How Presidential Politics Were Conducted in 1992

Introduction To The CD-ROM

The Field Guide aims to provide a systematic look at the structure, practices and tools of the 1992 presidential campaign.  It presents an image-based look at the campaign designed to bring into focus the communication environment in which the campaigns as well as the media, interest groups and the citizenry operated.  The Field Guide looks at the ways in which the campaigns presented their ideas and communicated their messages and at how the media conveyed those messages.  It is hoped that a thorough, well-organized presentation of the images of the 1992 campaign -- a Linnean classification of images -- will provide a useful framework for understanding this and future campaigns.

So much of politics revolves around good visuals that it seems appropriate to start with pictures.  Fleeting images on television or a quick glance at newspaper headlines and photographs are the source of a significant part of what we learn about the campaign.  While style alone cannot sell a message lacking in substance, it can significantly boost a message's effectiveness.  Packaging and choreography may be disparaged, but they cannot be discounted.  Images are the currency of modern political debate.  By studying them one may learn much about the practices, conventions and rules that govern our presidential selection process.

The picture-oriented approach used here is open to challenge.  Observers have objected to a "theatre criticism" mode of covering politics, arguing that it distracts from issues and is superficial.  For example, Paul Taylor cites an interesting variation on an over-used expression: "A word is worth a thousand pictures."[1]

In fact, words and pictures are each suited to convey different kinds of information.  Language possesses the property of discursiveness; it is linear and sequential.  Daniel Boorstin observes that writing allows for "the essential digression" whereas the media of film and television require constant action.[2]  Pictures can convey information at a glance.  They are two-dimensional and seemingly without syntax.  The logic of "true" or "false" cannot be applied to pictures.

Robert Deutsch, a public communication analyst with Evidence Based Research, Inc. of Northern Virginia, argues that "tacit style of presentation" rather than "objective content of words" is what determines people's choice of a leader. "Elections are based on preverbal dynamics," Deutsch states.  "Elections are about hope.  We can't choose a leader in terms of rational decision-making, because we don't know what the future is."[3]  Deutsch argues that, "The focus needs to be on imagery and narrative structures campaigns employ to influence voter decisions."[4]

If we understand how a campaign is conducted, we can spot the inadequacies, as well the things that work well, and then use this understanding to guide us toward elections that more effectively engage and inform the public.  Evolving communication technologies have radically changed and will continue to change the conduct of politics.  The Field Guide attempts to establish a benchmark at 1992: This is how it was done.

The reader is urged to consider how different communication techniques such as television spots, direct mail, town hall meetings, 1-800-#s, and use of on-line services affect the political discourse.  Which methods promote quality political dialogue and substantive discussion of issues and which lead to hyperbole and distraction?

Although most observers would agree that the 1992 campaign marked an improvement over 1988's exercise, there remain fundamental ways in which the political process could be improved.  It is quite possible that the presence of Ross Perot, and the dynamic of uncertainty that his off and on candidacy introduced, kept the 1992 campaign from degenerating into another sterile contest.  The present system has evolved over time under the influences of various interests.  Does the primary system make sense?  Is soft money a problem?  Can, or should, alternative or non-conventional voices be encouraged?

Finally, even if you are one of those Americans who professes to hate politics, a presidential campaign begets a multitude of creative ideas you can appreciate.  Choosing a president is a serious moment, but it is also a vast political theatre production staged at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.  Just as an opera may be impenetrable if one is not briefed about what will take place on stage, so too in a campaign the blizzard of messages coming from all sides may at times be daunting. If one takes time to understands the process,  the key players involved, and the images, messages and symbols they employ, one can make sense of the debate, make intelligent decisions and even have some fun.

1. Paul Taylor.  1990.  See How They Run: electing the President in an age of mediaocracy. New York: Alfred A Knopf, Inc.

2. Daniel J. Boorstin.  1992.  The Image: A Guide to Pseudo Events in America.  New York: Vintage Books.

3. Robert D. Deutsch.  personal interview November 13, 1992.

4. Robert D. Deutsch.  1992.  "Dissecting the TV Image."  Nieman Reports, 46:59-64.

Background On The CD-ROM

The approach used throughout this project was to start with original materials--communications from the campaigns, newsletters, press releases and annual reports.  I followed up by reviewing contemporary press accounts, and then refined and supplemented the information with insights gained from numerous interviews.

I sought to build a quality framework to house the images, some of which were included by special arrangement.  Because the Field Guide was produced on a shoestring budget, it does not have a lot of bells and whistles.  Indeed it includes no video whatsoever.  You might want to put on a Brandenburg Concerto or other suitable music while going through it.   

The Field Guide traces back as far as 1988 when I produced a hypercard file on that campaign.  It has its direct origin in the General Election Exhibition, a small exhibit I organized at GWU's Gelman Library in October and November 1992.  The Field Guide is intended to demonstrate the usefulness of an exhibit-based approach to informing the public about current political debates: Democracy in Action.  Writing took place from 1993 to 1996 with several interruptions.  In the first part of 1994 I made a determined effort to find a publisher, but when that failed I decided to proceed independently.
The permissions process was perhaps the most grueling part of the whole endeavor, as each organization had its own rules, CD-ROMs were not widely understood, and the question of electronic rights was just beginning to be addressed.  In most cases, the organizations were willing to help when they understood the project; as a result of their cooperation you have the opportunity to view some of the best work to come out of the 1992 campaign.  A few noteworthy images had to be left out because permission could not be obtained.

Owing to financial constraints, I followed a rather cumbersome process for duplicating most of the images on this disk, first photographing them and then transferring the slides to PhotoCDs; as a result the quality of some of the images is not as good as I would like.

