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Invoking Jefferson, Recollecting Roosevelt, and Imitating Hamilton: President William J. Clinton's Use of Exemplars
Unformatted Document Text:  think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country. Fellow citizens we cannot escape history” (Smith, 1996:124). In less than ten weeks, Clinton had managed to cite six presidents, two of them Republicans, and one—Truman—that “is fondly cited by both Democrats and Republicans but for the relatively simple purpose of establishing a folksy combativeness and foreign policy aggressiveness” (Abbott, 1990:13). That being said, he did not appear to be drawing on any specific ideological strain or constitutional construct from these presidents. He was just citing “the greats.” As the campaign progressed, it followed a series of predictable partisan turns. During the height of primary season, on March 12—nine days after the Georgia primary (the first Clinton win) and before the Illinois and Michigan primaries—Clinton referenced not only Democratic presidential exemplars John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, but past presidential aspirant Adlai Stevenson. After the race riots had occurred in April in Los Angeles and Clinton had the nomination in sight, he spoke before the Democratic Leadership Council in May, referencing both Thomas Jefferson (“like a firebell in the night”) and Abraham Lincoln (“government of, by, and for the American people”). A few weeks later, he invoked Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy on the topic of the bully pulpit again. The day before he spoke at the Democratic National Convention in New York City, he spoke in Nashville, Tennessee, to the NAACP, and he reminded them of five previous presidents. He said: “I’m tired of hearing people say this election doesn’t make any difference and they’re all the same and nobody can make it work. We’ve been around here for two hundred years. It made a difference whether Abraham Lincoln won the election of 1860. It made a difference whether Franklin Roosevelt won the election of 1932 or Herbert Hoover got reelected. It made a difference whether John Kennedy was elected in 1960 or Lyndon Johnson was elected in 1964” (Smith, 1996:211). At the Convention itself, he again reminded the Democrats of John F. Kennedy’s “call to service.” 13

Authors: Brown, Lara.
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think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our
country. Fellow citizens we cannot escape history” (Smith, 1996:124).
In less than ten weeks, Clinton had managed to cite six presidents, two of them Republicans, and
one—Truman—that “is fondly cited by both Democrats and Republicans but for the relatively
simple purpose of establishing a folksy combativeness and foreign policy aggressiveness”
(Abbott, 1990:13). That being said, he did not appear to be drawing on any specific ideological
strain or constitutional construct from these presidents. He was just citing “the greats.”
As the campaign progressed, it followed a series of predictable partisan turns. During the
height of primary season, on March 12—nine days after the Georgia primary (the first Clinton
win) and before the Illinois and Michigan primaries—Clinton referenced not only Democratic
presidential exemplars John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, but past presidential
aspirant Adlai Stevenson. After the race riots had occurred in April in Los Angeles and Clinton
had the nomination in sight, he spoke before the Democratic Leadership Council in May,
referencing both Thomas Jefferson (“like a firebell in the night”) and Abraham Lincoln
(“government of, by, and for the American people”). A few weeks later, he invoked Theodore
Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy on the topic of the bully pulpit again. The day before he spoke
at the Democratic National Convention in New York City, he spoke in Nashville, Tennessee, to
the NAACP, and he reminded them of five previous presidents. He said:
“I’m tired of hearing people say this election doesn’t make any difference and they’re all
the same and nobody can make it work. We’ve been around here for two hundred years.
It made a difference whether Abraham Lincoln won the election of 1860. It made a
difference whether Franklin Roosevelt won the election of 1932 or Herbert Hoover got
reelected. It made a difference whether John Kennedy was elected in 1960 or Lyndon
Johnson was elected in 1964” (Smith, 1996:211).
At the Convention itself, he again reminded the Democrats of John F. Kennedy’s “call to
service.”
13


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