This is a continuation of the interview with Senator Mike Gravel on May 26, 2011 by Mary Anne Hamblen and Karen Brewster at his home in Burlingame, California. This is a continuation from tape number Oral History 2011-21-03, Part 1, and continues on tape number Oral History 2011-21-03, Part 3. In this part of the interview, Senator Mike Gravel talks about nuclear testing on Amchitka Island, how the media affected his relationship with Senator Ted Stevens, Stevens’ temper, and some of Stevens’ accomplishments. He also talks about working with Senator Stevens in the Senate, what he was like in private, and some important issues they worked on while in office.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Senator Ted Stevens Project Jukebox
Date of Interview: May 26, 2011
Narrator(s): Senator Mike Gravel
Interviewer(s): Mary Anne Hamblen, Karen Brewster
Transcriber: Carol McCue
After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.
Gravel's stance as a Senator
Nuclear testing on Amchitka Island
Gravel's relationship with the media
Role of the media in Gravel and Senator Ted Stevens' relationship
Having a democrat and a republican in the Senate
Gravel and Senator Stevens' relationship
Senator Stevens' temper
National Missile Defense Complex at Fort Greely, Alaska
Senator Stevens' military appropriations
Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA)
Stevens-Magnuson Fisheries Act and the Law of the Sea
Senator Stevens' accomplishments
Working with Senator Stevens in the Senate
Senator Stevens' private persona
Senator Stevens' greatest disappointments
Gravel's legacy to Alaska
Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.
After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: I don't mean to speak ill of anybody that I served with.
I -- I was unique in this sense, I was a maverick. I questioned authority.
And that's not an asset in being a legislator.
In fact, I always felt Ted was a better legislator overall than I was.
On the specific important issues, I felt that I was superior to him in judgment and in taking certain positions, but as a legislator, he was the consummate kind of legislator.
And that was the -- and so a lot of these issues came up, it was a quarrel over the substance of the matter, not of the motivation behind it.
I understood his motivation, I understood the motivation of people like Udahl and others, but that didn't mean that I had to go along with it.
I had my own brains, I had my own judgment that I could make, my own research, and acted upon that.
That -- that's fine to a point, but it can be very controversial.
In fact, this is worth for the record.
The -- when I would go back to Alaska, a lot of times people would say, "You and Ted have got to stop fighting.
You know, it's just terrible. You're hurting Alaska's interest as you fight."
Of course, they were wrong, we weren't hurting Alaska's interest, we were bringing about greater focus of attention on what those interests were all about,
but that's not the way they looked at it, they looked at it naively, "You two should not fight, you should just be together on these issues."
And I would always ask the question, "Well, what about the substance?
Now, do you want me to side with him on his issue or him side with me on my issue? What about the substance?"
"Oh, we don't care what the substance, you've just got to work together."
Pretty stupid, in point of fact, and that was the conventional wisdom in Alaska, that our quarreling hurt Alaska.
It did not hurt Alaska one iota.
It -- it brought about better policy as a result of a dialogue that took place when the policy was properly made.
Let me -- let me jump to an area on nuclear.
When -- we were both elected in '69, and the -- in '69, '70, the Federal Government was drilling a hole on Amchitka Island for nuclear testing.
They had already done some testing.
This was to test a nuclear warhead.
And that -- so as part of my responsibilities as a Senator, I didn't know much about the subject at the time, I asked to be briefed by the Atomic Energy Commission.
They sent in, somebody briefed me. I was not terribly satisfied with the briefing; I thought I was being stroked down more than briefed.
And so I began to do some research on my own, assign some tasks to staff, and lo and behold, invited them to brief me again.
And I was not at all satisfied with their answers.
And lo and behold, shortly after the second briefing, Holmes & Arbor, which was the contractor that was drilling the hole out on Amchitka, it's a mile deep hole that you could send an elevator down
because they had to put in a -- an atomic device down in that -- in the bottom of the hole,
the -- they opened up a PR office, and the PR rhetoric was that anybody that opposed Amchitka -- and I had not opposed Amchitka,
this was inside information that they knew that I had some concerns about them.
But the rhetoric of the PR campaign was that anybody that opposed the continued construction or detonation of a nuclear device on Amchitka was unpatriotic,
was working against the defense of the United States, and also was costing jobs because a lot of people were employed on Amchitka drilling, doing the drilling.
So lo and behold, I did get angry at that point.
And so then I became very informed and hired staff to -- to get up to speed on this whole issue, this nuclear issue with respect to weapons.
And so then in addition to my opposing it within Alaska, which was unpopular, I organized internationally to oppose it.
In fact, I got two members of the Canadian Parliament to come down to Washington and picket the White House with me.
A slight vignette of history.
A group of -- that we helped organize in Vancouver bought a fishing boat to sail up to Amchitka to be able to protest right there on the site.
They had to incorporate to limit the liability on the purchase of this vessel, and they incorporated as Greenpeace,
and that's how Greenpeace came about, was fighting Amchitka.
Well, the detonation went forward.
And -- and shortly after the detonation, they were planning another -- another detonation, a memo came to my hands by a whistle blower someplace,
in the Atomic Energy Commission, Defense Department, you name it, I don't recall who gave it to me; even if I did recall, I wouldn't reveal it.
And so I released the memo.
And what the memo said, this is an internal memo within the Defense Department, that the -- that the nuclear device that was being tested was obsolete
and there was no reason to continue the testing.
