Eleanor Clift

Stories by Eleanor Clift

  • Clift: Society’s Challenges as We Age

    Having chronicled every stage of life, author Gail Sheehy now has insights on the final stages--from the view of a caregiver. One thing she's learned: Government doesn't always help.
  • Clift: Is Newt Gingrich Poised for a Comeback?

    Fourteen video cameras lined the ballroom of the National Press Club on a steamy August day, drawn by the back-to-the-future presence of Newt Gingrich, former House Speaker and possible presidential candidate. The audience of journalists, industry representatives and assorted hangers-on sat transfixed as Gingrich wowed them with his versatile intellect and his political derring-do.In an angry election season, this could be Gingrich’s moment. He’s a bomb thrower, and this time he’s hurling smart bombs, blasting risk-averse candidates and the army of consultants that have sapped all spontaneity out of the presidential-election process. His fury at the ways of Washington echoes the way he tapped into voter disgust with the status quo in 1994 when he led the Republican revolution that captured control of the House for the first time in 40 years. He defined the conservative takeover, and then became part of its decline when he resigned the speakership in 1999.Now he is poised to shake up...
  • Clift: Rachel Corrie’s Story Needs to Be Heard

    A new play about the life of a young woman run down by Israeli forces in Gaza may be politically controversial, but it speaks to cross-cultural human truths that deserve an audience.
  • Clift: Dems Must Act Now to End the War

    The media treated the Senate’s all-night session as a comedy routine, a chance to make jokes about sleepovers and pizza delivery. Everybody knew going in that the Democrats didn’t have the votes to pass an amendment calling for the draw down of troops beginning in 120 days. But the Democrats needed to show they’re at least trying to bring about the change in policy they promised on the campaign trail last year.The operative emotion is anger. The voters are almost as furious with the Democrats for their inability to end the Iraq War as they are with President Bush for prolonging it. Democrat Chellie Pingree lost by 16 points when she challenged Maine Republican Susan Collins in 2002. Now Collins, running for re-election in ’08, is on everybody’s endangered list. After much public agonizing, she became one of the four Republicans this week to break with Bush and vote with the Democrats on the war.“It’s a different world,” says Pingree, who is running for the House seat in Maine being...
  • Clift: The Real Tragedy of the Libby Case

    It was always obvious that President Bush would not let Scooter Libby go to jail. The real tragedy of the affair is that more people weren't tagged with his crime.
  • Clift: Joe Biden's Horse Sense

    It was classic Biden. He was late for lunch and would have to leave early, but in the 20 minutes he stayed and took questions, he got more words out than most politicians do in twice the time. He didn’t have anything scripted to say, his press aide told us, but then again he rarely does. Joe Biden makes it up as he goes along, drawing on his 34 years in the U.S. Senate.He is a force of nature—smart, even brilliant; passionate about what he believes, and a challenge for any mere staff person to rein in. At least four aides circled around trying valiantly to corral him. He had five minutes to get back to the Senate. He is willing to miss votes if his absence won’t change the outcome, he explains, unless there are political implications. The Senate was voting Thursday afternoon on a card check, which labor unions oppose, and Biden, who’s running for president, wanted to be there even though his vote was not needed to defeat the measure.Biden is carving out a role for himself as a truth...
  • Clift: Will 2008 Be the Liberals' Year?

    The left wing of the Democratic Party is back from the wilderness. They’re revved up and ready to take the best shot they’ve had in a long time at putting someone simpatico in the White House. Progressives are driving the debate in Congress and in the country, pulling the party’s presidential candidates to the left on issues like the war in Iraq, universal health care and an Apollo-like program for energy independence.Hillary Clinton is the weather vane. She began the campaign with a hawkish record on the Iraq War, only to vote last month with Dennis Kucinich and Barack Obama against the war-funding bill. A year ago, she talked about a health plan that covered children; now she’s about to join John Edwards and Obama in putting forward a more expansive proposal. Her husband championed free trade as president; she joined a growing chorus of populist Democrats this week to vote against a trade pact with South Korea.If the left wants purity on the issues, they don’t have to settle for...
  • Clift: God and Mike Huckabee

    The former Arkansas governor is an ordained Baptist minister who has eloquently handled questions about evolution in the GOP debates. But he's languishing in the polls. He thinks social conservatives could become irrelevant in the Republican Party. Is he right?
  • Clift: Bush Is Right on Immigration

