“What Sells Me”: Bill Clinton, 1974

Courtesy of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

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“What Sells Me”: Bill Clinton, 1974

by Seth Kotch, WalterDe Vries
Southern Cultures, Vol. 18, No. 3: Politics

"You can't be defensive about it. You don't apologize for it."

In June of 1974, just four days after winning a runoff election in the Democratic primary, the newly minted candidate for Congress in Arkansas’s 3rd District, Bill Clinton, sat down with Jack Bass and Walter De Vries to discuss the campaign. In this interview, Clinton shows off the zeal for detail that he would eventually carry with him to the White House, dissecting the 3rd District and its voters, analyzing his opponents’ strategies, and planning for a careful campaign against Republican John Paul Hammerschmidt (a battle Clinton would lose 52 percent to 48 percent). Clinton also speaks about balancing charisma and substance. “My campaign . . . is issue-oriented,” he says, which “is what sells me as a human being.”