Bill Clinton

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    • 00:08

      RONALD LEE: Welcome to Sage's Encyclopedia of PoliticalCommunication video entry on William Jefferson Clinton.During the next few minutes, we'regoing to acquaint you with the Clintonpresidency and the reasons why studentsof political communication should findthis period worthy of study.My name is Ronald Lee, and I'm a Professor

    • 00:28

      RONALD LEE [continued]: of Communication Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

    • 00:31

      KANE CLICK: My name is Kane Click,and I'm a doctoral student at the Universityof Nebraska-Lincoln.

    • 00:36

      RONALD LEE: We're going to begin with some basic biographicalinformation about Bill Clinton.Bill Clinton was born on August 19th, 1946in the small town of Hope, Arkansas.He received his undergraduate degreefrom Georgetown University.He was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in England,and he graduated from Yale Law School.

    • 00:58

      RONALD LEE [continued]: Upon completing law school, he returned to Arkansas.He was elected Attorney General in 1976 and governor in 1978.At the age of 32, he was the nation's youngest governor.In 1992, he was elected the 42nd President of the United Statesby defeating the sitting President, George H.W. Bush.

    • 01:21

      RONALD LEE [continued]: In 1996, he won re-election by defeating US Senator BobDole of Kansas, and he left office in 2001.We will look at the rhetorical dimensionsof Clinton's public life through the discussion of five topics--first, the circumstances surrounding Clinton's riseto the presidency; second, Clinton's

    • 01:43

      RONALD LEE [continued]: telling of his own story in the articulationof an ideological vision; third, Clinton's scandals,presidential impeachment, and the role of the media;fourth, Clinton's rhetoric of racial reconciliation;and finally, Bill Clinton's rhetorical legacyand the rise to power of his wife, Hillary Clinton.

    • 02:04

      KANE CLICK: We'd first like to talkabout the political circumstancesthat surrounded Bill Clinton's rise to powerand how these circumstances influencedhis political discourse.There are unique elements of Clinton'spresidential election.First, he was elected at the end of the Cold War.The Cold War began in the immediate aftermathof World War II and lasted until the fall of the Berlin

    • 02:25

      KANE CLICK [continued]: Wall on November 9th, 1989, followedby the eventual dissolution of the Soviet Unionon December 25, 1991.The bipolar world of communism versus capitalismwaged by two nuclear superpowers was over,and America was no longer at war for the first time since 1941.Second, Clinton is the product of what

    • 02:46

      KANE CLICK [continued]: is known as the New South.Arkansas was a segregated state whenBill Clinton was born in 1946, and it wasn't until 1964that the Civil Rights Act passed and 1965 when the Voting RightsAct was passed.He came of age in Arkansas, therefore,in the relatively immediate pre-civil rights erabut to power in the relatively immediate post-civil rights

    • 03:09

      KANE CLICK [continued]: era.

    • 03:10

      RONALD LEE: Civil unrest in Los Angeles changed the dynamicof the 1992 campaign.Following a jury acquittal of police officersin the beating of Rodney King, an African-American man,there was rioting in South Central Los Angeles from April29th to May 4th, 1992, just months

    • 03:31

      RONALD LEE [continued]: before the presidential election.There was growing criticism of the Bush administrationfor its failure to address domestic issues, particularlythe problems of the cities.In response, Vice President Dan Quayledelivered the first of several family valuesspeeches on May 19th in California.

    • 03:52

      RONALD LEE [continued]: Family values was an important and repeated themein the election.Quayle argued that poverty, especially African-Americanpoverty, was largely a product of the breakup of the family,which he identified as women having children out of wedlock,the declining marriage rate, and the absence of fathersin the home.

    • 04:13

      RONALD LEE [continued]: Moreover, he argued that the welfare systemhad created a cycle of dependency that createdincentive for family breakdown.The mainstream media framed family values discourse in partas a judgemental, intolerant view of the less fortunate.It was characterized as an attack on single mothers.

    • 04:34

      RONALD LEE [continued]: So the rise to the Presidency of Bill Clintonwas dramatically influenced by three factors--the end of the Cold War, the rise of the New South,civil unrest, and the subsequent rhetoric of family values.

