ALISON STEWART, host:
Another week, another debate, this one featuring a whole lot of Democrats - almost a lot of Democrats. NBC left out one candidate: Mike Gravel. Why Mike? Well, here's what the Gravel campaign says. NBC political director Chuck Dodd told them in an e-mail quote, "We believed it was necessary to have some minimum standards. Unfortunately, Senator Gravel did not meet those minimum requirements. The standards we used included measuring the amount of time the senator spent campaigning, as well as a poll standing and financial resources," end quote.
So Senator Gravel holded - held his own private Webcast. Consider it as sort of a director's commentary, where Mike Gravel switched in at the last minute for the director. Here is his take for John Edwards.
(Soundbite of Mike Gravel's Webcast)
Mr. JOHN EDWARDS (Former Democratic Senator, North Carolina; Presidential Candidate): Well, I'm just saying, does she believe we desperately need change in this country? And I agree with that. I actually think we have a system that's broken.
Mr. MIKE GRAVEL (Former Democratic Senator, Alaska; Presidential Candidate): Hold that, hold that. Freeze that. Change. Now they all did focus groups. They've got a lot of money to lead these focus groups. You know, the focus groups show they're spending money. A couple hundred thousand dollars for consultants that are working for them, and the focus groups show the word change is the magic word.
STEWART: Well, we can't turn back time, and Mike Gravel can't be part of last night's event. But he can join us now. Here is former senator from Alaska and Democratic candidate for president, Mike Gravel. Hi, senator.
Mr. GRAVEL: Hi. Thank you for having me.
STEWART: You're welcome. It was really interesting to watch your Web cast. You kind of reminded me of a college professor. You were up on a stage. Who was in the audience there watching the debate with you?
Mr. GRAVEL: Well, various people who came were picketing the debate, protesters. We didn't have as many peace protesters as possible, because they were on the other side. But we were at the venue of World Cafe Live, and it was a great venue. We had people in the balcony. It was - we had a good, solid audience. The problem was, of course, that we were producing a show, and I didn't have a production team other than my own staff people. And so I had to give sort of direction from the stage…
STEWART: It was pretty great, though, to watch. You kind of had a command on the stage, and you stopped the video when you wanted to comment on something that one of the other candidates said. Let's talk about that,. Chris Dodd said something interesting last night. He said that he just really thinks a Democrat needs to be the next president - just a Democrat, period. Let's listen to this.
Senator CHRIS DODD (Democrat, Connecticut): Let's remember what's at stake here. We need to elect a Democrat, a Democrat that's electable and a Democrat that can bring the country together.
STEWART: Do you agree with Senator Dodd, that it must be a Democrat who's in office in '09?
Mr. GRAVEL: Well, if the Democrat represents principles and represents what the country needs. But if you got a Democrat who's nothing but Bush lite, we've got a problem. And the military industrial complex has a chokehold on our economy, on our government, and it must be broken. Otherwise, we'll never focus on the priorities that count. Well, we can all talk about the priorities, but how are you going to make it happen if you have one economic sector of our society that holds the rest of it hostage?
LUKE BURBANK, host:
Senator Gravel, do you have any idea yet how many people were actually watching your kind of Web rebuttal of the debate?
Mr. GRAVEL: No, not at all. In fact, it's very - obviously it's worldwide. It's anybody in the world that teed up to it and who watched it - I know I get a fair amount of attention from Europe and other parts of the world, but I have no way of measuring that, at all.
STEWART: I have to imagine that you were chomping at the bit during the first 30 minutes of the debate, because there were so much discussion of Iran and the Senate's non-binding resolution to dub the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. You were really into that in past debates. There was lots of back and back and forth about the use of carrots and sticks. What do you think is the answer when dealing with Iran, and did anybody's answer satisfy you up there?
Mr. GRAVEL: No, they didn't. In fact, I think it's really quite arrogant to talk about carrots and sticks. Who are we to become the self-appointed policeman of the world? And, of course, we go around the world starting wars and, you know, violence. Carrots and sticks - this is ridiculous.
Carrots - I think I put out - I don't know if you saw it - the article that was in the Philadelphia newspaper where the American government is happy with the fact that Egypt is going nuclear. Can it get anymore ridiculous with a situation where we think it's okay for Egypt to go nuclear? We think it's okay to enhance India's nuclear position. And, of course, Biden was right, when one bullet away and we could have a totally destabilized Pakistan with extensive nuclear capability. Who are we to say who could become nuclear or not, and to go to war and - here, the biggest threat we have right today is the fact - and they didn't say this last night. They just said, well, Hillary voted for this.
It's a little more than to Hillary. The Democratic Congress - House and the Senate - voted for the Lieberman amendment for…
STEWART: Seventy-six senators, right? It was…
Sen. GRAVEL: Seventy-six. It was identical to the same number that approved Lieberman-Wang, which took us toward Iraq. And here, too, the Senate at the time in '02 was under control of the Democrats and - but the House wasn't. But in this - and, of course, they passed it because the Republicans wanted this. The same thing with this. The Republicans (unintelligible) going for this. They want to enhance George Bush's ability, and George Bush and Dick Cheney will take us to war.
STEWART: Let's talk about that a little bit, because John Edwards was very aggressive towards Senator Clinton, who did vote for that nonbinding resolution. Let's listen to a little bit of former Senator Edwards about Senator Clinton.
Mr. EDWARDS: Well, I just listened to what Senator Clinton said, and she said she wanted to maximize pressure on the Bush administration. So the way to do that is to vote yes on a resolution that looks like it was written, literally, by the neocons. I mean, has anyone read this thing? I mean, it literally gave Bush and Cheney exactly what they wanted. It didn't just give them what they wanted, they acted on it. A few weeks later, they declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, and - this is going to sound very familiar, remember from Iraq, the prelude to Iraq - proliferators of weapons in mass destruction.
STEWART: It seemed that Senator Clinton had a target right on her forehead, and that all the other candidates aimed for it. Do you think that was warranted or even productive, Senator Gravel?
Sen. GRAVEL: Certainly, it's warranted, but some of it is disingenuous. You didn't hear them say anything about the entire Democratic and Republican Congress of the United States that gave permission. You know, you heard the cliche fool me once, it's your fault, fool me twice and it's my fault. But I'll tell you this is a replay of the Iraq drumbeat.
Look at the way they're orchestrating this. One, if you read the Washington Post very closely, you see gracefully, gracefully pushing towards war. And then you see that Gordon Brown, the prime minister of Britain, says it's okay to bomb Iraq. You see Sarkozy - God, I wish we had Chirac around. Sarkozy thinks its okay to go to war. And then Madeleine Albright made a speech in Prague saying its okay to bomb Iraq - Iran.
STEWART: So if you just keep reading and reading, you get the point.
Sen. GRAVEL: And then Wes Clark is saying it's okay also. And then you hear these generals, and then you see these quotes in the newspaper, you know…
STEWART: Senator, can I interrupt in here because I…
Sen. GRAVEL: …I'm not against (unintelligible).
STEWART: …I want to jump in here because I want to get this last question in as we run out of time. When will be your next opportunity to get into a big televised debate?
Sen. GRAVEL: On the 14th, I think 14th or 15th in Las Vegas. I'm scheduled - I got a paper that has invited me and all that. So they'd have to rip up the invitation to stop me there. So I will be there.
STEWART: All right. Senator Mike Gravel, thanks for taking the time to be with us here on THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT this morning, and we'll listen for you on the 14th.
Sen. GRAVEL: Okay, thank you. Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.