Well, as a result of releasing that publicly, the whole issue went away.
They did not do any further testing.
Let me -- there's two sidebars to that testing that took place.
In the three detonations that took place, what was created a mile deep under the ocean was the size of a football field,
literally in the shape of a football, and this contained all of this irradiated material from the nuclear explosion on the ground.
Now, there's three of those in the North Pacific under Amchitka Island.
This is a very seismically active area.
If a earthquake were to open up, a fissure were to open up, one of these footballs the size of a football field,
all of that material would spew into the seed bed -- seed bed of the North Pacific and contaminate the fisheries, the food chain of the North Pacific.
That's a threat that existed then and exists to this day and will exist for the next thousand years.
Now, that, in my mind, is irresponsible policy making on the part of the government.
Now, as a result of my opposing this, I developed an expertise in the whole issue of nuclear activity and opposed the generation of nuclear power for electricity.
And at the time that I was elected in '69, we had a hundred and fifty nuclear power plants in the United States on the planning boards.
By the time I left office, that had not been increased by one plant.
In other words, I was able to lead the environmental community into opposition of nuclear power generation,
and that was able to stifle it in the United States and worldwide.
The only countries that went forward aggressively were France and Japan.
And -- and before, coming back to obviously what has taken place in Japan of late is to realize seven years ago -- (Phone rings, pause in recording.)
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: Seven years ago, I received a call from a lady, the name escapes me at this point, who asked, "This is Mike Gravel?"
I said, "Yes." She said, "You are so right," and she started sobbing on the phone.
I said, "Whoa, wait, what's going on? What was I right about?"
Well, she says, "I was an employee in the labor union, and we really damaged you in your opposition to Amchitka.
My husband was working on Amchitka as one of the drillers.
And I want to tell you, you were right. We were wrong.
And we paid a very dear price because within five years, all of our husbands, all of the workers who were on the island at the time of the detonation, died of cancer."
And she was telling me about what had happened.
I had not kept abreast of it, I did not realize that these people had died.
What had happened, and these people were paid off very quickly by the government, they were -- all the wives were given $150,000.
Then subsequent to that when there was a little agitation, a physicist in Philadelphia had done some studies into this, what happened,
they paid them another $150,000 to shut them up.
And so what had happened was a canister of cesium, this is an active agent used to -- as part of the detonation of a nuclear device.
And so in this shaft, which was surrounded by a chain link fence to keep the dirt from caving in, somewhere in there was lost a can of cesium in the shaft itself,
so that when the detonation took place, there was a slight venting, there was a decreasing of the topography, and what was a little cloud.
It was venting.
Nobody realized, and they didn't bother to do the testing at the -- at that -- at that point to realize that the venting was what turned around and killed all the workmen who were there on the island at the time within five years.
And of course, the -- well, it just -- it's ridiculous, it was our own Three Mile Island induced by the military and the nuclear -- by the government.
What had happened subsequent to that was, of course, what's happened now in Japan.
The nuclear industry, and even President Obama is still a supporter of the nuclear industry to this day. It's ridiculous.
There's two facets to this, and this is the point I tried to make back then and make it right now,
is that if you -- and we were the greatest nation expanding, along with France and Japan, primarily the United States.
The French did their own nuclear device, their own power plant, which is better than ours, incidentally, and --
but we, with Westinghouse and General Electric, were the ones that went into Japan and sold them on our -- our plants.
And of course, this Fukushima that just imploded and had a meltdown was a General Electric design, and that's what we did.
And so now what -- what happened, the benefit of Fukushima is that you're going to see again a thwarting of the expansion of nuclear power generation.
But the great -- the great damage that's done is not what you see, it's what you don't see.
And that is that we have led the world in expanding nuclear power generation.
That has led the world in acquiring fissionable material that, with additional processing, is weapons grade.
And so we have polluted the planet with weapons grade material as a result of our policy of, quote, the peace -- using the peaceful atom,
which was a policy set up in the United States in 1955, when Dwight Eisenhower went to the UN and spoke of having the peaceful atom benefit mankind.
It's not, it's been the scourge of mankind and will continue to be.
KAREN BREWSTER: So when you were working on the Amchitka issue, what was Senator Stevens's position on that?
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: I -- to my knowledge, he stayed out of it, because here again,
Ted was on the Armed Ser -- immediately when he got to the Senate, Jackson got him on the Armed Services Committee,
and he was on the subcommittee of Appropriations, Military Appropriations,
and so he would have been in a strategic area to get into a real quarrel with me over that.
But keep in mind, now, this was '69 and '70, that's when he was running for re-election to -- for the first time,
so he did not want to get involved in any quarrel with me at that time, it did not make any political sense for him.
So he stayed out of the issue altogether.
Privately, he was with Jackson and others on the issue, but he did not surface.
And so by the time he was free to -- let's say, politically to maybe get involved in the issue, that the issue had already been settled.
That was '71. '70, I believe. So that's the nuclear segue.
KAREN BREWSTER: The other segue we talked about was the media, you were starting to talk about media the -- SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: Oh, yeah. Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: -- in Alaska, the newspapers--
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: Here again, the Anchorage Daily Times was Republican, Bob Atwood, and of course, they were never -- never friendly to me in that regard.
I tried to court them as best I could but without success.
And then when the ANILCA issue came along, the Anchorage Daily News, which had more of an environmental bent, well, now, they were opposed to me.
