Bill Bradley
Bill Bradley; drawing by David Levine


Senator Bradley’s reflections on his life in politics inspire the same exasperated affection as the Senator himself—ungrudging affection for the man and exasperation with the politician. The book exudes decency, honesty, and a deep love of his country, but liberals longing to be led into battle will not find their general in these pages. They will hear no battle cries and will have their blood stirred by no trumpets. Whatever else it may be, Time Present, Time Past is neither the centrist Democrat’s counter to Colin Powell’s autobiography, nor an ideological riposte to Newt Gingrich and To Renew America. It is a wholly admirable book, and a pretty depressing one.

The Senator’s reflections on politics are subtle and complex; his view of himself is wry and self-deprecating. It is impossible not to like him, and hard not to admire most of what he has struggled to achieve in the Senate.1 But it is awfully easy to wish he had more of the passionate intensity that the worst are notoriously full of. He takes too little pleasure in demolishing his opponents, and has too good a memory for defeats, whether in basketball or in politics—his little Crystal City high school didn’t quite make it to the state finals; his Princeton team lost to Michigan after he fouled out; he is leaving the Senate without having got 1.3 million acres of the Black Hills of South Dakota back into the hands of the Sioux who used to own them.

The habit of self-deprecation has some payoffs. Anyone who watched Bradley’s desperate attempts at levity in his speech at the 1992 Democratic Convention that denounced the way George Bush had “waffled, wiggled and wavered” will have longed to know what its author was up to. Now we know. He has never been able to speak in public. “My ability as a public speaker was comparable to the rhetorical skills of an inmate of Madame Tussaud’s wax museum,” he says. As a famous basketball player he was much in demand on the lunch circuits, and performed happily enough; though even then, he recalls, “My college-basketball coach would say to me when we left an engagement that the audience had laughed at my jokes because of who I was, not because the jokes were any good.” Even when promoting his book on the talk-show circuit, spontaneity does not come easily; he tells the same stories every time, and they are the ones he has written out in Time Present, Time Past. Political speech-making has always been a particular agony. In his first years in the Senate he read all his speeches—including one “real snoozer” of forty-seven pages.

For his Madison Square Garden speech in 1992, he took advice from voice coaches; he rehearsed for hours, and then found himself on the platform facing a noisy demonstration from supporters of Jerry Brown chanting “Let Jerry speak” all the way through his speech. He gave his usual wooden performance. Kindly commentators said it would read better than it sounded—and they were right. It read well, and it still does; it was a decent, humane, and touching appeal to the American people to grow up, to stop whining, and to start caring for one another. Indeed, the speech contained essentially the same message as Time Present, Time Past. The only thing wrong was that its author couldn’t move his audience in the way Jesse Jackson or Bill Clinton could.

Writing his book is evidently part of a process of deciding whether to make a run for the White House. Although Senator Bradley rules out nothing, the odds must be heavily against it. He seems to have concluded not only that he is too boring a speaker, too private a person, and too unambitious a politician to have a real chance at the nomination, but that politics as currently conducted is no occupation for a decent person. The public is irritable and irrational, the constant chasing after campaign contributions is corrupting, the press and television reporting is intrusive and cynical, the political parties have been hijacked by special interests and ideological extremists, and are incapable of pursuing genuinely national goals. The Democrats were once the party of the underdog, and had a vision of a better society; now, they are the slaves of the assorted interest groups spawned by forty years of a Democratic Congress.

Bradley doesn’t ask whether things are worse than they were in the Gilded Age or in the 1920s or 30s. Nor, less forgivably, does he stop to wonder whether the evils he complains of have been made worse by the effort to run a modern, industrialized society covering most of a continent on the basis of political institutions designed for a tiny, agrarian society on the eastern seaboard. He has many virtues, but political imagination is not one of them. Some exasperated readers will think that a bit of historical perspective would have stopped Bradley—as it might have stopped Senators Nunn, Kassebaum, and Cohen—from so precipitately heading for the exit this year. Whether or not that might be so, someone who emphasizes the attractions of “the big picture” in the way Bradley does could have paid attention to the ways in which the American Constitution tempts legislators to prefer sectional interests to the national interest, and makes the rehabilitation of the inner city harder than in most comparable nations. A system that makes the proposition that “all politics is local” something of a truism is not one in which it is easy to get everyone lined up behind an agreed view of the national interest.


