The Left Twitterati lit up with excitement last night at the unexpected announcement that former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel was considering a run for the White House in order to pull the Democratic field left. Gravel, a staunch anti-imperialist, was a lefty favorite in the 2008 Presidential race for his bold criticism of the Iraq War, until he dropped out of the Democratic primary and switched his affiliation to Libertarian.
Initially believed to be a prank, Gravel told Politico's Zach Montellaro by telephone last night that his exploratory committee is being run with his blessing by a group of students who are pushing him to toss his hat in the ring.
Having a voice in the Presidential debates critical of U.S. intervention in Venezuela, unyielding support for Israel, the unceasing war on terror, and other issues of import to the anti-imperial Left is something for which many are excited. Gravel could provide an important check on Bernie Sanders, for example, who many believe is invested in maintaining U.S. military hegemony, forcing Sanders to justify his positions or abandon them all together.
Unfortunately, since leaving the spotlight in 2008, Gravel has sought attention in somewhat darker places. After endorsing an independent investigation of 9/11 that same year, Gravel became a frequent speaker on the 9/11 truth circuit, including regular appearances on Truth Jihad, a podcast by known Holocaust denier Kevin Barrett which is funded by alt-right "philanthropist" Ron Unz. Barrett promotes the conspiracy theory that 9/11 was perpetrated by the State of Israel with the complicity of American Jewry.
In 2013, Gravel attended an Iranian government conference on "Hollywoodism" in Tehran at Barrett's behest, ostensibly to discuss the negative depiction of the country in American media. He told Foreign Policy afterwards, "A fellow by the name of Kevin Barrett who I know, I had spoken on his television show, or radio show, frequently. He suggested to them that they invite me and it took off from there." In the same interview Gravel acknowledged the extremist views of the conference's other participants, saying that some were "off the charts," particularly regarding "their attitude towards Zionism."
Gravel has also been a speaker at events organized by supporters of Lyndon LaRouche, the neo-fascist conspiracy cult figurehead and perennial Presidential candidate who died last month at 96 and was well-known for his antisemitism. According to a November 2015 article in LaRouche's Executive Intelligence Review, Gravel spoke at a LaRouche event in October of that year, where he said he was "delighted to be associated with the LaRouche organization." Gravel also participated in a LaRouchePAC town hall in 2017.
As of this writing, we have not uncovered any antisemitic statements from Gravel himself and there is no indication that he holds any bigoted or fascist views of his own. However, it's a sad fact that many on the anti-imperialist Left are so desperate for attention, because their voices are so marginalized, that they will talk to anyone willing to listen. Unfortunately for Gravel, even were he to denounce Barrett and LaRouche alike, his lack of discernment does not bode well for his campaign, nor does it engender confidence is his ability to speak out against imperialism credibly from the Left.
UPDATED 3/21/19 @1:23AM — The following is a response to the Jewish Worker from the Gravel campaign.
This piece, fairly, does not attempt to paint Sen. Gravel as an antisemite, and instead points out relationships he has had over a career spanning decades. This is great journalism, and this is exactly what the news media should do for every candidate. Sen. Gravel has a policy of taking his message to whoever will have him, and that has sometimes resulted in an appearance of comity where none exists. Sen. Gravel has always condemned, in the strongest of terms, Holocaust denial and antisemitism; he grew up in a largely Jewish community and has been a lifelong supporter of religious freedom. As is pointed out, the utter isolation of the anti-war left has given him very few places to present his views, so some might be less-than-respectable in the common view. The purpose of the campaign isn’t to make Sen. Gravel president: it’s to get him on the Democratic debate stage. We are trying to send him to the debates not because we agree with all of his views and actions, but so that he can act as a tribune for a crucial point of view on political reform and foreign policy that rarely goes spoken. Ultimately, this movement isn’t about him - it’s about us, the people.
UPDATED 3/21/19 @12:55PM — The Gravel campaign has responded to our questions about his relationship to Kevin Barrett.
With Senator Gravel’s full-throated approval, we totally, unequivocally disavow Kevin Barrett. Senator Gravel was not familiar with his statements on the Holocaust or the Jewish community, and would never consider himself a friend of Barrett’s. (In fact, when we asked about it, he did not recall who Barrett was and had to be given details.) Antisemitism and Holocaust denial are appalling, and they have no place in the United States—just as there is no place in this country for hatred of any kind. Senator Gravel’s life has been influenced immeasurably by Jews—growing up, there were three synagogues within five blocks of his house; his best friend in the Senate was Jacob Javits of New York; politically, he aligns himself with Noam Chomsky; and he would never have become a senator were it not for the support and encouragement of a Jewish person by the name of Barney Gottstein. He also hastens to note that Jews (along with Quakers) have historically been leaders in the anti-war movement.