C-SPAN hit a milestone this week, marking 35 years of live television coverage of the House of Representatives. To celebrate, the network put out videos and photos of a big moment from each and every year. Many of the folks featured are still part of the political conversation. And some of them are still having the same conversations.
Here are five of our favorites:
Rep. Al Gore, D-Tenn., was C-SPAN’s first talker when live gavel-to-gavel coverage began on April 19, 1979. “Television will change this institution, Mr. Speaker, just as it has changed the executive branch, but the good will far outweigh the bad,” Gore said, addressing the chamber and House Speaker Tip O’Neill. “I hope, for example, that the leadership of the United States Senate will see this as a friendly challenge to begin to open their proceedings,” he said, before getting cut off because his time had expired.
In 1985, the C-SPAN cameras captured Rep. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., back before she was elected to the Senate, giving an impassioned speech on why the U.S. should not be aiding the Contras in Nicaragua. “Our president calls these Contras ‘freedom fighters,’” Boxer began, before going into graphic details of the Contras' killing of a pregnant civilian. “Let us not have the blood of the innocent on our hands,” she said.
Another veep-in-training, Rep. Dick Cheney, R-Wyo., made the C-SPAN top hits in 1987. Cheney was the ranking Republican on the House Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions and was trying to close the book on the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s.
In 1992, a baby-faced Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, just one year into his congressional tenure, complained about Congress’ low approval ratings in light of the Congressional Post Office scandal. “Congress today stands in the lowest esteem in the history of polling in this country,” Boehner announced. “And why? Because the American people look at us as ineffective and unaccountable.” His future self is probably wishing for those approval ratings today.
Last but not least, in 1996, Rep. Joe Scarborough, R-Fla., now a host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” took his Harry Potter glasses with him to the floor and complained about President Bill Clinton during one of the government shutdowns of the 1990s. “This truly is the do-nothing president,” Scarborough said. “We are going to balance this budget with or without him.”