Howard Fineman

Stories by Howard Fineman

  • Here Comes The Son

    George Walker Bush can't sit still. Hosting a lunch at the Texas governor's mansion in Austin, he taps his foot under the table like a schoolboy waiting for recess. He is 52 years old (53 next month), yet he hums with the kind of energy that led him to drink--a lot--until he quit cold turkey 13 years ago. He's a toucher and a leaner. He gets in your space, physical and otherwise, whether you want him to or not. He'll give you a nickname you didn't know you had--because he just made it up. He's a clean-desk man. He runs his life according to what's in front of him. He doesn't care much about history, including his family's--or his own. The day after the Texas Legislature ended recently, his vast desk had nothing on it. He now was ready, he told NEWSWEEK, for the next task: to get elected president. "If it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out," he shrugged. "I'm going to give it my best shot--in one of the most amazing and important adventures someone can go on."Bush left Austin last...
  • With Foes Like These...

    Now Hillary Rodham Clinton has confirmed it: she's jumping Ferragamos-first into the New York Senate race. She said last week that she would form an exploratory committee. She's expected to disclose this week that she's taken a lease on a Manhattan apartment. And while she's lost her first-blush lead in the polls, there's something encouragingly Clintonian about her political situation: she may share her husband's luck in enemies. ...
  • The Potholes Of New York

    She's made the calls Harold Ickes told her to make--all 200 of them. She's made eight trips in and around New York state, with another one this week. She's been to Ireland recently, will soon visit Israel, and the joke in the city is that Italy can't be far behind. She has talked to the consultants she wants to handle her, the moneymen who want to help her, the organizers who want to turn out the unions, blacks and liberals. This week Hillary Rodham Clinton checks off the next big item on her yellow legal pad. On a Florida vacation with her husband and daughter, she'll ask if they can think of one good reason she shouldn't run for the Senate from New York. They aren't likely to find one.It appears that we are about to see something new in American politics: a de facto national ticket featuring a First Lady and a vice president, each laying claim to the boss's legacy. While she could still back away, sources tell NEWSWEEK that she will almost certainly form an "exploratory committee"...
  • Under Fire

    Bill Clinton was ready to lock and load. He had surveyed the battlefield and concluded that a dreaded foe--the gun lobby--had suddenly become vulnerable. There had been a new high-school shooting spree, this one in Georgia, the day before, and he'd just returned from an emotional tribute to the students slain in Colorado. Now, sipping a Diet Coke at the big conference table in the Roosevelt Room, he assured House Democrats that it was safe to enact new gun-control measures. He'd been wrong on the politics in 1994, he conceded, when he had counseled them to pass the Brady Bill and Assault Weapons Ban. The National Rifle Association had mowed down Democrats in conservative rural districts, which helped Republicans seize control of the House. "I was wrong then," he said. "I don't think I'm wrong this time. The country has really changed on this issue."If it has, it's because of tragedies like the one last week at Heritage High School in Conyers, Ga., a suburb in the piney woods east of...
  • Al Gore’S Best Hope

    The library in the home of a prominent man says who he is--and how he wants to be seen. In the airy vice presidential residence on a Washington hilltop, Albert Gore's is painted a leafy, earth-in-the-balance green. A Naval Observatory clock reads out official time in red digits to the hundredth of a second. In the corner stands a Nashville-style guitar, signed by country-music greats. The bookshelves are full of popular works of history and politics and a massive, leather-bound Family Religious Reference. The profusion of photos are all-in-the-family. The four kids, Gore's parents, most of all Gore's wife, Tipper: the two of them as wooing youths, young parents, a mature couple. If you look carefully--very carefully--you can find Bill Clinton. He's with the veep in two tiny, black-and-white news shots: a run-of-the-mill Oval Office meeting and a "reinventing government" photo op.>Is Al Gore's campaign in trouble? Join Newsweek political writers for a live, online discussion on...
  • Watch Out For Hurricane W

