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ABC host tells Paul, Gravel they have no chance to win
David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Published: Monday July 9, 2007
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On Sunday's edition of This Week, ABC's chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos reported on "the long-shot candidates who are lighting up this presidential race:" former Democratic Sen. Mike Gravel and Republican Rep. Ron Paul. While providing both underdogs with prime network coverage, the one-time communications director for President Clinton also told the candidates straight to their faces that he didn't believe either could win.

Stephanopoulous pressed Paul on his calls for immediate withdrawal of the troops from Iraq, saying, "Don't we have a responsibility to those we leave behind?"

"It's a tragedy of what's happening, what we're going to leave behind," replied Paul. "But we don't know it's going to be as bad as those who are predicting bad things -- just remember, the people who are predicting these very, very dire things to happen are the same ones who predicted it would be a cakewalk. ... Think of Vietnam. It worked out much better than anybody predicted."

"The main motivating factor of the hostility to this country ... is our presence in the Middle East," continued Paul. "The sooner we get out of there, the better. ... We have done a great service to Osama bin Laden, inadvertently, because it's a recruiting tool for him. ... We have become isolated from the world. .. We have more enemies today, more enemies and less friends than we have ever had in our country."

Stephanopoulos then asked Paul, "What's success for you in this campaign?" but cut off the start of Paul's response, "Well, to win ..." with an interjected "That's not going to happen!"

"Do you know absolutely?" Paul came back. Do you want to bet every cent in your pocket for that? ... The odds are great ... but I would say that what has happened so far has been 100 times greater than I anticipated."

Stephanopoulos next turned to Mike Gravel, whom he described as "something of a sentation" on the Net, due to his debate performance and surreal videos.

"It's a metaphor," said Gravel of his "Rock" video. "You get a fixation of a thought you want to have, something you want to do, and you go do it. ... the ripples, the ripples -- it's a metaphor, George. The ripples show the effect, and then you march off into the horizon."

"What are the ripples you want to send out in this campaign?" asked Stephanopoulos.

"We've got to pull away from politics as usual," answered Gravel, expanding on his statement at the Democratic debate that most of his fellow-candidates lack moral judgment. "They've got the power to end this war, and they're not doing anything about it. And that, in my mind, is immoral."

Gravel insisted that the votes against Bush "are there now" and that you just have to get them. He recalled his own extended filibuster of the draft during the Vietnam War, saying, "Five months, and there's no draft in the United States today, and I'm proud that George Bush does not have the boots on the ground to invade Iran."

When Stephanopoulos pointed out that many Democrats fear their party's opposition to the Vietnam War has cost them political support in the decades since, Gravel retorted, "What's more important? Getting office? Or doing the moral thing and stop people from dying? I'll tell you, if that's the sacrifice we've got to pay to stop these people from dying and killing these Iraqis, I'll pay that sacrifice every day of the week."

Stephanopoulos concluded by saying to Gravel, as he had to Paul, "You're not going to be president." Gravel's response was, "One of the great beauties of this great country of ours is that anything is possible in politics. You just have a tough time accepting it."

The following video is from ABC's This Week, broadcast on July 8.

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Transcript:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We were back on the trail this week with the long-shot candidates who were lighting up this presidential race. Democrat Mike Gravel served two Senate terms in the 1970s, where he led the fight against the Vietnam War.

SEN. MIKE GRAVEL (D-AK) (Former Senator): (From tape.) Our policy in Vietnam is crumbling around our ears today.

Today I publicly announced my candidacy for the vice president.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And nominated himself vice president in 1972. Seventy-seven now, he wants the top job to stop another war.

SEN. GRAVEL: You know what's worst than a soldier dying in vain is more soldiers dying in vain.

REP. RON PAUL (R-TX) (Former Congressman): (From tape.)It was a mistake to go, so it's a mistake to stay and if we make -

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Republican Ron Paul is the only candidate in his party against the Iraq war from the start. A ten-term congressman from Texas he's also an obstetrician who's delivered more than 4,000 babies.

REP. PAUL: (From tape.) Vote for the principles of freedom.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And he was the libertarian candidate for president in 1988. I spoke with both men in Washington on Friday starting with Congressman Paul, who had a nice crowd assemble on the street.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: How's it going?

REP. PAUL: Hi, how are you?

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He also came with a little news. After a burst of fundraising in a second quarter, he has more campaign cash on hand than the former frontrunner, John McCain.

