Former Presidential Candidate Gary Hart's Statement on Withdrawing From the Race

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May 8, 1987, statement from former presidential candidate Gary Hart on withdrawing from the race:

I apologize for being late. There was a little traffic coming down Bear Creek Canyon this morning.

I'd intended, quite frankly, to come down here this morning and read a short carefully worded political statement saying that I was withdrawing from the race and then quietly disappear from the stage.

And then after, frankly, tossing and turning all night, as I have for the last three or four nights, I woke up about four or five this morning with a start. And I said to myself, hell no.

And I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to do that, because it's not my style and because I'm a proud man and I'm proud of what I've accomplished.

Let's hold down the applause. Thank you. I appreciate it, but let's get through this.

Now, clearly Lee and I've never had a tougher week, but I'm not a beaten man; I'm an angry and defiant man. I've said that I bend but I don't break. And believe me, I'm not broken.

So instead of getting this over fast, I'm going to get just kind of talk a while about this week and the times that we're in.

Frankly, the hardest part about making this decision has been my children. They're both more angry and confused than I've ever seen them in their lives.

And very frankly they're angry at me, their father. They don't want me to get out of this race. And, you know, I believe that there are also a lot of angry and confused voters out around this country. So what I have to say here is both for my children and for those voters.

Since getting into politics a long time ago, there are at least two things I haven't been very good at: talking about myself and playing the political game.

But I've never felt the voters really cared about either one of those things, frankly. They're smart enough to know who you are without you telling them. You look them in the eye and you talk to them and they decide whether you're telling the truth or not.

So I haven't spent a lot of time and effort trying to create an image. I am who I am, take it or leave it. And, frankly, I'm pretty happy with who I am, and evidently some voters have been also. I haven't based my campaigns on the support of politicians, even though some of them are my very best friends.

With all due respect, most politicians, with the exception of a few with great courage, wait to see how political events are breaking before risking their political capital. Now, I understand that.

But what this means together with the rest of it is that I guess I've become some kind of a rare bird, some extraordinary creature that has to be dissected by those who analyze politics to find out what makes them tick.

Well, I resist that. And so, then, I become cool and aloof or elusive or enigmatic or what not. And then the more people want to talk about me, the more I resist it, and so on. And so it gets to be like the cat chasing its tail.

Now, a number of friends of mine around the country will tell you that in the weeks leading up to this race, I gave serious thought to not running for President. In many ways, I didn't want to.

It's because I had to do a number of these profiles and I could see what was happening: I was going to be the issue. Now, I don't want to be the issue. And I cannot be the issue, because that breaks the link between me and the voters. And that's what I tried to explain to my children.

If someone's able to throw up a smokescreen and keep it up there long enough, you can't get your message across. You can't raise the money to finance a campaign; there's too much static, and you can't communicate.

In the final analysis, the American people decide what qualities are important to govern this country in the national interest. And they haven't been heard from yet.

The last public event we did was the night before last in Littleton, N.H. There were maybe 100-150 people there - the height of the circuit - and not one question about me. The people there wanted to know about everything from South Africa to AIDS to Ireland to day care to job training to Central America, and the list went on.

I doubt any of that got on the evening news. And that's the point. In public life, some things may be interesting, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're important. Whether I changed my name or still owe campaign debts may be interesting at least for a while, but for most people in this country that's not what concerns them.

For the farmers in Amarillo, the oilfield workers in Lousiana, the steel workers in Pennsylvania - I can tell you because I've listened to them - they want jobs. Their kids want a chance to get an education. And like all the rest of us, they don't want to be killed by some nuclear weapon.

But if you're going to have to spend all your time talking about yourself - and you're not particularly good about that, anyway - then you cannot maintain that link with the voters that lets you listen to their concerns and offer your ideas and proposals. And that's about where we are today.

Now clearly under present circumstances, this campaign cannot go on. I refuse to submit my family and my friends and innocent people and myself to further rumors and gossip. It's simply an intolerable situation.

I believe I would have been a successful candidate. And I know I could have been a very good President, particularly for these times. But apparently now we'll never know.

I've had the support of some of the most talented people in this country, particularly young people. And I want to say to all of them today: March on. There's a lot of work to do.

We're all going to have to seriously question the system for selecting our national leaders, for it reduces the press of this nation to hunters and Presidential candidates to being hunted. That has reporters in bushes; false and inaccurate stories printed; photographers peeking in our windows; swarms of helicopters hovering over our roof, and my very strong wife close to tears because she can't even get in her own house at night without being harassed.

And then after all that, ponderous pundits wondering in mock seriousness why some of the best people in this country choose not to run for high office.

Now I want those talented people who supported me to insist that this system be changed. Too much of it is just a mockery, and if it continues to destroy people's integrity and honor, then that system will eventually destroy itself.

Politics in this country - take it from me - is on the verge of becoming another form of athletic competition or sporting match. We all better do something to make this system work or we're all going to be soon rephrasing Jefferson to say: I tremble for my country when I think we may, in fact, get the kind of leaders we deserve.

I say to my children and other frustrated and angry young people, I'm angry, too. I've made some mistakes; I've said so. I said I would, because I'm human. And I did. Maybe big mistakes, but not bad mistakes.

But I'm an idealist and I love this country deeply, and I want to serve this country. The events of this week should not deter any of you who are idealistic young people from moving on and moving up.

I would say to the young people of this country the torch of idealism burns bright in your hearts. It should lead you into public service and national service. It should lead you to want to make this country better.

And whoever you are and whatever you do in that cause, at least in spirit, I will be with you.

Thank you very much.

(Source: The New York Times)