The War Room (1993)

May 18, 2009

Guests: George Stephanopoulos, Paul Begala and Dee Dee Mye

By Lesette Heath and Sharon Shahid

WASHINGTON — The big story among Democrats in 1991 was that President George H.W. Bush seemed unbeatable. Until a young governor from Arkansas named Bill Clinton entered the race and shook things up.

"I didn’t think any Democrat had that much of a chance," said George Stephanopoulos, a former Clinton adviser who now anchors ABC’s "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."

Stephanopoulos, along with former Clinton advisers Dee Dee Myers and Paul Begala, were guests of "Reel Journalism," a film series hosted by veteran journalist Nick Clooney.

"The War Room," the first movie of the spring series, is a behind-the-scenes look at Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign and how he, and his new breed of political advisers and strategists, defeated Bush.

Begala, now a Democratic strategist and a political contributor for CNN, said before he met Clinton, his good friend "Georgie" — as in Stephanopoulos — told him: "I think I’ve met our generation’s Bobby Kennedy."

During the campaign, the panelists said they were dealt their share of blows, including scandals involving draft dodging and rumored Clinton flame, Gennifer Flowers.

"When you thought you could take a breath, you got hit with something else," said Myers, who became the first woman to serve as White House press secretary. "After we survived New Hampshire, I knew we could win."

Stephanopoulos said the transition from politics to journalism "was a big psychological jump — going from being an advocate to being impartial. I started out doing commentary and three years later became a reporter," he explained.

Though the Clinton campaign was sophisticated for its time, Myers, who spent two years in the Clinton White House, said it "looked like a covered wagon" compared to the YouTube generation. There was no Internet or BlackBerrys, and cell phone reception was spotty. Despite the lack of technology, they ran a successful campaign.

"Things were running fast," and we were quick to respond, Myers said.

"Reel Journalism," sponsored by the Newseum and the American University School of Communication, showcases classic and contemporary films depicting the integral role of journalism in American life and provides a forum to discuss the role of the press in a democratic society.

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