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My wife and I just watched the Choice. Then I scanned the reviews, above. What is it about Frontline that apparently causes reviewers to swoon? We thought the program was pitiful. It was totally without value or insights (except those peddled by your best-selling authors, which simply reflected the the biases in their books.

Overall, the program was clearly far more negative about Clinton than Dole. That indeed might account for reaction of the reviewers. No real choice? How about the record? Dole has fought and voted against just about every social program in the past 30 years beginning with Medicare. He has always opposed the minimum wage, family leave, environmental, worker protection programs. You show him in that losing the battle to control the budget-- you don't show him leading the pack that gave the biggest tax cuts to the wealthy in '82 and produced most of our debt the country now struggles with. You don't show Clinton pushing for tax increases to begin closing the deficit. (Now that took courage!) What do you mean, there is no choice?

What is worse, though, about the program is its incredible naivete. Thinking that those authors really know their subjects and portrayed them accurately. Thinking that what colleagues say about Dole as Senate leader is something special. (I've been around Washington and on the Hill off and on for 30 years -- all leaders get rave reviews by their peers.)

Although I found your program interesting I disagreed with its premise that we need to know the candidates much more intimately in order to make sound choices. I believe that we can have excellent, probably even better choices, if we allow candidates some modicum of privacy. By depriving candidates of every last shred of privacy I believe we alienate many good people that would serve our country well.

I believe this happens I believe this occurs at every level of government. Consider the recent polls indicating that young people are much less attracted to the idea of being president and parents of young people indicate that they do not want their children to be president. Who can blame them. Today's media have no shame when it comes to displaying the most intimate details of a candidate's life and past. And we as viewers are just as bad in watching it and demanding more. If you take suggestions for story lines consider this one: By depriving our public servants of their privacy, we deprive ourselves of much needed service.
Ellsworth, KS

Thank you Frontline for another absorbing television experience. Your program "The Choice 96'" revealed more about the two candidates than anything else to date. I will venture that nothing of the future will come close to the revelations you so skillfully presented.

The lives of these two men are proof that even today it still matters not our origins and background. Anyone of us can accomplish anything we desire in this country of unequaled opportunity.

Your program should be required viewing for all Americans who will make their important choice come election day.

I will continue to look forward to comparable programming in the days ahead.
Federal Way, WA

Shame on you PBS! Your "side-by-side" picture of Dole and Clinton with Dole all shadowy like some sort of vampire while Clinton has like a beacon of light is a disgrace! Surely you must wonder why there are those of us who do not want you to have ANY of our tax money!

Thank you for showing this un-bias program on the two candidates. In a time when you are bombarded by the libral pro-Clinton media (CNN, NBC, CBS, and ABC) it is a relief knowing that you can still trust PBS to report the truth.
Tulsa, OK

Just watched the show profiling Bill Clinton and Bob Dole. In general it was even-handed, informative and interesting. However, I have two complaints:
1) The conclusion, that Clinton and Dole are "brothers under the skin" is not only shallow, but completely contradicts the rest of what was shown for the preceding two hours.

2) At one point the statement was made that in the '80s, "Reagan's economics had plunged the country into debt." About the kindest thing that can be said about this is that it somewhat misstated the truth. Reagan's economics boiled down to this: Cut taxes and revenues will grow. Taxes were cut ... revenues grew. But Congress increased spending even faster (More than a dollar and a hlaf of increased spending for every dollar of increased revenue).

Therefore, what plunged us deeper into debt was the irresponsibility of Congress - in spite of Reagan's economics. Facts are good. Use them.
Walworth, NY

Just outstanding! The best most comprehensive political piece Ive seen in a long time...perhaps ever...just outstanding!!!!

Your presentation of these two men was acrobatically biased against Clinton. You went to extraordinary lengths to minimize the opportunity of Clinton's legion of friends to contribute their perspectives on him, and instead gathered a group of anti-Clinton writers to tell us why they think he's in effect an unprincipled and dishonest fraud.

This warped view was "balanced" by journalists like Kramer and Woodward who are at essence Dole advocates -- people who sing Dole's virtues while they explain away and minimize his deficiencies.

