Archive for the ‘1992 Campaign’ Category

By Carrie Zambrano–Relating to the People, 1992

The 1992 election was notable for several reasons. First, the incumbent president, George H.W. Bush was running for re-election. Most presidents in his position face little opposition. But Bush received push back from some of his fellow conservatives after he famously pledged not to raise taxes in a speech he made during his first campaign in 1988. In addition, the economy was in a recession and his strength in foreign policy became less important due to the end of the Cold War and the defeat of Iraq in the Gulf War. Secondly, the third party candidate, Ross Perot was a leading candidate. He self-funded his own campaign and ran as a one-issue candidate, focusing on the deficit. Although he was popular, he lost momentum after he dropped out and then eventually re-entered the race. Ultimately, Perot garnered 19% of the vote, which was uncommon for a third party candidate. Lastly, Bill Clinton, the Democratic nominee, won the election, ending twelve years of Republican control. This was the third time in the twentieth century that a sitting president did not get re-elected. Clinton ran his campaign with a new Democratic ideology which allowed him to relate to a wide range of people. Clinton’s ability to relate to the American people is what ultimately won him the presidency.

The ability for a presidential candidate to relate to the citizens of the United States has always been crucial in order to gain votes. During the 1992 election, this was one of the key differences that separated Bush and Clinton. And throughout the campaign we see several rhetorical examples in which this difference is displayed. One of the most notable rhetorical examples of this can be seen towards the end of the second town hall debate. During this debate, a woman stood up and asked the candidates, “How has the national debt personally affected you?” Bush answered first, giving a very unrelatable response, stating that, “I’m sure it has.” He went on to say how as president he has seen people struggle and that he wants to help by stimulating the economy but avoided answering until the woman asked the question again. Bush then responded saying how “it’s not fair to say you can’t be affected because you haven’t been hit personally.” This statement shows that he is practically admitting to the fact that he does not know exactly how it is like to be affected by the economy. In addition, his tone seemed defensive and insensitive. Clinton responded to the question second. Immediately, the tone is different. He appears to be more caring and concerned. Although he, too, did not directly address how he was personally affected, the quality of this response made him more relatable.  He finished by saying, “we need to bring the American people together.”

Another notable rhetorical moment is Bill Clinton’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. This speech further exemplifies Clinton’s desire to want to relate to the American people and bring everyone together. His fifty three minute speech is filled with messages of hope, change, and unity. He begins by accepting the nomination on behalf of “all those who do the work, pay the taxes, raise the kids and play by the rules — in the name of the hard-working Americans who make up our forgotten middle class.” He goes on to say, “I am a product of the middle class and when I am president you will be forgotten no more.” These words allow him to really relate to a majority of Americans on an economic level. Clinton then moves on to salute the collapse of the Soviet Union and the official end to the Cold War. He wants to see the success America has accomplished abroad, at home. He says, “Now that we have changed the world, it’s time to change America”. He continues to try and relate to the people on a personal level by sharing emotional stories of his mother and father and how he grew up in Hope, Arkansas. He makes a particular well known statement in regards to his mother, “You want to know where I get my fighting spirit? It all started with my mother. Thank you, Mother. I love you,“ Clinton said. Clinton had been vocal about women’s equality in the workplace and in regards to health care and his statement showed where his stance on women’s issues originated. One of the final most notable parts of the speech is when Clinton is discussing the current government. He says, “Frankly, I’m fed up with politicians in Washington lecturing the rest of us about family values. Our families have values but our government doesn’t.” Clinton is tired of the current system and wants to see a change. His comments sparked applause from the audience, who were agreeing with his messages. Ultimately, Clinton wanted to let people know that he is serious about change and that he wants to focus on the economy and other issues that were not addressed in the previous administration.



“1992 Presidential Election.” 1992 Presidential Election – Timeline – Slaying the Dragon of Debt – Regional Oral History Office – University of California, Berkeley. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 May 2017.

Levy, Michael. “United States Presidential Election of 1992.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., n.d. Web. 09 May 2017.

“Transcript of Speech by Clinton Accepting Democratic Nomination.” The New York Times, 16 July 1992. Web. 09 May 2017.



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.

1992–Clinton Acceptance Speech–Melanie Modula

My third piece of campaign rhetoric from the 1992 campaign is Bill Clinton’s Democratic Presidential Nomination Acceptance Address. It took place July of 1992 in New York, New York. Throughout his address, Clinton’s aim is relating to the American people and finding common ground. He accepts his nomination for those who work, pay the taxes, raise the kids and play by the rules. Clinton speaks to the hardworking Americans in the middle and lower class.

“I am a product of that middle class, and when I am President, you will be forgotten no more,” Clinton said.

He praises our foreign accomplishments in recent years. The Cold War victory and collapse of the Soviet Union had made us powerful all over the world. While our reputation on an international level was high, we were not progressing as well at home. “Now that we have changed the world, it’s time to change America,” Clinton said.

Bill Clinton’s address touches on the major domestic issues like the economy, and unemployment. He reaches the people facing these issues by talking to them on a personal level and sharing his story. In the early stages of a campaign, it is important to let the American public know about who the candidate is as a person. Bill Clinton accomplishes that with this speech.

His father died before he was born, leaving his mother to support the family. His mother sacrificed a lot to give Bill the chances and life he deserved and he credits all of strength and courage he has to her.

“You want to know where I get my fighting spirit? It all started with my mother. Thank you, Mother. I love you,“ Clinton said.

Clinton touches on his childhood, his mother, his grandparents, his wife and his daughter. Voters can hear candidates discuss the issues time and time again, but the personal stories have a greater affect on their feelings toward the candidate.

A main theme of Clinton’s campaign is changing government. Clinton says, “Frankly, I’m fed up with politicians in Washington lecturing the rest of us about family values. Our families have values but our government doesn’t”

He finds irony in the fact that Republicans preach against big government but have been running that same big government for years.

Clinton stresses he is different from other politicians. He knows the struggle all different families are going through on a daily basis during difficult economic times. One quote in this acceptance address represents this idea.

“And I want to say something to every child in America tonight who is out there trying to grow up without a father or a mother: I know how you feel. You’re special too. You matter to America. And don’t you ever let anybody tell you that you can’t become whatever you want to be. And, if other politicians make you feel like you are not part of their family, come on and be part of ours.”

Hearing Clinton’s speech makes voters feel like the current government does not have the American people’s best interest at heart. The Clinton campaign preaches a desire to change. The audience chants, “no second term” in support of Bill Clinton.

Clinton does not mention President Bush until about halfway through the speech. He wants to focus on himself, his campaign and his principles. He eventually mentions George Bush to make comparisons. The Clinton/Gore campaign will be more environmentally friendly, more focused on equal rights for woman, and a better education system for all children.

In my opinion, the most persuasive and influential part of Clinton’s speech is the conclusion. He talks about the future of our nation through the coming generations.

Let it be our cause to give that child a happy home, a healthy family and a hopeful future. Let it be our cause to see that that child has a chance to live to the fullest of her God-given capacities.

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.