Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Mike Gravel, an ex-Senator from Alaska, stumped for the Libertarian nomination in Bond Hall yesterday to a crowd of Swatties. Until recently, Gravel was campaigning as a Democrat, but switched parties just after arranging the event with the College Democrats.
When the Gazette approached several self-described student Libertarians, all explained that they knew very little about Gravel’s opinions and knew nothing about the Senator’s campaign.
Gravel began his talk by establishing his perspective on Iran. He explained that he will be interviewed later today for a 40-minute segment to appear on national television in Iran as a response to President Bush’s upcoming statement to Congress. And he has been preparing: “I spent yesterday morning with Noam Chomsky,” he said.
His views on most topics are not mainstream. In regards to Iran, Gravel claimed that polls have shown that “the Iranian people love the American people.” He pointed out that the average age in Iran is under thirty, and that a street in Tehran and a street in North Hollywood are “practically indistinguishable.” Gravel argued, however, that Iranian “religious leaders have a problem with the youth who, if you leave them alone, will get to democracy.”
The reason most American’s don’t realize Iranians love the U.S., he alleged, is that Americans are “brainwashed by our media.” He argued that the control of the media by five massive companies has led to information on Iran being suppressed — as well as preventing him from participating in several major televised debates by Democratic presidential candidates.
Gravel assaulted American military spending, arguing that the nation’s Trident submarine fleet (which consists of 40 submarines with 24 missiles and 144 nuclear warheads each, enough to “destroy the world several times over”) provides the nation with more than enough deterrence — “why should the US of A spend more on defense than all the rest of the world put together? … We have a military budget that costs one trillion dollars a year.”
Gravel offered one universal solution to all the nation’s problems: citizen initiatives. Pointing out that citizens can create local and state laws in twenty-four states, he said he wants more. “Why can’t people make laws at the federal level?” he demanded. “You are smarter than your leaders.”
After closing his talk on this note, Gravel opened the floor to questions. In response to questions, Gravel discussed his desire to move towards completely government-funded education, “from kindergarten to the Ph.D. level”; argued for his Fair Tax system, where all taxes would be replaced by a sales tax, with rebates for necessities like food; advocated the complete removal of all immigration borders; and laid out his plans for combating global climate change, which he claimed was much more dire than the national security issue.
In regards to global climate change, he suggested a carbon tax since “oil is too precious to be used on transportation,” he said. His justification was that the United States “is becoming irrelevant right now,” and it will only because worse if the nation does not start dealing with the European Union, China, and Brazil as quickly as possible.
Others asked the Senator what he believed regarding the “main-streaming of media coverage.”
“Congress can’t correct it — they are afraid of it,” Gravel declared. Instead, he believes the United States must “empower citizens — and we’ll break the media out into a million pieces.”
But first, Gravel urged Swatties to become knowledge junkies. He claimed that having a well-founded base of knowledge, formed by reading academic works as well as newspapers, is essential to understanding new situations. “Intuit, develop reason,” he said. “It is a life-long task.”