Howard Fineman

Stories by Howard Fineman

  • Living Politics: Advice on Veep: Beware the Hot Dog Syndrome

    Long before he was the impresario of the Fox News Channel, Roger Ailes was the message meister of George H.W. Bush's 1988 presidential campaign. I covered Ailes, and one of the tales he told me at the time is relevant to Sen. John Kerry as he chooses a running mate now. Ailes' lesson: Don't throw a hot dog into a shark tank.Say what? Well, what Ailes was talking about (at a post-election seminar) was the way Bush the Elder, in secret, had chosen as his No. 2 an obscure senator--Dan Quayle of Indiana--and then had tossed him into the media whorl without introduction. The result, at the Republican convention in New Orleans, was a feeding frenzy of rumor and misinformation.Word spread that Quayle was worth $400 million, which wasn't true. He was from a wealthy family but didn't have much money himself. And campaign officials didn't know every last detail of Quayle's draft history and their inability to explain it clearly from the start left Quayle looking like a draft dodger, which he...
  • Living Politics: 'My Life's' Gift to Hillary Clinton

    Washingtonians lined up around the block at midnight the other night outside my local bookstore, Politics & Prose, to be the first to buy a copy of Bill Clinton's "My Life." A store manager told me the only other work to engender such Midnight Madness is J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series. After reading "My Life," I think the comparison goes far beyond the sales frenzy. Clinton is the Potter of presidents--at least in his own mind.As he tells it, the rite-of-passage fable is similar: A gifted foundling, possessed of magical but unruly powers, is pursued by an evil force he cannot escape because it is within him, and teams up with a smarty-pants young woman who insists on running with the boys. Harry has the piggish, cruel Dursleys to deal with; Clinton, an alcoholic stepfather. Harry's powers are at war within him; Clinton writes of his inner "parallel lives," and how "dark it was down there" in the secret one. Harry is haunted by Voldemort, who tries to kill him but instead...
  • KERRY: THE VEEPSTAKES TIGHTEN

    Even as Ronald Reagan's funeral was winding down in Washington, John Kerry's aides were meeting there to plan the next phase of his campaign, which this week may include a round of private, close-to-final-decision discussions with potential running mates. Kerry's advisers quietly told top contenders to keep their schedules flexible in case Kerry--as now seems likely--wants to talk to them this week. Aides also privately confirmed that the lone Republican on the list--John McCain--had flatly rebuffed overtures. That's a small victory for the remaining candidates. "The Democratic contenders were getting antsy," said a source close to the process. "They were pressing the campaign to cut the McCain thing off, because if it went on any longer they would all look like the second choice."One of those told to keep his schedule open is Sen. John Edwards. And Kerry plans to meet this week with Wes Clark after a fund-raiser the general is throwing for Kerry. Campaign sources say no decision is...
  • Living Politics: Best Advice for Kerry: Be Invisible

    I've figured out what Sen. John Kerry needs to do to win the White House this November: wrap himself in Harry Potter's Invisibility Cloak. If the Massachusetts senator can only stay out of sight for long enough, George W. Bush's presidency may sink into the sands of Iraq.Bush's decision to go to Iraq is one of the most fateful calls any president has made--right up there with Harry Truman's decision to send aid to Greece and Turkey, JFK's secret agreement to pull American missiles out of Turkey to end the Cuban missile crisis, and Ronald Reagan's deal with Gorbachev to begin winding down the cold war. Because Bush's decision was so important--and because it was so clearly his own to make--it's central to the campaign. The questions of the season are and will remain: was it worth so much blood and treasure? Did it make us safer?The American public seems to be slowly but steadily coming to the conclusion that the answer is "no." Trend lines matter in politics, and the trend of support...
  • Living Politics: How Reagan's Passing Helps Bush