    • 04:50

      KANE CLICK: We'd now like to talkabout how Bill Clinton narrated his own biography,and in doing so, articulated his ideological vision.Clinton's campaign film, titled "The ManFrom Hope," which was shown in prime timeat the 1992 Democratic National Convention,has received considerable scholarly attention.It is fascinating in that the video is a first-person

    • 05:12

      KANE CLICK [continued]: narrative of Bill Clinton's personal and political life,as told primarily by Bill, with assistancefrom his wife, mother, mother-in-law,and his younger brother, Roger.This is a story that focuses on the domestic sphere of familyand politics.He's unconcerned with the martial virtuesof military service, which have so frequently beena part of the qualifications for the presidency.

    • 05:34

      KANE CLICK [continued]: This video represents a post Cold War justificationfor leadership."The Man From Hope" is also a modern retellingof the Lincoln log cabin story.Bill was born in a small, rural town of Hope, Arkansasto a family of humble means.His father died before he was born,meaning he was a product of a single parent household.

    • 05:54

      KANE CLICK [continued]: Where his mother did remarry, it was to an abusive alcoholic.He's a living counterpoint to the judgemental discourseof family values.Without the advantages of money or influence,he rose to the highest office in the land.Clinton also went away east to schooland received an elite education--Georgetown, Oxford, Yale-- before returning to Arkansas

    • 06:15

      KANE CLICK [continued]: to become a progressive force in bringinghis state into the modern post-civil-rights era.He is the living symbol of the New South.The video therefore encapsulates three major conditionsof Clinton's election-- a focus on the domesticrather than on foreign policy, a candidateemerging from the New South, and an alternative story

    • 06:38

      KANE CLICK [continued]: to family values.

    • 06:41

      RONALD LEE: The rhetoric of the New Covenant, whichwas a major theme in Clinton's Democratic Conventionacceptance address delivered on July 16, 1992,is a key to understanding Clinton's ideological vision.The discourse had two themes.First, Clinton depicted the Reagan Bush yearsas a latter-day gilded age, a time in which the government

    • 07:04

      RONALD LEE [continued]: favored the rich over problems of the middleand working class and the poor.Second, Clinton argued that the New Covenantwas a new agreement, a new promise between governmentand the people.Government would help foster opportunityand citizens would shoulder personal responsibility.In his words, more empowerment, less entitlement.

    • 07:27

      RONALD LEE [continued]: The New Covenant is a reflection of Clinton'spragmatic centrism, which was largelydeveloped by the Democratic Leadership Council.Founded in 1985, the DLC argued that the Democratic partyshould shift away from the leftward turn it had takenin the '60s, '70s, and '80s.

    • 07:48

      RONALD LEE [continued]: Bill Clinton was the herald of this so-called Third Way.The DLC states that it seeks to define and galvanizepopular support for a new public philosophy builton progressive ideals, mainstreamvalues, and innovative, non-bureaucratic,market-based solutions.Clinton's welfare legislation, welfare reform legislation,

    • 08:11

      RONALD LEE [continued]: is perhaps the best example of his centrist ideology.The very name of the law captures its goals--Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Actof 1996.It's a plan of the aid to familieswith dependent children and place workrequirements on welfare recipients,

    • 08:32

      RONALD LEE [continued]: among other restrictions.Unsurprisingly, it was a bill that waspopular among conservatives.

    • 08:40

      KANE CLICK: Third, we'd like to discuss scandals, impeachment,and media.Perhaps what is most popularly remembered about the Clintonpresidency are the various lurid scandals and the resultingimpeachment proceedings.Most prominent in these scandals was the Lewinsky affair.The Lewinsky scandal involved a 1998 revelationthat 22-year-old White House employee, Monica Lewinsky,

    • 09:02

      KANE CLICK [continued]: and the 49-year-old President, Bill Clinton,had sexual encounters on nine occasions between Novemberof 1995 and March 1997.News of the scandal broke on January 17, 1998in the online conservative news site, The Drudge Report.Stemming from the Lewinsky revelationsand the various legal proceedings,

    • 09:23

      KANE CLICK [continued]: the House of Representatives votedto impeach the president on December 19, 1998on two charges-- first, lying to and misleadingthe federal grand jury about his sexual conduct,and second, suborning perjury by encouraging othersto lie under oath about his conduct.The US Senate, after a trial, voted for acquittalon February 12, 1999.

    • 09:46

      RONALD LEE: President Clinton offered public apologiesfor his sexual conduct in three different speeches.The most notable is a short speechto the nation on August 17th, 1998.This speech was widely viewed as a rhetorical failure,both in the mainstream press and in the subsequent scholarlyliterature.

