FRONTLINE: The Choice 96
Frontline/WGBH-TV, Helen Whitney Productions
FRONTLINE opened its fifteenth season on PBS in the fall of 1996 with this biographical comparison of the two major-party presidential candidates. Interweaving their dual public careers and private lives, the two-hour narrative illuminated each candidate’s record and character to help voters understand what kind of president each might be in the next four years. Producer/writer Helen Whitney, writer Jane Barnes, and consultants Richard Ben Cramer and David Maraniss revealed how Bill Clinton’s and Bob Dole’s personal histories shaped their approaches to government and leadership. They chronicled the candidates’ backgrounds in a unique thematic fashion, by focusing on how they were affected by their home towns, their mentors, their spiritual beliefs, their experiences with war, their political victories and defeats, and last, their similarities. Part of PBS’s Democracy Project, The Choice ‘96 offered viewers a chance to look at the qualities and abilities of these two presidential candidates. In so doing, FRONTLINE, under the leadership of senior executive producer David Fanning and executive producer Michael Sullivan, provided voters with a singular and superior opportunity to examine the men who would be president, an important public service wholly deserving of the Peabody Award.