I have long admired the good and often superb journalism of FRONTLINE. This is why I am so disappointed in this hatchet job on such an important story. I've never written in response to a story before, but this was just too extraordinary to bear in silence.
Washington, DC

Rarely have I ever been so impressed with Frontline as I was with The Choice '96 (dealing with Clinton vs. Dole) The subject of the show was not printed on my schedule, and when I turned it on and saw the topic, I nearly turned it right off fully expecting a typical hatchet job on Republicans and shameless promotion of all things "liberal." However, I was not only surprised by the fairness but, indeed, moved by the content. You presented the two candidates very well. I must admit, I was one who previously felt the Corporation for Public Broadcasting should be axxed. It seems, however, that you got the message, and it shows. Please show this edition again because I missed a good part of the beginning.
Thank you,

As is nearly always the case, I found your show captivating. And again, as in most cases, there was something at which I would take issue. Though in general and specific I thought the show was top notch, your ending was, to say the least, puzzling to me. After spending two hours detailing the many profound differences between the two candidates, you ended the show with a barely supported claim that the two candidates are really almost the same. Your evidence? They both will compromise. But compromise is the very essence of the political process! Ask the President why he signed a welfare bill he professes not to like, and ask Mr. Dole why he is endorsing a tax proposal that seems inconsistent with his record, and their answers will remind you of the profound differences between these two men.

Arlington, VA

An example of the very best of journalism. It gave us insights that very few of us would have access to or be able to develop. And the program offered lessons that extend far beyond these two individuals. A very powerful process using thoughtful, and articulate observers. I'll order the tape tomorrow and share it with as many people as I can.
Marion, IOWA

This was a very interesting show - but it failed to help us make a choice. The choice we have to make is really not a choice between men, but between policy options. As your program pointed out, the two major candidates offer very few differences. Perhaps if we'd heard a little about Nader, or perhaps even Perot, and their policies, there would be something useful for us to think about.

It's not about the character issue. It's about who do they represent.

There's only one candidate who speaks about any kind of opposition to the corporate takeover of democracy.
J.C. & C.R.

"The Choice '96" is the most substantive program that I have seen about the presidential candidates. The program was candid, thoughtful and non-partisan. I hope that PBS will continue this effort to give the public facts, not political spin. I feel that there is a great degree of selfishness and self-interest being promoted in choosing our President that is fundamentally disturbing. We vote for our favorite program that will benefit us personally instead of electing leadership with courage and strength for our country and in no small measure, the world.
Eileen Stamper

Having seen previews for the Dole/Clinton special, I was optimistic about learning more about the background and origins of each candidate. Encouraged by PBS' normal commitment to presentation of fact without frivolous and opinionated word play on the part of the "pundits," I looked forward to a sincere presentation of both candidates' geneses as people and as politicians.

Unfortunately, your episode was disappointingly biased and wholly based on the kind of pseudo-analysis that Frontline usually avoids. Clearly, the presentation was weighted in favor of Bob Dole, his growth and commitment as well as his emotional and philosophical dynamism. Dole was shown crying at least three times, and his experience and learning were seen as productive sources of his tremendous character. Clinton was shown in positions of angst and defeat; ideally contrasted with Dole's heroism was Clinton's draft-dodging. Contrary to Dole's lessons from Nixon, the Clinton/Fulbright relationship was more of a commentary on Fulbright's racism than on Clinton.

Finally, the pundits who tarnished Clinton's image every segment were a nice foil to the homely men and women who praised Bob Dole at every moment. Your pundits then managed to hone the issues down to the perfect Dole statement, one even going so far as to conclude by saying that the issue is a character one and not at all a policy one. Your pundit then asks us to weigh the candidates trust, honesty, and integrity. This after two hours devoted to showing Clinton at his weakest and as the most untrustworthy candidate. For shame! Comparing Clinton to an evangelist, even trying to prove that he contrived to make the famous Kennedy photo-op, is bad journalism and bad service to the public.

I am thoroughly disappointed in the lack of control Frontline exercised over its analysts. Their shabby pseudo-psychology over simplified the issues in a way that I usually expect from network television, and certainly not from PBS. Had the episode been written by Dole Campaign staffers, I could not have expected anything more biased and uninformative. I hope that this episode does not sway many viewers, viewers who will have to look elsewhere to find any Clinton success (not a one was mentioned). I also hope that this kind of work is not indicative of the content and style of future Frontline episodes.
J. W.
Palm Beach Gardens, FL

Although I was unable to watch all of "The Choice '96," I was very impressed with the half hour that I did catch. It is such a relief that in a time of political spin and rhetoric, there is still a place to find REAL information on the candidates. One of these two men will lead us in to the third millenium. Thankfully PBS is thoughful enough to provide us more insight and information on them than any "news agency" ever would.
Ashland, OH