    As if he didn't have enough to deal with--a gaggle of cooks in his campaign kitchen, a job-creation surge that muddles his economic message, an air-hogging, book-hawking Bill Clinton--Sen. John Kerry now has to deal with this: a week of justifiable nostalgia for the late Ronald Reagan. The Gipper's passing won't be enough to re-elect George W. Bush, but it may well help the president in terms of timing, tactics and message.After a series of closed-door strategy meetings in Boston last weekend, Kerry was set this week to pop forth with a newly revised economic message, designed to stress the quality and salary level of jobs rather than their mere existence. But the rollout is now delayed, or smothered, as Kerry sensibly goes dark for most of the week, which will be dominated by Reagan's funeral.A master of the theatrical in politics, Reagan chose an exquisitely perfect time to depart the stage, especially from Bush's point of view. The former president died just as the remnants of...
  • THE 'SOCK PUPPET' STRATEGY

    In Seattle they want their coffee strong and their salmon straight from the river, a yen for flavor that may explain why the air was buzzless in McCaw Hall when Sen. John Kerry unveiled his plan for bolstering American "security and strength for a new world." But wowing locals wasn't the goal; outmaneuvering George W. Bush was. Despite rising sentiment in the Democratic Party against the war in Iraq (given voice last week by Al Gore's roar), "Kerry is not going hard left on the war," declared a top adviser. Not if he wants to win swing votes in Red States.So in a painstakingly balanced speech--crafted by a coalition of Democratic centrists--Kerry took dead aim at the mainstream, calculating that voters may want to change leaders more than philosophy. The president, Kerry declared, was an inept, simplistic, go-it-alone cowboy incapable of carrying on America's tradition of global alliance-building. Even so, Kerry agreed that creating a new Iraq was necessary for American security,...
  • A 'Forced Group Hug'

    As David Hobbes saw it, Republicans in Congress needed cheering up and a call to unity. The news had been a cavalcade of Mesopotamian gloom, clouding the popularity of their leader, George W. Bush, and his party. As the president's legislative adviser, Hobbes suggested Bush do something he rarely does: pay a visit to the Capitol. In a closed-door, no-questions pep talk, Bush bragged about the economy and vowed the time was near when the Iraqis would "take the training wheels off" and pedal on their own to democracy. "I'm going to win this November," he added. Bush got standing ovations. Departing attendees uttered upbeat sound bites. But privately, some were dismissive. "It was a forced group hug," said one, with "little substance--and no chance for feedback." As for unity, that didn't materialize last week, either. Not long after the president left, the Senate failed to pass the budget Bush wanted--because four Republicans made it clear they were ready to vote no.At least inside...
  • Living Politics: Kerry Puts Edwards Through Veep Paces

    If Sen. John Kerry isn't going to pick Sen. John Edwards to be his running mate, he's sure putting him through his paces. At the Kerry campaign's request, the North Carolinian is doing four major events in June, three in battleground states. The headliner is the mid-month Jefferson-Jackson Weekend in Florida. If Edwards is a hit there, he could be on his way to the vice presidential nomination in Boston in July.It's no surprise that Edwards is getting the closest of looks. He's been a leading contender, if not the clear choice, since the foreshortened primary season, in which he came from nowhere to within shouting distance of the nomination. His talent, brains, discipline and charm were and are obvious; the main drawbacks are his lack of experience (especially in foreign and military affairs) and such an evident hunger for the White House that it can make even a man such as Kerry--no wallflower in the ambition department--nervous.The two men don't like each other much, but there is...
  • The Political Fallout: Bush's New War Plan

    Laura Welch Bush is shy. In 26 years of marriage to George W. Bush, she has been balance wheel and panic button in private, never a comfortable public figure in the manner of her mother-in-law. Yet as the campaign heats up and her husband's poll numbers drop, she is moving to center stage--and closer to the role once played by Barbara Pierce Bush. Mrs. Bush II is making the television rounds--"The Tonight Show" this week--and dealing with touchy topics, including the prisoner-abuse scandal. The gruesome photos from Abu Ghraib, she said on "Good Morning America," must be countered by "the real picture" of America--a picture that campaign officials believe she can paint. She's featured in a new Internet ad on education, and there are likely to be more spots to come with her as star. "She is the most effective spokesman for the president," said a White House aide.Like father, like son--which is what George II has been trying to avoid. He has built his political career on one strategic...
  • Religion: Apocalyptic Politics