Conversely, had he been looking for reasons not to despair, he could also have noticed how American politics enforces compromise. Even with the White House occupied by a president whose instinct is to surrender at the first shot, the Republican revolution is getting nowhere. This is not an accident. The American political system was created to be as unlike the British political system as possible; power was intended to be dispersed. In 1787, George III loomed large in the founders’ minds. Today, we can contrast the ease with which Mrs. Thatcher sustained her autocratic rule and the very partial successes of Speaker Gingrich. Until the cabinet, the electorate, the Conservative Party, and the much put-upon Sir Geoffrey Howe all rebelled simultaneously, Mrs. Thatcher could ram whatever she chose through the British parliament. The slow, clogged, veto-infested American system extinguishes firebrands and smoothes the abrasive. The features that enrage reformers on the left also frustrate self-proclaimed revolutionaries on the right. Bradley has drawn criticism from people who thought he should have dug in for a long fight against the Republican counterrevolution, and he says little here to suggest they are wrong.

It would be ungracious not to enjoy what we do get from Senator Bradley, and worse than ungracious not to praise the intelligence and humanity of his views, especially on race relations on the one hand and the anxieties of the hard-pressed middle class on the other. Introspective as the book is, it is also wonderfully informative about the everyday life of the Senate, and equally, if more depressingly, informative about the everyday ups and downs of the politician’s life. If you want to know how to get a bill passed, you will find out here; if you want to know what senators really mind about—office space and precedence mostly—Bradley is your man. Nor is he sentimental about the senatorial life. The introspective air that pervades the book doesn’t come from Bradley wondering whether he has done the right thing in quitting: he seems to have no regrets about getting out. He seems more puzzled by having got in and stayed in so long.

He began, after all, in a small town in Missouri. His parents were deeply, if unaggressively, conservative and Republican. Though his father was the president of a small bank and a local civic figure of some substance, there was little about Crystal City to suggest that young Bill would someday become a Democratic senator from the bustling, overcrowded, chaotically multi-ethnic and multi-racial state of New Jersey. Still, the town’s Democratic book took an interest in young Bradley. Ed Eversole was a caricature of a stereotype: “a capacious face with a large nose, reddened cheeks, and eyes that were often bloodshot. He gave the profession of politics an air of intrigue and corruption.” But Bradley had no need to follow his advice to start at the bottom with a run for the Crystal City town council. After his years with the Knicks, he had the money and the name recognition to start at the top with a run for the Senate in 1978. With his campaign in the capable hands of Susan Thomases, he won easily.

In 1984, he won reelection even more easily, but in 1990 he was the target of the New Jersey voters’ fury at the tax increase of the Democratic governor Jim Florio, and barely squeaked home against the previously unknown Christie Whitman. It was that rather than the arrival of the fire-eating Republican freshmen that decided him against running this November. But his account of the causes of his troubles will fuel the doubts of his critics. First, he says that Florio had been “cynical” in denying while he was running for governor that any tax increase was necessary and then pushing the largest increase in state history through the legislature upon arrival. A page later, he suggests that the real cynic in the case was the previous governor, “the popular Tom Kean,” whose wild over-optimism about the state’s economic prospects had left a “grossly unbalanced” budget for his successor to clear up. Does that mean Bradley thought Florio was right after all? Well, not exactly. “At the same time, to support the tax increase would have been not just highly unpopular but contrary to the tax principles (lower rates and fewer loopholes) I had espoused over twelve years.” Even Bradley must surely have wondered whether “tax principles” would have filled the sort of deficit that Florio found waiting for him. Florio’s vice was rashness, just as Bradley’s is caution.


About his Senate career, Bradley has mixed sensations. He prides himself less than one might expect on the tax reform of 1986. That it was a good thing, he has no doubt. Both fairness and efficiency demand a system that ensures that people with the same incomes pay much the same taxes, and the bill eliminated some of the most flagrant tax loopholes. Still, it wasn’t like winning the World Championship with the Knicks; once they’d won that it stayed won. The tax act was a momentary triumph that has been repealed in slow motion ever since.

