Howard Fineman

Stories by Howard Fineman

  • Friendly Fire

    To Glimpse the problematic power of the farthest fringe of the Republican right, look at the worlds of a lobbyist named Larry Pratt: One of his worlds is the GOP establishment. As executive director of the Gun Owners of America, the Virginian is at home in the House That Newt Built. He's a trusted adviser to a congressional task force that is looking for ways to dial back gun-control laws. He huddles with Tom DeLay, House whip, and Dick Armey, majority leader--once a member of the Gun Owners' advisory board. Presidential candidates woo Pratt and his angry, fast-growing membership, 150,000 and climbing. Their clout in the New Hampshire GOP primary is near legend. "The Gun Owners always produce the biggest crowd of the New Hampshire campaign," says Charlie Black, an adviser to Sen. Phil Gramm. ...
  • The Trouble With Taxes

    HERE ARE THE RUSHES FROM LAST Thursday's scenes of "Republican Revolution-Part II," now filming in Washington: ...
  • Race And Rage

    All Janice Camarena wanted, she says, was to attend English 101 at a convenient hour. For the commuting student at San Bernardino Valley College-a 25-year-old widow with three young kids - the only convenient hour was 11 a.m. But there was a problem. She was white-and the section was reserved for African-Americans. Bearing a neutral label, the class was actually part of a "Black Bridge" remedial program of writing instruction, career counseling and mentoring. She couldn't sign up.So the other week Janice Camarena did what any red-blooded Californian would do. She sued. Now she's a test case for those who want to remove any trace of racial preference in the state's vast community college system. The Black Bridge doesn't seem to be an egregious piece of race-based social engineering. Few would begrudge minority students special help early in college. and there were other sections of English 101. Yet Camarena's case briefly broke through the O.J. chatter on Los Angeles talk radio. ...
  • Politics: Bob Dole's Surprising Kingmaker

    Bob Dole was dallying disastrously, Al D'Amato thought, about announcing for president. ""Al kept telling me "People are signing up, you gotta move','' Dole recalls. Dole listened, advancing his timetable by months. D'Amato also told his friend to focus his themes and quit worrying about making Beltway sophisticates laugh. ""You have no obligation to entertain,'' the New York senator told him. Dole listened. Though his style is genial, his message is sharper. He's attacked Boris Yeltsin, affirmative action and gun control. Nudged by D'Amato, he distanced himself from Mexican bailouts. ...
  • Mr. Inside Strikes Out

    For Bob Dole, who abhors asking for help, it was a galling phone call to make. But he had no choice. Only 14 Senate Democrats were supporting the balanced-budget amendment, six others having tiptoed away from it since last year. The final hope was Mark Hatfield, the lone ""no'' vote among 53 Republicans. So last Wednesday Dole placed a call to Houston to Hatfield's good friend -- and Dole's own onetime rival -- George Bush, Newsweek learned. Would Bush please lend a hand? Would he use his stature as a former president and appeal to Hatfield's loyalty?Bush did his part, of course. He and Dole have come to admire each other, leader to leader. The next day, Hatfield talked to Dole at the Capitol. For the first time in 27years, Dole told Newsweek, he pleaded with his longtime colleague to ""bend'' on a principle. ""I've never asked youbefore,'' Dole said. ""I'll probably never ask you again.'' No dice. Hatfield politely said no.Angry but resigned, Dole strode to the Senate floor, the...
  • The Brave New World Of Cybertribes

    NEWT GINGRICH GETS LOTS OF ATTENtion for owning a laptop. But next Monday, Lamar Alexander is planning to make history with one. On the eve of launching his presidential candidacy--just after he finishes "Larry King Live"--Alexander will sit down at his Power book in his east Tennessee boyhood home. He'll log on. He'll enter an America Online "forum." Then he'll type his way onto the digital campaign trail-the first presidential candidate ever to do so. No bunting, no pretzels, no beer. just a meet-and-greet with any soul who happens in. "It's Virtual Lamar," says his media adviser, Mike Murphy. "We're cyber-announcing." ...
  • Get Ready For Mr. Relentless

    When Dan Quayle decided not to run for president, most of his competitors performed the usual ritual of homage to the departed: issue a statement, praise his wisdom and don't claim his supporters. "Dan Quayle is a good friend who would have been a formidable candidate," said Bob Dole, last week's model of old-school grace. Cornered by the cameras, the senator was diplomatic. "I don't know who it helps," he said. ...
  • Citizen Bill

