Howard Fineman

Stories by Howard Fineman

  • The Good Son Stumbles

    AL GORE HAS ALWAYS been a rising star, a good son. At St. Albans School in Washington, he was a senator's boy who had it all--the football captain with the good grades, the cute girlfriend and the Harvard acceptance letter. ""He was our idol,'' recalls Evan Bayh, another senator's son, who went on to serve two terms as governor of Indiana. Home in Tennessee, the Gore name and the anti-Republican tide after Watergate swept him into the House. Later he won a Senate seat against a nonentity. Finally, unexpectedly, Bill Clinton tapped him for veep in 1992. ...
  • Collision Course

    IN 1970 NASHVILLE WAS STILL A SMALL town, but Fred Thompson and Al Gore never crossed paths. Thompson was a country lawyer from Lawrenceburg, starting a stint as an assistant U.S. attorney. Gore was a senator's son, just back from Vietnam, a cub reporter covering cops for The Tennessean. Then and since, their careers intertwined but never touched. Thompson came to Washington in 1973 to run the Watergate committee's Republican staff, and then went home to practice law just as Gore was being elected as a Democrat to the House in 1976. Gore won the vice presidency in 1992, and Thompson then won Gore's Senate seat. ""We've stayed out of each other's hair,'' says Thompson. ...
  • The Cash Machine

    GEORGE SOROS WAS BORN IN BUDAPEST, SO HE CAN'T RUN FOR PRESIDENT. BUT if he ever did, he'd have no trouble handling one of the media's inevitable questions. ""On the rare occasions when I smoked marijuana,'' he told NEWSWEEK with a chuckle, ""I inhaled.'' Americans are dangerous absolutists on the topic, he says. ""There is a totalitarian mentality here with regard to drugs. I've engaged against that mentality in other countries, and I've decided to engage it here.'' ...
  • The Capital Gang

    BILL CLINTON DIDN'T want to be disturbed. He was cramming like a law student in finals week. In the Oval Office, and in his upstairs White House study, he was drafting and redrafting his Inaugural Address. He had books piled on tables--everything from the speeches and sermons of Martin Luther King Jr. to the Irish poems of Seamus Heaney--searching for the lilt and the lift that might inspire the nation. Meanwhile, his aides were focused on a less noble task, eagerly watching their TV sets as the House ethics committee meted out its version of justice to House Speaker Newt Gingrich: a harsh "reprimand," a referral to the IRS, a stiff $300,000 fine. "He got waxed," one crowed.This is Washington at the end of the millennium: a time of celebration and auto-da-fE, of new beginnings and old grudges. On the tundra of the Mall, frozen solid by an arctic jet stream, Bill Clinton was to be sworn in as the first Democrat to win two full terms since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. There is majesty...
  • Who Needs Washington?

    LOOKING BACK, IT'S CLEAR THAT THE DEFINING election of the digital age was in the year 2004, and that the candidate who embodied the new era wasn't the winner (Republican John Kasich, who edged out Democrat Evan Bayh), but the man who finished third: Woody Harrelson, of the McLuhan/Reform Party. Harrelson's campaign, managed by Oliver Stone, mixed message and medium in a yawp of digital hyperpopulism. The platform was William Jennings Bryan: attacking the modern robber barons on behalf of the Great Plains of cyberspace. Harrelson demanded free-access vouchers for all students and unemployed, a pro-encryption amendment to the Constitution, the breakup of Microsoft and Netscape, and abolition of the federal income tax. Washington, D.C., he said, was an irrelevant relic, the "last refuge of the old carbon-based politics" in a world of bitstreamed data moving at the speed of light. "Let Washington tend to the atoms of aging baby boomers," he declared, "while we aim our browsers at bits...
  • Building The Cabinet

    Richard Holbrooke thought he was in line for a bigger job in Bill Clinton's second term. As the administration's diplomatic troubleshooter, he had engineered what many thought was impossible: a tenuous peace in Bosnia. And, Holbrooke is one of Al Gore's best friends in politics. But so far no luck. First Holbrooke was passed over for secretary of state. Last week he lost a bid for a consolation prize, U.N. ambassador. ...
  • Gore's World