So during the ANILCA battle I had both newspapers opposed to me very vitriolically.
Prior to that, it was the Anchorage Times and the Daily News, was so-so.
Two -- two events, one with respect to how I handled the media, I don't think I handled it at all that well.
Like I say, I should have been a lot more accommodating to Ted's initial overtures of friendship,
but -- and I had the same problem with the media, you know, they were damaging me.
I was able to survive, but one -- I developed a policy which angered them to no end.
What -- what I did was -- and this was probably in '78, '79, more like '78,
I turned around and issued a statement to the Anchorage Daily Times that I would not --
or maybe I did it to the News first, I'm not sure, but I did it to both of them, that henceforth, I would not give them any of my press releases,
I would not give them any information about what I was doing or about with respect to public policy, and I'd give them a freeze, a blackout.
Whoa. Now, that's tough stuff. They thought that, boy, we're powerful, you're going to run for re-election, you need our -- I kept it up for a year.
They eventually -- the Times eventually capitulated and we had a drink and cup of coffee and, okay, well, we'll go back to normal.
And then with ANILCA, the News started jumping on my case unfairly, so lo and behold, I did the same thing to them for a year, and they backed around.
Now, I can recall going to a broadcasters's convention that was held in Alaska, down in Southeastern,
I think at Glacier Bay, and you had all of these national publishers coming to this convention, and these big time reporters,
and here, that was the time that I had the freeze on the Daily News, they were absolutely -- I made a speech, and I thought I was just talking -- they were so angry, so vitriolic against me.
How dare I think that I could shut out their media from what I was doing because I didn't like the way they handled me.
I said, real simple. You know, you weren't treating me fairly, so what the hell -- what did I lose by a blackout?
I didn't lose anything. You're the ones that lost because it was an embarrassment to you.
And so that eventually settled that and things went back to normal and they treated me better as a result of that.
Media has got an interesting -- and, of course, depending on the papers, a classic example of that.
The media does their own advertising, you know, they're out there.
Just look at television. Oh, we are the greatest station on earth, we give you the greatest news and timely and all that, and they've got the time to do it, and print media does the same thing.
You know, when you talk about freedom of the press, well, if you own the press, you've got freedom; if you don't own the press, you don't have the freedom.
So the -- and, of course, right now, it's appalling because the America media is corporate owned,
and so all you get is corporate -- the corporate line in our society, and that's not enough.
And that's the reason why we have the problems that we do is because the people don't get the straight skinny.
There's a joke during the Cold War is that the Russians knew, in the Soviet Union, they knew they were being lied to by the media,
and of course, so they had -- they developed their alternate source of information.
Well, in the United States, we don't know that.
We think that we're getting the straight skinny from the media, and so we don't go into alternate sources of information.
That has changed now with the Internet, and is improving and, of course, now you see the print media going downhill and the networks goings downhill.
So we are in very much of a renaissance from the communications point of view, all to the benefit, all to the good.
KAREN BREWSTER: What was the role of the media between you and Stevens and, you know, the quarrels that you guys had and how that affected things?
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: Always. They were always siding with Stevens.
Keep in mind, it's conventional wisdom.
So you had the News Miner, the owner of the News Miner looked upon Stevens as a son.
I mean, Stevens inherited some of his property.
I think he had a boat and Stevens inherited that.
So no -- so the News Miner was always, it was a very conservative journal, and -- and so he sided with Stevens,
and the Anchorage Times sided with Stevens all the time on the pipeline issue and what have you.
And then -- and then the News Miner, then -- not the News Miner, the Daily News sided with Stevens on ANILCA.
So I was always a day late and a dollar short with respect to communications in Alaska on the media.
And so that -- that -- over time, that essentially wore on me, so that's the reason why I lost the Senate race in 1980
was I really was a mass of scar tissue ready to fall over. Donald Duck could have beaten me.
And, of course, the polls showed that I would have beaten Murkowski in the general,
but what happens, now this is the second time Jerry Falwell and the religious right came into Alaska to campaign against me.
They did it in 1974, and they did it in 19 -- and so they were able to move about 3,000 votes over.
So for -- actually, 1500 votes over with our open primary, and so I lost in the primary.
And, you know, I was not unhappy about it.
I personally feel that we should have term limits and 12 years is enough in the Senate.
Three terms in the House of four years each would be enough to turn it over.
And so I did not -- I was not happy when I left.
I actually went into midlife crisis, I got divorced, I got separated, I lost my job, I had to go out and find a new way to make a living.
So -- but I did not have any -- I didn't ever harken a desire to be back in the Senate. I wouldn't take a Senate appointment if it was given to me now.
The only day that I did, was on the day that they had a vote in the Senate on the resolution to empower George Bush to invade Iraq.
Had I been there -- now, the Senate was in control of the Democrats.
Had I been there, I would have filibustered that.
I would have embarrassed the Democratic Party, and I think I would have been successful in thwarting that resolution's passage,
and it probably have stopped the Iraq War.
That's the only day that I wished I had been a senator.
KAREN BREWSTER: You mentioned earlier this idea of one senator from Alaska being Republican and one being Democrat versus both being from the same party,
and you felt you being a Democrat and Senator Stevens being Republican was a good thing?
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: I think there was -- that was a good tactic because you covered both bases.
You can't get anything through the Senate without an agreement of -- of the parties.
That's why we have the stalemate right now.
