"If the other guy is coming at you with a negative, you have to be ready for it," said Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, explaining the role of television ads in the 1988 election. "And if you don't, you're going to get killed. That's the lesson of 1988."
It's a lesson Dukakis learned the hard way after a series of cutting clips made mincemeat of his presidential aspirations.
Developments abroad during the late 1980s were beamed home, and just two years after President Reagan demanded the end of the Berlin Wall, the symbol of the Cold-War split between East and West finally came down.
After three years in the White House, and as President George H. W. Bush was riding high following the Gulf War in 1991, many would-be challengers stayed out of the presidential race in 1992, opening doors for unlikely contenders like the governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton.
Clinton had some troubles -- including reports of a string of state-house mistresses -- but the young governor was excellent on TV.
"Clinton got it ... he understood the new intimacy of TV ... not just TV itself, but the 24-hour environment, the way you deal with an audience," said Mara Liasson, national political reporter for NPR.
Clinton would be an unusual commander-in-chief -- a onetime anti-militarist, he would dispatch more American soldiers to more dangerous places than any president since World War II.
But even as he charmed audiences at home, scandal began to rock his administration in the early years of his tenure, and Clinton began sending troops abroad as a proactive -- and possibly distracting -- measure.
"TV definitely drives foreign policy," said Liasson. "I find it hard to believe that if there weren't television, that the U.S. would have intervened in Bosnia or Kosovo."
"Television and the Presidency," hosted by Chris Wallace, airs Sunday at 3 p.m. EST.