    The immigration deal worked out between Senate leaders and the White House is an unwieldy compromise nobody much likes. Democrats will mostly support it because the liberal lion, Ted Kennedy, is leading the charge. And the fact that right-wing Republicans are worked up into such a lather about the bill may give some Democrats enough reason to back it.President Bush is at war with his own party, tearing it apart over an issue that was supposed to be the GOP’s ticket to an enduring governing majority. In his Rose Garden press conference Thursday, he pleaded with lawmakers to recognize that the way they deal with the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants is about “the heart and soul of America,” a country founded by immigrants. “I would rather they come here legally than stuffed in the back of an 18-wheeler,” Bush said.Bush has the right instincts when it comes to immigration policy. He was elected governor four years after Pete Wilson took the statehouse in California and made...
  • Clift: Lessons From a Woman President

    Chile's first woman president is getting mixed reviews as she tries to impose gender parity on her government. A tale of instinct, dialogue and the Santiago bus service.
  • Clift: The Democrats' War Plan

    Texas Republican Louie Gohmert is famous on the Internet for saying we’d all be speaking Japanese or German if an anti-war Democrat like John Murtha had been in Congress during World War II. Murtha, a gruff ex-Marine who served in Korea and Vietnam, was on the House floor when Gohmert made his remark. Was the gentleman from Texas at Normandy, Vietnam, Murtha jabbed. The answer was no. What about Iraq? “I’ve been over there,” Gohmert replied, “but I wasn’t fighting.”“Suits on the ground,” Murtha harrumphed.The video clip of this exchange got a hundred thousand hits on YouTube at a time last year when the Republicans were calling Democrats terrorist-coddlers and defeatists. A more recent video of Pennsylvania Rep. Patrick Murphy calling for a moment of silence to mark the fourth anniversary of the Iraq War—and to honor the 19 members of the 82nd Airborne unit he served in who didn’t make it home—has gotten 13,000 hits.Thanks to technology, what goes on in the confines of Congress...
  • Clift: Democrats and the Politics of Guns

    Rahm Emanuel was once a fierce gun-control advocate. As a top aide to Bill Clinton, he helped push the president's assault-weapons ban. At the time, Emanuel argued there was little reason for anyone to have a military-style weapon designed to kill as many people as possible in the shortest time.Restricting guns is the last thing Emanuel wants to talk about now. An Illinois congressman, he helped Democrats take back the Capitol last year in part by recruiting pro-gun candidates. The effort was part of a larger push to reach out to gun owners who'd shunned the party.That may help explain the noticeable hush from Democrats in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings. Some Democrats have begun to sound a lot like Republicans on the issue. Emanuel, asked about the party's position on gun violence, borrows a line from the National Rifle Association. "There are successful laws on the books," he says. "They have to be enforced."Emanuel hasn't gone soft on guns (he earned an F on the NRA...
  • I Really Support the President on the War. No, Really.

    New Hampshire Sen. John E. Sununu is the “fastest man in the Senate,” an honor he achieved after finishing ahead of his colleagues in a three-mile race last fall. It was a comeback of sorts. He had won the crown in 2004, only to lose it in 2005 after going out too fast and realizing at the mile mark that if he didn’t slow down, he might have a heart attack. The 42-year-old Sununu is younger than most of his Senate colleagues. He told a public policy forum founded by tennis coach Kathy Kemper that he quickly came to the realization that “being the fastest man in the Senate is like being the best surfer in Kansas. It doesn’t carry a lot of weight.” Sununu is up for re-election in ’08 and is on the Democrats’ target list. He won his seat with less than 55 percent of the vote, and John Kerry won New Hampshire in ’04, which puts his seat in play for the Democrats. During the April congressional recess, Sununu skipped four town meetings, sending staff instead and fueling speculation th...
  • Remembering Jack Valenti

    Nobody understood better than Jack Valenti the mind-set of powerful people. He began as an ad man in Texas, where he met Lyndon Johnson. When LBJ was tapped as vice president, Valenti went to work in the Kennedy White House. He was the quintessential staff man, bowing to the wishes of a boss who could be crude and overbearing—while never losing his own courtly bearing. Valenti was in the motorcade that fateful day in Dallas, dispatched by LBJ to handle press relations, when President Kennedy was shot. Valenti was there when Johnson took the oath of office aboard Air Force One, captured in the frame along with the grieving widow, Jackie Kennedy.And he shepherded Johnson through those first tense years, doing everything from taking notes in confidential meetings to acting as a conduit between the rival Kennedy and Johnson factions within the administration. His devotion to Johnson was so complete that much of official Washington dismissed him as a sycophant. But his ties to LBJ helped...
  • Clift: The Abortion Wars and Campaign 2008

