Eleanor Clift

Stories by Eleanor Clift

  • 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...
  • ‘Dying Isn’t Hard, Parking Is’

    I was among the legion that visited Art Buchwald at the Washington hospice he called home for several months last year, and where he expected to die. He had chosen at age 80 to forego dialysis and accept his fate. Except death didn’t come. His weakened kidneys rallied and so did his spirits.He turned the sunny day room where he held court into a European salon reminiscent of the era when he wrote from Paris for the New York Herald Tribune. All sorts of people came by to pay their respects. And Art loved it. He sat back in a reclining chair, enjoying the accolades, his leg—that had been amputated below the knee—propped up on a pillow. “Dying isn’t hard, parking is,” he would tell visitors.Art was having such a good time that some of the professionals at the hospice worried he wasn’t taking the business of dying seriously enough. Art wasn’t religious, but he thought of himself as a cultural Jew and spent time with a rabbi, planning his funeral service. He thought that was enough, but...
  • 'Give Us a Chance'

    Virginia Senator John Warner is the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and a trusted voice on both sides of the aisle . He is withholding judgment for now on the president's new plan to send more troops to Iraq, but makes it clear in an interview with NEWSWEEK's Eleanor Clift that Congress is prepared to assert its rightful role as an equal partner in the war-making powers of the administration. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: As we look at this confrontation between Congress and the White House over this new policy towards Iraq, a lot of people are looking to you to either lead the way to support the president, or deliver the word to him that this can’t be sustained. Please give me a sense of where you are.Warner: When I got back from Iraq in October I made the statement that this situation is neither going forward or backward; it’s going sideways…At the current time I’ve indicated that [the president’s plan] deserves very serious consideration by the Congress. I’m...
  • Around The House We Call Chelsea "46"

    Democrats in Washington have found a subtle new way to annoy Republicans: Every chance they get, they're starting to refer to Bill Clinton as "42." The idea is clear enough--that Hillary Clinton will be "44," a wink at the way the Bushes have long referred to George H.W. as "41" and W. as "43." The new Clinton nickname is spreading "like a wave," says Democratic strategist Mark Siegel, who says he casually drops the reference into conversations with Republicans and then waits for the reaction. Usually, he says, it's a blank stare. "Then a look of understanding, and then a look of anger." Makes us crack up every time. And people say Washington doesn't have a sense of humor.
  • Carter's Team Remembers Ford

    In interviews with NEWSWEEK's Eleanor Clift, Carter's vice president and longtime press secretary share their recollections of the man who preceded them in the White House.
  • Last Word: Jimmy Carter

    Former president Jimmy Carter has long been regard-ed as an elder statesman, using his political muscle to address issues like democracy and human rights. But he's also been a prolific author. Since leaving office in January 1981, he has written 23 books, on subjects ranging from American moral values to his childhood on a Georgia farm. His latest--and perhaps most controversial--offering, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," reflects his long interest in the Middle East. (As president, he personally negotiated peace between Israel and Egypt.) But it has also drawn fire for its use of the word apartheid to describe the current circumstances of the Palestinian people. While the book has shot up the best-seller list, the former president has been denounced for his criticism of Israel. He's also come under fire from former Carter Center associate Kenneth Stein, a professor of Middle Eastern studies at Emory University, who has raised questions about the book's accuracy. (Disclosure:...
  • Lies and Obfuscations

    In the spirit of holding our political leaders accountable, this year-end review will tabulate the worst lies told by Bush and company, along with several stories that were underreported in the media. Much of what was generated got lost in the fog of war, but the long arm of history will retrieve these moments. As the president said in his news conference this week, if they’re still writing about No. 1—George Washington—there’s plenty of time before the historians can properly evaluate No. 43. Judging by the mess in Iraq, it could be 200 or 300 years—if ever—before Bush is vindicated.Bush has shifted his rhetoric in deference to the grim and deteriorating reality on the ground in Iraq. Asked by a reporter on Oct. 25 if we are winning the war, Bush said, “Absolutely, we’re winning.” Offered the opportunity at his press conference to defend that statement, Bush has adopted a new formulation. He now says, “We’re not winning, but we’re not losing.” That sounds like the definition of a...
  • No Pandering Here

    Every so often a politician comes along who doesn’t pander to the president. Fresh off a nasty campaign that centered on the war in Iraq, Virginia Senator-elect Jim Webb had no interest in a picture of himself with President Bush, and he didn’t want to exchange small talk with the man whose war policies he opposes. So he skipped the receiving line at a White House reception for newly elected members of Congress, creating the first of what we should all hope will be many ripples in Washington.Webb’s  presumed snub of Bush is rare enough in a city where everybody who’s anybody has a glory wall, and social occasions are geared to a parade of picture taking. But what happened next is where the story really takes off. President Bush, spying Webb across the room, walked over to him and asked, “How’s your boy?” Webb’s son is a Marine in Iraq.A more seasoned politician might have been flattered that the president knew his son was in the line of fire and bothered to ask about him. That...
  • Second Chance

