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Give me the candidates' words--raw and now

Is there a convincing reason why the political campaigns don't release raw recordings of press conferences? If there is, I can't come up with one.

Any one of sound mind must be disappointed that Hillary Clinton hasn't yet put away Barack Obama. Or that Barack Obama hasn't yet put away Hillary Clinton.

Because it means both sides are going to drive us nuts up until the Democratic convention this summer.

I suppose that's a small price to pay to live in a republic. So since the spin-meisters from the competing Democratic camps are so hell bent on convincing the rest of us that God is on their side, here's a golden opportunity to use the Internet to advance the cause of civic education.

Check out what Dave Winer's been doing of late on his Web site where he's reposted a few MP3s of conference calls held by the Clintonand Obamacampaigns with the press. When I first heard about the experiment, it triggered one of those "Duh, why not?" moments.

Good question. It makes all the sense in the world.

The two political parties are quite adept at using the Internet to promote their interests--especially when it comes to raising money or putting out position statements--let alone political hit pieces. There's no mystery any longer about how to use the Internet to reach voters. Democrats and Republicans can afford to hire the best Webmasters money can buy. So why not extend that expertise in the cause of better informing the citizenry? Call it a cyber-addition to Civics 101.

If there is a convincing reason why the political campaigns shouldn't automatically release raw recordings of press conferences, I haven't been able to come up with one. You put more information in the hands of the public and that will lead to more familiarity with the candidates and, in theory, at least, a more informed choice.

Maybe it's because I'm a news junkie that I so thoroughly enjoyed the grilling meted out by reporters to the campaign hacks. The farther these folks get from the television cameras, the more likely they are to let down their hair. At least that's been my experience as a working reporter. Let's hear what they say when confronted with someone more challenging than Larry King.

I suppose some bright bulb on the campaign staff might reason that's as good as any argument why to prevent the public from listening to the raw Q&A. Something along the lines of, 'Who wants to see sausage being made?' In this case, actually, I think the answer is that a lot of us would.

"Four years from now," Winer writes, "we'll look back at this in amazement that there was a day when campaigns hid their words and ideas behind the filters of the press."

Couldn't have said it any better than that.

Postscript: I received a call from Mark Memmott at USA Today to let me know that the paper has been posting audio from the conference calls at USA Today OnPolitics.

Kudos. Hopefully, it's a harbinger others will follow.