Editor's note: After being out sick most of Friday and Saturday, I wrote this today at about 3:00 pm, and when I finished it, the internet was out. When it rains it pours.
Thanks to everyone who has commented, called, IM'ed or emailed this weekend to check on my health. I'm feeling considerably better. Still a little fatigued, but I was feeling well enough to disc golf 9 holes this morning and I'm still scheduled to umpire a softball game tonight, so I'll live.
I think I'm ready to wrap up the conversation on Gravel, but before I do, some related links:
Part 1 of my notebook from my meeting with Gravel.
Mike Gravel's Wikipedia page.
Gravel's campaign page.
The National Initiative for Democracy.
I'm not sure what I was expecting when I walked into the lobby of the Hotel Fort Des Moines to interview Mike Gravel. Certainly I had underestimated him, and that's probably my fault. I met with Gravel for over an hour, then his communications director, then I met a Boston Globe reporter who was sent to cover him. I heard an idea I'd never heard before, another idea I'd never heard a Democrat endorse before, and then had an independent political professional tell me he was the real deal.
Truth is, I wanted to like Gravel. For those of you who don't know, if you were writing Mike Gravel's biography, the first thing you would call Gravel is "former Alaskan senator." The second thing would be "American hero." We're talking about the guy who helped release the Pentagon Papers, and the guy who embarked upon the one-man filibuster that led to the end of the military draft in 1973. If you were to make a list of people most responsible for the end of the war in Vietnam, Gravel would be one of your first entries.
He's motivated by a lot of the same things I am. He wants to get special interests out of politics. He wants a simpler tax system which will both ensure that everyone is paying their fair share and shift our societal emphasis from consumption to savings.
I don't talk a lot about the war in this space. I think the war is a dangerous subject for liberals because of things liberals have said about it. I think, to a point, State 29 is right when he says that the most vocal war protestors are only interested in screaming about the lies of our president, not in solving the problem.
I'm not going to take a stand on that now. This isn't the place for it. But I will say this. The possibility that the current administration lied to send us down this path, the possibility that the war in Iraq is merely a continuation of a Bush agenda instead of a response to a national security threat and the possibility that thousands of Americans have died and thousands more could die based on a move made on faulty intelligence and lies would suggest that perhaps we, as Americans, need a new method to determine the actions we are going to take to defend ourselves. I think the possibility that it happened with Iraq also demands an investigation to see if it did happen. I think Gravel is with me on that.
So while Gravel and I stand together on our goals, I find that I can't stand behind any of his proposals to reach those goals. I don't think the National Initiative would get special interests out of politics. I think it would make them worse. I don't believe the Fair Tax would actually solve the problems with our Tax Code. I think the shifts involved would create economic disaster, at least in the short term. I like his stance on the war. But I think several other Democrats, Feingold included, will come forward with similar stances.
While I was taking a nap Friday night in an effort to get some rest and feel better, the phone woke me up twice. The first call isn't relevant to this conversation. The second call was Gravel, and we spoke for over an hour. To his tremendous credit, he allowed me to tell him about every concern I have with his two major plans. To his discredit, he didn't have a single answer that led me to change my mind about my concerns. I still think, mathematically, the Fair Tax is a flawed argument. I still think the National Initiative would be nearly impossible to enact, incredibly expensive to follow and frighteningly ineffective once it was in place.
For those reasons, and some others, I continue to field Mike Gravel's calls, I continue to answer his questions, and I will continue to at times offer him advice, but I do not intend to support him, and I'm not sure I would recommend others do so either.