    In 1974 an obscure 40-year-old Baptist minister from Lynchburg, Va., traveled to California to preach in the church of a popular pastor, the author of a Christian best seller about how faith builds character. But when Jerry Falwell arrived at Tim LaHaye's San Diego church, he had a lowercase revelation: LaHaye wasn't just a lively preacher and writer, he was a powerful political operative. LaHaye's organization, Californians for Biblical Morality, had mobilized evangelical Christians and, in doing so, had helped elect Ronald Reagan governor. "I realized I wanted to do the same thing on a national basis," Falwell recalled in an interview with NEWSWEEK. "Tim was my inspiration."Of such moments is history made. Since the mid-'70s the rise of religious conservatives in pop culture, publishing and politics has been a profound trend in American life, reaching its zenith, perhaps, in the "Left Behind" series--and in the pastorate-presidency of George W. Bush. In politics, Falwell went on...
  • Living Politics: As Timken Goes ...

    I just got back from Ohio (a phrase I'm uttering often these days) and the most significant news in the Mother of All Battleground States is not the prison-abuse scandal or the 9/11 Commission but tapered roller bearings--specifically the decision (or threat) by a famous old steel company, Timken, to close its nearly century-old manufacturing plants in its hometown of Canton. It's only a slight exaggeration to say that if the company follows through on the plan-which will cut 1,300 high-paying jobs and produce a nasty spin-off effect--it could cost George Bush the presidency.Here's why: as Timken goes, so goes Canton (and nearby Massillon). As they go, so goes surrounding Stark County, the bellwether county in the bellwether state. As Stark County goes (history tells us) so goes Ohio. Stark's vote in presidential elections has always almost exactly mirrored the statewide totals. And no Republican was won the White House without Ohio.I spent time in Stark Country recently and here is...
  • Timing Is Everything

    John Kerry loves windsurfing, loves it so much he once made the cover of a glossy magazine devoted to the sport. As I report on his presidential campaign, it occurs to me that windsurfing symbolizes his political career--and the strategic theory that could bring him victory in November. For John Kerry doesn't expect to be admired, let alone beloved. He doesn't mind being labeled a "flip-flopper." Indeed, windsurfing is just that: a constant maneuver to fill your sail. Kerry aims to catch the wind--and the drift of history. The war in Iraq is a hurricane, and Kerry hopes to ride it into office.Kerry's theory of this campaign is pretty straightforward: to be the guy people have no choice but to vote for on Nov. 2. Not because he has a stirring new vision (he doesn't); not because he's such a darned likable guy (he isn't); but because circumstances are such that fair-minded "swing" voters have no choice but to pick him. He's not running against the war, per se, but as the nobleman at...
  • Kerry's Latest Colors

    Sen. John Kerry has been a man under fire. In a choreographed attack, Republicans last week ambushed him with a 33-year-old leaked videotape (unearthed in the National Archives) and bombed him with $5 million in negative ads. The aim: to indelibly depict him as a weak-on-defense waffler defined not by his bravery in Vietnam but by his later protests against the conflict. His convoluted answers to a simple yet symbolically loaded question--did he throw away his combat medals, or just his ribbons, in a 1971 protest?--drew stinging reviews. A new Democratic survey surfaced, showing what a party operative conceded was "further erosion" in the senator's image. Spinning strenuously, Kerry's handlers sought, without being asked, to distinguish him from a hapless standard-bearer of the past. "Our guy is not Dukakis!" yelled one. "Mike wore a funny helmet in a tank. Kerry carried an M-16 in the jungle!"Kerry has found himself in this situation before: underestimated and pinned down in...
  • Living Politics: Running Against Osama Bin Laden