But here, too, Bradley is somewhat at odds with himself. He complains at length that the Democrats had no idea how to cope with Reagan. For twenty years, Democrats haven’t known how to say that for many purposes, action by the federal government is essential, and for others quite unnecessary, and that where it is essential, it should be efficient. They have trailed along in the Republicans’ wake, agreeing, as President Clinton did in his recent State of the Union address, that “big government” is a bad thing, and giving the impression that they differ from the Republicans only in favoring a different set of interest groups. But if that is Bradley’s complaint, “low tax rates and fewer loopholes” misses the point. Americans already pay low taxes; they also get very poor value for them. It’s the second point that reformers should keep their minds on. Whether the public can be persuaded to think sensibly about what it pays in total for all the services it asks for is anybody’s guess, but the time has surely come to try. To complain about low tax rates plays into the hands of people like Gramm and Forbes.

Bradley prides himself on his work on environmental protection. Connoisseurs of the legislative process will much enjoy his account of the three-year battle to bring some sense into the pricing of water provided under the California Central Valley Project (CVP). The squeamish will remember Jefferson’s advice about not looking too closely at the process of making law or sausage. The CVP has long been used as a device for siphoning taxes from the nation at large into the pockets of Californian agribusiness. According to current projections only 6 percent of its $83.7 billion cost will have been paid back by 2030, seventy years after it was completed. To do anything about this, Bradley had to take on the California political establishment.

Governor Wilson supports welfare reform, and wants the poor to fend for themselves, but his business allies are another matter. As Bradley notes, “Conservative businessmen had become accustomed to federal subsidies. They were as dependent as some welfare mothers, and they were afraid of the market. With so much at stake, they played politics for keeps.” A three-year slogging match led to a bill that at last allowed water to be transferred out of the Central Valley to urban regions, began to set more sensible prices for water for agricultural purposes, and put in place a few incentives for conservation. Admiration for the Senator’s hard work is somewhat tempered by the thought that the American political system must surely be due for an overhaul when it takes so much effort to achieve results that the environment ministry of any European state could put through in a matter of weeks.


Time Present, Time Past is long on personal anecdote, some of it charming, but most of it the material of campaign sermonizing. More interesting are the broader themes that Bradley broaches. He has two passions, one familiar and utterly sensible proposal for reform, and one considerable weakness. His greatest passion is for racial fairness. This goes very deep indeed. It began back in his schooldays when the Crystal City high school basketball team, integrated since the early 1950s, found itself staying in crummy hotels because the decent hotels wouldn’t admit black schoolboys, and couldn’t get served food in still segregated Arkansas towns. His years with the Knicks turned this hostility to prejudice into real hatred of racial injustice. His black teammates were, he still believes, better players than he, but it was he who got the TV spots. They were cheered inside Madison Square Garden, then ignored by taxi drivers outside and jeered by passers-by for their pains.

Bradley won’t apologize for the brutishness among inner-city black youths, and won’t defend the Democrats’ self-destructive impulse to conciliate all the special interests that have grown up around the welfare state. The religious strain that is never far from the surface of Bradley’s thinking emerges when he broods on the meaninglessness of the lives of black teen-age men. If you go to a meeting of inner-city teen-agers and ask if any of the young men are “fathers,” never a hand goes up; ask if any of them have “made a baby,” and the hands go up at once. Unlike the purest believers in “values,” however, he has the sense to see that people don’t acquire the Protestant commitment to self-control, hard work, and deferred gratification by being harangued by the likes of William Bennett.

I believe that through self-reliance, discipline, and determination a person can overcome virtually any obstacle, achieve any goal. But I can also imagine forces beyond your control—ill health, violent disaster, economic trauma—that overwhelm your prospects. While conservatives preach the sufficiency of self-help, urban schools become warehouses rather than places to learn, black infant-mortality rates and black unemployment rates skyrocket, and a generation is lost to guns in the streets.

Repressing violence requires more police on the streets and more effective penal methods; better education means better schools and more accountable administrators; and, above all else, jobs are needed. At a time when everyone else seems to be running away from the issue, Bradley defends affirmative action in unabashedly old-fashioned language; no, we mustn’t appoint the unqualified, but we should go out of our way to find qualified people among the unadvantaged. If alumni and athletic preference is acceptable in college admissions, so is affirmative action for minorities. I wish he had said that alumni and athletic preference is wicked—and affirmative action a necessary piece of social engineering.

