by Unknown | 3/10/2008 11:33:00 PM
[Cross-posted at My Left Wing and Wild Wild Left.]

He [opposition leader Mike Griffin] goes back to his desk, and he’s thinking and he’s thinking. Then, of course, I wait thirty minutes to let the staff notify that they’re going to be there a good part of the evening. And, lo and behold, I make a unanimous consent to remove to quorum call. He objects. The minute he did that, I knew I had just been harpooned. And all I could think is, my mind: good men don’t win. Good men don’t win.

-- Mike Gravel, describing one of many climactic moments in his dramatic publicizing of the Pentagon Papers in 1971

Watch this video, prepared by the Gravel campaign from original footage of the Pentagon Papers unveiling, and tell me Mike Gravel isn't an American hero.

The video is absolutely stunning. If you don't want to watch the whole thing, make sure at least to skip to the point, about twenty-four minutes, in where Gravel breaks down in tears from the enormity of what he has read in the Pentagon Papers.

I like what the Congressman at the end of the video says about Gravel (by the way, that's John Goodchild Dow of New York): "[I want to] admiration for your courage, sir, and you're certainly one individual who hasn't knuckled under to the institutions and the regimentation that have become so great and so ominous in our society."

In those dark times, when assassinations and Nixonian machinations menaced the American public sphere, this man stood alone in opposition to the secrecy and cynicism that surrounded the American government. He was a cross between Russ Feingold and Joe Wilson -- a whistleblower against the government who used the Capitol as a platform to take down injustice. Why did he bother? Here's what he said at the time:

The abrogation of the people's right to know--one of the system's most important checks and balances--caused this nation to make this colossal mistake of waging a war that has nothing to do with our security, individually or as a nation.

This is a man who has never pulled punches, who has given his all in service of his country. He is the embodiment of the ideal of American public service we hold so dear. Yet today, he is ignored, ridiculed, forgotten. In 2004, he went broke. Is this how we treat our American heroes? Is this how we honor those who have sacrificed for our country?

In that tense moment in 1971, with his plan crashing down all around him, Mike Gravel understood the truth of the matter. Good men just don't win.

But they don't stop either. I'll let former Green Party Vice Presidential nominee Pat LaMarche have the last word:

So what happened to the draft? Ever question why the Vietnam War ended around the same time that the government could no longer steal young men out of their homes and pack them off to boot camp? And if you’re around 50 years old, don’t you feel lucky that the draft ended in 1973?

It wasn’t luck.

It was Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel and his six month filibuster that saved your life. ...

All but forgotten by the press, discounted by his Democratic challengers who voted to finance that military industrial complex, Gravel’s got his work cut out for him.

But he’s undaunted; he’s faced long odds before — like when he saved your life — when he filibustered to keep you from dying face down in a rice paddy.

And now that man who saved your life back in the ’70s is in his 70s, fighting once again for your future.

Endnote: For more details on the Pentagon Papers incident, you can hear Gravel describe the whole thing in the following video. He's quite an engaging speaker.




Blogger Ahistoricality on 3/13/2008 7:54 PM:

Rumor has it that Gravel has switched to Green. Makes a lot of sense, too.


Blogger Unknown on 3/13/2008 10:07 PM:

That's not exactly what happened. He's continuing his run for the Presidency as a Dem, while endorsing a relatively minor Green Party candidate for HIS nomination. This is significant because Gravel was previously nosing around the Libertarian Party trying to see whether there was enough support there for him to run on their ticket. He seems to have concluded -- correctly, I think -- that he's waay too socially liberal for them.

Unless Gravel actually suspends his campaign before Indiana votes, I intend to vote for him.


Blogger Unknown on 3/13/2008 10:12 PM:

I should add that I'm considering going Green myself. Maybe after McKinney's off the ticket, since I'll never vote for her.


Blogger Ahistoricality on 3/13/2008 11:43 PM:

The statement you linked was in the comments of the post I linked; I read it and came to the conclusion that Gravel had pretty much given up on the two major parties. He may not have officially jumped ship himself -- and given our inability to kick someone out of the party, may not need to -- but he clearly has moved on.