What a poignant, beautiful, elegaic portrait of Bob Dole. And what a hatchet job on Bill Clinton. Noble Bob Dole--endlessly strong, silent, stoic; even his strange support of Nixon is presented as nothing more than an excess of loyalty. And then there's bubba Bill--hopelessly self-centered, manipulative, untrustworthy. (I guess you guys are hedging your bets; in the event that Dole and a Republican Congress are elected you can certainly wave this program in their faces as proof that PBS should not be eliminated!) A particularly nice stroke was ending the program with a discourse on why we should cast our votes on the basis of character. Since you so obviously set out to extoll Dole's and slam Clinton's I think I'll pass on that advice.(And I'm curious: why is Bill's supposed philandering a character trait worth beating to death, while Dole's treatment of his first wife doesn't bear mentioning?) I'm disappointed FRONTLINE; I had hoped for a fair and compelling comparison of the candidates and got a Dole promotional film, instead.
Lincoln, MA

Your study of Messrs. Dole and Clinton gave us a thoughtful, incisive look at the man who will be our next President and the man who will not. I found myself waiting for the bias that has tainted other Frontline shows, and being grateful at the end for having found none. It was an engrossing hour. Thank you for it.
Villanova, PA

I'm very disappointed to see Ross Perot missing from "The Choice 96." I expected better, less partisan reporting from PBS. It is not your place to slant American voters toward or away from any candidate, but by not including him in your report, you imply that he is not a real candidate. Your report is worthy of the Commission on Presidential Debates.
Clemson, SC

Thank you so very much for presenting Helen Whitney's superb documentary "The Choices '96." Viewing it was a humbling experience for me. I came to begin to appreciate how naive my current grasp of political issues is. No program I have watched in recent years held me in rapt attention like this one did.

It must have been something like an epiphany for me: I gained a visceral appreciation for the fallacy of structural analyses as impetus for social transformation. That is, that strength of personality is still very much operative as it is so often purported to be in histories.

The breadth and depth of this two hour documentary astounds me. I've seen many longer documentaries that seem to have conveyed less.

Only now do I have a sense of the person and capabilities of Bob Dole. I am surprised to rediscover that a responsible vote should be cast with regard not only to issues and campaigns but also with regard to administrative styles and strengths of personality. I am chagrined that I had forgotten these.
Again, thank you,
Duarte, CA

Frontline on October 8, 1996, appalled me. I was astounded at how pointless and uninformative your program actually was. It consisted of nothing but a parade of unsubstantiated opinion. Opinion expressed by many who seemed oddly compelled to express their opinions.

Who were those people? Who really cares?

None of the coverage informed me about issues facing our nation. The coverage addressed no issue that would help me decide who to vote for.

Your coverage wastes my time.

You waste my time.

Thank you for an amazingly insightful program about two very interesting Americans. This is television at its best, and worthy of a special award. The only thing missing was perhaps a followup interview of both men, perhaps together, in which they could respond to their own or each others charactizations after viewing the program. *That* could be a truly illuminating experience.

It may be that Clinton will go down in history as "The Great Compromiser" or deal maker, and even though such a title might not be looked upon favorably by many, it serves the people, as real work actually gets done. In that sense he seems much more like Lyndon Johnson than JFK or Fulbright. It was more surprising to realize that Dole is also so pragmatic. It is no wonder that these last two years has resulted in changes that could never have been envisioned by their more exptreme colleagues, but yet the public still see the gains as modest. It also becomes clearer why both of these men actually may like each other. Although they come from generations with differing values, the crucible of their own lives has demanded them to respond and rebound from early pain and failure, something they must recognize in each other. And their abiding need to work together and towards the middle to achieve difficult consensus is a personal hallmark of both men which must make them comfortable with each other.

Again, kudos on a very impressive program.

I watched your program "The Choice of '96" on October 8, 1996 and was disappointed by the obscene slant your program took.

I've come to expect an interesting and balanced presentation of information from your programs. This program was very interesting, not due to the content, but rather due to the presentation which showed only things favorable about Bob Dole and very little favorable about Bill Clinton. While I'm no supporter of Bill Clinton I find this very unfair to him and to your audience whose interests to the truth were not served by the distorted picture which was presented.

I first thought that this was just my initial impression after seeing all those testimonials from Bob Dole's Kansas friends followed by interviews critical of Bill Clinton. This impression was to be short lived.

Dole was identified with courageous and independent Kansans, while Clinton was portrayed as a product of Hot Springs, Arkansas whose residents comfortably lived with the hypocrisy of illegal gambling.

Dole was said to have an encyclopedic memory who, when speaking in the senate, knew what every member wanted like a small Kansas town soda jerk, doing his job well, knew what his customers wanted. Clinton, on the other hand "Says what [his audiences] want to hear".

