1992–Richmond “Town Hall” Debate–Melanie Modula
The second example of campaign rhetoric for the 1992 campaign is from the second presidential debate. Unlike many debates, three parties are represented at this debate. Before dropping out of the election, Ross Perot has a strong following of about 19% in the summer of 1992. Unfortunately, Perot’s answer is not filmed for this clip.
A woman in the audience is given the opportunity to ask a question to the candidates. Her question is as follows: “How has the national debt personally affected each of your lives? And if it hasn’t how can you honestly find a cure for the economic problems of the common people if you have no experience in what is ailing them.”
George Bush starts answering the question on a general national level. He starts to mention the different interest levels before stopped by the moderator. On a personal level, Bush finds it very difficult to create an answer that will please the audience member who asked and American public who are struggling financially on a daily basis. He mentions his concern for future generations in his family, but has trouble relating the recession to his own personal life. I found this to be troubling and uncomfortable to watch.
One the question was restated and explained by the audience member who asked, Bush comes off defensive and hard to relate to. Even when specifically asked numerous times to relate the economic recession to his own personal life, Bush expresses that he cares for those struggling but cannot seem to connect personally. He even struggles to find examples of stories of the American citizens he has met that are affected. His examples are awkward and forced.
George Bush tries to make a point that even people living with means can still understand the struggle. He inappropriately compares this to relating to a cancer patient. Bush says, “I don’t think it’s fair to say ‘you haven’t had cancer, you don’t know what it’s like.’” Personally, I feel that the wording on that statement was entirely false.
Clinton’s answer to the question expresses how the debt and recession affected him personally. The women in the audience who asked the question says she knows personal friends and family who have lost their jobs and homes. Clinton relates with her by saying, “I do too.” Clinton goes on to say that when national tax increases in his state of Arkansas, jobs as lost, factories are shut down and businesses go bankrupt. When those events take place, he will have to deal with the issue personally. “When people lose their jobs, there is a good chance I’ll know them by their names,” says Clinton.
Clinton states that all of the problems discussed cannot be blamed simply on the national debt. He blames the lack of growth over the past few years. With facts on wages, private sector jobs and income decrease, Clinton confidently asks the viewers watching to identify that there is a problem in our economic theory and vote for a change.
There are many differences in the two answers. George Bush came off unsure and unprepared to talk about the personal effects of the financial crisis. That speaks volumes to the American people who are affected by it on a daily basis. His delivery is not as smooth.
On the contrary, with more time to prepare his answer, Bill Clinton addresses is directly. He uses the question as an opportunity to speak with one citizen in a more conversational tone. He answers her question, relates to her struggles and turns the question around to discuss a larger issue.
While Bush seems panicked and unsure, Clinton comes off calm and collected. Personally, I feel like once Bush understood the question, it was not much worse of an answer than Clinton gave. However, his misdemeanor and tone give off a negative vibe. With the economy being the number one issue of the 1992 election, both candidates should be prepared to relate to the common people facing these economic struggles instead of just spitting out the fact surrounding the recession. These statistics do not comfort those people, the ability to relate and ideas for change do. Clinton’s answer better represented that.
After a presidential term with a progressively struggling economy, the general American public was seeking answers as to what Bush could do differently if given four more years. His unsure tone and confusing answer did not give swing voters the confidence to give him that second chance when Clinton seemed so confident in making a positive change in our economy.