Eleanor Clift

Stories by Eleanor Clift

  • Pelosi Says Obama Should Subject Defense Spending to Same Cuts as Domestic Programs

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited some journalists, including me, to a chat about the issues President Obama will address in the State of the Union Message tonight. If Obama is as feisty as Pelosi was this afternoon advocating for health care and other elements of the Democratic agenda, he could restore some of that confidence in his leadership that’s been lost through a year of wheeling and dealing. ...
  • Four Ways Obama Can Win Back Liberals

    Instead of reaching out to Republicans in his State of the Union, President Obama needs to reassure his base. Here are four ways he can do that.
  • Coakley and 'The Woman Thing'

    One of the factors that went into Martha Coakley’s loss in Massachusetts was what insiders call “the woman thing.” Coakley distinguished herself in a field of men in the Democratic primary as the first woman Massachusetts would send to the Senate. She wrapped herself in Emily’s List, showcasing herself as a woman candidate—as opposed to a candidate who happened to be a woman, a fine but important distinction in politics—and making her gender the most memorable thing about her. A male caller into C-Span last week said when he watched Coakley campaign he expected her to break into song—“I am woman, hear me roar.” He described himself as a Democrat but said her emphasis on gender turned him off. Massachusetts is portrayed as a bastion of liberal elites, but its voting population is dominantly blue collar and working class, not feminism’s prime audience.Hillary Clinton won Massachusetts in the 2008 primary contest, and the populist spirit that she embodied campaigning in Pennsylvania...
  • Coakley Not 'a Kennedy Person' From the Get-Go

    There’s plenty blame to go around for Martha Coakley’s poor showing, including the little-known fact that the Kennedy family and the late senator’s extensive network of loyalists were cool to her candidacy. The senator’s widow and other Kennedy people plunged in only after the polls showed Coakley was in danger of losing the seat that had been Kennedy’s for 47 years. The reason for the standoffishness goes back to what Kennedy people regarded as Coakley’s tastelessly talking about running and positioning herself for the seat while Kennedy was still alive. And while Coakley is a solid Democrat, she had never really worked directly with Kennedy on anything, according to a former Kennedy aide, so she didn’t have the appellation of “a Kennedy person,” which would have opened the door to a lot more resources earlier in the race.
  • San Francisco Archbishop Responds to Pelosi

    The Archbishop of San Francisco has responded to remarks made by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in an interview for NEWSWEEK's year-end issue. He sharply rebuts Pelosi, who worships in his jurisdiction, for citing the Catholic teaching of free will to support her belief that reproductive choice for women is not at odds with what she was raised to believe as a practicing Catholic. The archbishop slaps her down, saying "Free will cannot be cited as justification for society to allow moral choices that strike at the most fundamental rights of others. Such a choice is abortion, which constitutes the taking of innocent human life, and cannot be justified by any Catholic notion of freedom."The NEWSWEEK interview was more extensive than the excerpts that appeared in the magazine, and Pelosi was most engaged when talking about her confrontation with the Conference of Bishops about language in the health-care-reform bill pertaining to abortion coverage. In the interview, she...
  • Massachusetts Senate Race No Slam Dunk for Democrats

    The notion that a Republican opposed to the health-care reform that Ted Kennedy championed could actually win Kennedy’s seat has Democrats running scared in the final days before the Jan. 19 special election in Massachusetts. Democrat Martha Coakley has rung the alarm bells, telling Democratic donors in a conference call arranged by DNC chair Tim Kaine that it’s “frightening how much traction” her opponent, Republican Scott Brown, has been able to get in just the last week. Brown is a pro-choice but otherwise typical Republican, running as the small-government savior who can deliver the country from Obamacare. Asked in a debate Sunday night how he would feel as the 41st vote denying the Democrats their filibuster majority on health care from Kennedy’s seat, he said, “It’s not the Kennedys' seat; it’s not the Democrats’ seat; it’s the people’s seat.” Brown is an attractive candidate, and the Coakley campaign was slow to recognize his ability to galvanize voters in a state where...
  • Campaign Retrospective: The Clintons and Obama