    Back east, thunderheads were forming over George W. Bush's campaign. A conservative columnist taunted the governor of Texas for failing to push a voucher plan through his legislature, even though his kid brother (and fellow governor) had done just that in Florida. Newspapers reported ominously that Bush had discussed legislative agendas with GOP House leaders Dick Armey and Tom DeLay, often depicted as mirthless right-wingers. "That's Bush's first big screw-up," declared a top adviser to Al Gore. "The country hates those two, and we're going to staple the three of them together." A few pundits went so far as to pronounce Bush an untested, oversold hothead. "He's ripe for the picking," said Charlie Cook, dean of the D.C. political touts.But down in Austin last week, it was nothing but blue skies: eerily blue. Highly credentialed experts shuttled in to give Bush yet another tutorial at the governor's mansion, this one on defense issues. Over at the Four Seasons, venture capitalists...
  • The Buzz About Bradley

    Al Gore's aides had arranged a picture-perfect setting for his big Earth Day speech. He'd choppered up to the Blue Ridge Mountains' Skyline Drive. He looked fit in his jeans and polo shirt, and posed for the cameras on a hilltop in the sunshine overlooking the Shenandoah Valley. Gore was there to announce a new clean-air program, and the audience was filled with smiling schoolchildren and local "electeds." There was only one problem: swarms of ravenous flying bugs. The vice president, like everyone else, swatted them furiously as he waited to speak. "So let me turn to the subject at hand," he said, "before these gnats eat me alive!" And so it goes for the vice president: on top of the mountain, under siege.The gnats weren't nearly as annoying as the swarm Gore left behind in Washington: the Bradley Buzz. The Gore camp is already burdened by Clinton-scandal fatigue and the war in Kosovo; their attitude hovers between "oh please" and "let's panic" in response to Bill Bradley, the veep...
  • The Kosovo Primary

    If you're running for president, there's nothing like cuddling a child, on camera. Elizabeth Dole flew all the way to a refugee camp in Macedonia last week to find both--the child and the camera. The lost boy at her side, she explained (live, via satellite, on two successive shows), had fled Pristina, the devastated capital of Kosovo. "He and his family were driven from their home," she said. "He's living here in the camp, and he's been my escort all afternoon." The tales she'd heard were "absolutely horrific," said Dole. "This is a war we must win," even if it takes American troops to do it. The cable-ready compassion was cloyingly stagy, but give the former head of the Red Cross credit for candor in accounting: Dole's campaign committee paid for the trip.Politics never really "stopped at the water's edge," but now, as the Y2K campaign gains speed, there's no "edge" at all. The distant war in Kosovo has become the first, perhaps defining issue. Why? The reasons range from planetary...
  • The Good Soldier

    In presidential politics, revolts tend to start in Iowa living rooms. So Al Gore, in the midst of his first long campaign swing, knew he had to tread carefully when he walked into Professor Jan Flora's crowded home last week in Ames. He led the assembled in singing "Happy Birthday" to a fabled local Democrat. He spoke fondly of life on the farm, including the buttermilk pancakes he'd had that morning at the kitchen table of a family with whom he'd spent the night. He preached the gospel of Iowa's deep faith in education, a crowd-pleasing theme in the home of an Iowa State faculty member. "I want to be the next president of the United States!" Gore declared cheerfully. His rationale was simplicity itself: "Let's continue the prosperity!"No revolt potential there. But then came the real questions. Steffan Schmidt, in jacket and tie, respectfully called out the crucial one from the back of the room: what about sending American troops to Kosovo? Suddenly, Gore wasn't just a safe,...
  • In The Line Of Fire

    In theory, Bill Clinton should have been nervous. It had been nearly a year since he'd held a full-scale press conference--a year in which he'd been exposed, impeached, humiliated and nearly convicted for lying under oath. The networks were going live for the auto-da-fe. But as he prepared, Clinton was eerily upbeat. Monica Madness, he knew, was history: his counsel, Charles Ruff, spent mere minutes briefing him on the legal detritus of the case. More important, the president had something else, something grave, to talk about--not as a sullen defendant on videotape, but as commander in chief. Up in the residence, knotting a gold tie carefully just before air time, he was "totally relaxed," a top aide said later, and full of confidence as he strode to the elevator.At that moment, Serbian troops and armor were on the move in Kosovo, rumbling across the rolling hills that lie along Europe's fault line of faith. Outside a Kosovar Albanian rebel stronghold called Llap, tanks revved their...
  • Back In The Amen Corner