And so the fact that Ted was a Republican, and a very highly thought of Republican, and he had -- Ted was very popular as a senator.
When he almost died, you had people like Ed Muskie and others that went to his wife's funeral, a large contingent of senators.
He was well liked by his colleagues, even though he had an abrasive personality,
and every so often would go off to reservations with his -- his tirades,
but -- but that aside, he was "hail fellow well met" within the club of the United States Senate, and I was not, and that's to Ted's credit.
KAREN BREWSTER: What do you mean?
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: Well, I -- I think that if you're going to have a legislator, I do not think that mavericks are -- not too many.
It's like -- it's like Tabasco Sauce, you don't want to have a lot of -- too much Tabasco on your meat,
what you want is you'd like a little bit.
And so -- but I was more than a little bit, I was very controversial.
So as a legislator -- well, I -- I must say, I'm not giving myself credit, I was effective in getting a lot of things passed,
but that -- I got them passed not because I was well liked, because I was feared.
I would -- I would debate, I would debate and I would filibuster.
So no, I got it through the hard way, but -- but it was very painful because peer pressure is really what works on you.
And so a lot of my staff would say, "Well, Senator, boy, we wish you'd, you know, conform more to the club, and we'd get more through."
Well, they were wrong. We got what we got.
And -- and as a result of that, I think I did a great service to Alaska with respect to the nuclear issue, with respect to the ANILCA issue, even though I failed;
with respect to the Law of the Sea issue, which is eventually going to come back up and haunt us right now.
In fact, I -- let me talk about that for a moment.
One of the things that's going to happen now in the world is the -- with the melting of the ice, is the extreme exploitation of the Arctic Ocean.
We border the Arctic Ocean.
In fact, it was my legislation and getting a contribution from the -- one of the owners of -- of IBM to donate money to create the Circumpolar Conference.
I felt it was very important for the Inuit peoples and the Laplanders from Norway, Russia, Canada, the United States and Greenland,
to come together as a political entity, as a cultural entity, and study the problems that they face as a society.
Now, with the melting of ice, the onward to Northwest Passage is going to be possible,
the very strong development of oil, particularly in the Russian area.
And so had we -- had -- if the United States would now join the Law of the Sea,
it would then have the protection that would take place as a result of the Law of the Sea on protecting the Arctic Ocean, and the Arctic Ocean needs to be protected.
There's -- there obviously will be exploitation, but it has to be done under -- under an environmental supervision.
And that's one of the issues -- in fact, I was at a panel recently in Anchorage
and advocated that to the president of the -- mayor of the North Slope, that they could look to the Law of the Sea and not look to the Congress to protect the Arctic Ocean.
KAREN BREWSTER: I was wondering if the fact that you were sort of off the mainstream when you were in the Senate, is that what made Senator Stevens not like you very much and cause some of the disagreement?
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: I don't know. I don't think Stevens disliked me.
I've seen him several times after and it was always cordial.
We never talked about -- never spent a great deal of time together, but if -- when I would see him, we would talk about how is the family, how is the kids kind of a situation.
It was more of that cordiality. His -- his second marriage, Ann Stevens -- not Ann.
KAREN BREWSTER: Catherine. SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: Catherine. Cathy and I were good friends, she was very much of a supporter of mine.
So no, I don't think Ted disliked me.
I think he didn't understand me at all, so that he didn't understand when he campaigned against me that I would take -- that I would be angry over that.
Usually the way the system works, while you campaign you call him a SOB, and then after that you throw arms around each other.
It's like attorneys, you know, the guy goes to the jailhouse and you go have a drink with the prosecutor.
Well, I wasn't an attorney and -- and my sensitivities were not of that nature, but I never felt that Ted disliked me as a person.
And -- and after he was still in office and I was out of office and I would get up to the Hill occasionally
and I would see him, he was always very, very cordial. Very cordial.
And if I felt if I had a real big problem, then I could -- I never did -- I could go to him and ask for help.
But -- but that's after he was convinced that I was no longer going to be a factor in Alaskan politics.
KAREN BREWSTER: Right. When you were in the midst of it all, how did you feel about him? I mean, he had all this public acrimony towards you. How did you feel about him?
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: No, to me it was just a battle.
I don't -- I don't recall at any time that I took exception to him in a personal kind of way.
And in fact, when he was accusing me for causing his wife's death, it just really just hurt me, not what he was saying about me,
but the pain that he obviously suffered in relationship to me as a player in these events.
And, of course, the anger when I filibustered and stopped ANILCA on two occasions just blew him -- he blew his top in that regard.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, I mean he's pretty --
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: But he had a high temper. He -- he -- Ted was very vitriolic in that regard,
but here, too, he never kept a grudge in that sense.
That's the reason why he was so popular in the Senate.
Had he kept a grudge, you've got to -- after any one of his tirades, everybody would have walked around him. But, no, he was "hail fellow well met."
He loved to go on junkets.
And that's something that's misunderstood by the public.
Members in the Congress are in a competitive role.
They go there to steal the bacon to bring it back home.
So they are in a competitive role. They don't get a chance to develop any real personal association.
The best way to do that is when you go on a junket, you go with your wife, you're in a very comfortable situation,
you're literally a tourist, and so you get to know each other one on one and you develop friendships that you would not normally have developed.
And so the whole junket approach in Congress did more benefit to making the Congress our harmonious institution
than the structure that it had, which was a competitive structure that you steal from each other to bring home.