    The account in the new book Game Change of Bill Clinton’s fury in a phone conversation with Ted Kennedy over his refusal to endorse Hillary has the ring of truth. Clinton was venting to a lot of people about how he thought Obama was jumping the line to be president, and hadn't paid his dues the way Hillary had. The crack about Obama would have been serving coffee to them just a few years earlier struck me as less racial than his view that Obama was little more than an intern compared to Hillary with her lengthy resume of public service. In the 2008 NEWSWEEK Election Project, we had an account of Clinton's call to Donna Brazile making much the same points he made to Kennedy. “If Barack Obama is nominated, it will be the worst denigration of public service,” Clinton told her in a rant that went on for much of an hour. Brazile kept asking him, “Why are you so angry?” Clinton was disbelieving that the Democratic Party would desert his wife, and by implication, him─and it&apos...
  • Why Howard Dean Is Taking on the White House

    All the ire of liberals is directed at Joe Lieberman for scuttling what was left of the public option, but what about Howard Dean? For liberals who also identify as Democrats, the former DNC chairman is playing a dangerous game in encouraging Senate Democrats to vote against health-care reform in its scaled-down form. Dean is a hero to progressives. He was against the war in Iraq before it was cool, and he ran for president in 2004 as the candidate of “the democratic wing of the Democratic Party,” challenging the traditionalists in Washington as captives of the special interests. His credentials as a bomb thrower are unquestioned, but lobbing grenades at the Democrats’ fragile coalition of 60 won’t make health-care reform better and will add to Democrats’ woes in the upcoming midterm elections. One thing Democrats agree on is that if they come up empty-handed after a year of partisan wrangling, they will pay the price next November. As the White House scrambles to put a good face on...
  • Clift: Just a Little Respect

    Joe Lieberman is motivated by a desire to get what he thinks Democrats didn't give him in his last two campaigns.
  • Stupak Abortion Measure Stopped...for the Moment

    In a city where few secrets are kept, Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid managed to keep the latest iteration of the Senate’s health-care reform bill under wraps even as the Congressional Budget Office scored it just a few hours ago as costing $849 billion over 10 years, big news in the yearlong debate. A source in the leader’s office confirmed to NEWSWEEK that the abortion language Reid includes in the bill is less restrictive than what the House passed last week. The Senate maintains the status quo of 30 years, in which public funds cannot be used to pay for abortion services. The language resembles what the House bill originally had before a power play by the Catholic Bishops forced the Democratic pro-choice majority to accept an amendment offered by pro-life Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak. This small victory by the pro-choice side does not mean the fight is over—far from it. One analyst on the Democratic side said that Reid’s choice of the less-restrictive language leaves room...
  • Payback Time: Why Right-Wing Men Rush to Palin's Defense

    It’s nothing new when liberal women complain about sexism, but when conservative men take up the banner, calling NEWSWEEK sexist for portraying Sarah Palin on the cover in her jogging clothes, that catches my attention. Why do right-wing men rush to Sarah’s side to defend her? My theory is that this is payback time. They’ve been called sexist and racist, and subjected to media ridicule of their allegedly retro views. Palin is their way to push back against the elites that have marginalized them.For the record, I loved Palin’s interview with Runner’s World, and the cover image that graces NEWSWEEK. She’s in great shape, and she’s shown herself capable of handling whatever comes her way─and making a tidy profit in the process. She’s turned media criticism into a cash cow. Anybody who can stir up the body politic like Palin is a force to be reckoned with. With such Christian-right leaders as Jerry Falwell gone and the Reverend Dobson retired, Palin is the new kingmaker. She may not...
  • Madeleine Albright's Unusual Diplomatic Weapon: Jewelry

    Now that we've had three successive administrations name a female secretary of state, it doesn't seem like a big deal anymore. But Madeleine Albright was a novelty when she took the position in 1997, and how she used her gender to advantage is the subtext to her new book, Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat's Jewel Box. The book launches next week together with an exhibition of pins at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York. Albright credits Saddam Hussein with the inspiration to use pins as a diplomatic tool after calling her a serpent when she was U.N. ambassador. She promptly donned a snake pin. When the Iraqi leader was put to death, she marked the occasion by wearing a serpent with a sword through it. Men have power ties, but Albright had her pins, and world leaders paid attention. To convey her dissatisfaction with the Russians on human rights, she wore three monkeys to symbolize "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil." When the Russians were...