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October 4th, 2012 2:21 PM

George H.W. Bush Press Secretary in 1984: Lying During Debates Is a Republican Strategy


The Republicans are unabashed in their discussion of their ability to use the television medium.

"You can say anything you want during a debate and 80 million people hear it,'' observed Peter Teeley, press secretary to Vice President Bush. If reporters then document that a candidate spoke untruthfully, ''so what?''

''Maybe 200 people read it or 2,000 or 20,000,'' he said.


New York Times

2 Approaches to a Candidate's Image: Showing the Message or Speaking It
November 1, 1984
By Fay S. Joyce

LOUISVILLE, Ky., Oct. 31

'Who do you believe,'' Groucho Marx once asked, ''me or your own eyes?''

When Walter F. Mondale quoted that line in his second debate with Ronald Reagan, he went to the heart of the difference between his campaign and Mr. Reagan's. The President is counting on the conviction that people do believe their own eyes, relying in large measure on carefully staged and persuasive pictures to tell his story. Mr. Mondale relies more on the strength of his words.

And as they present their cases to the American public, they are not merely arguing in two different ways. They are also offering different versions of reality: the United States as a country with serious problems that must be tended to, or one that is essentially well off. ''It's either the Land of Oz,'' said one analyst, ''or Kansas.''

Mr. Reagan has largely bypassed the big-city newspapers by making extensive use of hundreds of local newspapers and television stations.
Small Controlled Gestures

And in him the Republicans have a candidate who has mastered the small controlled gestures of television: the cock of the eyebrow, the turn of the head, the soft voice that arrests and hold the attention of the viewer and establishes a sense of intimacy.

In their view, by using television so well Mr. Reagan is simply communicating clearly and effectively his personality and his message of optimism, patriotism and approval of the current economic prosperity for those who are experiencing it.

The Republicans are unabashed in their discussion of their ability to use the television medium.

''You can say anything you want during a debate and 80 million people hear it,'' observed Peter Teeley, press secretary to Vice President Bush. If reporters then document that a candidate spoke untruthfully, ''so what?''

''Maybe 200 people read it or 2,000 or 20,000,'' he said.
Most Turn to Television

In a recent interview, James H. Lake, communications director for the Reagan-Bush campaign, noted the importance of pictures over words. Fully 60 percent of the public gets most of its news from television, he said, and no matter what network correspondents report in words, Mr. Reagan still projects his pictures, ''positive pictures.''

''It's true that the Reagan people are good manipulators,'' noted John Deardourff, a Republican campaign consultant who managed President Ford's 1976 campaign in the communications media. But he suggested Mr. Reagan was simply offering what many people wanted. ''People like the feeling that someone else is doing the heavy lifting, the thinking for them,'' he said.

That is a view that outrages Mr. Mondale's aides, a view he himself firmly rejects. The Democratic Presidential nominee has based his campaign on discussing in detail such issues as the national deficit, nuclear weapons control and the preservation of programs like Social Security. There is a practical as well as philosophical basis to his approach. Polls show the public agrees with him on a number of issues.
He Takes Starring Role

And he tries to make good use of television as well. On Saturday, Mr. Mondale approved a new wave of commercials that depict him in a starring role, unlike some of his previous spot announcements. ''He is the best messenger,'' an aide explained.

But the aide acknowledged Mr. Mondale did not look great night after night on the evening news programs, saying: ''He does things Reagan doesn't do. He does not appear only in perfected settings. When the press wants to ask him a tough question, like they did the other morning about Reagan's supposedly insurmountable lead, he doesn't send me or his press secretary out. He goes out himself and walks up to the cameras himself.

''If the price of that candidness and accessibility is looking bad on television, so be it. It's a trade-off.''

Even Mr. Mondale's staged events on the stump bear little of the inch-by- inch, moment-by-moment management of Mr. Reagan's. Photographers and camera crews covering the candidate, concerned professionally with the way their work is presented to the public, have repeatedly been frustrated by what they say is the campaign's lack of consistent and detailed attention to visual appearance.
He Discusses Newspapers

Campaign officials stubbornly do not appear to believe that how Mr. Mondale looks is as important as what he says. The candidate himself does not watch much television, but he requires his staff to read newspapers every morning so he can discuss their content with them.

In the last few days Mr. Mondale has adopted some of the lessons of Mr. Reagan's success and held more visually pleasing events. But his campaign essentially continues to be waged by traditional ground rules.

He challenges the incumbent's record; he presents alternatives to current policies; he argues and tosses punches. ''Fighting Fritz'' only connects once in a while, however, because Mr. Reagan, continuing to pursue a successful ''Rose Garden'' strategy, will not fight that way.

To a large extent, Mr. Reagan has turned his back on the concept of giving detailed, verbal answers and moved to the visual plane that younger voters respond to best.
They Resemble Pep Rallies

Indeed, Mr. Reagan's approach is to emphasize the positive in society and to minimize problems. His upbeat campaign appearances resemble pep rallies in which he stresses a feeling of optimism, patriotism and the joy of the current economic picture for those who are prosperous.

''A lot of the Republican message is nonverbal,'' observed Richard C. Leone, who coordinates the presentation of Mr. Mondale's message.

''They know a majority of Americans don't agree with them on a lot of stuff,'' he added. ''People overwhelmingly don't agree with their platform. But rather than fight it out on detail, they would rather sketch it out in broad themes and tie Reagan to the flag.''

James David Barber of Duke University, an authority on the Presidency, is one of those who believes the candidates are offering different versions of reality to the public.

And the press, he says, by analyzing debates and campaign appearances in terms of style and political gain rather than on substance, has tutored the public to believe that what the candidates say, and finding out what is true, is not important.

''We've become a nation of theater critics,'' lamented ''We have not succeeded in establishing even an elementary base to discuss the facts. I find that appalling.''

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