    • 10:06

      RONALD LEE [continued]: He appeared angry rather than contrite.He used the phrase a relationship with Ms. Lewinskythat was not appropriate.He did not use the term adultery.He denied that he had done anything legally wrong.Clinton during the scandal-- surprisingly, Clinton,during the scandal remained popular and with high approval

    • 10:26

      RONALD LEE [continued]: ratings.Accounting the Gallup poll, Clinton's average job approvalrating for 1998 was 12.5 points above his administrationaverage for the previous five years.Bill Clinton's 1998 approval ratingis higher than the averages of all but 11 of the 40 yearsserved by eight presidents who preceded him.

    • 10:48

      KANE CLICK: The news of the scandals and impeachmentproceedings took place against the backdropof an evolving new media scape.For instance, syndicated conserve talk radiowas becoming a force that helped shapethe national political conversation.The politically conservative Rush Limbaugh Program,which premiered in 1988, had become the nation's highestrated talk radio show.

    • 11:11

      KANE CLICK [continued]: The Lewinsky scandal also occurredin a rapidly-expanding 24 hour cable news environment.CNN began broadcasting in 1980, and in its wake,other news channels with more pronouncedideological perspectives began broadcasting.Conservative Fox News was launchedon October 7, 1996, less than two years prior

    • 11:32

      KANE CLICK [continued]: to the Lewinsky revelations.Furthermore, the emergence of political websiteson the internet played a major role in the Lewinsky story.The Drudge Report, which is a news aggregationsite featuring conservative views,first broke the Lewinsky scandal.The blogosphere rather than mainstream printand broadcast news organizations brokeperhaps the most consequential story

    • 11:54

      KANE CLICK [continued]: of the Clinton presidency.

    • 11:57

      RONALD LEE: The fourth topic we'd like to consideris what were the hallmarks of Bill Clinton's discoursesof racial reconciliation.As we have already pointed out, the New Southwas part of Clinton's defining narrativeof his public service.So Clinton's life spanned the time of segregationin the South to the post-civil-rights eraof the New South.

    • 12:18

      RONALD LEE [continued]: During his administration, he gave several notable speechesdealing with race in America.We are going to speak of two of these.The first was an address he delivered at the Mason TempleChurch in Memphis, Tennessee on November 13th, 1993.This was the place where Martin Luther King Jr.had delivered his last sermon.

    • 12:39

      RONALD LEE [continued]: You might remember that King was assassinated 25 years earlierin Memphis in 1968.In this speech, Clinton asked if Martin Luther King wereto appear here today and give us a reportcard on how we have done in these past 25 years,what would he say?After listing the political and social accomplishments

    • 13:01

      RONALD LEE [continued]: of the Civil Rights Movement, he thensaid Martin Luther King would sayI did not live and die to see the American family destroyed.I did not live and die to see 13-year-old boys getautomatic weapons and gun down 9-year-oldsjust for the kick of it.I did not live and die to see people destroy their own liveswith drugs and build drug fortunes, destroying

    • 13:24

      RONALD LEE [continued]: the lives of others.That is not what I came here to do.

    • 13:30

      KANE CLICK: In a second memorable addressat the White House on May 16th, 1997,Clinton formally apologized for the US Public Health Servicesstudy of untreated syphilis in negro males that took placein Tuskegee, Alabama.This is one of the truly horrific episodesin the history of medical research.For over 40 years from 1932 to 1972,

    • 13:53

      KANE CLICK [continued]: the study sought to understand the effectsof untreated syphilis in rural African-American men.Of the 600 participants in the study,201 were deliberately infected with the disease.Moreover, participants in the studywere not told they had syphilis and weredenied treatment for an otherwise curable disease.

    • 14:15

      RONALD LEE: The last rhetorical episodewe want to mention about race is not a presidential discourse,but an essay about Bill Clinton as a cultural figure thatappeared in a 1998 issue of The New Yorkerwritten by Toni Morrison, the African American novelistand Nobel laureate.She called Bill Clinton the first black president.

    • 14:35

      RONALD LEE [continued]: She wrote, white skin notwithstanding,this is our first black president-- blackerthan any actual black person who could ever be electedin our children's lifetime.After all, Clinton displays almost every tropeof blackness-- single parent household, born poor,working class, saxophone playing,

    • 14:57

      RONALD LEE [continued]: McDonald's-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas.She continued, when the president's body, his privacy,his unpoliced sexuality became the focus of the persecution,when he was metaphorically seized and body searched,the message was clear-- no matter how smart you are,how hard you work, how much coin you earn for us,

    • 15:21

      RONALD LEE [continued]: we will put you in your place or put you outof the place you have somehow, albeit with our permission,achieved.You will be fired from your job, sent homein disgrace, and who knows, maybe sentenced in jailto boot.In short, unless you do as we say-- i.e.assimilate at once-- your expletives belong to us.