REP. PAUL: I think some of the candidates are on the downslope, we're on the upslope, so can you imagine what it will be like if we do as well on the next quarter and quadruple our income and our numbers.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: How do you count for? What do you think happened?

REP. PAUL: To simplify, I would say I think people have underestimated the number of people in this country that are interested in a freedom message - just being free, free of the government, you know, oppression of us whether it's on our personal liberties or economic liberties and they certainly like the foreign policy of nonintervention; you know, just to stay out of the internal affairs of others.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me get into that message of nonintervention starting with Iraq. You were the only candidate on the stage in the Republican debates who was against the war in Iraq from the very beginning and you want the troops to get out right now. But don't we have a responsibility to those we leave behind?

REP. PAUL: We have a lot of responsibility, but it's to the American people. We have it to our troops. We need to get them out of a bad situation, we need to get them out of harm's way, and we need to protect the American taxpayer. It's a tragedy of what's happening, what we're going to leave behind, but we don't know it's going to be as bad as those who are predicting bad things. Just remember, people who are predicting these very, very dire things to happen are the same ones who predicted it would be a cakewalk.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So you are willing to pay the price even if that is the price?

REP. PAUL: Well, it's not - it's not much of a price to save our men and save our taxpayer and change our foreign policy to be more sensible. Think of Vietnam. It worked out much better than anybody predicted. We're achieving with Vietnam what the founders' advised us to achieve with everybody: friendship and trade, not a belligerent attitude of forcing our wishes on other people.

REP. PAUL: (From tape.) Thank you Mr. Speaker. I rise to urge the Congress to think twice before thrusting this nation into a war without merit.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You started out as a very lonely voice in the Republican Party, but it seems that more Republicans are inching your way, at least towards starting to pull out from Iraq. Do you believe that come next year the Republican Party position will be it's time to withdraw, it's time to get out?

REP. PAUL: If they are, they can't - they won't have a prayer in the election. I mean, where are their political instincts? That's why they are starting to shift. I mean, we'll take them any way that we can get them - you know, support for a more sane foreign policy.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You would completely pull out of the Middle East?

REP. PAUL: The main motivating factor of the hostility to this country - I've said it before, it's absolutely true - is our presence in the Middle East. The sooner we get out of there, the better.

REP. PAUL: (From tape.) Have you ever read about the reasons they attacked us? They attack us because we've been over there. We've been bombing Iraq for ten years.

RUDY GIULIANI: (From tape.) That's an extraordinary statement. As someone who lived through the attack of September 11th, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq - I don't think I've ever heard that before and I've heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th. (Applause)

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Rudy Giuliani said that you didn't know what you were talking about.

REP. PAUL: Well, that revealed a bit of lack of knowledge, to put it mildy, on his part because there's been so many books - our CIA defends my position. The 9/11 report defends my position. Paul Wolfowitz defends my position

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You have no regrets for what you said?

REP. PAUL: Oh, no, but he was demagoguing it. Everybody saw through that. He was the great patriot and he was trying to say I'm blaming America. I'm blaming bad policy; I'm not blaming our victims.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think Rudy Giuliani knows better than what he said?

REP. PAUL: He knows better now. I think he probably just looked at it superficially. He probably looked at the politics of getting the attention of hawkis-type conservatives, and he got the applause so he was probably reinforced. But I'll bet you the week later he wasn't nearly as reinforced because they are using different language now - the general Republican leadership - on this whole issue.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But President Bush says if we retreat from Iraq, al Qaeda, all of its allies, are going to attack us here at home.

REP. PAUL: Well, I disagree. He believes that and he believes it sincerely, but I don't think he's correct on that because I think we have done a great service to Osama bin Laden, inadvertently, because it's a recruiting tool for him. But what has happened to us? We have become isolated from the world. They charge me with are you an isolationist? No. Isolationism is being practiced today.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Aren't you proud of being an isolationist?

REP. PAUL: I don't like the word.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You'd also pull out of the United Nations, you'd pull out of the International Monetary Fund, you'd pull out of the World Bank?

REP. PAUL: Yes, but George Washington wasn't for all those groups either. We didn't have a president for that until after World War II, so I don't think that isolation. I want to trade with people. We have more enemies today and more enemies - more enemies and less friends than we have ever had in our country.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You ran after president in 1988 as a libertarian.