So this is not generally appreciated or understood, but it's very significant.
And so Ted, being a junketer, he obviously would get to know a lot of people on a personal basis,
and so when Ted would go into his tirades on the Floor of the Senate, they would understand that.
Well, that's just Ted. And after that's over, Ted's our friend, nice guy, and that's why he was popular.
KAREN BREWSTER: Do you think those tirades helped him in his legislative process or were a liability?
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: Liability. Not only a liability, it was a terrible liability for his image nationally.
Now, he was protected with the media in Alaska, but nationally, Ted was not very popular and not highly thought of.
Now, there was, I'm sure -- and I felt that during -- when we were serving together that there was a slight jealousy that I had a national reputation as a result of the Pentagon Papers and other areas,
that Ted was jealous that I was well known and that he was not.
And, of course, he subsequently, unfortunately, became well known with his litigation and prosecution at the end of his career.
I personally felt the tragedy of him being prosecuted and convicted after a long career of working hard for the people,
for the national interest, as he viewed it, and I think he viewed it wrongly with respect to defense posture
because he took Scoop Jackson's place as the major, major handmaiden to the military industrial complex, but -- but, you know, that was Ted.
One area that I did disagree with, and I spoke about it publicly -- excuse me. (Recording pause.)
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: One of the things that I disagree with, and of course, it's a little bit like the Amchitka, you know, Amchitka created a lot of jobs and a lot of cancer,
but what Ted has done is to bring about the nuclear shield --
the missile shield, rather, at Delta, Alaska, where they spent a ton of money, a billion dollars -- no, not a billion, a hundred billion dollars to put in the eight silos out there at Delta --
KAREN BREWSTER: At Fort Greely -- SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: -- as a nuclear shield.
Now, here, the threat to the United States was 19 Arabs with box cutters.
And so we spend a hundred billion dollars up in the center of Alaska to put on -- to have a nuclear shield.
Well, to me, it's a tragic waste of money.
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, a very, very important journal, had a characterization of that,
and that is a -- which is a boondoggle, obviously, but it is a technology that doesn't work for a threat that doesn't exist.
And it doesn't exist.
I mean, who's going to -- who's going to shoot a missile at us? China?
Well, we're their market. North Korea?
My God, if they aimed a missile at us and were getting ready to launch it, we could obliterate all of North Korea with one of our -- our trained submarines in the Sea of Japan.
This is ridiculous, so why are we building it? It's not -- and of course, you can't shoot a bullet to hit a bullet.
What -- and it could be thwarted.
But here again, this is the defense industry, it's making profit, jobs, and Boeing particularly is involved.
And so Ted fostered this, brought them here, they deployed the missile defense system in Alaska when it hadn't even been tested.
Still has not been tested. And it doesn't work.
And now, there's an additional appropriation under Obama to go ahead and add more silos because they wanted to -- of the 8, I think they want to do 26.
This is an abomination. We're broke and we're wasting this money.
Now, what these missiles can do, and that is, they can be intercontinental, and they can then go up and shoot down satellites in the sky.
Now -- and so this is not a Star Wars to protect from an enemy, it's to be able to -- be able to have a war in space.
Now, who would be most hurt by a war in space? Zimbabwe, which doesn't have a satellite up there? No.
We, the United States, have more up there than anybody else.
And so if we were to cause any kind of detonations in outer space, the debris would wipe out our satellites, we'd wipe out our whole communications systems.
We are the most vulnerable in space of any nation on earth, and yet we are the ones that are spending more money to fight a space battle.
Now, there's two demonstrations. If you recall sometime back, we brought down one of our satellites
and brought it back to earth, and it was to be able to see if we could do that, destroy it up there and bring it back -- and bring down the debris.
Well, shortly after that, China did the same thing.
So that was China's communication to us, if you think you're so smart that you're the only ones that can snuff out somebody's sites up in space, we can do the same thing, too.
And China only spends 10 percent of what we do on -- on their budget.
Now, that's the budget of 500 plus billion dollars that we spend.
That's not what we really spend, what we spend is a trillion dollars a year, but China is 5 percent of that.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, Senator Stevens is certainly known for his support of the military and military appropriations, he was sort of successful in that -- MARY ANNE HAMBLEN: He had a role in this --
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: That was it. He was -- he was -- well, there --
there was two individuals in Congress: John Murtha in the House, who had the equivalent position that Ted had on the House Appropriations Committee, and Ted Stevens.
Both of them were the -- were the two leaders for funding the military industrial complex of the United States of America,
which Dwight Eisenhower warned us about, and Stevens was the prime mover of this.
And brought home the bacon. Brought home the bacon. We're going to drill holes.
The fact this thing doesn't work doesn't mean anything, we're going to spend a hundred billion dollars doing this.
But here, too, Ted had a background -- I admired Ted for the fact that he was a Hump pilot during the Second World War, and a real courageous one.
I mean, this was no small undertaking. And so Ted had a background in that area.
Ted had -- now, keep in mind, the military industrial complex, after the Second World War, controlled the American economy and the corporate economy.
So it was natural for Ted to -- as a Republican, to gravitate in that direction.
So I'm sure that Ted, along with the members of Congress today that sustained the same thing,
felt in his heart of hearts that he was doing the best thing for the defense of the United States of America.
My view is very simple. We could cut the defense budget in half and we'd be safer than we are today.