    History, at times, seems determined to make a point. Last week in Boston, mourners buried Rose Kennedy, matriarch of the Democrats' leading family. A few hours later in Washington, President Clinton interred the party's philosophy of government. The New Deal "worked in its time," he said in his State of the Union Message. "But we today face a very different time," in which local government and community volunteers must take the lead. The next day, Rep. Joe Kennedy, one of Rose's grandsons, joined Republicans in the House, voting for a monument to doubt about government: a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution. ...
  • Gingrich Goes Ballistic

    WAS NEWT GINGRICH EXPERIENCING meltdown? Last Friday it looked and sounded that way. He was on the stage of a Washington hotel ballroom speaking to the friendliest of audiences, the Republican National Committee. And yet his eyes were narrow in hate, his face moist with sweat from the glare of TV lights. His topic: the sins of his many enemies. "I am a genuine revolutionary," he declared. "They are genuine reactionaries ... There is no grotesquerie, no distortion, no dishonesty too great for them" to use. Washington, he warned, "is going to be a mean, tough, hard city." ...
  • The Warrior

    Newt Gingrich, an army brat, sees politics as a matter of life or death, good or evil. A look into the life and mind of the speaker of the House, and at the revolution he is about to launch in Washington ...
  • Clinton's Values Blowout

    Newt couldn't have engineered it. Rush couldn't have made it up. First, Newt Gingrich charges that President Clinton is a card-carrying member of the '60s ""counterculture.'' Part of the evidence: his surgeon general, the controversial Joycelyn Elders. ""Why does the president keep her?'' the speaker-to-be asks. ""I assume he shares her values.'' Days later, word of Elders's latest gaffe surfaces. At an obscure U.N. conference, she had suggested it might be wise to teach masturbation to kids in health class. Calling all ""dittoheads''! Clinton quickly gets the message. With uncharacteristic speed and coldness, he abruptly fires her.Bill Clinton is moving to the right fast, but perhaps too late. The Elders episode is only the most recent reminder that the baby boom's first political establishment -- the liberal one Clinton joined in the '60s -- is finished. Think of the recent election as a race for generational class president. The candidates: two loquacious, overachieving white...
  • Dole's Virtual Presidency

    He began last week by grabbing headlines, urging the arming of Bosnian Muslims -- then flew off to Brussels to tweak the NATO brass. Next was London, to pose with Margaret Thatcher, needle Prime Minister John Major on Bosnia and appear leaderly in a classic setting: outside 10 Downing Street. Though Whitehall thought him rude, the sound bites were tart, the photo ops splendid. Then back to Washington for White House meetings and a dramatic lead role in the trade-deal fight. After passage: a return to the White House for a victory bash -- and talks on the new congressional agenda. ""We'll hit the ground running,'' he declared. ...
  • Reality Bites

    As a 31-year-old freshman, Rep. Jim Nussle invented a radical way to highlight the House bank scandal: he delivered a floor speech wearing a brown paper bag over his head. A hit on C-Span, he caught the eye of Newt. Three years later the Iowa Republican is back -- in full view -- but he's become a decorous student of tradition. As chief of Speaker-to-be Gingrich's transition team, he met last week with the clerk of the House. In a hushed office, surrounded by tall windows and portraits of deceased clerks, Nussle listened earnestly as Don-ald K. Anderson expounded on customs that date to the Continental Congress. ""He's a respectful young man,'' concluded Anderson. ...
  • Revenge Of The Right

    NEWT GINGRICH WAS PREPARING FOR THE LONG HAUL. That's what revolutionaries do, once they've stormed up the marble stairs and occupied the palace. Three days after the Republican right shook the nation, if not the world, their theoretician-in-chief was back in the Capitol. Surrounded by books and models of dinosaurs (he'd once wanted to be a paleontologist), gazing contentedly at the panorama of monuments on the Mall, Newt was examining every detail. No item was too personal, no goal to sweeping. To get in shape, he decreed, his daily schedule henceforth had to be built around 90 minutes of exercise. "No exceptions," he barked. When an aide offered a bagel with cream cheese, he waved it away contemptuously. "Just plain," he ordered. ...
  • Now, The Volvo Republicans

    In the ballrooms of adjacent hotels on 53d Street in Manhattan last week, it was easy to spot the stars. At the Sheraton, where President Clinton helped Gov. Mario Cuomo raise $2.5 million, the cameras clustered around Madonna's dinner table. At the Hilton, where Republicans raised $2 million for Cuo-mo's challenger, George Pataki, the woman in lights was Christine Todd Whitman, the tax-cutting governor of New Jersey. ...
  • Talk Tough And Carry A Nightstick

