Howard Fineman

Stories by Howard Fineman

  • 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." ...
  • 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. ...