    It was buried in the avalanche of coverage of the horrible shootings at Virginia Tech. But the Supreme Court's partial-birth ruling will likely have a much bigger impact on Campaign.
  • The Squabble Over Pelosi's Scarf

    Speaker Pelosi's headgear draw fire from both right and left. What it says about Western attitudes toward Islam—and the state of American politics today.
  • Jim Webb on the Warpath

    Democrats on Capitol Hill hang on his every word, and Jim Webb doesn’t disappoint. His son was extended in Iraq for the surge, and his resolve to end a war that he opposed from the start is undisputed. He came from 33 points behind to win election in Virginia and tip control of the Senate to the Democrats—largely on the strength of his antiwar, tough-guy military credentials. Democrats owe him, and they trust him to help them find an honorable path out of Iraq.But Webb doesn't favor a timeline for withdrawal, as the Nancy Pelosi bill passed by the House on Friday proposes, or capping the number of troops in Iraq, as Hillary Clinton suggests. Webb wants a diplomatic solution, and he's working with Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, a fellow Vietnam veteran and a friend for 30 years, to come up with a bipartisan bill that would incorporate some of what he calls "the more workable points" from the House bill without unnecessarily tying the hands of the military. He wouldn't say much about it...
  • NEWSWEEK Poll: Giuliani Pulls Ahead for ‘08

    In the aftermath of 9/11, nobody thought he could fill Rudy Giuliani's shoes. But under billionaire Michael Bloomberg, New York City's Democrat-turned-Republican mayor, the city rebounded. He's overseen a continued decline in the crime rate, forced restaurants to go smoke-free and has made vast strides in improving the public schools, the bane of any urban mayor. Not as ill-tempered as Giuliani, Bloomberg is doing a good job—perhaps, some New Yorkers might say, even a better job than his predecessor did. So why isn't he the one running for president?Publicly, Bloomberg is focused on his second term and leaving the city in better shape than he got it. Privately, Bloomberg and political adviser Kevin Sheekey are meeting with pollsters and consultants to assess the mayor's chances as a third-party, independent candidate. "There is no Bloomberg campaign," Sheekey tells NEWSWEEK. "But we have certainly reached out." At a dinner last year with Al From, founder of the centrist Democratic...
  • A Budget Battle Over Child Health Care

    Marian Wright Edelman used to be close to Hillary Clinton. But they had a falling out over welfare reform. Can they mend their fences over health-care funding for kids?
  • On Being a First Gentleman

    How would Bill Clinton feel as First Gentleman to President Hillary? Ask the husband of Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm.
  • The Priest On The Hill

    On the same day that tens of thousands of people marched in Washington against the Iraq war, the country lost one of its most principled and dedicated antiwar voices. Rev. Robert F. Drinan, the first Roman Catholic priest to serve as a voting member of Congress, died in the nation’s capital at age 86.Elected in Massachusetts in 1970 during the height of opposition to the Vietnam War, Father Drinan left his seat 10 years later out of deference to a papal order that said no clergy should hold public office. In perhaps his last public appearance, he celebrated mass on Jan. 3 for Nancy Pelosi at her alma mater, Trinity College, an all-women’s Catholic college.In a measure of how much the intersection of politics and religion has changed, Drinan noted that Pelosi is the first “mom” to become Speaker of the House. The fact that she is also Catholic was a footnote. And nobody was checking with the Vatican to see if it was OK, least of all Drinan. If Rome thought this progressive priest...
  • Payback Time For Trent Lott?

    Senate Republicans are in a quandary. They don’t like the Iraq war, but most are not willing to openly break with the White House—not yet, anyway. A vote taken Wednesday in the Senate Foreign Relations committee opposing the latest troop escalation won the support of only one Republican, Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel. If it had been a secret ballot, it would have passed overwhelmingly.These are the sentiments roiling the Republican caucus as the leadership tries to shape a “sense of the Senate” resolution that doesn’t embarrass President Bush yet gives political cover to nervous senators looking for a way out of unconditional support for an unpopular war. Counting the votes for an antiwar resolution and limiting the damage to his party falls to Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott, whose election to the second highest position in the Republican leadership was one of last year’s biggest political comebacks.One of the reasons Lott has the job is because his colleagues know he won’t reflexively be...