Beyond Broadcast


About the Program

"The Choice '96" explains how the candidates' personal backgrounds affect their political aspirations. Among the film's major themes are the following:

Region matters: Bob Dole's upbringing on the Kansas plains explains his laconic, sometimes fatalistic speaking style, but also his work ethic and his perfectionism. Bill Clinton's background in the exuberant atmosphere of Hot Springs couldn't have been more different: It made him people-centered, a risk-taker, and it inspired him to seek out a larger world (back East, at Oxford, in the nation's capital). [Approximately 25 minutes]

War matters: World War II made a hero out of Bob Dole. His war-time injuries created an independence in him as well as an emotional toughness. Likewise, the Vietnam war haunts Bill Clinton. In the eyes of some Americans, it made him a draft-dodger and, hence, untrustworthy; to other voters, the war showed him a passionate, articulate opponent of senseless conflict. [Approximately 15 minutes]

Teachers matter: Both Dole and Clinton were shaped by their mentors. Richard Nixon taught the young Dole how to make political calculations and why it was important to avoid rigid ideologies. The complex Senator from Arkansas, William Fulbright, inspired Clinton to take on great political odds and to become a kind of "brilliant hillbilly." [Approximately 15 minutes]

Religion Matters: Clinton was raised a Southern Baptist, a church which holds that redemption is possible for all sinners. Such a view informs Clinton's progressive brand of politics in which all persons get a second chance and where the downtrodden are helped up. Bob Dole's theology of spare, no-nonsense, Midwestern Methodism, on the other hand, prizes hard work, self-denial, and personal responsibility. It is not surprising, then, that he turned to the Republican party in his adult years. [Approximately 10 minutes]

Victory matters: Bob Dole and Bill Clinton are pragmatic politicians who constantly keep their eyes on the bottom line-maintaining political influence. When threatened with defeat and political oblivion, they can change course rapidly and strike out at opponents in uncharacteristic ways. [Approximately 12 minutes]

Similarities Matter: Despite all their dramatic differences, in generation, character, style, and political heritage, candidates Dole and Clinton are, as politicians, truly brothers under the skin. They are two of the most expedient and moderate leaders in today's Washington, and each wants to be the man at the center of the table when the deals are done. [Approximately 6 minutes]

This guide presents a variety of questions raised by "The Choice '96" as well as some background information about modern campaigning. The issues raised here are sure to spark student discussion, but they also must be handled with due regard for students' different political and moral commitments.