by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The Clinton campaign was wrestling with its message, struggling to reach voters who saw politicians as obsessed with career and power, and fascinated by Donald Trump. The year was 1992.
A draft internal campaign memo sent by Bill Clinton’s political team and obtained by the Washington Free Beacon reveals that his advisers were concerned that the Clintons’ “debilitating image” was “dragging us down.”
Though the New York Times reported on the document at the time, a copy of the memo has never been published.
Stan Greenberg, James Carville, and Frank Greer sent the “General Election Project” memo on April 27, 1992. The memo reveals a campaign struggling with Bill Clinton’s image as the “ultimate politician,” and urged the candidate to deliver speeches in the style of Trump, now Hillary Clinton’s opponent more than two decades later.
“This report of the ‘general election project’ recommends a fundamental remaking of your campaign to reflect the new political realities and new phase of the campaign and, most important, to address the debilitating image that is dragging us down,” they wrote.
The memo outlines several strategic changes to boost Bill and Hillary’s public image, including staging an event where Bill and Chelsea would surprise Hillary on Mother’s Day. These changes were intended to portray Bill as a change agent, not just a politician after power.
In a section entitled “Brave Enough to Challenge America,” the campaign team suggested Bill deliver a series of speeches that could garner press attention and engage the audience like Trump and financier Michael Milken did at the Wharton School of Economics.