Opinion: C-SPAN: This program lasts 31 years, with no end in sight


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One of America’s greatest living treasures is about to turn 31.

It’s not a he. Nor a she. It’s an it. C-SPAN, which is short for something like Cripes, Some Politicians Are Numb. (See video samples below; these may take a moment to load.)

For the last 11,320 days, this public service of the cable TV industry has provided priceless outlets and insights (even sometimes on the Democratic line) for millions of Americans watching, processing, learning and judging their government and its political processes at work. Or at least talking a lot.


While the rest of Washington yadas on like a bunch of chugging crazies on spring break, C-SPAN provides a priceless sense of serenity amid the nation’s political storms.

Yes, C-SPAN can be annoyingly calm at times, as if its announcers took twice the recommended dose of meds and don’t realize that total political chaos reigns everywhere outside that studio. “Well, if Iran does launch nuclear Armageddon, do you think the evangelicals will still be a serious force in the 2012 Iowa caucuses?”

On Wednesday, in honor of its official birthday Friday, C-SPAN will announce the opening of ...

... a free, searchable, online video archive of every C-SPAN program since 1987. More than 160,000 hours of digital video. Like home movies for D.C. denizens. Imagine being able to look up and watch a specific speaker at a specific committee hearing on a specific day in 1993.

Or imagine getting a life.

This new resource will also be a boon to opposition political researchers, who will now be able to document on video every single word, uhh and twitch of every potential candidate back into the last century.

Starting this week, for absolutely no cost to you, you’ll be able to get some of C-SPAN’s greatest hits! You’ll get President George W. Bush announcing the capture of Saddam Hussein. You’ll get President Reagan’s farewell speech from the Oval Office. And you’ll get Sen. Trent Lott’s oops remarks at Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday party.


But, wait! There’s more! If you order now, for no extra cost, you can watch Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer fall off the stage while flipping pancakes in New Hampshire:

And today only we’ll throw in a copy of Al Gore’s second and final election concession to Bush in 2000, even before the ex-vice president invented global warming:

And who can forget after the Republican revolution of 1994, the immortal words of outgoing House Speaker Richard Gephardt turning the gavel over to Newt Gingrich, saying, “With resignation but with resolve, I hereby end 40 years of Democratic rule of this House”:

The C-SPAN archive has 1987 video of Reagan welcoming to the White House Mikhail Gorbachev, who was head of something called the Soviet Union, now a deceased state:

And then there was the unexpected appearance at a 1995 Republican congressional caucus of “Saturday Night Live” comedian Chris Farley, now also deceased, impersonating Gingrich to his face:

But wait, there’s even more. C-SPAN has a store selling scruffy C-SPAN teddy bears (Caution to parents on the conservative line: The bears come without pants.) And the C-SPAN store even sells C-SPAN umbrellas for seriously addicted C-SPAN viewers with leaky roofs.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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