    What sweet vindication it must be for Mississippi Republican Trent Lott to once again emerge victorious among his Senate colleagues. The White House engineered his downfall four years ago, and now Lott has made a remarkable comeback, winning the No. 2 leadership post in the Senate at a time when Karl Rove, the principal figure who betrayed him, looks out of touch.It is a personal and political triumph for Lott, 65, who was forced out as majority leader of the Senate in 2002 after remarks he made at an event marking South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday. Lott said that if Thurmond had been elected president in 1948, “we wouldn’t have had all these problems over the years …” Thurmond ran as a segregationist Dixiecrat, and Lott’s words were interpreted as racist.For a party that has just been through a big loss, and whose commitment to minority voters is a question mark, elevating Lott seems like a dubious move. The voters of Virginia punished Republican Sen. George Allen...
  • The Slapdown of Polarization

    Republican pollster Neil Newhouse knew the day his party lost the Senate. It was Sept. 29, and he circled it on his calendar. That was the morning excerpts from Bob Woodard’s book “State of Denial” broke, chronicling an administration in disarray that was not being truthful with the American people about how bad things were in Iraq.That same day, a congressional committee issued a report documenting 400-plus contacts between indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the White House, and Republican congressman Mark Foley resigned after revelations that he had pursued underage congressional pages.Newhouse said the date is “burned in my mind” just like another date in another era—Oct. 19, 1982—when unemployment hit 10.1 percent and signaled big losses in Congress for the GOP and President Reagan. These catalytic events have the impact of freezing the electorate, Newhouse told an audience gathered for post-election analysis at the nonpartisan Israel Project in Washington. “We just couldn’t...
  • The Pelosi Years

    Democrats have won the House, ending a 12-year drought. And Nancy Pelosi is on her way to becoming Speaker, becoming the first woman ever to hold the job. It’s a time for the long-suffering party to celebrate. But keeping the party's new majority will be a test, and the tone Democrats set over the next days and weeks will create a first impression for the voters that will be hard to change if they don’t get it right.This is not a majority made from cookie-cutter liberals. These are men and women winning in districts that were drawn for Republicans. Some are pro-life, some pro-gun, some sound so Republican they might be in the other party if it weren’t for President Bush and the Iraq war. It will take all of Pelosi’s skills as a manager and disciplinarian to forge a coalition out of these philosophical disparities.The voters, tired of Washington's divisive ways, want to see the two parties cooperate; it will be Pelosi's challenge to make that a reality. Pelosi might have looked...
  • Money Moves

    Races that were never in play before are suddenly on Chuck Schumer’s radar screen. The feisty and sometimes abrasive New York senator runs the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee like it’s the campaign of a lifetime, and if the Democrats wrest control from the ruling party during a time of war, he deserves much of the credit. His counterpart, North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole, has been no match, running the GOP campaign effort like a bureaucratic exercise and just one more box to check on her illustrious resume.With the election just days away, Schumer met with reporters Thursday to announce he was moving a million dollars into Arizona, a GOP stronghold, where tracking numbers show a little-known challenger, Jim Pederson, within striking distance of Republican Sen. Jon Kyl. Told the Republicans were putting more resources into Maryland and Michigan, where their candidates were closing, Schumer grinned, “God bless ’em”. Noting that polls were putting Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie...
  • Transition

    Gerry Eastman Studds, 69 The first openly gay member of Congress, Studds was censured by the House in 1983 for having had a sexual relationship a decade earlier with a 17-year-old page. The affair was consensual, though the young man was underage according to the law at that time. The voters in his Cape Cod-area district re-elected him a year later with 56 percent of the vote. Studds served in Congress until 1997, a strong voice for the environment and for gay rights. His name resurfaced in the current page scandal on Capitol Hill when Republicans cited the Democrats' failure to force his resignation over charges similar to those against Florida Rep. Mark Foley. After gay marriage was legalized in Massachusetts, Studds married his partner, Dean Hara. "He gave people of his generation, or my generation, or future generations, the courage to do whatever they wanted," said Hara.
  • Out of Control

    Republicans booed their likely next House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, when she rose to speak Wednesday evening “not only as Democratic leader but as a mother and grandmother.” Some shouted “Jefferson,” a lame attempt to find equivalency between a disgraced Democrat, Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson, currently under investigation for allegedly taking kickbacks, and Florida Republican Mark Foley, whose sexually predatory e-mails to teenage House pages has set off a round of recriminations among Republicans.With the midterm election just five weeks away and GOP House leaders forming a circular firing squad, Pelosi is close to the point where she can start measuring the drapes in the speaker’s office. Even before Foley surfaced as an embarrassment for the Republicans, they were on track to lose their majority. The fact that the leaders of a political party known for stoking homophobia to win votes stood aside and did nothing for years to rein in Foley is further evidence the party has lost...
  • Shifting the Spotlight

    A friendly looking bear of a man, Dennis Hastert provided a much needed image makeover for the Republicans when he took over as House speaker in January 1999. The Democrats had gained seats in the midterm election, repudiating the GOP’s zealous pursuit of President Clinton, and the Republicans were at sea over the leadership of their fractured party.With Newt Gingrich discredited and his designated successor, Louisiana Rep. Bob Livingston, taking himself out of contention after confessing he had been unfaithful to his wife, the party turned to the grandfatherly Hastert, a former high-school teacher and wrestling coach with an impeccable personal life.Never a strong leader but a good public face, Hastert was the congenial front man for a party whose real power was Tom DeLay. Love him or loath him, DeLay ran the House with a steely precision, punishing anybody who crossed him and serving up Republican majorities for whatever the White House wanted. After DeLay left earlier this year,...