    THIS WAS THE BIG ONE: BILL CLINTON'S PRIVATE "JOB INTERVIEW" in the oval office with Janet Reno. The outcome was no secret; she would stay on as attorney general. But now everyone--especially reporters--wanted details. Quickly two senior aides tracked down the president at a White House black-tie dinner. Calling the boss out of the room, they pressed him for an account of the meeting. Clinton refused. There was someone he had to consult first. "I need to talk to Al about this," he said, and went back to dinner. ...
  • Hail ... And Farewell

    HE COULDN'T SLEEP. WHEN BILL CLINTON CAME HOME TO Little Rock, he stayed up all night in his suite at the Excelsior Hotel, playing hearts. He lost. He watched returns with the nervous intensity of a kid in his first campaign. "Get him on the phone!" he ordered each time the networks declared a Democratic winner. "I want to talk!" And when the results were final, he went down into the warm Arkansas night to bask in the adulation of the crowd outside the floodlit Old State House. "Now we've got a bridge to build;' he declared, "and I'm ready if you are." ...
  • An Uncivil War

    THE BIG-TIME REPUBLICAN TRAFFIC in and out of Des Moines has been, as usual, instructive. Among the ""names'' who dropped by to campaign in Iowa this fall were Dan Quayle, Pete Wilson, Lamar Alexander and Steve Forbes. They weren't there to make speeches for Bob Dole (though his name did come up occasionally) but to appear for GOP state legislative candidates. Funny how crucial those Iowa races become when you think of running for president. ...
  • Playing For Keeps

    BY JESSE HELMS'S STANDARDS, it was a hard day of campaigning. He boarded his big blue bus early in the morning out in eastern North Carolina, and worked his way back to his hometown of Raleigh, stopping at Parkers Barbeque in Wilson in the late afternoon. Along the way he made phone calls from the bus, dialing for last-minute money. In each crossroads town in the tobacco and cotton counties, the 75-year-old senator's message was the same: Big Labor was out to destroy him. In TV ads, he said, the unions were accusing him of trying to dismantle Social Security, Medicare, even private pensions. ""The commercials you are seeing,'' Helms told a crowd at Parkers, are ""very false and misleading. They are intended to grab power for the labor-union bosses!'' ...
  • Inside The Dole Meltdown

    MAYBE IT WAS THE crowds: huge, boisterous, angry at the thought that Bill Clinton might win another term. Maybe it was that the president was waltzing away from scandals that in the old days would have felled better men. Maybe it was the ancient story, unearthed by a tabloid, about an alleged affair a quarter century ago. Or maybe it was just that he was tired, that the polls hadn't budged, that he was campaigning in a state he should have locked up long ago, that he was about to lose the dream he had nurtured for 46 years in politics. ...
  • Ready, Aim...

    ELIZABETH DOLE WAS WORRIED for her husband. Not about his energy, which was remarkable, or his will to win, which was equally so. She was anxious, she told a close friend late last week, about something else: that her husband would be seen as too harsh and negative in the last desperate weeks of the 1996 presidential campaign--losing not only the election but his reputation by attacking President Clinton's character. ""She's very concerned,'' the friend told NEWSWEEK. ""She's worried about the reaction to what he might say.'' ...
  • Does Dole Have A Prayer?

    THEY KNEW THE choreography: considerate in a practiced way, two men of power with polite disagreements. Before and after last Sunday night's presidential debate, Bob Dole strode across the stage, his withered right arm at his side, his left hand extended in greeting. Smoothly, in a sign of respect for his adversary's old war wound, Bill Clinton offered his own left hand to shake. They'd done this before, only with far fewer people watching. For 90 minutes they begged to differ while professing mutual regard. ""I happen to like the president,'' Dole said. ""I like Senator Dole,'' Clinton said. ...
  • Sputtering And Sulking On The Sidelines