    George W. Bush's political handlers are obsessed with a date on the calendar. It's not Sept. 11 or Nov. 2. It is June 30 -- the day of the "handover," when America's role in Iraq is supposed to begin winding down. Swing voters who have been withholding judgment about the war want to see if the "transition" produces stability in Iraq and a reduction in American casualties, a key Bush adviser told me. "That's a critical time," he said. "It could set the tone for the rest of the race."This is the sound of wishful thinking. Team Bush is deluding itself if it really believes that the events surrounding June 30 will lighten the political burden of the war. The reason is simple and depressing: They are not in control of events, and neither are our few allies on the ground in Iraq. Osama bin Laden is in charge. He's the other "candidate" in this presidential race.And he's winning.A year ago, the Bushies were planning to run away from the economy and toward the war, outing the president's...
  • Living Politics: Kerry Plans Early Veep Pick

    Sen. John Kerry has raised tons of cash since March, but otherwise it's been a mediocre two months. His "negatives" are up, his horserace position is lagging, and the cosmic hum of doubt is audible in the Democratic galaxy despite the president's own sagging poll numbers as an anti-terrorism leader. George Bush is trapped in Iraq, but Kerry can't seem to take advantage. So what's a Democrat to do? Well, here's one possible momentum changer I'm told he plans to offer soon: the naming of a running mate.Two well-placed sources inside the campaign have told me that the goal is to pick a No. 2 by the end of May, which would be far earlier than the norm. "It could slip," said one, "but that's the target." Another factor that could accelerate the process: Bill Clinton's autobiography, "My Life," which is now scheduled to be unveiled in late June. The media buzz surrounding it could last well into July, the pre-convention period normally dominated by veep talk.The advantages of naming a...
  • THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO GEORGE

    In the Oval Office, George W. Bush's aides warned him that the press conference he was about to hold would be contentious. Reporters "will brother-in-law this," one aide predicted, using a golf term for a type of teamwork on the course. They'll follow each other's questions, the aides said, serially demanding apologies and specifics on the tumult in Iraq and the findings of the 9/11 commission. "Really?" the president replied, as in: so what? Back from Crawford, Texas, he knew he had to show he could take a few rounds from the press corps. But he had another goal: to use prime time (the "American Idol" time slot, no less) to deliver a secular sermon on the strategic value of bestowing freedom upon the planet.Mike Gerson--author of Bush's best spoken--moments, master of the Biblical cadence--had crafted an unusually lengthy opening statement, which began with a sober military "sitrep" and ended with Bush's mantra that "freedom is the deepest need of every human soul."And so, in the...
  • Living Politics: Why the Race is Looking so Good for Bush

    Sen. John Kerry's spin doctors claim that they haven't lost ground to George Bush in recent weeks, and they are staging what they insist is the "launch" of his general election campaign this week with new TV ads airing and a trip next week to the Midwest. But the fact is that Kerry has lost ground--ground he has to make up if he hopes to win in November. The more interesting question is why? My reasons:Richard Ben-Veniste & Co. The media loved the 9/11 commission hearings. By instinct, we thrilled to watch a prosecutor such as B-V on the hunt, creeping in on a witness like a big cat. But the commission, which served as a platform for the theatrical Richard Clarke and the cross-examinations of Democratic members, eventually came off as too political and partisan to damage the president. Just the opposite, I think. Too many of the commissioners ended up looking like they were pressing to prove that Bush could have and should have prevented the 9/11 catastrophe--a theory the public...
  • THE DOCTORS' ORDERS

    April can be a cruel month for presidential challengers. Wresting the White House from the other party isn't easy, and spring is a tricky defining time that can decide the race. Sen. John Kerry has raised a fat $50 million since winning the Democratic nomination. He's running neck and neck with President Bush in the polls. His Boston cronies have taken control of the party. Still, $30 million worth of Bush-Cheney attack ads and Kerry's own fitful performance have taken a toll. While he's been offstage, vacationing and recuperating from shoulder surgery, Democratic wise guys have been muttering anonymously about lost momentum and offering unsolicited advice. The best of the kibitzing:DEFINE YOURSELF BEFORE KARL ROVE DOES.Republican attack ads and surrogates are portraying Kerry as a deep-dyed liberal and convictionless flip-flopper, and he has to do more than react. "Kerry's in the role of monkey to Bush's organ grinder," says one operative. In Iowa, Kerry profited from Howard Dean's...
  • Living Politics: Is Bush's Base Beginning to Crumble?