He sees how racial tensions are exacerbated by economic competition. If hard-up working-class white people see themselves losing out to their black competitors, they fall easy prey to the racial demagoguery of the likes of Jesse Helms. If they saw the world more clearly, they’d see that “government mismanagement of the economy or companies that fire workers for short-term boosts to the bottom line” are far more likely to cost them their jobs than any affirmative action policy. This connects to Bradley’s other passionate insight: economic insecurity afflicts so many Americans that they’ve lost the old confidence that the country could deliver a secure and comfortable life for anyone prepared to work hard and play by the rules. This makes politics, nastier than it ought to be, but is anyway a violation of the American dream.

The insecurity that provokes this anxiety is not something new in the history of industrial capitalism, but the form it has begun to take is novel. If the most passionate pages of Time Present, Time Past are about race on the one hand, and the corrupting effect of money on American politics on the other, the most interesting are about the fading of the American dream. The Senator has taken the measure of the changes caused by “lean production” and “reengineering” described in Simon Head’s recent essay in these pages2 , and his discussion of the problems they pose is as intelligently anxious as anything in the book. It helps that he is a good enough historian to know that since the very beginning of the industrial revolution technological change has frightened not only workers but economists as well. David Ricardo’s Principles of Economics of 1821 contained a famous chapter on “machinery,” in which the late twentieth century’s problem was precisely set out. New machinery improves productivity. The economy as a whole benefits from greater production. But this is of no interest to the displaced worker, who only loses from the change. The question is not whether new technology is a good thing from the point of view of the economy as a whole, but who gets to share in the added value, and how a satisfactory distribution of the spoils is to be achieved.

The unsentimental view of the task of trade unions that Samuel Gompers urged on the American Federation of Labor a hundred years ago answered just that question. They must not entertain visions of a socialist utopia, but get what they could out of capitalism. Unions were the answer. Employers needed cooperative workers; organized workers could sell that cooperation at a fair price. If they were unorganized, their employers would get all the benefit of increased productivity, and the workers none; organized, they would have the power to get everything their employers could afford to give them. Gompers had no interest in killing the capitalist goose, only in a share of the eggs. Bradley knows that it is no accident that as the wages of manual workers have stagnated the union movement has crumbled.

From 1962 to 1992, union membership dropped from 35 percent to 16 percent of all workers in America. Aggressive organizing in the public sector hid the fact that private-sector union membership had dropped to 11 percent and private-sector organizing had virtually disappeared. Computerization, foreign competition, Reagan’s economic politics, a hostile legal structure, the decline of labor’s idealism: all had taken their toll.

What is novel, and what unnerves Bradley is that the middle class is now suffering the effects of the “gales of creative destruction”3 that keep a capitalist economy growing. The newest of the new technologies are partly informational, and partly organizational. In the older version of industrial capitalism, skilled workers were vulnerable to replacement by machines; supervisors and managers on the whole were not. Today, computerization wipes out service jobs and the simpler managerial tasks overnight. Telephone operators vanish to be replaced by automated systems. In banking, insurance, and innumerable areas where there are settled routines for assessing risks and setting charges, software replaces people. The toll in layoffs is extraordinary.

Eighty-three thousand employees lost their jobs with AT&T between 1991 and 1995. Over the same period, IBM cut eighty-five thousand employees, NYNEX twenty-two thousand, Boeing thirty thousand, Union Carbide fourteen, GTE seventeen thousand, Bank of America twelve thousand, GM seventy-four thousand, Sears fifty thousand, Pacific Telesis ten thousand. One and a half million middle managers alone become victims of the information revolution.

Companies respond, not by altruistically sharing the benefits of greater productivity with their workers, or voluntarily assisting them to face the costs of dislocation, but by dreaming up new and improved ways of making themselves less vulnerable to their workers—production is “outsourced” to non-unionized plants, temporary workers replace permanent employees, putting white-collar workers for the first time in the same condition as casual laborers. Many societies could handle the resulting strains more easily than the United States. This country lacks a national health care system, it imposes no legal obligation on employers to provide their employees with portable pension rights, it has neither private nor public retraining schemes on any adequate scale, and it has notably stingy rules about unemployment benefits.