    Elizabeth Dole takes pride in her heritage of faith. Growing up in North Carolina, she heard stories of an ancestor who preached the gospel with John Wesley. Her grandmother was a fervent Bible reader; her mother played organ in church. Elizabeth was in a Methodist youth group, and played piano for the Bible class. Climbing the ladder in Washington, she once wrote, she cured her "spiritual starvation" by joining an after-work "spiritual-growth group."So when Dole moved toward seeking the GOP presidential nomination last week, there was an inevitable preacherly tone in her Piedmont drawl. Ringed by supporters at a restaurant in New Hampshire, she portrayed her possible candidacy as a witness for Christian decency. "There's yearning to make us a better nation," she said, clip-on mike in place. "We need to get back to basic values: personal responsibility, honesty, integrity ... cooperation over conflict." Leading the Red Cross, she said, she'd enabled people to share their blessings. ...
  • Watch Your Back

    IN AMERICA WE HAVE NO KINGS. We have front runners, and these days Gov. George W. Bush is wearing the crown. The Texas-bred Tudor is holding court in Austin as delegations of Republican legislators arrive in waves to endorse him at the white-brick mansion. Last week Bush joined a group from the Carolinas for lunch in the dining room, gave them a tour (he likes to point out the Davy Crockett portrait) and escorted them out to the cobblestone courtyard to greet the press. Up in New York City, meanwhile, Vice President Al Gore conducted a royal progress among the moneyed. On his first presidential fund-raising trip, Gore was feted at three parties in three hours: by blacks in the entertainment industry, high-tech millionerds and Wall Street machers at the palatial apartment of Lazard Freres executive Steve Rattner. By the time Gore got back on Air Force Two, he'd picked up commitments for a cool $1.5 million.But the front runners don't look so regal when they don their Woolrich shirts...
  • The Survivor

    He's done it again. Born lucky, smart and reckless, Bill Clinton routs his foes and wins his Senate trial. But his real reckoning--the one with history--is still to come. ...
  • A Time Of Trial

    BILL CLINTON was out of town, at the Auto Show in Detroit, when James Ziglar arrived at the White House in a big, black Chevy Suburban. Washington looked bleak, the skies a leaden gray, the streets coated with icy snow. From the West Wing door, the Senate's sergeant-at-arms was escorted to the office of the staff secretary, where he was met by White House counsel Charles F.C. Ruff. Pleasantries were not exchanged. Ziglar handed over a document. It was a ""writ,'' commanding the president to answer the charges--perjury, obstruction of justice--made against him by the House. In ornate words lifted from an earlier era, it admonished Clinton to ""abide by, obey, and perform such orders, directions and judgments as the Senate shall make,'' and ended with a warning: ""Hereof,'' the writ said, ""you are not to fail.'' In the slang of street law, Ziglar had just dropped papers on the perp.Time, as they say in the Senate, to ""call the question.'' And it is this: in our age of tabloid...
  • Bill's Last Chance

    Washington seems dead--a capital obsessed with collecting cash. But a war for the future is taking shape. In a new global age, will we turn inward? Or can Clinton persuade us to embrace the world? ...
  • Potholes On The Road Ahead

    DR. Horward Dean is not the kind of guy you'd think could get a rise out of Al Gore. An internist, he's the Democratic governor of Vermont--a state with one Socialist congressman, two ice-cream magnates and 150,000 dairy cows. Gore is the vice pres ident of the United States--a man with a humming economy and a new, clean legal bill of health. Still, Gore grew testy when Dean dropped by last week for a chat. In all likelihood, Dean said, he'd challenge Gore for the presidential nomination. The veep' s reaction, sources tell NEWSWEEK, was as frigid as an ice storm in the Green Mountains. No backslapping, no pre-holiday good cheer. ""Do what you have to do," Gore said--and showed him the door. ...
  • Playing From The Rough