    AT LEAST ROSS PEROT GOT HIS OWN greenroom at CNN. He didn't have to watch the presidential debate last Sunday in the company of the other ""minor'' candidates who appeared on ""Larry King Live'' after Bill Clinton and Bob Dole finished speaking. Alone--no entourage of aides or reporters--he flew to Washington, watched the debate in the network's Washington bureau, then hustled to King's set to deliver his judgment. Americans, he said, had just seen a farcical two-party conspiracy. ""I've covered the real problems,'' he boasted as he signed off, dismissing the Clinton-Dole session as ""glib stuff.'' But Perot's audience was a tiny fraction of the one that had just watched the debate. So this is what he's reduced to: a one-man Greek chorus on cable. ...
  • At Close Range

    THERE WERE BAGELS ON the table the first morning they met to do business--and Bob Dole did not want bagels. ""Where are the doughnuts?'' he jokingly muttered in the Cabinet Room at the White House. Bill Clinton's men found some fast: chocolate, located in a mere 10 minutes, to satisfy the Republican Senate leader. Dole had another complaint, this one profound. The new Democratic president, Dole knew, was preparing an economic plan with $120 billion in new taxes. Forget it, Dole said. Clinton could expect no Republican support--that is, zero GOP votes--for the package. Dole made good on the threat: the plan was pursued and passed--barely--by Democrats alone. ...
  • Crashing To Earth

    REP. CHARLIE RANGEL IS A CONFIDENT man of definite views. Tie loosened, soft-soled walking shoes propped on his office desk in the Capitol, Rangel is expounding on some of them. The IRS is a fine, well-run institution. The federal income-tax system is ""the best in the world.'' Let's ""get rid of the payroll tax,'' a disproportionate burden on the average wage-earner. We need more ""empowerment zones'' and education tax credits to revive the cities. Corporations may have to pay higher taxes to get better-trained employees. The budget needs to be balanced, but there's nothing sacred about doing it in seven years. ...
  • Get Ready To Rumble

    THE MEETING WAS ROUTINE, BUT the subject was not. When Newt Gingrich and his lieutenants paid their regular visit to Bob Dole's headquarters last week, NEWSWEEK has learned, they came to plot a novel piece of strategy: the Dick Morris subpoena. The story of Bill Clinton's fallen consultant had seemed too weird and "off message" to be of much use. But then the tabloids published more excerpts from the diary of Morris's alleged call girl. In them Morris is said to have blamed Hillary Rodham Clinton for the mass requisitioning of Republican FBI files. Suddenly it was Macarena time at Dole HQ. "The FBI-files issue cuts," enthused a top Dole aide. So it was agreed: Rep. William Clinger's Government Reform and Oversight Committee would invite Morris to explain-- under subpoena if necessary. ...
  • Standing Tall, For Now

    IT WAS THE KIND OF summer night on which Bill Clinton could see the joys--and the perils--of his job. A week ago Sunday he was home in Little Rock, speaking to a large crowd outside Arkansas's Old State House. He was happy, he said, to "begin the last campaign of my life" in such a comfortable spot. But he didn't linger. There was business to conduct. He ducked into a back room; waiting for him was Anthony Lake, his national-security adviser, and Gen. Pete Pace, intelligence aide to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They had maps and charts. It was time for a burdensome ritual of the presidency: figuring out what to do about Saddam Hussein. ...
  • Up And Away

    THE ITINERARY WAS PART MARK TWAIN, all Bill Clinton. Launching the last nine weeks of his last campaign, the president stowed his sax but reached for the familiar: a bus trip through Mississippi River towns -- Cape Girardeau, Cairo, Paducah. Ribs and R&B in Memphis. A nostalgic visit back home to Little Rock. The Democratic convention -- high moments and low -- was history. ""We're where we wanted to be,'' claimed White House aide Harold Ickes. ...
  • Bring On The Baby Boomers

    IF BOB DOLE HAD ONLY KNOWN. LAST THURSDAY night he was onstage at the Republican convention in San Diego, a proud World War II veteran denouncing the Clinton administration as a soft, baby-boomer ""corps of the elite who never grew up, never did anything real, never suffered and never learned.'' And where was President Bill Clinton on that night? He was in Jackson Hole in Wyoming, at someone else's plush summer home, celebrating his 50th birthday by singing Beatles songs. ...
  • Just The Ticket?

