Gravel talks about views, comedy show

Former Alaska senator and 2008 Democratic presidential candidate Mike Gravel spoke Monday night at Pruis to promote the National Initiative for Democracy and his upcoming comedy TV show.

Gravel’s main focus was the importance of national ballot initiatives to ensure that governmental power goes to the citizens instead of politicians or corporate interests.

Ballot initiatives allow citizens to place proposals with enough support up for vote during elections. If the initiative passes, it becomes a constitutional amendment. Ballot initiatives only exist on the state level. Gravel has been unsuccessful in his attempts to get national initiatives on the Libertarian Party platform.

Recent successful initiatives include Proposition 8 in California, which made gay marriage unconstitutional.

When an audience member questioned the likelihood of the majority oppressing the minority with similar national initiatives, Gravel said “of course they would.”

He assured the audience, however, that the government makes the decisions instead of the people in the current system, which is much worse.

National ballot initiatives would give citizens the power to directly affect law without having to go through a senator or congressman. Gravel said this is ideal to the current system.

“All you can do [currently] is vote for a personality,” he said. “It’s easier to vote for an issue. … You’re more knowledgeable on your own life than any member of Congress.”

Gravel is no stranger to controversy. He said during his presidential campaign that the deaths in the Vietnam War were “in vain,” and he voiced his opinions openly and bluntly Monday night.

He began the evening by detailing his views on the United States’ domestic policies as well as foreign affairs.

“Are they all dumb at the top of government?” he asked, “Not really, but they’ve got a different agenda.”

On the subject of North Korea, he called Kim Jong Il a “nutcase,” but “not a threat to anybody but his own people.”

His critique was not just limited to the government.

Gravel spoke out about private military contracts, corporate influence on lawmaking and the mainstream media, who he says does not publish his editorial pieces.

“Thank God that’s going on,” he said of the recent financial troubles of large newspapers and success of blogs and independent online news sources. “That’s the thing that can save us. … Mainstream media’s not having a tough enough time if you ask me.”

He revealed details to the audience about a new comedy television program he is creating, “I Like Mike,” which he will use to promote his platform and increase his visibility with a younger demographic.

The show, which he described as a combination of “The Office” and “The West Wing,” is a half-hour mockumentary-style program about a hypothetical nation in which Gravel won the 2008 presidential election. The show is made to be aired on cable or network television and will be available online on Web sites like YouTube and Hulu.

Gravel wrote 25 storylines for the show based on his political views, and a team of comedy writers wrote 13 episodes based on his ideas.

Gravel’s speech was preceded by a series of YouTube videos from his 2008 presidential campaign. Clips included his critique of fellow Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden during the debates as well as humorous campaign videos. Gravel compared the creative process of his upcoming program to that of the ads, giving full control to the creators.

Gravel ran for president as a Democrat but switched affiliations to the Libertarian party in 2008.

He told the audience that he was not interested in running for president or any other office again because he felt he was too old. He will turn 80 in May.

Audience turnout was modest, but Gravel was still appreciative.

“It’s not the size of the audience, it’s the quality of the audience, and you’ve proven your quality,” he said.

Following the speech, Gravel invited the audience to join him at Doc’s Music Hall where he was a guest on FM Music Live. A recording of the program can be found at