    Can the unshakeable be shaken? Is it already shaking? These are relevant questions as Condi Rice testifies and Iraq turns ugly. Especially since 9/11, a key feature of the political landscape has been George W. Bush's granite-like Republican/conservative base. But fissures are appearing and the war may widen them. Facing a close race with Democrat John Kerry, the president can't afford to spend much time reassuring his friends. But he may have to. ...
  • Living Politics: Massacre In Fallujah

    Call it the Mogadishu effect: nightmarish, beastly images of humiliating death so far beyond the pale of the ordinary (Western) idea of war that they shake American politics to the core. Will the pictures from Fallujah have the same impact that the ones from Somalia had a decade ago? Bill Clinton flinched then. Will George Bush now?Here's why I ask: I've never thought that the Clarke-Condi battle would decide the presidential election. It's Iraq that will matter. The fundamental question: whether the invasion and occupation of that country has made America safer--or less so.A cursory reading of this week's NEWSWEEK poll might lead you to believe that Clarke's attack had eroded President Bush's standing as a "wartime president." Indeed, Bush's approval ratings for handling "terrorism and homeland security" are dropping -- from a recent high of 70 percent in January to 65 percent in February to 55 percent last week. But most of that decline took place before Clarke's 15 minutes of...
  • PEOPLE, IT'S ONLY THE FIRST ROUND

    The trip from Washington to New York was designed to raise campaign cash and honor victims of 9/11. But aboard Air Force One last week President George W. Bush was musing aloud about... boxing. In the ring, the guy who throws all the early punches usually tires--"punches himself out"--and becomes easy prey for a counterattack. Which is the situation Sen. John Kerry is in, Bush told the Republican congressmen on the plane with him. Kerry had won the Democratic nomination with harsh rhetorical assaults on the administration, labeling its foreign policy "the most arrogant, inept, reckless and ideological" in modern history. And just last week, Kerry was overheard calling Republicans crooks and liars--and refused to apologize. "Kerry has used everything he has," Bush told Rep. Peter King. "He may have punched himself out."But in Campaign '04 it's unclear whether either boxer will still be standing by Nov. 2. As Bush was in the air, his aides previewed a new ad depicting Kerry as a tax...
  • Living Politics: U.S. Election is a Global Affair

    Bulletin: The first Planetary Election has begun. It's a global contest of the highest possible stakes for control of the machinery of American might. There are many reasons why the Bush-Kerry race has started so early and is so nasty. Most are tactical. But this is profound: There has never been a more crucial issue to debate and never a sharper contrast between theories of how to protect America and achieve world peace.In that sense, an eight-month campaign isn't long enough.The notion of a Planetary Presidential Election came into focus in the bombing in Spain and its political aftermath--including, most recently, Howard Dean's statement that President Bush's decision to invade Iraq was partly to blame for the death toll in Madrid. Sen. John Kerry repudiated the accusation, and his handlers got Dean to recant it, sort of.But in his typically blunt way, the former governor of Vermont merely was voicing what most Democrats--including Kerry--probably believe, and that most of the...
  • The Enemy of My Enemy...

