Mike Gravel



The information presented below reflects the 2008 election season and is not representative of changes in titles, roles, or policy views expressed since then.

Mike Gravel The former Alaska senator ran a relatively low-key campaign for the Democratic nomination, gaining most of his media attention from blunt critiques of his fellow Democratic presidential candidates during debates. In an April 2007 debate, Gravel said the top-tier Democrats’ stances on Iran “frighten” him because of their repeated comments that “nothing is off the table” with respect to dealing with Iran’s nuclear program. In March 2008, Gravel, frustrated at his maginalization in the Democratic race, declared he would seek the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination.

Gravel opposes the war in Iraq, and proposed removing all troops from the region by Christmas 2007. As a Senator in the 1970s, he vehemently opposed the Vietnam War, and helped end the military draft. Gravel joined the army in the early 1950s, serving in communications intelligence and in the Counter Intelligence Corps in Germany and France. Upon returning from abroad, he earned a degree from Columbia University before moving to Alaska to start a real-estate business. He served for three years in the House of Representatives before moving to the Senate in 1969, where he remained until 1981. Since leaving office, Gravel created the Democracy Foundation and National Initiative for Democracy, projects meant to help increase public participation in the process of making laws.

Mike Gravel ended his bid for the Democratic nomination on March 26, 2008. He then ran for the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination before announcing the end of his political career on May 25, 2008.

Campaign Issues

U.S. Policy toward Africa

Gravel's stance on this issue is unknown.

U.S. Policy toward India

Gravel's stance on this issue is unknown.

Military Tribunals and Guantanamo Bay

Gravel says he would “raze” Guantanamo if elected. “We must tell the world that the United States does not stand for torture. It is unacceptable human behavior,” he says.


Gravel said in the June 2007 Democratic debate that he does not believe there is such a thing as the “war on terror.” Gravel is critical of the Bush administration's war on terror initiatives, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the USA PATRIOT Act.

Energy Policy

On his campaign website, Gravel calls for legislation that caps emissions. In 1973, while senator of Alaska, he introduced an amendment allowing Congress to decide whether or not to construct the Alaska Oil Pipeline. The amendment passed and the pipeline, which was built soon after, has since provided for more than 15 billion barrels of oil. He also says he is "prepared to impose a carbon tax, at the barrel of oil and at the lump of coal."

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Gravel says the U.S., its allies, and regional actors should “sponsor direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, including Hamas” to forge a two-state solution.

North Korea Policy

On his campaign website, Mike Gravel describes his North Korea approach as “unambiguous”; he supports bilateral talks in addition to multilateral efforts, and says, “[A]ggressive diplomacy can be even more lethal but less dangerous than the use of military force.”

Cuba Policy

Gravel opposes the embargo on Cuba and has called for a normalization of relations.

Defense Policy

In 1971, then-Senator Gravel (D-AK) filibustered legislation to renew the military draft. In the early 1970s, Gravel fought to end tests of obsolete nuclear weapons in the North Pacific around Alaska that were damaging to the environment. In this video, Gravel warns against the growth of the military-industrial complex, saying “our militarized economy is both a direct cost to the American taxpayer and an indirect cost in what is lost in funding for education, health care, and our infrastructure.”


Gravel favors an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. If elected, Gravel says he will “call for a U.S. corporate withdrawal from Iraq and hand over reconstruction contacts to Iraqi businesses which will empower Iraqi nationals to reconstruct their own country.” Gravel opposed the war from its start in 2002. In an April 2007 Democratic debate, Gravel encouraged Congress to pass a law “making it a felony to stay” in Iraq.


Gravel has called NAFTA “a disaster for the working class of both the U.S. and Mexico” and has said that it should be either changed significantly or repealed altogether. Gravel has called for an increased focus on fair trade “if we are to rebuild the American middle class.”


According to his campaign website, Gravel “firmly opposes a military confrontation with Iran.” In a presidential debate in April 2007, he said: “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… [if] I'm president of the United States, there will be no preemptive wars (NYT) with nuclear devices.”

In a December 2007 Democratic debate, Gravel said Iran is "not a problem," and responded to criticism that the Iranian government supports Hamas and Hezbollah. "These are two elected organizations," he said. "Why can't [Iran] give support to those organizations?"

Climate Change

Gravel has called climate change “an issue of national security” and advocates immediate legislation capping carbon emissions. But, he says, “Any legislation will have little impact on the global environment if we do not work together with other global polluters.” He has called for a carbon tax.

In an August 2007 interview with Grist.org, Gravel criticized cap-and-trade programs, which he said will not necessarily lower emissions. He also said he would raise CAFE standards to European levels within three to five years.


Gravel favors a guest worker program and supports providing illegal immigrants with a path to legal status. Gravel cites of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as a primary cause of the immigration problem. He has said that attempting to deport all the illegal immigrants would be equivalent to Andrew Jackson's "Trail of Tears" campaign against the Native Americans.

United Nations

In a 2003 speech, Gravel said, “unfortunately, the UN does not have the power to implement its charter; and its structure is grossly undemocratic. The UN cannot be reformed within itself or by exterior forces dependent on the sovereignty of nation-states.”

U.S. Policy toward Russia

Gravel campaign spokesman Shawn Colvin has said the United States must “increase diplomatic communication” with Russia. In an interview with Pravda, Colvin said Gravel would not create a missile defense shield in Europe if he is elected president. He also said Gravel would move the United States “toward nuclear de-escalation in an effort to encourage Russia to do the same.”

U.S. Policy toward Pakistan

Mike Gravel's stance on this issue is unknown.

Nuclear Nonproliferation

As Senator from Alaska, Gravel was an outspoken critic of nuclear proliferation. He opposed nuclear testing under the seabed at Amchitka Island, Alaska, in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The testing, which many environmentalists claimed had a detrimental environmental effect, was eventually stopped, due in part to Gravel's campaigning. Gravel says he was the first congressman to publicly oppose the use of nuclear fission. Gravel claims credit for stopping “a headlong policy that was threatening the global environment by producing nuclear wastes and proliferating bomb-grade nuclear materials.”