REP. PAUL: (From tape.) The libertarian party and the libertarian message offers a choice. It offers a choice for the American people not to have to vote for the lesser of evil.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You're running as a Republican this time. Why?

REP. PAUL: Well, I was elected to Congress 10 times as a Republican. That's a pretty good reason. I've been able to deliver this constitutional, very libertarian message to my district and they like it and they reelect me. And it's practical. Third parties are - the laws are biased against them. Unless you're a billionaire, you can't even get on the ballot. So that's not very democratic.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You've also really built up a reputation for living out your libertarian principles. You served, as you said, 20 years in Congress but you're not going to take a congressional pension.

REP. PAUL: Right.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: As an obstetrician, you never took Medicare or Medicaid for your patients.

REP. PAUL: Never.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You didn't allow your children to take student loans for college?

REP. PAUL: No, because my goal was that they would work and I would help them, and that they wouldn't have debt, but not to borrow from the taxpayers. It's not the government. The government has nothing. They want to steal the credit from somebody who's trying to start a small business someplace. So if you steal credit out, that means there's a pain and suffering for somebody that's invisible. So I wouldn't participate. I consider that an immoral act.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think the Republican Party has stayed true to its small government principles?

REP. PAUL: They haven't stayed true to their principles about less government. What happened in this administration? They took it over and we had massive increases in entitlements and we have international conflict, so the party has lost its way.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: What's success for you in this campaign?

REP. PAUL: What's success? Well, to win is one.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That's not going to happen.

REP. PAUL: You know absolutely? You want to bet your every cent in your pocket for that?

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes.

REP. PAUL: You are. Okay. I thought so when I ran for Congress. I wouldn't bet anything I could have been elected to Congress. The odds are great. The odds are difficult and I know that. But I would say that what has happened so far is about 100 times greater than I anticipated. And I think that we have surprised a lot of people already, and I think we're going to surprise a lot more.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: If the odds are stacked against Ron Paul, they're out of this world for Mike Gravel.

SEN. MIKE GRAVEL (D-AK): (From tape.) Okay, we're going 90 - we're going 93 north. It's the next exit.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: On the trail, he's on his own.

MS. : (From tape.) Who are you, dear?

SEN. GRAVEL: (From tape.) Mike Gravel. I'm Senator Gravel.

MS. : (From tape.) Are you running for something?

SEN. GRAVEL: (From tape.) I'm running for president. Yes, I am.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But on the web, he's something of a sensation thanks to his fiery debates -

SEN. GRAVEL: (From tape.) And I've got to tell you, after standing up with them, some of these people frighten me. They frighten me.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: - and this surreal campaign video. Gravel stares straight to camera for more than a minute.

What's the point?

SEN. GRAVEL: It's a metaphor. And it's two young teachers in Southern California that wanted to film me and I said fine, you can have as much time as you need. And the metaphor that they see - and I was flattered by it - but it's a metaphor not only for a presidential candidate, for any citizen. What it is you get a fixation of a thought you want to have, something you want to do, then you go do it. We constantly - (unintelligible) - society -

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Throw a rock in a lake?

SEN. GRAVEL: Listen, the ripples. The ripples - it's a metaphor, George. The ripples show the effect and then you march off into the horizon.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So let's follow the metaphor. What are the ripples you want to send out in this campaign?

SEN. GRAVEL: Thank you for asking that, because the ripples are that we've got to pull away from politics as usual. I'll give you an example. At the last debate on the 32nd wing at the end I made the statement about their being immoral.

SEN. GRAVEL: (From tape.) We have to have a president who has moral judgment.

Most of the people on this stage with me do not have that judgment and have proven it by the simple fact of what they've done.

SEN. GRAVEL: It's not their personal life I was talking about. I was talking about the fact that those presidential candidates that are standing up with me, they've got the power to end this war and they're not doing anything about it. And that in my mind is immoral, because as we we're talking then, as we're talking now, George, human beings are dying and American soldiers are getting their bodies blown apart and we're killing Iraqis, and there's no reason for it. We can stop that. And so if they aspire to be president, they ought to show some leadership in the Congress right now to end it. And I've given them the tools to do this with, and they don't pick up on it.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The tools to do this with? You want to have the president criminally indicted.

SEN. GRAVEL: Oh, yes. Only if he doesn't end the war. Well, stop and think now. They'll say "well, Hillary is classic. Oh, we don't have the votes." What do you mean you don't have the votes? You go get the votes by the scruff of the neck.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: They're not there now.