The Field Guide CD-ROM was programmed using Microsoft Multimedia Viewer Publishing Toolkit version 2.0 for the Microsoft Windows operation system.  The formatted text files in the topics were first prepared using Microsoft Word 6.0 in rich-text-format (RTF).  Most of the text was done in 12-point Times New Roman font.  The color images were retrieved from the PhotoCDs and manipulated to achieve the best quality possible using Adobe Photoshop 2.5.1 with up to 256 colors.  Using the Viewer Publishing Toolkit hundreds of megabytes of  these formatted text files and color images were integrated with a simple-to-use user interface to produce this exciting title.

I had CD-ROM copies of the Field Guide printed up and planned to sell them on a not-for-profit basis to recover expenses incurred in researching and writing it including computer, telephone and postage and licensing fees; film, film processing and digitization; programming; disk pressing and packaging; and distribution.  However, my efforts to promote and distribute the disc fell short.


The Field Guide would not have been possible without the cooperation of many individuals, news organizations, interest groups, consultants and publishers who granted interviews, dug through old files, and helped with the permissions process.  Great care was taken to respect the creators' rights and to give credit where it is due.  A presidential campaign engages thousands of talented and experienced people who work extraordinarily hard.  A major goal of the Field Guide was to highlight their efforts and the artistic, imaginative, and ingenious ideas that emerged during the course of the campaign. 
My parents, Michael and Irma Appleman, kept the faith and granted me the measure of freedom needed to complete the Field Guide.  To mom and dad, thank you.

I should also like to thank professors Jarol Manheim and Phil Robbins in the political communication program at the George Washington University for creating a learning climate that worked and for instilling in me the analytical skills that enabled me to organize this material.  Les Francis' class in the program was particularly influential.  Doug Bailey and Chris Arterton in the Graduate School of Political Management also shaped my thinking on some of the subjects covered herein.  General thanks are due to Ellen Thurnau, Peggy Appleman, Steve Naplan and Steve Rabinowitz for their inspiration, encouragement and support and to computer and graphics whiz Bruce Starrett for his help with a number of "urgent requests."  I also acknowledge the influence of my grandfather, David B. Appleman.

Mike Dulworth and Huck Mok helped take this project from idea to reality.  Mike saw its worth when dozens of others would not.  Huck transformed rough sketches and ideas into actual screens, wrestled with images of poor quality, and handled incessant demands with patience and fortitude.  He did a remarkable job.

The Field Guide CD-ROM Team

Eric M. Appleman   Director, Writer and Editor
A Californian, Eric M. Appleman has been surfing the Potomac since 1989, learning the ins and outs of our nation's capital.  In 1993 he graduated from the George Washington University with a degree in Political Communication, summa cum laude.  His primary interest is in visual aspects of political communication.  In 1990-91 he served as Vice President of Students for Solidarity and Democracy in Eastern Europe at GWU; his 1990 visit to Poland and Czechoslovakia instilled in him a heightened awareness of the meaning of freedom, and prompted a commitment to making our own democracy work better.  He has served internships at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Malchow & Company, and the White House Communications office, and observed overseas elections in France (regional and cantonal elections in March 1992) and New Zealand (1993).  In January 1996 he completed work on the Vote America CD-ROM.  His long-term objective is to establish DEMOCRACY IN ACTION, a nonprofit, nonpartisan "gallery of democracy" in Washington, DC.

Huck Mok   Graphic/Screen Designer and Software Developer
Huck Mok, Technical Director of ComReach International Inc., has over ten years of experience in scientific as well as commercial software development, software project management, and graphic design.  Huck has held positions at University of Maryland, U.S. Department of Commerce, System Engineering Inc., and the Naval Research Laboratory.  He has B.S degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Maryland and a M.S. in Computer Science from Johns Hopkins University.  His expertise include: large-scale software system analysis, design and testing; software development with C, C++ and FORTRAN; Graphic User Interface design and supercomputing.  He has led the development of multiple software projects including: ISO 9000 Xpress multimedia CD-ROM; Quick and Easy Restaurant POS System; large-scale Electron Warfare Simulation for military applications and VV&A establishment.  Publications include: EW Modeling and Simulation (NRL report, January 1990), Portable Random Number Generator (NRL report, October 1992), Validation, Verification and Accreditation on Modeling and Simulation (NRL report, November 1994).

Michael Dulworth   Executive Producer
Michael Dulworth is the President of Insync Corporation, a McLean, VA based multimedia and software development company.  Mike has over twelve years experience working for public, non-profit and private organizations in the fields of organization research, management consulting, and software/multimedia development.  Mike has held positions at Sirota & Alper Associates, The Conference Board, The U.S. General Accounting Office and the U.S. Department of Labor.  He has a B.A. from the University of Michigan and a M.A. in public administration and organizational behavior from the University of Southern California.  He has led the development of multiple software and multimedia programs, including: I Speak 2000, The Survey Manager, PRISM 360, the Hewlett Packard 100VG CD-ROM and Applying Benchmarking CD-ROM.  Mike has published over a dozen book chapters and articles on management, organization improvement and multimedia learning, including: "Organization Development Through a Structured Quality Improvement Process" (Quality Digest, February 1993), "Six Ways Technology Improves Training" (HRMagazine, May 1995) and “Improve Training With Interactive Multimedia” (American Society for Training and Development Infoline, January 1996).

Responsibility for the contents of the Field Guide are the responsibility of the author, Eric M. Appleman.  The appearance of materials from many different organizations in this Guide in no way implies their endorsement of this project.