Home > 1968-2008 Campaigns, 1992 Campaign > 1992–Clinton Anti-Bush Ad–Melanie Modula

1992–Clinton Anti-Bush Ad–Melanie Modula

The main issue around the 1992 campaign was undoubtedly the suffering economy toward the end of the 1990s. America was in a recession. As the 1992 campaign process went on, the economy began to fall even faster along with President George H.W.Bush’s approval rating. 

My first example of campaign rhetoric is a common one for the 1992 election. This theme and campaign ad was one of the most popular of the 1992 campaign. It features a clip from the 1988 Republican Convention when Bush was running for office the first time. When asked about raising taxes, Bush points to the crowd and says, “Read my lips. No new taxes.” Some critics say the “read my lips” statement George Bush gave on taxes could have been the reason he won the 1988 election and lost the 1992 election.

Early in his term, Bush had a record high approving rating of 89%. His foreign policy made him popular early on with events like the fall of the Berlin Wall, collapse of the Soviet Union and military operations overseas in the Persian Gulf and Panama. However, the economic recession overshadowed his foreign policy experience and became the main issue in 1992. The deficit left over from the Reagan years was only growing.

After making the no-taxes promise, Bush went back on his word and raised numerous taxes. Bush’s words during the 1988 convention came back to haunt him and appeared in newspaper headlines, news talk shows and even parodied on Saturday Night Live.

The economy toward the end of the Bush presidency was suffering immensely along with his approval rating. The last thing the American people wanted to hear was a false promise. The Clinton campaign intelligently picked out this lie as the basis of their ad.

The ad begins with light, gentle music and the words; “The George Bush Promise” It could first appear as if it could be a positive television ad for the Bush Campaign. The mood quickly changes after the clip of George Bush promising the American people that he will not create new taxes. Facts are immediately given following explaining specifically how Bush broke his word. The large taxation on gas is specified. “Can we afford four more years?” is asked. The ad suggests that another Bush term would be detrimental to this nation’s economy.

By highlighting Clinton’s accomplishments after making Bush look like a lying, untrustworthy politician, Clinton is viewed in a positive light. He is seen shaking the hands of everyday people with a friendly smile on his face. The music is happier and hopeful sounding. This ad along with many others ran by the Clinton campaign portray him as a “different kind of democrat.” Not only do they want you to think he is different than his republican opponent, but different than anyone we have seen in recent years. The turn-around in Arkansas’s economy is supposed to differentiate him as someone who can tackle the nation’s financial downfall.

Toward the end of the ad, there is a play on words that negatively attacks President Bush. After stating some positives in Clinton’s record, the background voice says, “You don’t have to read his lips, read his record.” In comparison to Bush, Clinton’s financial record was seen as a positive. Like stated in the television ad, as Governor of Arkansas, the state had the second lowest tax burden in the country.

The slogan attached to this television ad is “Clinton- Gore, For People, For a Change.” Both slogans demonstrate how willing Americans were to accept change in a candidate. Bill Clinton won the 1992 election with 43% of the vote and 370 electoral votes to George Bush’s 37.5% and 168 electoral votes. It was the second largest electoral shift between two parties since the 1976 election. The American people voted as the TV slogan suggested; for a change.

In my opinion, the TV ad is a persuasive and effective example of campaign rhetoric. An unbiased viewer would leave with feelings of negativity toward Bush after watching this and feelings of hope toward Bill Clinton. An ad like this one shows that the Clinton campaign successfully did their job.

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