Skip to comments.The Visual Byte: Bill Clinton and His Town Hall Meeting Style (Clinton & Televised Debates)
Posted on 03/05/2008 12:42:35 PM PST by lowbridge
Bill Clinton in the town hall debates of 1996 and 2000 included physical, non-verbal debate strategies. This paper analyzed these "visual bytes to see how Clinton used them during the debates. While the impact of visual bytes on the audience cannot be measured, this paper discusses the rhetorical implications of their use.
On Question One about national unity Clinton challenged Dole's response through aggressive posturing when Dole answered first. The camera shot aired had Clinton looking into the camera as Dole spoke while the shot frequently showed the back of Dole's head. The camera zoomed in for a quick close up of Clinton as he smiled and nodded in agreement. The camera pulled out to a two-shot, showing Clinton with hands in his pockets, chin up and eyes narrowed in a challenge. Before cutting to another camera, the shot concluded with Dole talking out of the frame, Clinton's reaction available to the audience in a medium shot. Except for the first two brief shots of his answer, Dole either shared the camera frame with Clinton or totally had the image turned over to his opponent. During other questions, Clintons behavior showed intent and awareness of which camera was broadcasting. On Question Three, Clinton had to move from behind the podium to its left side to remain in the frame. By moving on Question Four, Clinton created a shot where his head and Dole's were side to side. Dole moved on Question Five, forcing Clinton to move along with him. During Question Nine, Clinton stepped closer to Dole as he spoke; as a result, the camera zoomed in on Clinton. During Questions One, Ten, Fifteen, Eighteen, Nineteen, and Twenty, Clinton appeared alone in the frame while Dole spoke.
(Excerpt) Read more at scientificjournals.org ...
Cripes. Thats supposed to be "Scientific Journals International" I'm such a lousy typist.
Is this article exposing that the supposed objective media who aired the debates were actively engaged in aiding their choice of candidate by changing the camera shots to coordinate with sinkEmperor’s desired visual bytes?
"When Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford agreed to return televised debates to the general election schedule, with three encounters spaced throughout the fall of 1976 (plus a fourth for the vice presidential candidates), there began a tradition of opposing camps bargaining and bickering over formats, moderators, inclusion of minor party candidates, question content and types, as well as narrower details such as podium height, room temperature (Nixons bane in 1960), lighting, audience seating, backdrop color and the placement of the American flag (see Schroeder 2000; Kraus 1988). Underlying all of this negotiation have been threats to dispense with debates altogether if specific terms were not met.4"
"Candidate Bill Clintons campaign team first came up with the idea for a town hall debate, pitching the idea to President Bush in 1992, and their agreement was affirmed by the Commission on Presidential Debates, the nonpartisan organization which began sponsoring and arranging these encounters four years earlier"
"The small but noteworthy scholarship on non-verbal debate strategies presume that television networks control the visual image: the setting is neutral; the audience is simply a collection of spectators; and the context of the exchange is controlled by whichever candidate happens to be the lenss target. A candidate speaks (or gestures or makes a facial expression) on camera, thus filling in the space allotted by the network for him or her to appeal, attack, joke, etc. The network takes care to balance these subjective moments, and tries to even out each candidates visual portrayals (roughly equal numbers of shots of the candidates at different camera angles) so that the overall effect may be declared "objective," allowing analysis of the debate to hinge on candidate performance rather than any (dis)advantage imparted by television producers.6 This system works well with moderated debates, where candidates are essentially frozen in place, but it can be upset in the town hall format, where a candidates freedom of movement can introduce greater complexity to televisions portrayal of direct political discourse. And candidate Bill Clinton took full advantage of his freedom in his two encounters."
"While the Bush team simply practiced verbal arguments and rebuttals leading up to the town hall debate, Bill Clintons staff also laid out a grid, complete with fake cameras and doubles for his opponents and the audience, to train their candidate to utilize space effectively. Americans were thus introduced to a new variety of political persuasion. By positioning himself on the stage in relation with the background, to his debate opponents, and to the live audience, candidate Bill Clinton encoded the television image in a manner not seen in traditional moderator or panel debates. He literally carried on a commentary through movements combined with expressions, reinforcing his own oration and "invading" the discourse of others. For example, review of 1992 footage made clear that he "choreographed his moves so as to keep one or the other of his competitors in the camera shot at all times, a maneuver that circumvented the prohibition on cutaways of one candidate while another was speaking. . . . Clinton . . . hoped to catch Bush and Perot on camera with bad facial expressions" (Schroeder 2000, 63-64)."
No, I'm not one of the authors. This article is about how Clinton artfully manipulated the Town Hall format debate to his advantage. Its a very good article, and something the Republican nomineee needs to watch out for in the future.
A. Do not agree to town hall format debates this year.
This is pretty interesting. Going to the link and looking at the pictures and reading the captions is the best way to understand their point.
I see it as Clinton being very astute at working the camera, his opponents are clueless, and he manipulates it effectively.
It’s akin to his famous camera change after Ron Brown’s funeral. He’s always aware of the camera and knows how to use it. A first class manipulator.