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The Candor of Mike Gravel

During the first Democratic presidential debate a little known candidate, former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel, ended up with one of the most memorable lines of the evening:

“And I got to tell you, after standing up with them, some of these people frighten me–they frighten me. When you have mainline candidates that turn around and say that there’s nothing off the table with respect to Iran, that’s code for using nukes, nuclear devices.

“I got to tell you, I’m president of the United States, there will be no preemptive wars with nuclear devices. To my mind, it’s immoral, and it’s been immoral for the last 50 years as part of American foreign policy.”

Of the eight candidates on that stage in South Carolina, only Gravel and Congressman Dennis Kucinich will say that there is no reason for the American people to incinerate the Iranian people with nuclear weapons.

When Senator Barack Obama repeated the lie that Iran is on the verge of attaining nuclear capability only Kucinich would call him out. He politely said that Obama’s assertions were in dispute.

Obama: I think it would be a profound mistake for us to initiate a war with Iran.

But, have no doubt, Iran possessing nuclear weapons will be a major threat to us and to the region.

Kucinich: (OFF-MIKE)

Obama: I understand that, but they’re in the process of developing it. And I don’t think that’s disputed by any expert. They are the largest state sponsor of terrorism…

Kucinich: It is disputed by…

Obama: … Hezbollah and Hamas.

Kucinich: It is disputed.

Obama: And there is no contradiction, Dennis, between…

Kucinich: It is disputed.

Obama: Let me finish.

Kucinich would have been correct if he had called Obama a liar. Gravel is right, most of the Democrats are very frightening indeed.

This debate was a very sad foreshadowing of what is to come before Election Day in November 2008. The corporate media will play a dominant role in choosing the nominee, by sponsoring debates, and by framing the way candidates are seen by the public. The sponsor of this debate, MSNBC, is a subsidiary of General Electric, a defense contractor. Gravel said it best when he answered a ridiculous question about America’s need to label other countries as enemies. “The military industrial complex not only controls our government, lock, stock and barrel, but they control our culture.” They also control presidential debates.

The candidates are not just scary, they are gutless. Moderator Brian Williams asked for comments on Rudy Giuliani’s statement that only Republicans will keep the country safe. No one gave the most obvious answer. The terror attacks on 9/11 happened on the Republican’s watch.

George W. Bush presided over the killing of 3,000 Americans and never demanded resignations from his cabinet and prevented any meaningful investigation from taking place. Now his approval rating is a dismal 28% but you wouldn’t know it from the frightening and frightened Democrats.

None of the other candidates support Kucinich’s effort to impeach Vice President Cheney. Impeachment is the only way to prevent further wars of aggression and it is the only way to expose the lies and manipulations of the Bush administration. Impeachment is the only way to stop further erosions of civil liberties. It is the only way to discredit Republicans enough to insure a Democratic victory in 2008.

Kucinich has a hard row to hoe. There is ample evidence that there are grounds to impeach Cheney on the charges Kucinich has outlined in his articles of impeachment, namely that he manipulated the intelligence to make the case for invading Iraq.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that impeachment is “off the table.” Her explanations for eschewing impeachment are nonsensical. “And frankly, for impeachment, George W. Bush is just not worth it. We have great work to do for the American people.” Pelosi was not on the debate stage, but she represents everything that makes the rest of them so scary.

Democratic fund raising success is a sign that the high and mighty have concluded that the party’s time has come. Yet skepticism is always in order. If anyone can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, it is the Democratic party.

If the Democrats do win, what will they do with victory? Unless Dennis Kucinich becomes president we have no reason to believe that much change is in the offing. We may have universal health care, but it will subsidize health insurance companies. American troops will still be in Iraq and the Patriot Act will still be on the books. Bush will be gone but Bushism will still be with us.

That is the truly frightening thing about the Democrats. The candidates who are flush with campaign cash and press attention are the most likely to bring little or no change to American politics. In November 2008, it seems that Democrats will lose, no matter what.

MARGARET KIMBERLEY is an editor and senior columnist for the Black Agenda Report. Her Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at margaret.kimberley@blackagendareport.com.