Images, Scandal, and Communication Strategies of the Clinton Presidency

By Robert E. Denton; Rachel L. Holloway | Go to book overview

3
Clinton’s Televised Town Hall
Meetings as a Political Strategy:
The Illusion of Control

Rachel L. Holloway

It was a turning point in the campaign. On October 15, 1992, a woman in the audience at the town hall presidential debate asked, “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’s ailing them?”

Ross Perot answered first, and then President Bush struggled to understand the woman’s question, offering an answer that clearly did not satisfy her. Then, candidate Bill Clinton took several steps toward the questioner and said: “Tell me how it affected you again? You know people who lost their jobs and lost their homes?”

The questioner, said, “Well, yeah. Uh-huh.”

Clinton then described his experiences as governor, talked about people in his state affected by the recession, people that he “knew by name.” As he answered, the questioner nodded and said, “Mm-hmm.” Clinton ended his response going to the central issues of his campaign: “I think what we have to do is invest in American jobs, American education, control American health-care costs and bring the American people together again” (“The ‘92 vote,” 1992).

Clinton’s ability to recognize what the questioner wanted from him and to create an answer that both connected with her personally and focused

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