    Truth be told, John McCain really can't stand George W. Bush, even if he agrees with him on a lot of things, especially Iraq. It's amusing (for us political reporters) to watch the senator from Arizona struggle with the role fate handed him: riding shotgun on the Bush reelection stagecoach. It's hard to know whether McCain, deep down, wants to protect his passenger or let the Indians have him. As for Bush, he doesn't trust McCain, but needs him.McCain's rhetorical flirtation with the idea of becoming Sen. John Kerry's running mate is just the latest act in an ongoing intramural psychodrama that began in 1999, and no amount of common geostrategic purpose in the post-9/11 world can end it. He is a proud man, a fierce fighter, with an ego to match the pride and the ferocity. He wanted the Republican nomination in 2000, wanted it badly, and raged against what he saw as a system rigged against him.As the season started, McCain surveyed the landscape and saw Bush as a pampered kid being...
  • ON MAIN STREET

    Neal Locke, 49, worries about his marriage and the prospects of the company he works for. Yet his story isn't as typical as it sounds. Like many a native of Stark County, Ohio, he went to work for Timken Steel in Canton. But Locke was gay--and deeply closeted in a city that produced a gunboat diplomat, William McKinley, and the National Football League. Working his way up the ranks, Locke became a supervisor, and came out. On a trip to Florida, he met and fell in love with Dario Nunez. Late last month they decided to try to get married--in Stark County. "I wanted people to know that gays live in this community, too," he said. He called the local newspaper, The Repository, to give them a heads-up. The editors put the story on the front page. A media horde accompanied the couple when they tried--and failed--to get a marriage license. Nonetheless, Locke doesn't see gay rights as a big issue in the presidential campaign. He expresses far deeper concern about Timken, a state-of-the-art...
  • Living Politics: Why 2004 Election Will Defy History

    It was Henry Ford who said "history is bunk" as he was busy reinventing American industry a century ago. Well, Ford is the man to see about this presidential campaign. So far, patterns of the past haven't predicted a thing, and it's going to remain that way right up to Election Day. For, based on history, neither George W. Bush nor John F. Kerry has a chance.Let's look at the patterns that have been shattered already, in the nominating season just ended. In modern times--since the advent of contested primaries--the major parties always had nominated the guy who collected the most cash and who led in the Gallup Poll by the end of the year before the voting began.This time around, of course, that guy was the unstoppable Gov. Howard Dean. He had raised an unheard of $40 million and led in all the national polls--not to mention the local polls in key "early" states, such as Iowa and New Hampshire.Poof! He was gone, with a triumphant John Kerry standing in his place.Kerry's rise...
  • Political Lives: The Truth Behind Dean's Fund Plan

    Say this about Howard Dean: The guy doesn't let past positions slow him down if he concludes that abandoning them will boost his crusade. If Democrats think the only way to defeat a ruthless Yalie is with another ruthless Yalie, then Dean is well on his way to a showdown with George W. Bush.As I write, the planet I call "DeanWorld" is conducting an on-line plebiscite to decide whether their hero's campaign should opt out of the federal public-financing system for the 2004 primary season--even though Dean months ago (before he struck fund-raising gold on the Internet) portrayed adherence to that system as a cardinal virtue.Campaign Manager Joe Trippi says that Dean will follow the advice of The Dean People--more than 500,000 have registered as supporters so far this year--and that the result is by no means a foregone conclusion. I am waiting with bated breath.In the meantime, let me say that the immediate reason for opting out of the system has nothing to do with the war against Bush...
  • Living Politics: Edwards Continues to Defy Skeptics

    I have met a lot of ambitious people in my time here, but none in a greater hurry than the man I met across a table at Kinkead's restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue, five blocks from the White House, in February 1999. He had just arrived in town, newly elected to the Senate, but had so clearly, so unabashedly, set his sights on the presidency that I said to myself-and to just about everyone I knew-that this was a man to watch. Too bad I didn't write it at the time. I'd be looking like a seer right now.It was, of course, John Edwards. The dinner had been arranged by his friend, pollster and fellow North Carolinian, Harrison Hickman. For two hours, Edwards was the charming, articulate, country-boy-comes-to-the-city courtroom lawyer the world has since discovered. I assumed that there had to be a catch. I asked Hickman, a scholarly, unsentimental sort, whether there was more to the man than the grin of a grifter with a winning poker hand. Indeed there was, Hickman assured me. The sky was...
  • THE WEDGE WAR