KAREN BREWSTER: And when you were in the Senate with Stevens, were military issues coming up --
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: Oh, very much. I filibustered -- I filibustered that all the time.
In fact, with the Pentagon Papers, I was the one that filibustered ending the draft, so --
which eventually the military people came along to liking, they wanted the volunteer Army.
Real -- real military guys. But -- but here, too, we have unbelievable venal people in high office, not only in politics, but in the military.
KAREN BREWSTER: I want to take us back to ANILCA for a minute -- SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: Please. KAREN BREWSTER: -- as a follow-up question.
So your perspective with saying, well, Ted went along with everybody and, you know, got this through in a different way than you would have done it.
The environmental community does not see Ted Stevens as a hero for ANILCA.
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: Of course not. It's very important, and very interesting.
Because of my work as a -- as a nuclear specialist, I could walk on water with respect to the environmental community.
So lo and behold, when I would travel around the United States doing the ANILCA battle,
people would come to me or say, "Goddarnit, I wish you would get that Stevens straightened out and stop filibustering and killing ANILCA."
They were talking to me, and I'm the guy that's doing it, and they think it's Stevens.
So this was part of Stevens's national reputation that --
and so though he compromised on ANILCA, they never felt that, in his heart of hearts, that's where he was.
He was doing that as a political expedient from their point of view.
So no, the -- and then, of course, him constantly fighting the ANWR battle for the next 30 years did not endear them to -- to the people.
Fighting the battle for Southeast Alaska because Stevens, he -- Stevens was had.
He's the one that helped negotiate the timber deal for ANILCA, and then 10 years later they wiped that out.
Well -- and -- and I had predicted that at the time, and so Ted, here again, had some egg on his face over that, and was very angry, fighting the environmental.
So no, the environmental community was much, much more attached to me, even -- even during this battle.
KAREN BREWSTER: But you were opposed to ANILCA, as well.
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: I was opposed to ANILCA because I felt that it was extreme.
I was not opposed to legislation to really properly permit the exploitation of our resources and to protect the environment in Alaska.
I was not opposed to that. In fact, I was the first public official to talk of having a wilderness legislation in Alaska. So no.
My -- I -- I was taking what I thought was the environmental position,
and that was we have to have protection for Alaska, but we have to have the ability to exploit its resources for the benefit of the people of Alaska and the benefit of the people of the nation and the world.
KAREN BREWSTER: Whereas -- whereas Stevens was -- SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: He was -- KAREN BREWSTER: -- wanting no protection for any of those lands?
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: Well, I -- I wouldn't say -- I wouldn't say that. That's too harsh.
No, he had his own moderate approach which he was not successful in getting.
And so since he was a moderate, he just went along with the pack, which turned out to be extreme.
KAREN BREWSTER: Which was that he was trying to get as much land for the state and little for the Federal Government. SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: Correct.
KAREN BREWSTER: And that was the opposite position of the environmental community -- SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: Correct. KAREN BREWSTER: -- they wanted it federal. SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: Correct.
And -- but when you say wanted for the federal, they wanted it in regimes that would thwart any possibility of exploitation.
The issue was economic development.
And there's -- you've got to understand how the nation broke up at that time.
We had the preservationists and you had the environmentalists.
I consider myself an environmentalist.
The preservationists do not want to have any economic activity go forward.
I call them the loincloth group, you know, they want to go back to the cave.
And that won't work. All that will do is create anarchy and wars.
So what you need is a balance.
And that's what I was trying to get in Alaska. And we don't have a balance.
And you can see that very graphically if you see a night line satellite photo of Alaska, you see the lights are on in Canada, you see the lights on in the Soviet Union or now Russia,
but you see it's dark in Alaska because we don't have the level of exploitation of our resources that these other areas have.
I'm not saying that these other areas have done it to the best, but -- but here, too, it's -- it's -- it's the extreme, it will go to one extreme to the other.
And that's what the fear I have over the Arctic Ocean right now, now that it's becoming more accessible, we've really got to get an international regime to protect -- protect the Arctic Ocean.
KAREN BREWSTER: And I believe it was -- maybe it was with the pipeline and ANILCA,
you know, Stevens made comments about not trusting you and you changing your mind on I'm going to do this with an amendment and --
and then not doing that, and there was a lot of acrimony between the two of you.
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: Oh, but that -- that was on ANILCA.
No, he -- that was part of his argumentation that I had changed my mind on it.
I had not. I was -- was not party to the decision to introduce the legislation, that was done by Mo Udall and Jimmy -- Jimmy Carter.
And then when I got involved in it, I was not party to the legislation, so there's nothing to change my mind on.
What I did is, I opposed facets of the legislation that I thought were extreme.
His -- his approach, particularly in the first, when I -- when I deep sixed it at the end of, I think, '78. KAREN BREWSTER: It's '78 --
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: -- was when he made that comment.
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: Sure. He -- and so we had -- we had this legislation going forward, and I had my staff work on it.
We did -- I did not jump out of the picture and just oppose, but we tried to get some changes made, could not get the changes made, and so I opposed it.
So he took the position, well, since I was there working for the changes, I must have been for the legislation.
Well, I was for the legislation, but not the way they were drafting it.
And so it was good rhetoric, oh, Gravel just flip-flopped on it. I didn't flip-flop.
If there's anything, I was very consistent in all of my positions during my entire political career.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, Stevens said, yeah, that you're -- you made an appeal in '78 to kill a compromise, and that meant the legislation didn't pass.
