In memory of President George H.W. Bush, we found the Oct. 31, 1992 edition of The Journal Times that featured the 41st president’s visit to Memorial Hall for a live television program just days before the 1992 election that Bush lost to Bill Clinton. Below is the story that ran in its entirety.
RACINE — Buoyed by a resurging campaign, President George Bush took advantage Friday (Oct. 30, 1992) of his last sustained opportunity to address voters nationwide on the Racine broadcast of “Larry King Live.”
Playing to a partisan Republican crowd of about 1,500 guests at Memorial Hall, Bush fired away at his opponents, the media, pollsters and even a few callers to the 90-minute Cable News Network show.
Using a baseball analogy to explain his scrappy campaign style the last few weeks, Bush said he is taking the issues to voters like he would run over the second baseman to break up a double play.
“I don’t like being written off,” Bush said angrily when King asked him why he’s been attacking the media. “The great political scientists, I’ve been decreed dead and buried by them. I’ve been confident all along that when the final days came I would win, and I still feel that way.”
He called network political analysts “Sunday morning talking heads,” and adopted his best impersonation of one of them interrupting the show.
“I don’t need somebody coming on and saying, “Well, it looks like Larry King won this round’ . . . Let them do their business and I’ll do mine.”
The crowd didn’t need the prompting they got from producers to erupt in applause whenever Bush blistered one of his detractors.
They wailed when Bush suggested voters “throw out the do-nothing, dead weight in Congress.” They cheered when he beat off a long line of questioning about the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages controversy. They applauded him calling Democratic vice presidential candidate Al Gore “Mr. Ozone.”
Bush labeled Gore as an environmental extremist on issues like protecting the spotted owl, the biodiversity treaty and higher auto efficiency standards.
“This is why I call him ‘Ozone.’ do you get it?” he said to King, leaning forward until he and King were inches apart.
Bush looked more at ease in the one-on-one talk show format than he did in the three presidential debates, throwing humorous barbs at King and mentioning Barbara Bush, who sat to his left on the front row. Wearing a dark suit, Bush relaxed across from King with his legs crossed, but often leaned toward King when he wanted to make a point.
When the dozens of lights over a raised platform stage dimmed for commercials, the mood quieted down as well. It was the first time many Racinians have been in a national television audience, and the first time many saw a president in person.
During the breaks, Bush and King chatted while makeup artists powdered their foreheads and producers prompted King through an earphone. As the show wore on, staffers fanned the men with leaflets because of the hot lights. At one point, King leaned over and explained to Bush how the satellite picked up their voices in space and bounced it back to the monitor in front of them.
The stage was surrounded by several rows of bleachers, and the crowd filled in three sections on the hall’s floor and several hundred balcony seats. King spoke to the crowd about 30 minutes before the show aired, saying they were part of history because this was the first time a president has agreed to a 90-minute live talk show.
Hell of a year
Appearing in his trademark blue pinstripe shirt with white collar and suspenders, King relaxed the crowd sharing some of his favorite humorous quotes from baseball great Yogi Berra. He announced that it was the 13th time a presidential candidate appeared on his show this year, the first being the famous Ross Perot show when Perot volunteered to be president in February.
“It’s been a hell of a year at CNN. I feel like Perot is part of my life. He just called and said he bought this building, and we have to be out in 20 minutes. Who’s going to tell the president?”
When he told the audience to applaud at the direction of three producers on the floor, he looked at Barbara Bush.
“You don’t have to, Barbara. You’re above all this,” he joked.
Barbara Bush, wearing a bright purple dress, reacted occasionally to the banter as Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson sat at her side.
The media bashing started before Bush’s remarks, when the crowd soundly booed eight still photographers who were allowed to take pictures of the pair for one minute from the front of the set. Bush later mentioned the incident, saying his media targets were not the photographers but the television analysts.
The audience was asked to ignore cameras that often panned the crowd and to keep their eyes on the stage, and not several monitors in the hall.
Bush backed off his attack of Bill Clinton and Gore earlier in the week, when he called the Democrats “bozos.” The remark was criticized by the media and a caller on the show found it offensive.
“I thought it was funny at the time to call them bozos. It’s become a great big media thing. If it hurts (Clinton’s) feelings because I called him a bozo, I’m sorry,” Bush said. “I try to uphold the dignity of the office I hold. I’ll do better next time.
As King hinted before the show, Bush stayed around after the interview to address the crowd.
“The American people have been through a lot.” he told the group. “This hasn’t been easy on my family. I’ll be glad when it’s over,” he said of the grueling campaign.
Bush credited King as a “tough, straight interviewer” and said the show’s format allows guests to “tell it as you feel it with no interruptions.”
He implored the audience to be sure to vote and try to sway their undecided neighbors over to the Republican cause.
“I’m not suggesting tacks in the driveway. Just talk it over,” he said. “It makes a big difference if you feel the crowd is behind you. I’m grateful for your support.”