    THIS WAS PHOTO-OP Heaven: a bright morning on the South Lawn, a marine band blaring Sousa from the White House balcony, an audience of 300 police officers, gold badges gleaming. Framed by fluttering American flags, President Clinton announced last week the hurried disbursement of $200 million-the first cash from the new crime law -to put some 2,800 more cops on the beat. "This is an enormous step forward in a national partnership to help people fight crime," he said, then climbed off the stage to mingle. An hour later he was still pumping hands and slapping backs. ...
  • The Clean-Slate Club

    WHEN DR. BILL FRIST CALLED A press conference in Nashville last week, reporters from across Tennessee showed up, eager to hear specifics from the 42-year-old surgeon and Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. Fat chance. Boyish but steely, Frist stuck to his crime script: more death-penalty provisions, more fixed sentencing, more prisons. He attacked his Democratic opponent, Sen. Jim Sasser, for having backed a judge who now opposes the death penalty. But when reporters pressed Frist to discuss details of the new federal crime law, his reply was, Don't know, don't need to know, don't even want to know. "I'm a heart-and-lung-transplant surgeon," he declared, at once put-upon, contrite and proud. "I'm a private citizen running for the United States Senate." ...
  • Slouching Toward Defeat?

    The democratic party as we know it, and may never see it again, gathered last week for supper at a most appropriate place: the Virginia estate of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. In a vast tent pitched in the crisp night, the insiders -- Bill and Hillary Clinton, senators and cabinet members, movie stars and lobbyists--paid homage to (and raised $750,000 for) the symbol of their party's turbulent past. Kennedy, said Clinton, will win again in Massachusetts because "he believes in things that are forever young." ...
  • Marion Barry's Revival Act

    It was the afternoon following Election Day, and Marion Barry Jr. was dressed for work: kente-trimmed suit, broad smile, defiant attitude. Two years after doing time for cocaine possession, he had just won the Democratic primary for mayor of Washington -- all but ensuring he'd win a fourth term in November as chief executive of the overwhelmingly Democratic (and 70 percent black) city. And what, reporters asked Barry, could he say to white voters -- only a smattering of whom had voted for him? "Well, get over whatever personal hang-ups you've got," said Barry. "Get over it." ...
  • Spin Doctors In Love

    James Carville and Mary Matalin are in the kitchen, God help them. "Look at this," says James, poking a spoon into a pot. "There's nothing better in the world than perfectly cooked fluffy rice!" Mary, distributing dishes, rolls her eyes heavenward. "And there's nothing worse," she deadpans, "than a man who bores people to death talking about how he's a great cook." ...
  • Hanging On--Just Barely

    It was November 1970 and Bill Clinton was in a bind. He had cut his classes at Yale Law School so that he could work on the antiwar Senate campaign of Joe Duffy. Now Election Day was over (Duffy had lost) and half the semester was gone. Clinton searched the quad for an approachable savior. He found one in Nancy Bekavac, a brilliant Swarthmore graduate. She was against the war, too, but she always went to class -- and, he'd heard, she took great notes. He introduced himself with a sheepish smile. His budding legal career was in jeopardy. He'd bought all the textbooks, he explained. It was just that he hadn't had time to, well, read them. Could she lend him her notes? Amused by his chutzpah, won over by his charm and moved by his predicament, she said yes. And guess what? "He did better in the course than I did," Bekavac recalls. ...
  • Some Hard Right Turns For The Gop

    You could hear tires screeching on the pavement last week as Bob Dole swerved into a political U-turn. On CBS's "Face the Nation," he first refused to endorse Oliver North, whom Virginia Republicans had chosen as their nominee for the Senate. Instead, Dole said, he would meet with Republican Marshall Coleman, who may run as an "independent" this fall. Soon Dole was having second thoughts-and apoplectic advisers were sending him urgent messages to change course. By the next day, Dole said he would meet with North, too. The day after that he said he would endorse North. The day after that he brought Ollie into his Senate office, promised to campaign hard for him-and wrote him a $5,000 check. ...
  • The Virtuecrats

    With the fraying of America's moral fabric now a national obsession, the craving for "virtue' is creating a new kind of politics and a new class of leaders. Who's pitching it -- and can anyone put us back on track? ...
  • Ollie's New Enemy