    Jack Kemp hadn't wanted to go to San Diego. Why bother? They hadn't even asked him to speak to the Republican convention that would crown Bob Dole, his longtime antagonist. Kemp had infuriated Dole by endorsing Steve Forbes late in the primary season. Now he had to live with the consequences. Three weeks ago, NEWSWEEK has learned, Kemp told his closest friends that his time had come and gone in politics. At a retreat in Aspen, Colo., with Bill Bennett and Lamar Alexander, he said he was comfortable with his destiny. He told them he was reading a book about Hubert Humphrey, who had defied his own party in 1948 by championing civil rights. Principle over politics, that's what mattered, Kemp said. If faith in supply- side economics had ended his career, so be it. He'd go to San Diego, but only because his wife, Joanne, insisted. ""The Dole campaign won't even return my calls,'' he said with a laugh. ...
  • Not In Kansas Anymore

    IN THE WINTER OF 1972, BOB DOLE WAS famous, embattled -- and utterly alone. He was chairman of the Republican National Committee, getting ink and air time everywhere, logging thousands of air miles a week for GOP candidates. But Richard Nixon's White House minions were wary of his prominence, and were busy undermining him in the press. When he would return to Washington, haggard and sleepless, ""home'' was a barren suite at the Sheraton Park Hotel -- the refuge he'd taken after suddenly divorcing his wife of 23 years. Back in Kansas, the marital news hadn't gone down well. His beloved mother grieved. ...
  • How To Grab The Voters

    BOB DOLE NEEDS ALL THE HELP HE can get. His putative allies in Congress just took one of his most potent issues -- welfare reform -- out of his arsenal. The jury in Little Rock didn't help, refusing to buy the Whitewater prosecutors' case against Bill Clinton's Arkansas bank cronies. With the convention looming and the poll numbers lagging, what's a poor Republican presidential candidate to do? Answer: offer to cut taxes. ...
  • A Brawl On Tobacco Road

    BOB DOLE BLINDSIDED IS NOT A pretty sight. When he and his wife, Elizabeth, showed up in New York to tape the ""Today'' show last week, they expected perky little questions about their joint autobiography. Instead, NBC's Katie Couric asked about tobacco. What about former surgeon general C. Everett Koop? He was a Republican. A Reagan appointee, no less. Yet he had just blasted Dole for expressing doubts about whether smoking is addictive. Dole's visage darkened. The calm, tanned Bal Harbour retiree vanished. Koop, Dole snapped, ""watches the liberal media and he probably got carried away.'' Couric pounced. ""He's brainwashed?'' she asked dryly. Dole tried to retreat, but too late. ""Probably, a little bit,'' he said lamely.Dole left the NBC studio fuming -- and his fellow Republicans puzzling over his performance. He seemed testy, the ""mean'' hatchet man of old. He looked out of touch, quarreling with the medical consensus that nicotine is addictive. He came across as a politician...
  • How Hillary Keeps Going

    IF YOU WATCH THE PEDESTRIAN TRAFfic on Wisconsin Avenue, you might see her. Wearing a scarf and dark glasses, she will be hard to recognize: just another Washington mom out for a walk after dropping her teenager off at school. She'll be coming south from Sidwell Friends School, walking along the busy thoroughfare from Mount St. Alban and the National Cathedral, down the corridor of funky shops in Georgetown, turning east to Pennsylvania Avenue on her way home. No entourage. No press. Secret Service following at a respectful yet watchful distance. It'll be Hillary Rodham Clinton, looking for peace.For her, it's always been a difficult search. In her enemies' eyes, all the ""-gates'' of scandal lead to her. To them she is Haldeman, Erhlichman and Mitchell rolled into one -- and Republicans hope she may one day have the court dates to prove it. To her admirers, she is Margaret Mead, Eleanor Roosevelt and Joan of Arc rolled into one -- and she already has the scars of political...
  • Two Men, One Choice