    AS COMMANDER IN chief, Bill Clinton is the unquestioned leader of U.S. forces. In Washington, where he's merely president, it's not that simple. His political army--the Democratic Party--is divided and deserting. Republicans aren't taking orders, or prisoners. Less than a year into his second term, Clinton was on the verge of becoming a diminished figure until the Iraq showdown put him back on center stage. Now the question in the capital is whether he can regain the kind of clout at home that presidents command in crises abroad.Last week was anything but easy. Federal investigators quizzed him about questionable fund-raising phone calls he may have made in 1996. Paula Jones's sexual harassment case got air time as she and Gennifer Flowers gave depositions. In Congress Democrats undercut his bid for broad power to negotiate new trade deals--a power enjoyed by every president since Gerald Ford. The GOP majority, meanwhile, obstructed the nomination of Bill Lann Lee, an Asian-American...
  • Can Rudy Go To The Bigs?

    NEW YORKERS AREN'T SUPPOSED TO care about Iowa. When he found- ed The New Yorker magazine in 1925, Harold Ross declared that it wouldn't be written for the ""little old lady in Dubuque.'' But last week Manhattan Republicans were crowing about an invitation Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani had received from Des Moines. He'd just been re-elected mayor after cutting the crime rate in half, cleaning up Times Square and making Gotham safe. So might he be interested in attending a GOP presidential ""cattle show'' in the state that will choose the first delegates for 2000?The answer was no. For now. ""At this point I'm focused on being mayor for a second term,'' Giuliani told NEWSWEEK as he prowled the city in his huge GMC Suburban, with four cellular phones and a brace of aides to relay his commands. ""But you never rule out anything in politics.'' Someone, he says, needs to teach the nation the lesson he's learned: the best policy is a nonpartisan, incremental focus on improving ""quality of...
  • Gore Feels The Heat

    IT'S HARD TO KNOW WHAT ANNOYED Al Gore more: the suggestion that his motives were less than pure, or the offer of sympathy for his plight. A man of brains and breeding, the vice president prefers to be seen as a leader in full control, secure on his own high moral ground. So he grew testy recently in a White House meeting with a group of environmentalists. In that morning's New York Times, the greens had stirred up trouble by accusing the administration--and Gore--of planning to sell out on the global-warming issue.Now, in the Roosevelt Room, they had the gall to sound concerned about Gore's political predicament. They knew he was under pressure from unions and industry, who fear the economic cost of a strict global-warming treaty. They knew that Beltway handlers want him to dilute his green image as he prepares to run for president. As his friends, one of the environmentalists said, they wanted to suggest that a tough treaty would, in fact, be good politics. Gore cut him off. ""Don...
  • Gore In The Balance

    THE METHODIST BUILDING, GRAY and nondescript, is one of those Capitol Hill edifices no one notices. Liberal interest groups fill most of it, but there are apartments as well. For many years, the Gores of Tennessee have rented there--a place to stay when they couldn't make it home to their posh flat at the old Fairfax. Albert Sr. used it when he was in Congress. So did his son, especially in the late '80s.In those years, in those Spartan rooms, Albert Gore Jr. indulged his twin obsessions: saving the planet and raising cash. It was where he wrote his environmental credo, ""Earth in the Balance.'' It was also a legal safe house from which he made fund-raising calls. By law and custom, Gore knew, you didn't dial for dollars from your Senate office. Eager to repay a debt from his 1988 presidential campaign, and to raise money for his 1990 Senate race, Gore instead ""spent a lot of time over in the Methodist Building,'' recalls a former top aide.Last week history caught up with Al Gore...
  • Why Ted Gave It Away

