Notes: The Speech

For political strategists, one of the newest weapons in the quest to understand how Americans react to candidates and their ideas is a personal computer that measures an audience’s response instantly and then calculates changes from second to second. Proponents of the system say that the device can produce the sort of fast, detailed information that candidates and their consultants have craved.

—The New York Times

MAYOR CLARK, Sheriff Ogilvie, my fellow Americans: I come before you today here in lovely Torpedos County as a candidate for the nation’s highest office. And I want to talk about an issue that deeply worries everyone in this community—the troubled state of America’s farm economy.

Friends, I can tell from my . . . from your faces that this country’s farm problems don’t bother you in the least. But they are a frightening symptom of the nation’s larger economic malaise. This may also, I am willing to concede, be of no more than passing concern, but it directly affects America’s conduct of foreign policy in places as diverse as Afghanistan, Central America, the Philippines, and the Middle East. It is becoming clear that . . . indeed, it is now quite clear that you don’t care about any of these places, and yet the way in which our great party—a party that, I feel constrained to admit, also has its share of flaws; even, dare I say?, even, let me be the first to say, gross defects—the way in which this party has been handling such difficult global issues could mean the difference between the re-election of local officeholders like Sheriff Ogilvie, who has admirably served this community for seventeen . . . between the defeat of Sheriff Ogilvie, who in seventeen years has branded many in this room with the grim stamp of oppression, and the election of a far better candidate. Ours is, we all must recognize, an interdependent world (applause).

Friends, I’d like to seize this opportunity to dwell on the deeper moral issues—abortion, pornography, prayer in the schools—that trouble everyone in this audience, although apparently not that much. And so I will be blunt: environmental issues are of as much concern to me as they are to you. Let us talk, therefore, about arms control. Let us quickly go on to nuclear waste. And let us skip over welfare, hospital-cost containment, and trade with Canada. For I want to talk to you today about tax reform. And I think I can say without fear of contradiction that the time for such talk has passed (applause).

We were discussing protectionism. In that connection I’d like to touch on Third World debt—and I guess I just have. The challenges posed by the European Economic Community are enormous. And yet what about acid rain? It may fall faraway and much to the north, but . . . and that is a good thing. The federal deficit, on the other hand, falls heavily on us all. The deficit doesn’t interest you a bit, I sense, and yet our indebtedness is deep, as deep as the swiftly running waters of the Rio Torpedos will be when harnessed behind the new dam. I have grave reservations about this project, which will drive many valley residents from the homes they have . . . from the ramshackle eyesores that have been a source of embarrassment to many of you in Hillside for more than a century. And so I say, dam the Torpedos, full speed ahead (applause).

Ladies and gentlemen, we have looked the tough issues square in the face. But the real issue in any campaign comes down, of course, to character. Thank you, and good night (standing ovation).

—Cullen Murphy