    AS THE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN BEGAN, BILL CLINton felt persecuted, Bob Woodward reports in his new book, ""The Choice.'' The president complained that Washington insiders were out to get him, that leaders always were ""brutalized'' by the press. He took to quoting Machiavelli about the inevitable clash between a ""reformer'' and the ""old order.'' But though he sulked and fumed, he also saw that he would have to discipline himself, transcend his emotions and focus on the task at hand: winning. He assembled a team of veterans from outside the White House, and soon was overseeing a huge advertising campaign that raised his poll numbers -- and his confidence.While Clinton steeled himself and set to work, Bob Dole was beset by doubts. In early 1995, Woodward writes, Dole wasn't sure he was going to run at all. As Dole prepared to file a ""statement of candidacy,'' he drafted a second letter that would leave him a legal way out. He asked himself: was he running out of habit, on mere...
  • Family Feuds

    BOB DOLE WASN'T FOLLOWING the script. Weeks ago, his campaign had privately settled on a strategy for handling abortion. The Republican platform would keep its strong pro-life plank but would add a ""preamble'' expressing tolerance for divergent views. Dole's aides had planned to announce the formula late this week, after Dole ended his first post-Senate ""heartland tour'' of the Midwest and South. ...
  • 'Grenades Will Land'

    IT WAS THE KIND OF ROAD trip Bill Clinton usually savors. Jet down to New Orleans for a speech to 10,000 African-American churchwomen. ""The president is a man who was just born white,'' a bishop from the Church of God in Christ told the cheering women in their huge designer hats. ""But on the inside, he's a brother!'' Crawfish lunch near the French Quarter. A quick ride up to Baton Rouge to speak to the legislature of the only Deep South state (other than Arkansas) he won in 1992. In the state capitol he was greeted with cousinly backslaps and gifts of Cajun sauces. But throughout the long day, the president seemed preoccupied. There was no spice in his speeches, no blue-eyed soul in his smile. Bill Clinton's mind was elsewhere -- not on the present but on his past, and what it may mean for his future. ...
  • Dulling A Sharp Edge

    QUIETLY, THE WORD WENT OUT FROM THE WHITE HOUSE WEEKS AGO: WE CAN'T be with you on this one. Bill Clinton's decision to support a ban on single-sex marriage wasn't a surprise to gay-rights leaders inside the Beltway. The Clintonites had been warily watching Bob Dole. Once the senator announced his support for a bill outlawing gay marriage, top Clinton aides passed the word to Rep. Barney Frank and leaders of the Human Rights Campaign that the president would have to follow suit. "They've known for weeks that the president would say he'll sign the bill if it ever reaches him," Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos told NEWSWEEK. Though the president legitimately noted that he has long opposed gay marriage, there was something else at work. In the argot of politics, he was blunting a wedge issue. ...
  • Dress-Down Dole

    BOB DOLE PREFERS to go to bed early. "Can't beat that sleep," he likes to say. But last Wednesday night he was too keyed up to turn in. A few hours earlier he had astonished Washington: he was quitting his beloved Senate to devote full time to his presidential campaign. "I will seek the presidency," Dole told a throng on Capitol Hill, "with nothing to fall back on but the judgment of the people, and nowhere to go but the White House or home." ...
  • The Fight Inside The Tent

    NASSAU COUNTY, ON NEW York's Long Island, seemed a perfect place for Sen. Bob Dole to fire up a big crowd. It's the old suburban sod of Sen. Al D'Amato, Dole's boon companion. More important, it's a well-kept bastion of cultur-al conservatism: an antitax, antiwelfare, heavily Roman Catholic haven for families who long ago fled New York City. And Al D'Amato not only knows how to build a party, he knows how to throw one. ...
  • Redrawing The Color Lines

    IT'S NOT JUST THAT THE mayor is black; it's that her civil-rights credentials are so in order. Sharon Sayles Belton grew up in an integrated Minneapolis neighborhood. After Macalester College (where Hubert Humphrey once taught), she went south to register Mississippi voters. Back home she became a Democratic city councilwoman, championing inner-city jobs programs, drug control and civilian review of the police. Now she's in the office once held by Humphrey, who led a brave, lonely--and successful--crusade to write a civil-rights plank into Harry Truman's 1948 platform. ...