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: Correct. And he thought that was good legislation, and then -- then we went at it again for the next session.
Then in 1980, he did the same thing, he was supporting it and I was opposing it.
KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: And we had to beat my filibuster.
And like I say, had Stevens supported me just for a delay, we could have cut a better deal.
KAREN BREWSTER: Because the Reagan Administration would have come in. SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: Come in.
Or had he supported me, we could have probably cut a better deal even with Carter there, but no, he was off doing his own thing.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. I read someplace that Stevens predicted that by waiting until 1980, ANILCA gave more land to the Federal Government than the '78 compromise would have.
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: I won't speak to that. That's his particular view.
They had -- by that time, they had ANWR all locked up, they had a whole host of areas.
KAREN BREWSTER: And then I found that you were quoted as saying "Stevens was prepared to sell out too much" for the -- I guess that was in the 1978 --
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: And that's -- and that's an -- that's an accurate quote. I'll stand by -- KAREN BREWSTER: And that was for the 1978 --
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: Yeah. '78, and actually the '80.
We gave -- it locked up too much of Alaska.
And I think I covered that subject earlier.
KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. I had another follow-up question on the Stevens-Magnuson Fisheries Act and the Law of the Sea, and what the rural Alaska fishing communities's positions on the Stevens-Magnuson.
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: They were for that. KAREN BREWSTER: They were for that.
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: They were for that. And of course, I tried to explain to them that it put -- it put a threat on the salmon industry,
that probably that the licensing that we'd have to open up to foreign interest would be more extensive than they realized, but they would hear none of that.
And so it was a group of Democrats, primarily led by Terry Gardner from Ketchikan, who was a fishery operator and a member of the State Legislature.
And so -- and of course, they -- they went with Clark Gruening, and so a group of -- of Young democratic legislators felt that I was out of kilter with their views,
which were very, very narrow with respect to Alaska, as was Stevens and Magnuson.
The way to protect the fisheries is with an international regime because fish are all over.
KAREN BREWSTER: And so the Stevens-Magnuson Act has set up the current quota system that we have in Alaska for fishing?
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: It -- it set up the law that permitted the licensing of the -- of -- of what fishing activities can take place within the 200 mile.
Now, the quotas had been set up before that.
There's a whole bevy of law dealing with fisheries that we and Canada are part of,
and we have agencies that decide on the level of the salmon run and the level of the fisheries, which what you can fish and what you can't fish, and crab and all of that.
So, no, that predates -- that was enhanced by the Magnuson-Stevens Act, but there were -- many, many of those elements were there under Bartlett and Gruening.
MARY ANNE HAMBLEN: So what do you think Senator Stevens's most significant legacy, or his most significant -- sorry, most significant legislative achievements over his career?
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: Certainly the most significant, and it would not be what I would take as positive,
is his contribution to the funding of the military industrial complex.
I think that's his most significant legacy.
Now, if -- if you're of that position, it's a very positive legacy; if you're of my position, it's not a positive legacy,
but -- but his role was absolutely very, very significant in that regard.
The -- his role with the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was very significant, too, as was mine,
so I would say it was equal to my role.
That both of us really did the work that had to be done in that particular instance.
There's facets of this I'm very proud of, and I'm sure he can look at facets that he is.
I'm very proud of the fact that, in an earlier piece of legislation, I filibustered the power of the Federal Government to control the Native lands after the --
after the Claims Act was passed, or the money.
And I -- that made the Natives much more independent.
And I was responsible for setting the stage for that.
Also, when I was the first to go for the 40 million acres, Ted came along with that after, and so that gave me some backing, and so did Wally Hickel at the time.
So that gave me some backing as I was reaching out there for a more aggressive position on behalf of the Natives.
The attitude I had -- and, of course, Ted was very, very good for the Natives.
In bringing back all this money through his efforts at the Appropriations Committee,
he was able to bring untold sums of money into the rural areas for Native health, Native education, so that would be a very, very significant part of his legacy.
No question about it. And that's an all positive legacy, as far as I'm concerned.
So no. Ted -- so people could clearly understand my position towards Ted:
One, I liked him personally as a human being. Two, I think he was an excellent legislator, far better than I was.
And -- but on the issues, I reserve the right to disagree wholeheartedly as to what's in the best interest of Alaska or the best interests of the nation,
but that does not diminish my respect for him as an individual legislator.
So that's essentially how I feel about him.
I -- I went to his internment, and -- well, because it was very significant.
And so I -- like I say, I held him in personal high esteem.
I could still disagree with him, but he was a significant leader in Alaska politics and Alaska public service.
KAREN BREWSTER: So what was it like to work with him together as two senators?
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: Well, when we were together on issues, it was easy.
You know, we gave full rein to our staffs to work together. In fact, our staffs always did work together.
When I went to Ted's internment in Arlington, because I lived right nearby,
Steve Silver who was his legislative assistant, who worked very closely with us on ANILCA legislation and other legislation, came over and introduced himself to me.
You know, he was a much older man, so was I.
So in fact, at the internment, several people came up and introduced themselves to me and said, "Hi, Senator," and including Cathy's brother and Cathy herself.
So it was a very moving experience because Ted had been a significant player in my political career, as I was in his.
The problem was -- well, not the problem, the benefit for Ted was after I left office, it was all harmonious sailing from a political point of view with Murkowski and the subsequent to that. So --
KAREN BREWSTER: So yeah, do you think the fact that you argued with him, he didn't like that because it reflected negatively for his career?