    AS TED TURNER TELLS IT, HIS LIFE'S Thrilling new mission was revealed to him in the form of a net-worth statement. He was flying to New York City to receive an award from the United Nations Association. He was in an upbeat, summing-up mood. The evening before, he'd cheered his beloved Atlanta Braves to a come-from-behind victory. Sculptors from Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum had been in, measuring him with calipers for a statue. He'll turn 60 next year, and, just that day, he'd mused aloud about the challenges of age, even for billionaires. ""You get more conservative in life,'' he'd told Atlanta business friends. ""You are not as colorful as you were when you were younger.'' ...
  • An Old Bull's Last Hurrah

    JESSE HELMS LIVES FOR the kind of day he had last Friday. He got to be the hanging judge. He got to gavel down some liberals, then derail William Weld's nomination to be ambassador to Mexico by refusing to give him a hearing during a half-hour ""special meeting.'' He even managed to taunt the poor Harvard man as he pronounced sentence. ""Got your ticket to Mexico yet?'' the senator sneered as he reached across the dais to shake hands. Weld's friends were left in a Senate hallway to explain how they would save his nom- ination--which they almost certainly can't. Helms, meanwhile, ambled off for a leisurely lunch in the Senate Dining Room with old friends from Raleigh. ...
  • You Can Call Him Caught

    BUDDHA SAID IT'S best to go through the world quietly. Same for a vice president. When seeking the top job, you do it as invisibly as you can for as long as you can. That was Al Gore's strategy--until last week, when it collapsed under the weight of new details about his fund-raising activities in 1996. A mundane day trip to New Hampshire was mid-campaign tense. Local papers ran nasty headlines and tough editorials. Network reporters tailed him in their rental cars. At WMUR-TV in Manchester, the usual sugary interview turned tart when Gore was asked about . . . money. ""I'm confident,'' he said with rehearsed ease, ""that when the reviews are all complete, it'll be shown that what I did was legal and appropriate.'' ...
  • A Summer Squall

    FOR JESSE HELMS, THERE IS THE world, and there is Raleigh. Given the choice, the septuagenarian senator will take the latter. That's why he's spending August at his home in North Carolina. He and his wife, ""Miss Dot,'' spend the summer days visiting friends around town and writing letters on one of the senator's cherished manual typewriters. Intimates say the Senate Foreign Relations chair isn't troubled by the controversy over William Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts who wants to be ambassador to Mexico. The chairman's position: no hearing. So it is virtually impossible for Weld to get to Mexico City without first winning over Helms, who has said Weld ""isn't ambassador quality'' and charges that the Boston Brahmin is too soft on drugs. (Weld does favor the medicinal use of marijuana but insists that he's able to take on the Mexicans over the flow of illegal drugs.) ""Helms has had more controversy than this Weld thing for breakfast every morning for the last 25 years,''...
  • Last Action President

    THE PRESIDENT IS A MEDAL OF Honor winner, handy with Uzis and chokeholds, brave beyond measure and so righteous that he vows - in an election year, no less - to dispatch elite American troops wherever and whenever they are needed to save starving children from the clutches of terrorist dictators. To hell with polls. To hell with iso- lationists in Congress. To hell with ass- covering advisers. Only his adoring wife (they're still madly in love after all these years, all these campaigns) fully understands - and she's with him all the way when he makes the Big Speech. ""Never again,'' he declares, ""will I allow our political self-interest to get in the way of what we know to be morally right!'' ...
  • A Starr-Crossed Probe?

    KEN STARR'S DEPUTIES CALLED IT, simply, The Trooper Project. Looking for evidence that Bill Clinton had lied about his Arkansas business deals, frustrated Whitewater investigators last November came up with a new strategy: FBI interviews with every Arkansas state trooper who'd served on Clinton's detail in the mid- to late 1980s. The agents asked about the then governor's out-of-the-limelight contacts with a roster of characters, including more than six women with whom Clinton had allegedly had affairs. Starr's gumshoes say they were looking for loose talk, pillow talk, late-night slip-ups or soulful confessions to an intimate - anything to help make a fraud or perjury case. ...
  • The Family Business