    • 15:47

      RONALD LEE [continued]: Morrison ties the rhetorics of race and scandal together.She finds in the Clinton scandalsdiscourses that parallel the white fearof black male sexuality.

    • 16:02

      KANE CLICK: Finally, in what sensecan we understand the political discourse of Hillary Clintonas part of the larger legacy of the Clinton presidency?Hillary was a nontraditional first lady.She stood in sharp contrast to manyof the women that came before her-- Barbara Bush, NancyReagan, Betty Ford, and Pat Nixon.

    • 16:22

      KANE CLICK [continued]: She came to the White House as a highlyaccomplished professional woman whohad graduated from Yale Law Schooland become one of the country's most important lawyers.She spearheaded the Clinton administration's most ambitiousdomestic program, the adoption of a national health insurancesystem.She was a prominent feminist and was well knownfor advocacy of the rights of women and children.

    • 16:43

      KANE CLICK [continued]: Moreover, she stayed with Bill after his admitted adultery,which was viewed by some as a nontraditional choice.In the wake of scandals, she leveraged the popularityof the Clinton presidency to get electedUS Senator from New York, serving two terms from 2001to 2009.Then she and Barack Obama waged a long campaign battle

    • 17:05

      KANE CLICK [continued]: for the 2008 Democratic Party presidential nomination.After Obama's victory, she became Secretary of Statefor his first term in office from 2009 to 2013.As we speak during the fall semester of 2016,she is the prohibitive front runner for the 2016 nominationfor president.She is the first woman to enjoy such a status.

    • 17:28

      RONALD LEE: Her political image, discourse, and policiesare both part of and apart from Bill Clinton's legacy.Hillary shares her husband's ideological center-leftpolitics.She is viewed as a pragmatic progressive,and has consistently staked out positionsto the right of Barack Obama, and now

    • 17:48

      RONALD LEE [continued]: her most important rival, Senator Bernie Sanders.Unlike her husband, Hillary's political personais not built on her relationship to the south,but rather, from growing up middle classin suburban Chicago and with her service as a USSenator from New York.Hillary has strongly identified as a feminist.

    • 18:10

      RONALD LEE [continued]: Her work for the international human rights of womenis a major part of her political agenda.Unlike Bill's run for the presidency in 1992,foreign policy in the post-9/11 world has become a moreimportant issue.Hillary's foreign policy resume hasbeen bolstered by her years of serviceas the country's chief diplomat.

    • 18:32

      RONALD LEE [continued]: The swirl of scandal which enveloped the Clintonpresidency has shaped Hillary's image in different ways.First, she is sometimes thought of as a victimof her husband's infidelity.Second and relatedly, she is also sometimes thoughtof as a Machiavellian character whostays with Bill out of hunger for power.

    • 18:52

      RONALD LEE [continued]: This is divided perception of Hillary between progressivesand conservatives in the US, and hasled to numerous heated politicized exchanges.These few minutes have permitted us only timefor a brief overview of the facets of the Clintonpresidency that have fascinated political communication

    • 19:13

      RONALD LEE [continued]: scholars.There is voluminous academic literatureon the topics we have covered, especially Clinton's campaignfilm, Clinton's discourses on race,Clinton speeches of apologia, the mediaenvironment, the gender politics surroundingthe emergence of Hillary Clinton as a national political leader,and the rise of new conservative movements in part

    • 19:36

      RONALD LEE [continued]: as a response to the Clintons.We encourage you to read this interesting literature.Thank you for spending these few minutes with us.

Bill Clinton

View Segments Segment :


Professor Ronald Lee and Kane Click present an overview of the presidency of Bill Clinton. They highlight the circumstances around Clinton's election, particularly the way he articulated his ideological vision. Lee and Click also discuss Clinton's scandals, impeachment, discourse of racial reconciliation, and nontraditional First Lady Hillary Clinton.

Bill Clinton

Professor Ronald Lee and Kane Click present an overview of the presidency of Bill Clinton. They highlight the circumstances around Clinton's election, particularly the way he articulated his ideological vision. Lee and Click also discuss Clinton's scandals, impeachment, discourse of racial reconciliation, and nontraditional First Lady Hillary Clinton.

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