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Gravel Discusses Campaign Funding, Relations with Iran

Former Alaska Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Mike Gravel talks about his campaign fundraising, U.S. relations with Iran and details his personal and political background in the newest in a series of in-depth interviews with the 2008 presidential candidates.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And finally tonight, another in our ongoing series of conversations with Democratic and Republican presidential nomination candidates who are competing in the primary contests. Ray Suarez has tonight's.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Democrat Mike Gravel is a former two-term U.S. senator from Alaska who served from 1969 to 1981. He was a strong critic of the Vietnam War and worked in the Senate to end the draft. He's with us now.

    Welcome.

    FORMER SEN. MIKE GRAVEL (D), Presidential Candidate: Ray, thank you for having me.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Well, the big news from the campaign trail for many candidates today, the quarterly reports on fundraising. How did you do?

  • MIKE GRAVEL:

    I don't know. To tell you the truth, I don't know. For some candidates, it may be big news. It's not big news for me. Stop and think. We all know that money is the corrupting element of politics. Why should we pay attention to who's got big money, except to define who are the most corrupt running for office?

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    If you don't have big money, do you have what you need to keep the campaign going?

  • MIKE GRAVEL:

    I sure do. I have this interview. This is big money. We're being viewed by thousands and thousands of Americans. They're going to hear my voice, not translated by watching a spot that I may pay $100,000 for. No, there's enough communication going on in this election that it may filter through. We just don't know.

    There's so many unknowns in this election. We don't know what the Internet means. Here, I'm one of the top three on the Internet and sometimes first. And yet in normal polling, I'm down there at 2 percent, sometimes 1 percent.

    The Union Leader right now is saying I should get out of the race because I'm only at 1 percent or 2 percent. They don't say anything about Biden. They don't say anything about Edwards or Kucinich. You know, I've come on the scene after an absence of 25 years, a whole generation, and I'm equal to these guys that have been in the news for the last decade or more.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    I understand you've staked a lot of your own money, your life savings on making this run. Why did you make that decision?

  • MIKE GRAVEL:

    Well, first off, I used those life savings for the national initiative. On this campaign, I borrowed some money initially. Well, no, I didn't borrow money. I was paid money that was due me, and I used that in the campaign.

    But I've impoverished myself, and this bankruptcy with the credit cards, I used that credit card money to keep the National Initiative foundation going. And then when I fell on a bad year of health, like so many Americans, I was forced to go bankrupt in order to protect my wife in case something had happened to me.

    But the issue is from my — what floats my boat, Ray, is the central power of government is lawmaking. If the American people are ever to get a hold of their government, they have to become lawmakers. And I've drafted legislation to do just that. It's called the National Initiative.

    And so we now face a crisis in this country where we have a problem. The problem lies with government. They can't correct the problem. We now have to go to the people and what we have to do is to empower them as lawmakers so they can then correct the problems that we have. We have a generic structural problem that cannot be corrected by the government.

    And so when these candidates are talking about change, they don't know what change is. Solving the problem of health care, solving — those are policy decisions. I'm talking about fundamental change, where the people are brought into the operation of government, like as lawmakers, like they do in Switzerland, the only other country in the world where this exists.

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