Cynics might say that the American middle class is now beginning to experience the economic insecurity that has always been the lot of the working class in most industrial countries. That, however, is exactly why Bradley discusses these issues in a chapter entitled “Promises to Keep.” The United States is the country where workers were promised that they could work their way out of the insecurity that afflicted their counterparts elsewhere. For the first thirty years after World War II, the promise was kept. A job at Ford or General Motors rewarded hard and not very interesting work with steadily rising wages, good benefits, and a decent pension. The implicit social contract between workers and owners was kept by both sides. And there was always the prospect of something better. Father might never get off the assembly line, but if they were bright and ambitious, his sons and daughters could look forward to leaving the working class for Harvard Business School or Yale Law School.

When we reach a situation in which the bottom 80 percent—not the underclass, but most of the population—sees itself struggling to make ends meet, sees no gains from increased productivity, and sees an elite creaming off all the benefits of a transformed economy, trouble looms. President Clinton expresses some surprise that he gets no credit for the fact the economy has grown steadily since he was elected; aside from the question whether he has in fact had much to do with its growth, the more fundamental point is that only the already rich have gained much from it. “Why this harsh treatment of the middle class?” asks Bradley. “The answer is simple—because they are weak and the boss is strong.”

This is not the prelude to a call for a middle-class insurrection. I suspect that he fears, among other things, the xenophobia and racism that populism all too readily stirs up in this country. In any case, he is clear in his own mind that the causes of depressed wages and job insecurity in the United States have little to do with the export of jobs to low-wage countries. Some jobs have gone that way, but nothing like as many as have fallen victim to the forces of technological change within the United States and to the processes of company re-engineering that have accompanied them. Nor does he think it’s possible to go back to the golden age of the blue-collar worker. The world has moved on since then; the world of the assembly line and the standardized mass-produced object is gone forever. Just-in-time production is the order of the day; customized production with a turn-around time of twenty-four hours is here to stay; American workers, whatever the color of their collars, have to find a satisfying role in the new world, not hanker after the old world.

The distinctive note that Senator Bradley strikes is one the reader might expect. The miseries of the present situation are not entirely financial. The misery of the world of “eat or be eaten” is not to be measured in income statistics. It is a moral disaster. The United States has always been built around a work ethic. We do not go to work only to earn an income, but to find meaning in our lives. What we do is a large part of who we are. To see ourselves as nothing more than a means to profits reaped by others is a blow to our self-respect. To be thrown out of work after twenty years with the same firm, as if we were of no more value than a piece of worn-out machinery is, indeed, to feel like a piece of junk. In the short run, a society that allows its economy to produce such resentments is a miserable place; in the long run, it is politically unstable and economically impossible.

What can be done about it? Senator Bradley is not a man for panaceas, and this is not a situation in which they are to be had. The new technologies and the new forms of corporate organization that make old-fashioned trade unionism ineffective make it particularly hard to know how governments should act. “Because we travel in uncharted waters, we need new thinking,” says Bradley, and who could disagree? But what new thoughts does he have? He seems to have two rather different sorts of thought. One is large and somewhat cloudy, the other precise, but very much in the realm of palliatives. The large thought is very like what the leader of the British Labour Party, Tony Blair, is pushing as hard as he can. We must stop thinking that the only stakeholders in a business are its shareholders; strictly speaking, the whole society has a stake in a properly run company. We must think of what Blair nowadays calls “stakeholder democracy” in a suitably expansive fashion. Or, as Bradley puts the same thought,

A more complete corporate balance sheet is in order, so that the world will know how corporate decisions affect our lives.

The true costs of corporate actions should be made public. Corporations that pass all costs of environmental cleanup on to the taxpayer get a free ride. Corporations that pull out of communities reduce the property tax base and take with them the communities’ hope for better schools. A corporation’s record on human rights or severance packages for its dismissed workers should be as accessible to the public as the size of its sinking fund.

A company that is narrowly profitable to its shareholders may be socially exceedingly expensive.

Many of us have for years argued that economists have betrayed the rest of the human race by not taking the idea of a social audit of company behavior with proper seriousness. Decent and humane economists have for years retorted that companies have a hard enough time merely answering to their shareholders, and that the idea of a stakeholder society opens the door to chaos. Senator Bradley skirts such controversies. He puts his faith in the restoration of civil society. “American civilization is like a three-legged stool, with government and the private sector being two legs and the third being civil society, the place where we live our lives, educate our kids, worship our God, and associate with our neighbors.” If we minded enough about one another, a social audit would be sufficient to get us to treat one another better.

