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US: Gravel Says He Will Remain Outspoken if Elected

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Gravel says he would remain outspoken if elected NH Primary Article

Mike Gravel promises that when he becomes a leading presidential candidate, he'll continue to say the same things he says now as a bottom-tier Democratic aspirant. The former U.S. Senator from Alaska said he will speak about, among other things, his push for a federal ballot initiative that would allow citizens to share legislative powers with Congress, and his support for decriminalizing marijuana and selling it in liquor stores. "I'm at an age where I can care less," Gravel said Friday in an interview with The Telegraph editorial board. "I'm not motivated by greed. I could care less. I came out of the Senate with less money than before I went in."

The 77-year-old Gravel served Alaska in the U.S. Senate for 12 years, but lost his seat in 1980 to Republican Frank Murkowski. He hasn't held public office since, but decided he would seek the presidency because he views the 2008 election as the most important moment for the country since the adoption of the Constitution in 1787.

He thinks the U.S. has wasted lives and money in an "unnecessary" war with Iraq, is headed toward military confrontation with Iran and has done little to stop a slide to global ruin from climate change. As president, Gravel says he would pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq within 120 days after the inauguration and would let Iraqis rebuild their country. He also believes any military action toward Iran would be disastrous for Israel and the Middle East, but "hawks" in Congress and the White House are pushing this country toward conflict.

Topping Gravel's platform is a plan to essentially create a fourth branch of federal government. Gravel wants voters to propose, change or eliminate laws in conjunction with Congress. A proposal would make the ballot after a national poll first showed that more than half of Americans would want to vote on the issue, he said. His plan, known as the National Initiative, wouldn't destroy representative government but would strengthen it by unleashing the power of citizens, Gravel said. The public wouldn't pass laws that threaten people's protective rights, nor would unnecessary layers of government be added through the process, he said.

"I have unresolved faith in the American people," Gravel said.

To push the National Initiative and other plans, Gravel will arguably need to improve his standing in public polls. He notches 2 percent ratings in polls, a reason MSNBC cited for recently excluding him from a televised debate among Democratic candidates. Gravel suggested holding one-on-one debates and not the current format of events that has, he says, candidates reciting only rehearsed campaign rhetoric.

"You'll just love it . . . watching a real debate. I have wisdom, but we're in a culture that doesn't respect wisdom," he said.

Gravel earned recognition in 1971 for single-handedly blocking legislation that would have renewed the military draft during the Vietnam War until the Senate and President Nixon turned his way. He also played a large role in securing the release of the Pentagon Papers -- a collection of secret government documents about the war -- by reading them into the Congressional record. He said Friday he "was scared stiff" about publicizing the Pentagon Papers, but more than three decades later, he'll tap that "courage" and "fortitude" to lead.

Several other platform ideas place Gravel out of the political mainstream, but he said he's willing to unroll them.

He would eliminate corporate and personal income taxes in favor of a national sales tax on new products and services. Taxpayers would receive monthly checks that cover the expense of life necessities such as food and transportation, he said. This would allow even the poor to have money to spend, but those with more money would obviously purchase more and pay more taxes, he said. A universal health-care system would allow people to choose from one of five private plans or from a government-backed plan, Gravel said. People would use certificates to receive care from practitioners of their choosing, but because of the cost to run such a system, a line would need to be drawn on coverage, he said. "There will be triage," Gravel said. For instance, a 90-year-old who needs a heart transplant won't qualify for the procedure but a teenager would, he said.

Gravel also said the country wastes money with the criminalization and prosecution of marijuana use. Once legalized, he would endorse the sale of the drug in liquor stores.

Gravel says he doesn't know Gregory Chase, the New Hampshire resident who is using his own money to run daily advertisements supporting the candidate in several newspapers. But if Gravel wins the presidency, Chase will "get some Lincoln bedroom time," he joked.GRAVEL ON THE ISSUES

Here are the views of presidential candidate Mike Gravel on major issues.

IRAQ WAR: Wants to remove U.S. military from Iraq within 120 days of becoming president.

IMMIGRATION REFORM: Favors a guest-worker program that would lead to citizenship.

HEALTH CARE: Wants a universal health-care system. Certificates would pay for coverage through one of five private plans, or through a government Medicare-type plan.

EDUCATION: Wants federal government to have 50 percent control of public schooling.

FEDERAL BUDGET/TAXES: Wants to eliminate corporate and income taxes in favor of a national sales tax.

ABORTION: Favors abortion rights.

GLOBAL WARMING: Supports taxing carbon emissions and putting a cap on emissions.

GAY MARRIAGE: Supports same-sex marriage.

STEM-CELL RESEARCH FUNDING: Supports embryonic stem-cell research.

Source: Telegraph, The (Nashua, NH)
Copyright: 2007 Telegraph Publishing Company
Contact: letters@nashuatelegraph.com
Website: Nashuatelegraph.com: Frontpage : News and Classifieds from Southern New Hampshire
 
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