Where's Bill?

April 2008 - By now, we're about halfway through the exhausting six-week campaign leading up to the Pennsylvania primary. And, by now, you probably realize that, as politically fevered as the past few weeks have been, the next few are going to be even worse. So, with that in mind, let me take you back to a kinder, gentler time.

The year is 1992. By the time September rolled around, the Pittsburgh Penguins were preparing to defend their Stanley Cup title, Jay Leno had taken over the Tonight Show from Johnny Carson, Sharon Stone had showed everyone what she had to offer in Basic Instinct, and we all knew the words (and the accompanying line dance) to "Achy Breaky Heart."

Oh yeah, there was also a presidential campaign going on. George H.W. Bush was running for a second term. His opponent (for purposes of this story, we'll ignore Ross Perot)? Bill Clinton. Who was married to Hillary Clinton. Who had ties to Scranton. Which is where Bill Clinton promised to visit as he campaigned around the country.

What's so special about September, the month mentioned above? Well, that's when he made the promise to campaign in NEPA. I did some checking and found that on September 1, 1992, a news anchor at WNEP (where I worked then and where I work now) interviewed candidate Clinton via satellite. During that interview, they chatted about Hillary's ties to Scranton and the surrounding area and about Bill's plans to campaign here. Clinton said, "I'll be there a lot."

Fast forward to October 27, 1992. It's one week before the election and Bill Clinton has still not set foot in NEPA to campaign (at least not since the primary). But, on this night, Hillary was to speak at the Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre.

On the 11PM news that night, this is how we framed the story: "Hillary's here. Where's Bill?" If I recall correctly, those words were the very first thing the anchor said as video of Hillary rolled. I'm also pretty sure that we had a "banner" over that video with the words "Where's Bill?" The reporter's story included the pertinent clip from Bill's September 1 interview, a bite from Hillary, sound from supporters saying they understand how busy Bill is and a statement from the campaign saying that a stop in NEPA for Bill just didn't fit into their schedule.

Well, a couple of days later, guess who calls the newsroom? Someone from the Clinton campaign. Just calling to say that Bill Clinton would, in fact, be making a stop in NEPA. Seems it did fit into their schedule after all.

The stop turned out to be at a rally at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport on Sunday, November 1, just two days before the election. Bill's campaign plane flew in, he got out, waved, maybe said a few words and took off again. A promise kept, even if it wasn't particularly by choice.