The part of the program that removed any doubts about the program's bias was the description of the two men's religions. Bob Dole, prayer in breast pocket, was characterized as a stern moral Methodist. Bill Clinton was defined as a southern Baptist who lives by that religion's supposed tenet that "Once forgiven always forgiven."

Maybe your program balanced itself out at the end. I don't know since I couldn't stomach watching the whole thing.
Addison, IL

I would like to thank you for your superb program, The Choice, that aired last night on Frontline. Unfortunately, I missed the first 30 minutes of the broadcast. Your program represented TV at its finest: a thoughtful, topical, in-depth program. The program helped inform me as a voter about the two candidates running for office.

And while I don't think that it changed my mind about my vote, your show explained the two candidates in detail. I may disagree with Bob Dole or Bill Clinton, but last night's broadcast helped me to understand why they are the people that they are. Thank you for producing such a fine documentary piece on our choices for President.

America would be better served if there were more programs like Frontline on the air.

Birmingham, AL

The Frontline credits listed two women as producers. I find this perplexing in that the woman's point of view on the two candidates was totally lacking. Outside of relatives, the commentators were one white guy after another white guy, ad nauseum. The 94 Elections might have been about "white guys" but this time the women and minorities will be heard. We have been "hearing" from the "disadvantaged" white guys for two long years so please give it a rest in your next documentary. Let's hear comments on these candidates from the majority of the electorate---all of the minorities!

The "blurb" preceding the actual showing of Frontline that was used to advertise the program was so slanted against Dole that I was already dismayed about the tone of the program before I viewed it. The "dark and cloudy" feel of the scenes, the word pictures, continued throughout the program, while those of Clinton were colorful, bright (literally) and resulted in a very slanted presentation which disappointed me greatly in Frontline. I appreciated the effort but not the result. And the conclusion, that the two men are like brothers, was sick! There is no comparison between the two as far as character goes, but there was nothing to indicate that in the whole presentation. Shame, shame on you!
Stevens Point, WI

Your program portraits of Bill Clinton and Bob Dole more aptly would have been titled What Choice America?

I got no insight into the souls of these men only an affirmation of what I've learned to expect from career politicians - namely that they have a vision which extends only as far as the most recent poll, directed by what can or cannot be drafted into legislation - what president Clinton has now come to realize.

Did you plan to tease us - showing there is no choice - if so, then why not present a program profiling the third party candidates? Certainly a program about the differences between, and visions of, non career politicians would have made for an intereting program. It would also have given Frontline an opportunity to take a courageous stand - giving a wake up call to Americans - there is a choice.
Largo, FL

Although it was repeatedly stated in Frontline that Clinton and Dole are so similar in approach that they might be brothers, my impression from the rhetoric of the program is that Dole was being presented as being the man of greater character. Was that the intent of the Frontline editors?
Pittsburgh, PA

Excellent job attempting to elect "Bill". I am not buying. Dole is the man who it seems; not another American should suffer his blight. Whether economic or physical. It comes across in his weeping (Doles'). The President however can weep in a single step on cue and fake whatever necessary.
Azusa, CA

It was a wonderful production. Thank you for providing such valuable service. It was informative, entertaining and thought provoking.
Tulsa, OK

I am a supporter of Bill Clinton. I found your most recent program aired 10/8/96 to be excessively one-sided in favor of Bob Dole. This program cannot be considered a documentary anymore than one should consider Oliver Stone's "Nixon" accurate and complete, notwithstanding its entertainment value. I am concerned at how blatantly unfair (and meaningless) the contrasting of each candidate was and that this seemed more like a paid political endorsement than the typical quality programing I expect from PBS. How can you entitle this "Choice 96"?
Seattle, WA

Thank you for the enlightening comment that both Clinton and Dole are married to powerful women. However, additional insight into the influence their wives have had on these gentlemen would have been appreciated. In your report, and all other reports, we see Senator Dole's daughter from a previous marriage. Why is it that there was no report on Mr. Dole's first wife, their relationship, and divorce?
Richmond, VA

Excellent! Excellent! Excellent!

This is what my wife had to say about your show, Choice 96, that aired here on Tuesday, Oct. 8th. She felt that you were fair to both men in pointing out their strengths, weaknesses, and similarities.

Although some of the comments did not paint the president in the best of lights where his character is concerned, they were the truth, and the truth is what this country must stand for.

We haven't watched much of Frontline in the past for a variety of reasons, but now are anxious to see what you have in store for us in the future.
Houston, TX
p.s. A rerun of the show before the election would be great as I missed some of the beginning. My wife saw it all.

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