    IT WAS ST. PATRICK'S DAY, AND THE whole family of Democratic Washington was jammed into the Augustan drawing rooms of the Irish Embassy. In one were sons and aides to sons of famous names: Daley, Gore, Kennedy. In another Ethel Kennedy chatted up the charms of her son-in-law Andrew Cuomo, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development. She and his father, Mario Cuomo, had agreed: the young man's future was bright. "Andrew's so much fun," she said, then added even higher praise. "He's family." ...
  • Bayou Brawl

    Mary Landrieu and Marc Morial are. political kin: neighbors who attended integrated Catholic schools in New Orleans, children of pro-civil-rights Democrats. They loved to accompany their fathers to watch as voting machines were opened on election nights. Moon Landrieu, elected in 1970, was the first white mayor to appoint blacks to top jobs. Mary always went with him to their home "Uptown" precinct. In 1978 Moon was succeeded by his friend Ernest N. (Dutch) Morial, the city's first African-American chief executive. Marc would go with his dad to a warehouse on Gentile Avenue to admire the bulky machines. ...
  • The Microsoft Primary

    AL GORE WORKED LATE ON HIS SPEECH. ""HE WAS UP HALF THE NIGHT,'' SAID WASH- ington state Gov. Gary Locke, a close friend. With good reason: Gore had a command performance in Seattle last week, a chance to impress 100 leading CEOs at a ""technology summit'' hosted by the Sun King of the Information Age, Bill Gates. It was Gore's kind of crowd, and his work paid off. He won nods with a thoughtful address about how managers should nurture public education and the emotional creativity of their workers. ""A formidable performance,'' conceded Steve Forbes, another summiteer. Then it was off to a sunset cruise aboard Gates's yacht, the Emerald Star, and dinner with the CEOs at Gates's new $50 million Xanadu on Lake Washington. As he boarded, a grinning Gore looked like a winner on his way to Disney World. ...
  • Gingrich Goes On The Dole

    HE DIDN'T BOTHER TO CONSULT Elizabeth, of course, until the deal was done. Nor did he give more than a vague heads-up to anyone at the Washington law firm he's joining next month. No, Bob Dole did it Bob Dole's way: in secret, as a surprise, to help his party and confound the pundits. Emerging from the shadows six months after his presidential defeat, he promised to lend Newt Gingrich the $300,000 "reprimand" payment the speaker owes to the House Ethics Committee. Then Dole sat back, happily fielding calls. "How much ya need?" he asked with a laugh, mocking himself in an interview with NEWSWEEK. "Only got a little left!" ...
  • Lone Star Rising

    DAD WAS ON THE PHONE, FULL OF INTRIGUE AND boyish urgency. "J-10! J-10!" proclaimed George Herbert Walker Bush, former president of the United States. "What?" asked his eldest son, Gov. George Walker Bush of Texas. "Ten days till The Jump!" his father replied. "What jump?" the son asked. Well, Dad said, he was going to do the parachute thing. First since World War II. Not to worry: there'd be jumpmasters from the Army Golden Knights with him on the way down. "I told him some things you can't print in a family magazine," his son recalled last week. To no avail: his 72-year-old father soon was airborne. Why? Simple, said his son, with a shrug over lunch at the Governor's Mansion in Austin. "George Bush gets these... enthusiasms." ...
  • Two Beijing Ducks

    First through the vermilion walls of the Gate of Heavenly Peace was Al Gore, riding in his flag-decked, bulletproof Cadillac at the head of a 12-car motorcade. Touring the imperial Forbidden City, he gawked at the splendid halls, including the one reserved for the Son of Heaven to freshen up in between ceremonies. "In the Senate we called that a 'hideaway' office," he said wistfully, as if he still wanted one. Three days later it was Newt Gingrich's turn to dream of life in the Ming and Qing dynasties--long before the advent of the Washington media. The Hall of Preserving Harmony caught his eye. "Maybe we should give that name to the House press gallery," he said glumly. "I doubt seriously that it would help." ...