In the meantime, we can at least palliate the miseries of being laid-off. Bradley suggests that the government should require employers to pay for the health care of laid-off employees for at least a year after termination; banks should be encouraged to extend mortgages for a year or so; people should be able to sell their houses without paying capital gains at forty rather than fifty-five; pensions should be portable, so that people forced to work for a string of different employers should at any rate have something to live on in retirement. Food stamps should be given to people whose unemployment compensation has been used up. There is, of course, a simple way of doing most of this. But to do it means that the beneficiaries of economic change must pay pretty high taxes to compensate the losers and to insure themselves against being losers in their turn. There is not much sign that the American electorate has yet begun to understand this, and some question in my mind whether the Senator Bradley who favors low tax rates has yet been talking to the Senator Bradley who wants an improved safety net for the middle class.

There is an imperative need for some dispassionate thinking on the questions Bradley raises. If that is what he does over the next few years, he will be more usefully employed than in running for president. His less optimistic readers will no doubt feel that however good his ideas, they will anyway make no headway in a world of expensively financed and largely negative political campaigns. With that thought, Bradley is wholly in sympathy. Even if the love of money is not the root of all evil, the need to raise so much of it is extremely bad for politicians, and he very much wants to put a stop to it.

Though he has not had to stoop to conquer as much as many of his colleagues, he thinks that the system is hopelessly corrupt and needs radical reform. The only source of campaign funds should be voluntary contributions to be added by taxpayers to their taxes.

Money in politics is similar to the ants in your kitchen. Just when you think you’ve got them blocked, they find another way to get in. Only hermetically sealing the kitchen off will work—which means total voluntary public funding of campaigns encompassed by a constitutional amendment. Anything less means that democracy can still be corrupted.

It is odd that he has not considered the system practiced in most European countries, where campaigns are nonvoluntarily publicly financed, and only very limited sums can be spent by anyone on behalf of individual candidates. But Bradley’s heart is in the right place. Free radio and television advertising time would level the playing field between candidates, and a constitutional amendment could overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in Buckley v. Valeo that the First Amendment gives candidates the right to spend as much as they like. It has become increasingly obvious that the decision was an invitation to rich amateurs to buy whatever public office they had their eyes on.

It is easy to finish Time Present, Time Past in a rather sour mood. Bradley portrays the political system in grim colors. The press is mean-spirited and intrusive, campaigns are exercises in character assassination, the conflict between a politician’s duty to the public and his obligations to his financial backers is intolerable. Nor does Bradley’s decent, patient, middle-of-the-road good sense give one much hope that things will change soon or for the better. This isn’t only a reflection on his temperament alone, or on the policies he espouses. No industrial society can be governed from very far left or right of center at present; a democracy cannot be governed by the whims of the populace, but it must be governed by their consent, and they are in no mood to consent to grand experiments. But however moderate the policies it wants to see implemented, the public also wants to know that politicians will fight for them.

Bradley won’t draw the necessary conclusions from the fact that the politics of the United States—like the politics of all such societies—is a (peaceful) form of class warfare, more complicated here than in most places by ethnic, racial, and regional competition as well. At present the upper classes—owners, managers, and highly educated professionals—are winning the war hands down. Yet the whole point of democracy is to allow the weight of numbers to control the power of money, time, and skill. Bradley certainly says that underpaid white workers should keep their eyes on their class interests and not fall for the racist wiles of the Republican party; and he certainly points out that in the twelve years between 1977 and 1989 the richest 1 percent of the population collected two thirds of the increase in personal income during those years. The middle class saw their incomes rise by 4 percent, while the rich saw theirs rise by 77 percent.

Still, he can’t quite bring himself to say that since this top 1 percent gave us stagnant incomes, miserable savings rates, slowly rising productivity, and increasing squalor in the cities, they committed licensed robbery and ought to pay for at least some of their sins. He does not seem willing to consider that the Republicans may be vulnerable, as they have not been since the 1930s, to the charge that they propose to steal from the poor, the sick, and the children to fill the pockets of Steve Forbes and Mr. Dole’s friends from Archer-Daniels-Midland. It’s hard not to think that if he wants to run for president, the Senator should fire his speech coaches and listen to FDR’s campaign speeches—not just for technique, but for content.