    It had been, by any measure, a tough run of days for President George W. Bush. His own Republicans were calling him a spendthrift. Failure to find WMD in Iraq had undermined a central rationale of the war he launched there, raising questions about his credibility and even his competence. The Democrats, meanwhile, were dominating the headlines, coalescing around Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, who belittled Bush's stateside service in the National Guard during Vietnam. The result was clear: in the NEWSWEEK Poll, the president registers the lowest job-approval rating of his term, 48 percent, and he loses a test match to Kerry by 50 to 45 percent. "There was an accumulation of things and they took a toll," said Charlie Black, an adviser to the White House. "Bush needed to go on the offensive, and to speed up the timetable."Consider it sped. Without fanfare--indeed, behind closed doors--the president essentially launched his re-election drive a week ago Saturday in Philadelphia,...
  • Living Politics: Waiting For The Heads to Roll

    I keep waiting for the bloodletting to begin, the ritual slaughter of careers that comes with controversy in the capital. George W. Bush is a loyal man--and loyalty is a good thing--but I don't see how he can survive the searing politics of Iraq (if, indeed, survival is possible at all) without the dramatic departure of some people, maybe even Vice President Dick Cheney."WMD" stands for "weapons of mass destruction," of course, but the acronym also could be short for "war means defeat" if the president, as they used to say in various administrations, fails to "get out ahead of the story."Rather than do that, so far, he's done everything he can to play sitting duck by not blaming anyone for the fact that we went to war in Iraq on what turned out to be (and what some argued at the time was) bogus information about the imminence of the threat.Maybe, to his credit, Bush accepts the fact that firing every soul in Washington would not solve his problem, which is that it was he--in one of...
  • Back to the Front

    MARRYING KERRY: FORGET THE HYPE ABOUT BLOGS AND BACKPACKS. IT'S ALL ABOUT GETTING WARM BODIES TO THE POLLS. HOW JOHN KERRY GOT HIS GROOVE BACK, MUCKED UP THE BUSH BATTLE PLAN--AND PROVED DEMOCRATS ARE THINKING HARD ABOUT WHO'S THE MOST 'ELECTABLE' CHALLENGER TO BUSH.
  • GRINS AND GRENADES

    To be a successful "oppo guy"--an opposition researcher for a presidential candidate--you need to know how to play defense as well as offense. In the Democrats' increasingly vicious race, Chris Lehane, Wesley Clark's oppo guy, is state of the art, a Harvard Law School alum with a sharp mind and tongue. He knows how to play it both ways. He's spent months in attack mode, serving as a one-man tip sheet for reporters examining the shortcomings of Howard Dean, especially the former Vermont governor's refusal to release all of his official records. But last week Lehane hunkered down. Preparing for close scrutiny of his man in New Hampshire, where a tight race was shaping up, Lehane opened a "reading room" in Manchester and packed it with stacks of the retired general's military, tax and lobbying records. "Contrast that with what Dean has done--or hasn't done--by way of full disclosure," Lehane crowed.A good move, perhaps--but not enough to pre-empt scrutiny. Records in the "reading room"...
  • Living Politics: Dissecting Howard Dean's Implosion

    Like the Challenger explosion, the faltering of Howard Dean's campaign will occupy crash-site investigators for years, maybe decades. How did a guy who rose to frontrunner with such a powerful message--the war is wrong, the political system needs profound reform--get so sidetracked between Thanksgiving and the Super Bowl?Here are some of my answers, on matters profound and picayune, personal and philosophical:PRIVATE GUY. Dean is an unusual character in politics. He thinks it is his right to guard his privacy in the most public line of work. When he rose to prominence he didn't realize that he needed to develop a narrative to explain, in detail, why he was who he was as a public man. By the time he started giving interviews to "People" and Diane Sawyer it was too late. He's a doctor. Isn't there a positive message in his practice somewhere? We still don't know.EMOTIONAL. Paradoxically, as private as he is, Dean is capable--perhaps too capable--of showing emotion. When I interviewed...