SEN. GRAVEL: They are there now. They are there now, George. And how you get them is real simple. You turn around and you have a vote on cloture every single day, seven days a week. You cut out the August recess, and then when it comes back and the president vetoes this law, you turn around and have a veto override every single day -

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The strategy does come from your own personal experience, doesn't it?

SEN. GRAVEL: That's right.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Vietnam.

SEN. GRAVEL: Vietnam, filibustering, being tough.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You had a one-man filibuster against the draft.

SEN. GRAVEL: That's right. Five months, and there's no draft in the United States today, and I'm proud that George Bush does not have the boots on the ground to invade Iran.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You also read the Pentagon papers into the Congressional record.

SEN. GRAVEL: (From tape.) The papers prove that for 20 years, and certainly for the last 10 years, we have been victims of our Southeast Asia policy, not masters of it.

SEN. GRAVEL: You didn't think that I was treated like a skunk at the party back then? And of course, now we look back "well, my God, this person showed courage." I could have gone to jail.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It was an emotional time.

(Cross talk.)

SEN. GRAVEL: - show leadership, and the Lee Iacocca's title for his book is "Where Have all the Leaders Gone." Well, George, this leader is back, and I'm a tough leader and I'm going to hold all of these other people accountable. They want to be president? Let them show their bona fides to be president.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You've said that no person who voted for the war is qualified to be president. That knocks out Hillary Clinton. That knocks out Joe Biden.

SEN. GRAVEL: That's right.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That knocks out Chris Dodd.

SEN. GRAVEL: That's right.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That knocks out John Edwards.

SEN. GRAVEL: That's right. And it will knock out Obama if he doesn't shape up and help end the war now, because if he wants to show he's a leader, you do it in the Senate where he is. He's got power.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He voted against the funding.

SEN. GRAVEL: Hey. They voted four times. He and Hillary voted for this vote that meant nothing on the water bill. What does that mean? That means you're standing there and this is a symbolic vote. Hypocrisy is what it is, George: hypocrisy. People are dying, and they're interested in the symbolic vote? Give me a break.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The strategy you followed in the 1970s did eventually end the war. You cut off funding, the war ended, but a lot of Democrats fear that the party paid a price. And it kept them out of the White House for years.

SEN. GRAVEL: Well George, you just put your finger on it. What's more important? Getting office or doing the moral thing and stop people from dying? I'll tell you, if that's the sacrifice we've got to pay to stop these Americans from dying and killing these Iraqis, I'll pay that sacrifice every day of the week.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I've been watching you in these debates and you seem to be having the time of your life.

SCOTT SPRADLING (Debate moderator): (From tape.) If you are elected president, how, if at all, would use former President Bill Clinton in your administration?

SEN. GRAVEL: (From tape.) Well, I'd send him as a roving ambassador around the world. He'd be good. He could take his wife with him, it will still be in the Senate. (Laughter.)

SEN. GRAVEL: I don't know if I would say - characterize it as "the time of my life." I'm a passionate person. I feel deeply. And so what I want to do is I want to fight. We are a great country, and we are at the tipping point. I don't know which side we're going to tip on, but '08 is as important election as 1877 when they made the decision that changed the South. Right now, we're going to make a decision in '08 whether we continue to go downhill with our empire building, and I will tell you very frankly that with respect to Hillary and the president, I view them as a package of one. They knew what was going on, but they made a political vote. And that political vote was to give Bush the power to go to war. That's what it was all about. In my mind that is a vote that showed they were morally tone- deaf - the both of them.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So Hillary Clinton's not going to get your vote. Who is?

SEN. GRAVEL: I'm going to vote for myself. What are you talking about, George?

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But you're not going to be president.

SEN. GRAVEL: I'll be president when it ends. George, I'll be president. And you know something? One of the great beauties of this great country of ours is that anything is possible in politics. You just have a tough time accepting it.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Now what I'm thinking of right now, again, is your video, and you say it's a metaphor. You could also say it's a piece of absurd performance art, but it gets attention. And you are getting attention in this campaign. My question is, what are you going to do with it?

SEN. GRAVEL: Isn't that how one gets elected? By getting attention? Then people maybe will listen to me when I say I want to empower you as a lawmaker, because the answer is not in government, the answer is with the American people.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And you're not going to give up until you're president.

SEN. GRAVEL: Of course. And I will be president. You heard it here.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Everybody deserves to be heard.