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: I think to some degree, it did, because he heard an alternative; but after I was gone, there was no alternative,
Stevens's word was Stevens's word.
He was Uncle Ted, you know, he brought home the bacon. That's all they cared about was bring home the money.
Well, there's more to it in human governance than bringing home the bacon. More to it.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, Stevens has his public persona that Alaskans know about and the nation knows about, but you knew him on a personal level.
Things about him that we wouldn't know about him that we should know about him?
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: He -- well, I think what you should know is that on a personal basis, Ted was very caring.
You know, one of the great joys of being a senator, and I enjoyed it very much, was the casework that you did.
You know, people would have a problem and they'd contact you, and either they didn't get their Social Security check or they didn't get their this or that.
You know, I get people that come up to me today in Alaska when I'm there, in fact, this last trip,
a couple came up to me and said, you know -- she was part of the Dayton family out in Unalakleet, she says,
"You're responsible for getting my brother out of the service to come home."
And they were so touched by it.
Well, I didn't remember the incident, but I do remember that a lot of times my staff would tell me, okay, we're doing this for this person, call them up on the telephone.
So I'd call them up on the telephone and say, "Okay. We've finally solved this problem for you." And you would hear the emotion at the other end.
Well, I found that extremely rewarding. I know that Ted did, too.
Ted had a very, very good -- and I did, too -- a very good personal service facet of the office, and I'm sure that that gave Ted as much pleasure as it gave me.
But so Ted, what's not known, no, Ted hurt his national reputation by his tirades, his conduct on the Floor of the Senate, which was uncalled for.
Threatening other members of the Senate.
The other members didn't -- you know, they let it just slip off their back, but the media didn't.
And then, of course, when the investigation started about his problems with real estate in Alaska and the fishing boat and the whole host of other areas,
the media, which did not -- the national media, which did not take kindly to him, obviously did a job on him.
In fact, the Los Angeles Times did a big investigation of both him and, of course, the State Legislature.
And then, of course, the State Legislature turned out to be very corrupt, selling their votes to Allen and company.
So it's just -- it's a very sad part of -- of his career, it really is.
And it colors his historic position, but -- but he does have an historic position in Alaska.
And from a personal point of view, one on one, very decent fellow. Very decent fellow.
KAREN BREWSTER: Despite the arguing with you SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: Oh, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: -- and the name calling and all that.
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: Well, the name calling was more the media blowing that up.
They -- the media sells papers with controversy. You don't sell papers with harmony.
So -- so no, we were a natural for the -- for the Alaska media, and somewhat the national media.
But the national media didn't cover our controversies like that, that was primarily in Alaska, because the media was pro-Stevens.
And this was a way of sticking it to me, so...
MARY ANNE HAMBLEN: What would you say Stevens's greatest disappointment would have been?
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: The tail end of his life being indicted and convicted.
There's no question that would have been the greatest disappointment of his life.
He handled it, I thought, extremely well.
You know, he was in a terrible personal situation and handled it admirably.
He didn't go hide and sulk, he stood there and took it and fought it.
And had the best attorney in the Washington area to fight it with, but -- but that would -- that clearly had to be his biggest disappointment.
And probably his biggest personal disappointment that his son,
who had been president of the Senate, was also under investigation and could have been prosecuted.
So -- so I think when -- when the whole Stevens prosecution was thrown out that it was also thrown out for his son, too.
So Eric Holder did him a great service.
And I'm convinced that that happened because, what with the nature of the infractions done by the prosecutors was not a big deal,
I'm convinced it happened because Stevens was so popular in the Senate,
that I'm sure that a lot of senators went to Obama and said, "Look at, the guy's been punished enough, let him off the hook, he's in his mid 80s, drop the whole thing,"
and that's what Eric Holder did, dropped it,
and I'm convinced it was because people in the Senate who went to the President and asked him to drop it,
including, I'm sure, Ted Kennedy and others that used their influence to get the Justice Department to drop the whole issue.
And I'm glad they did drop the whole issue.
You know, at that age, incarcerating Ted would have been -- it would have been ridiculous. Ridiculous.
But unfortunately, he did break the law, and -- and that's a legacy that will be part of his legacy.
MARY ANNE HAMBLEN: What do you consider your legacy to be from your years as Alaska's Senator?
SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL: The first and foremost, the Alaska Pipeline.
Secondly, and on a par equally from a world point of view, in fact, more important was my legacy with respect to the whole nuclear critique because that affected the world.
You know, and I tried to organize that. I had been to Sweden and got them to cut back on the nuclear power plants they were going to build.
And so it would be that.
From Alaska, it would be my role with the Native Claims Act.
From Alaska, my role with ANILCA, though I failed, I felt that is part of my legacy in that regard.
The release of the Pentagon Papers, which was more of a national issue, was fighting the war.
And here, too, Ted had a difference, he supported the Vietnam War, but not in a national leadership role.
He didn't step out on that.
And I don't know if it was out of deference that I was so far out on that, I just don't know, but we never had a quarrel over the Vietnam War.
And so that would be the elements of my legacy:
The nuclear, the Pentagon Papers, the Alaska Claims Settlement Act, the effort I made with the Law of the Sea, which brought -- brought some things forward.
Oh, one issue that we didn't talk about, which was the Panama Canal.