaska, and finally to California for an appearance on “Real Time with Bill Maher” on Aug. 31.