    RONALD REAGAN MADE OLIVER NORTH what he is today-an anti-communist martyr with enormous fund-raising power, an admitted liar with an overturned criminal conviction and a Republican politician who hopes to become the next U.S. senator from Virginia. But last week the Gipper himself was enlisted in the effort to unplug his creation. Word came down from Reagan's office in a skyscraper on the Avenue of the Stars in Los Angeles. He would violate his "11th commandment"-thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican-and speak ill of Ollie. ...
  • Hillary's Trouble

    The First Lady can no longer distance herself from Whitewater. She's at the center of the political and business deals being examined by the special counsel.
  • Health Care's War Of Words

    THE TRULY CONFUSING DAYS BEGAN with Pat Moynihan. the Senate's Democratic curmudgeon, declaring there was no health-care crisis. Bob Dole, the GOP Senate leader, eagerly agreed, Republicans celebrated the revelation and proclaimed Bill Clinton's health-care bill dead. But Moynihan backtracked: there was a health-insurance crisis. And some Republicans had second thoughts. Wouldn't they seem out of touch if Americans thought there was a crisis? So Dole zigzagged: Yes. there were serious problems. And he'd cooperate ... ...
  • Big Times In Little Rock

    THE WILD SIDE OF THE '80s reached its zenith in different ways, and at different times, across America. In Arkansas, the place was Little Rock and the year was 1985. It was Bill and Hillary Clinton's town--and the scene of events at the heart of what has come to be known as Whitewater. A new-money crowd, flush with profits from municipal-bond sales and small-town banking empires, was blackballed by the staid Little Rock Club, but they gathered for champagne dinners at Jacques and Suzanne's, their own French restaurant on the top floor of a downtown bank building. Meanwhile, the workaday bond salesmen who manned the boilerroom phone banks--the infamous "bond daddies"--whiled away their spare time at a fern bar called Busters, where they paid with $100 bills. One waiter was so impressed that he asked for work and was making "cold calls" the next day. ...
  • Troubled Waters

    BILL CLINTON'S AIDES ARE Accustomed to his angry "morning vents." But last Tuesday he was Vesuvius. A New York Times editorial said that the Justice Department's investigation into the tangle of Clinton business deals known as "Whitewater" wasn't credible. The paper demanded the appointment of a special prosecutor and accused the president of failing to seek "open government and impartial justice." Slamming his fist on the JFK desk in the Oval Office, the president declared that he had never been a punching bag--and wouldn't be one now. ...
  • An Older, Grimmer Jesse

    IT'S NOT THAT JESSE JACKSON IS WEARY, though his hair is tinged with gray, and, at 52, he has the settled air of the dad whose youngest child will soon be off to college. Nor is he burdened by regret--though the "office" he now holds, shadow U.S. senator for the District of Columbia, mocks his electrifying campaigns for the White House in the '80s. It's just that, for a man who retailed the word "hope" for so many years, Jackson is surprisingly subdued these days. Friends say he is distressed, even dejected, about the prospects of African-Americans, about his power to reach them and about the message he finds himself having to deliver to them. "This is a sad time, a disturbing time for him," says Franklin Watkins, a longtime aide. ...
  • A Round Of 'Idiotic Game Playing'

    POLITICAL CONSULTANTS used to merit only Washington's prosaic version of star treatment: good tables at lunch, long quotes in "The Hotline," air time on talk shows. But suddenly, hired guns are reaching higher, more treacherous zones of notoriety. ...
  • Big Mouth, Big Problem

    REPORTERS KNOW THAT ED ROLLINS IS a treasure: an eager-to-please political operative who would rather dish than spin. Even so, no one was expecting him to make news when he showed up last week at a breakfast meeting with journalists. Yes, he had managed the winning Republican campaign for governor of New Jersey, a much-crowed-over GOP victory. But what more was there to say about how Christine Todd Whitman had beaten Gov. Jim Florio? ...
  • Big Brawl

    IT HAD BEEN A BAD week. Last Thursday Bill Clinton and Al Gore sat in the Oval Office, surveying the damage. Election Day had been a wipeout: highprofile candidates in New York and New Jersey had lost, despite the president's personal campaigning. Pundits were foretelling doom for Democrats, incumbents of any stripe--and the administration's legislative agenda. NAFTA, the trade treaty that has become a major test of his presidency, was coming up for a vote in Congress on Nov. 17, and the numbers were bad. The president wasn't winning over many lawmakers with pork barrel. and the unions were clobbering NAFTA with TV ads. How, Clinton and Gore wondered, do they sell NAFTA? ...