One of my favorite presidential traditions is the weekly radio address, a practice revived by President Nixon and carried on today. Bush treats them like homework, but in the hands of a natural politician like Reagan or Clinton, the short speeches are an inspired throwback to the days when Americans hovered around the family Victrola to hear FDR's historic fireside chats.
Every Saturday afternoon, the president delivers a short address followed by a response from a member of the opposition party. Both can be heard on C-Span Radio beginning at around 2:50 p.m. Eastern time, and they're also carried by some radio stations around the country.
The president's speeches are archived on the White House site and often make news.
The Democrats occasionally grab headlines with their speech, such as when an Iraq War veteran in May criticized the government for the lack of body armor, but for the most part they're a missed opportunity. There's no archive on the Web, as far as I can tell, and no publicity aside from a press release on PR Newswire.
I've attached the audio to this weblog entry as an enclosure, which you can download automatically using a news aggregator that supports podcasts.
A transcript of his remarks:
Good morning. This is Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus.
Allow me to pause for a moment to speak on behalf of all Democrats in expressing our deep condolences for the terrible loss of life in South Asia due to the massive earthquakes and tsunami this week. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families, and all Americans stand ready to work quickly to provide the appropriate assistance to help with this enormous tragedy.
These events remind us as we embark on this New Year of what is most important to each of us. New Year's follows our nation's most reflective and redemptive season -- Christmas for many of us, Kwanzaa for some, and others, Hanukkah. Regardless of what we call it, it's a period of rededication to the principles and various faiths that make us who and what we are.
As a new Congress convenes this month and President Bush is inaugurated for a second term, we must remain steadfast in our support of those who have been placed in harm's way defending this nation's honor. And we must be resolved in our stewardship of the values that make us Americans. We can do this by making, and keeping, a few New Year's resolutions.
First, President Bush and this new Congress must resolve to adequately equip our fighting men and women. Our soldiers should never want for proper equipment and accurate intelligence. Their patriotism and sacrifice should never be doubted or compromised. And they and their families should always be treated with dignity, respect, and fairness. Our first responders, who are the frontline defenders of our homeland, should also receive proper support and due deference. That was not always the case last year, and we must do better by those who provide for our safety and security this year.
Second, this new Congress and President Bush should resolve to give renewed hope and confidence to our future generations. It violates the basic tenets of our nation's values to saddle our children with unparalleled debt and unprecedented deficits, while underfunding 'No Child Left Behind' -- shortchanging our children's education and leaving millions of them behind. And we need to make a college education more affordable, not cut student loans and Pell Grants.
It is unacceptable that nearly 13 million American children live in poverty and 8.4 million have no health insurance. We must do more to lift the poor into the middle class and to extend health insurance to parents and children.
Finally, the President and Congress should resolve to keep faith with those whose blood, sweat, and tears have provided us with a country worth fighting for. Our seniors and vulnerable neighbors deserve better than the politics of fear that is being heaped upon them.
A surprising number of people view Social Security as only a retirement benefit. In fact, Social Security pays more benefits to children than any other program. Social Security also pays survivors' benefits and helps the disabled. It is a safety net for many of our nation's most vulnerable citizens. To jeopardize the solvency of this resoundingly successful program by gambling Social Security benefits on the stock market is a risk that President Bush and this Congress should resolve to avoid.
Democrats are resolved to protect Social Security and we will continue to do so. Our New Partnership for America's Future reaffirms our commitment to a strong and well-funded national security force, prosperity at home, fairness to all and opportunity for everyone. We are resolute in our pursuit of safe and secure communities, and accountability in government.
We call upon President Bush and the Republican leadership in Congress to join us in this new covenant with the American people.
This has been Congressman Jim Clyburn, Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus. I wish you and yours a safe, secure, and prosperous New Year, and I thank you for listening.
As I said in the podcast, I have no idea how to properly encode audio, which I'm attempting in Cool Edit 2000. Technical advice from sound geeks would be appreciated.