Today begins a series of campaign speech transcripts from each of the Democratic candidates for president. [Today also begins my vacation... but more about that in a minute.]
Time was when every candidate for president was taken seriously by this country's media. Their words were analyzed and reported in full, so that the American public could gauge for themselves what each candidate stood for, and what each would do if subsequently elected. Back then, the media considered it "newsworthy" to report what the candidates actually said.
Alas, in today's world, there are seemingly just two types of campaign stories: the horserace, and the "gotcha!" gimmick.
The horserace stories are focused entirely upon the national poll numbers. No matter that with our convoluted state-by-state primary system (and our even more convoluted electoral college system) national polls are all but meaningless; reporters everywhere seem only concerned with these numbers. Who is up five points in the polls? Who is down this week? Forests full of trees die, and barrels full of ink are spilled, in order to print stories that are largely meaningless in the grand scheme of things -- but nobody in the media seems to notice, or care. Americans are (in essence) told who to vote for... and who does not stand a chance... all on the basis of what 1,000 (or so) poll respondents have to say on the matter.
The "gotcha!" gimmickry stories are even worse. The best example of this in recent memory was the "Dean scream." Howard Dean gave a passionate speech to a crowd of people and got a bit exuberant at the end. The recordings of his "Yeeaaahh!" at the end of this address were made by a microphone that did not pick up the ambient din of noise in the room, and Dean came off looking like some sort of nut job. His candidacy effectively ended at that moment.
This is due to the fact that reporters who follow candidates along the campaign trail get extremely bored hearing what is basically the same speech being given over and over again by whatever candidate they're following. Because they're so bored with the candidate's "stump speech," they figure everyone in America is just as bored by the same speech -- so they live in perpetual anticipation of some sort of gaffe from the candidate which they can then report as "breaking news" in order to score a juicy scoop for themselves.
Both of these reporting styles disgust me no end. There ought to be a better way to select the leader of our country, or even of one party's candidate for the election. This type of thing has revolted me for years, but now I actually have the opportunity to do something about it.
So, starting today and for the next eight weekdays, I am going to reprint -- in full -- speeches from each and every candidate for the Democratic nomination for president. I believe that each candidate can express in their own words what their candidacy is all about and why you should be convinced to vote for them. I trust in the intelligence of the American public, and their ability to sort out which person would be the best suited for the job -- and so I present the candidates (in their own words) to you, the electorate. Because no matter how many live speeches the candidates give -- no matter how many pancake breakfasts they attend or how many high-priced fundraisers they address -- the simple mathematical fact is that the overwhelming majority of voters will never get to hear a single candidate speak. But that doesn't have to mean that you shouldn't get the opportunity to compare the candidates side-by-side as if you had attended their speeches. So I am providing this series of speech transcripts as a public service for voters everywhere.
The candidates speak, you decide.
As it should be.
A few technical notes are in order here. All of the campaigns were contacted weeks ago and given exactly the same opportunity -- to provide a speech transcript and the permission for me to reprint it. Each campaign was told that they were in complete control of speech selection -- whichever speech they felt was the best to present their candidate would be used.
The speeches are presented here in the order in which I received them. All the campaigns were contacted on the same day initially, which gave every campaign equal opportunity to get a speech transcript back to me. Although the campaigns which responded earlier are being given more prominent placement, this should in no way indicate each campaign's willingness to reach out to the online community. Some campaigns are busier than others. And some are more efficient than others. So don't read too much into the order the speeches are presented here.
There is a speech transcript from every single Democratic candidate running for president, with the exception of Dennis Kucinich. When contacted, his campaign told me that he always speaks extemporaneously, without notes. This is a monumental achievement for a modern politician, it should be noted... but it also left me without a speech from him to run. So I bent the rules a little, and (with his campaign's permission) ran a position paper from his website instead of a speech, and provided links to his site where there are video and audio versions of him speaking, for those interested.
I did this entire exercise without prejudice for where candidates stood in the polls, and am proud to have provided an equal platform for ALL the candidates to reach you.
All of the speeches are reproduced without adding or subtracting anything from the speech text at all. I corrected a typo here and there to make them read easier (and then I informed the campaigns of all such typo corrections), but other than that, no editing was done. Formatting was (obviously) done to present all the speeches in the same page style, but the speeches themselves are run in full and complete, with no condensing or cutting whatsoever.
I promised each of the campaigns that all their speeches would be presented without any editorial commentary by me -- and so the speech itself is the entire article each day. The only thing I have added to the speeches is a photograph of the candidate at the top, and a link to the campaign's website... for your convenience.
Many of these speeches were provided with the caveat: "Remarks as prepared for delivery" -- which means that these are the notes the candidate used to deliver the speech itself, and not an actual transcript of what they said. In other words, if you view a videotape or listen to an audio recording of their actual speeches from that day, a word or two (here and there) that the candidate actually spoke may be different from the speech's text as provided. I consider these minor deviations from the speech as originally written, and not worth checking. Some may argue this point, but I feel it is splitting hairs. The candidates approved these speeches as written, and if they added an "um" or otherwise verbally stumbled upon actual delivery, I consider it not worth noting. One of the campaigns provided me a transcript of the speech with "[Applause]" markers, but I have removed those (and noted it at the bottom of the speech, complete with a link to the full unexpurgated text), because I thought it unfair for one candidate's speech to point out where people had applauded without marking all the speeches in this fashion (which I did not have time to do).
All of these speeches will only be available from my own blog at www.chrisweigant.com, at the rate of one each weekday morning. This is because I cannot post in advance at the Huffington Post, but I am able to do so at my own site. I apologize for the inconvenience for Huffington Post regular readers, but then again, I did mention that I will be on vacation while this series runs.
I must also apologize (in advance) if the process of posting these speeches does not go smoothly, as I will be outside the country and unable to reliably access the internet in my travels while this series of speeches runs. When I go on vacation, I go on vacation. In other words, my site is "on autopilot" until the week after Thanksgiving, and if anything goes wrong... well... it's just going to have to go kerblooey. Sorry about that. Also, obviously, there will be no "Friday Talking Points" column from me for the next two weeks as well.
Each speech will be presented daily at 9:00 AM, East Coast time (6:00 AM, Pacific Coast time). Starting with Senator Dodd's speech today, every Democratic campaign will attempt to reach you, the voter, by way of a campaign speech selected -- by them -- to present their candidate in the best possible light.
I must say that what surprised me most about the process of compiling these speeches is that I appear to be the only journalist making this attempt. Time after time, I was struck by the campaigns' astonishment (even from the frontrunners) at anyone asking for a simple speech transcript. What this told me was the fact that nobody else -- nobody in the entire universe of media requests -- is asking for the same thing. If this were a common request of the press offices of these campaigns, then they would have at their fingertips a standard response to such a request, and a standard speech transcript to offer up. What I actually found was -- time and time again -- a press office who viewed such a request as an aberration in the standard media atmosphere of the campaign. This should be a signal that the mainstream media is not even interested in what the actual candidates have to say, and is a sad commentary on the entire mediaverse.
This is why I break ranks with my brethren and sistren in the media, and offer up -- instead of their pre-digested pap -- the actual thoughts and words of the candidates running for the Democratic nomination for president. I consider this a public service to all American voters.
I invite you to bookmark my site and read each speech as it appears each morning for the next week and a half -- and while doing so, keep an open mind about each candidate. Allow them to speak to you as if you were actually attending one of their live speeches. Whether their words convince you or repel you, I strongly feel that this is one of the best ways you can evaluate all the candidates in turn.
Tune out the yammering voices in the mainstream media telling you who is the frontrunner and who doesn't have a chance. Give each candidate an equal opportunity to make their case. Because that's really the only way to become an informed voter, and make a choice that you won't regret later on.
Call me a starry-eyed idealist, but that's what democracy is supposed to be all about.
Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
where this speech series will run every morning for the next eight weekdays.