October 12th, 2007 | Published in Google Public Policy
Senator Mike Gravel (D-AK, 1969-1981) may have felt like a "potted plant" during the YouTube debate, but during his visit to the Googleplex Wednesday he was the center of attention. Senator Gravel became the sixth presidential candidate to visit (following Ron Paul, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Bill Richardson and John Edwards).
Google's Andrew McLaughlin wasted no time getting to the heart of Gravel's candidacy: his fervent opposition to the war in Iraq. Out on the campaign trail, Gravel is quick to mention his 1971 one-man, five-month filibuster that helped end the draft during the Vietnam War, but few have noticed that during Gravel's 1968 campaign for the Senate he ran a television ad opposing withdrawal. McLaughlin played the ad, and Gravel answered with a discussion about his political past and how he has changed. "That young man was very ambitious. This young man is very mature," he said.
While Gravel has made Iraq the center of his campaign, it didn't take long to discover that his true passion is his proposal for a national ballot initiative. Here in California we've had the ballot initiative since 1911, and it's safe to say we've had mixed results. Gravel assured Googlers that his national ballot initiative would be different because it would limit each initiative to one subject and cap the number of words at 5000.
Gravel wants to empower citizens to make laws, and he also wants to empower them to use currently-controlled substances (which could be an problematic combination). He said he supports ending the war on drugs and treating drug abuse as a public health problem. If he was president, he would allow marijuana to be sold "at the liquor store," while requiring a doctor's prescription for hard drugs like heroin and crystal meth. (He also gave a surprisingly detailed report on his own recreational drug use, which involved his son-in-law and ... you know, I'm not even going to try to summarize the story. Check the video.)
If Gravel's comments seem a little unusual for a presidential candidate, well, they are. The former Senator is running a unique campaign with limited funding. He has called his political opponents "gutless wonders" and published a popular video to YouTube in which he stares into the camera for one minute before dropping a rock into a lake. He expressed his appreciation to YouTube and the Internet for empowering him to get his message out.
Here's the complete video of Senator Gravel's town hall meeting:
Senator Gravel also sat for an interview with YouTube's Steve Grove, with the questions posed entirely by YouTube community members: