Howard Fineman

Stories by Howard Fineman

  • God And The Grass Roots

    IN A PREFAB ANNEX OF THE Fellowship Bible Church, near the chicken coops and bungalows in the Ozarks of northwest Arkansas, a young man named Ralph Reed is preaching the gospel--of politics. As director of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition, Reed has come to Rogers, Ark., to instruct evangelical Christians in the mysteries of winning elections. About 80 adults, shiny new manuals in their laps, listen respectfully as he tells a parable of two local boys who made good. ...
  • Dubious Commerce

    CHRISTMAS 1992 WAS A HEADY TIME FOR Ron Brown. As chairman of the Democratic Party, he'd helped to engineer Bill Clinton's victory. Now the president-elect had nominated him to be secretary of commerce. But amid the rounds of holiday parties and courtesy calls, Brown took time off to drop by a Washington town house occupied by a woman who describes herself as a "close personal friend." There Brown met with a Florida-based Vietnamese businessman named Nguyen Van Hao. A confidant of the prime minister of Vietnam, Hao wanted Brown's help in easing the American ban against trade with his country. ...
  • Another Taxing Dilemma

    While Bill Clinton is vacationing, his wonks are removing pizza boxes, reformatting disc drives, installing new phone lines. They're redoing the White House's "war room," the PR nerve center of the budget battle. This week the suite becomes the command center for the administration's most ambitious crusade: health-care reform. Briefing books on how to sell reform are being distributed. Spin doctors are on call, led by Ira Magaziner, reform guru and friend of Bill and Hillary's. ...
  • Whew!

    The Budget: In the frenzied final hours, Clinton's plan squeaked through. But his troubles with Congress--and the country--are hardly over. ...
  • The Sing-Along Presidency

    When Sen. David Boren of Oklahoma sat down in the wing-backed chair across from President Clinton in the Oval Office one morning last week, he expected tough talk, maybe even a scolding. After all, Boren had declared his intention to vote against his own party's deficit plan. A single extra nay vote in the Senate could kill it--and humiliate the president. ...
  • The Mystery Of The White House Suicide

    In the airy greenery of The Garden Terrace Restaurant of The Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown, two attractive middle-aged women, old friends, were having coffee. The two were wives of powerful men. Donna McLarty's husband, Mack, was White House chief of staff. Lisa Foster's husband, Vincent, was deputy White House counsel. Talking, as they often did, about surviving the rigors of Washington, Lisa Foster confided that she was worried about her husband. A corporate lawyer from little Rock, Ark., Vince Foster was having trouble handling the pressure. He couldn't sleep, and he was losing weight. He seemed down. He couldn't let go. ...
  • 'Malcolms' And Dealmakers

    It's easy now to mark the date when the Black Caucus found its voice-and Bill Clinton started worrying about it. It was June 3, when he abruptly decided not to nominate a black professor named Lani Guinier to a Justice Department post. Dissed by a new president the caucus thought it could trust, it reacted with an angry solidarity-even if many of its members privately disagreed with Guinier's race-obsessed views. "We're not combative," said caucus chairman Kweisi Mfume of Maryland, "but we're not going to roll over." ...
  • Ross Perot's New Army

    Ross Perot gets a special pleasure out of baiting Bill Clinton. For the past few weeks, his mockery has been ringing across the airwaves. He plopped into a barber's chair to make fun of Clinton's infamous $200 haircut. He deadpanned that the travel-office scandal shows Clinton can only do things "the Arkansas way." Perot derisively told David Frost that Clinton isn't qualified for any job more senior than a "middle-management position" at a "medium-sized company." ...
  • The Players Come To Washington

    Here's today's "Hollywood on the Potomac" quiz. Guess who attended all of these recent Washington events: a Senate hearing on gays in the military, the White House correspondents' dinner, a one-on-one supper with Janet Reno, the Democratic Congressional Dinner, a Georgetown dinner party with three senators. A free tour of the C-Span studios if you correctly picked ... Barbra Streisand, First Kibitzer of the Clinton administration. ...
  • The 'Soul' And Sell Of National Service

    No Kennedy administration program captured the era's spirit of idealism like the Peace Corps. Bill Clinton was an impressionable Hot Springs, Ark., teenager when the corps was in its heyday, dispatching thousands of young American volunteers overseas to work in developing nations. More than 30 years later, Clinton is trying to launch his own inspirational "signature" program-a plan that offers college scholarship money in exchange for one or two years' work in a public-service job. But converting his dream to policy won't be easy. ...
  • Perot: Rattling The White House

    White House economic aide Gene Sperling, a Yale-trained lawyer with a sharp eye for weak spots in an opponent's case, has a new task these days: poring over the writings of Ross Perot. Elsewhere in the West Wing, aides are expecting that Perot will oppose Bill Clinton's health-care plan-and are reacting accordingly. They're wondering aloud how much money Perot's data-processing firms have made handling health-care claims. "What's his stake in the system as it exists?" asks one adviser. Even the normally equable president has begun taking an occasional shot at Perot, while his aides debate whether it's time for escalation. ...
  • Marching To The Mainstream

    Let's switch away for a moment from the blanket coverage of the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation. Away from the trend-surfing movie stars, homosexual warheroes and "Lesbutante" charity balls. Away from the hundreds of thousands of Americans who streamed into Washington intent on turning the capital, for the weekend, into a sprawling metropolis of samesex gender preference, complete with a mass "commitment ceremony" for thousands of gay couples. Let's leave that and check out the quiet but remarkable events that took place last week in, of all places, Springfield, Ill., bucolic capital of the Land of Lincoln. ...
  • Clinton's Brain Trusters

    In Washington, it's as though the student activists--or maybe the junior faculty--have taken over the administration building. They've occupied the dean's office, seized the university. And they have big plans. ...
  • Bill Clinton's Odyssey

    Any student of our government knows that, for a bill to become a law, it must be approved by two representative branches: the call-in talk shows and the lobbying groups on K Street. ...
  • Hillary's Role

    They sat in the Oval Office for 40 minutes: President Clinton and the woman he was considering naming as his second nominee for attorney general. Clinton and U.S. district court Judge Kimba Wood of New York talked of many things, including, as the president put it, whether she had "a Zoe Baird problem" with her child-care arrangements. No, she said, and she had documents to prove it. ...
  • The Power Of Talk

    Let's talk about the power of talk, of calling in to your favorite show: ...
  • Off The Books, Out Of The Chair

    Live on C-Span, the new "People First" president was spending his first full day in the White House calmly greeting thousands of ordinary folk who filed through the Diplomatic Reception Room. But off camera, in other parts of the mansion, there was chaos. President Clinton's aides were still finding their offices when they got word of a revolt beyond the Beltway. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Joseph Biden was calling. His message: Clinton's nominee for attorney general, Zoe Baird, was being swamped by public anger over her hiring of illegal aliens and failure to pay taxes. By that night, Baird had withdrawn, leaving the president and his embarrassed staff to explain how they could have been so insensitive to the concerns of average Americans. ...
  • The New Age President

    It was the final weeks of the primary season and Bill Clinton was concerned about ... Lamaze classes. He wanted to make sure that his on-board speechwriter, Paul Begala, could attend them. Yes, there was a convention to put on. The campaign was not rolling in dough. But Clinton urged Begala to fly home each weekend at campaign expense to attend birthing classes with his pregnant wife, Diane. As her due date approached, Clinton suggested that Begala go home-and stay there. "Don't leave her side, no matter what," he said. ...
  • How Much Clout Does Hillary Have?

    They sat in the Oval Office for 40 minutes: President Clinton and the woman he was considering naming as his second nominee for attorney general. Clinton and U.S. district court Judge Kimba Wood of New York talked of many things, including, as the president put it, whether she had "a Zoe Baird problem" with her child-care arrangements. No, she said, and she had documents to prove it.Fine, then, there was only one other person to see before the legal technicians and the FBI "vetted" her. So Wood headed upstairs to an office on the second floor in the White House's West Wing nerve center. There she spent 50 minutes talking to the person whose political network and personal views had helped her get in the door to begin with-Hillary Rodham Clinton. Mrs. Clinton, eager to see a woman chosen as attorney general, was impressed. No red flags were raised or seen. Soon word leaked out: Wood was very likely to get the job.As the world now knows, Wood didn't. A week after her White House...
  • HELP WANTED

    Everybody wants to get to Bill Clinton. For Whoopi Goldberg, it's no problem. Hers was the third call he took on election night--after George Bush's and Dan Quayle's. For somewhat less glittery mortals, it's not so easy. Ivana Trump, in Little Rock for a charity event, tried to drop by the governor's mansion last week unannounced. No dice. She was politely turned away by an aide. In neighborly Arkansas, the Clintons have always published the number of the governor's mansion in the phone book. Now, desperate job seekers are clogging the line. A platoon of staffers has been called in to deflect thousands of calls. ...
  • Knowing When The Party's Over

    In 1972, Charlie Black was hungry, nerdy and usefully crazy. He was a 25-year-old conservative, a charter member of the Ronald Reagan fan club and a director for the Young Americans for Freedom. He wore polyester pants, worked all night for token pay and thought Richard Nixon was a dangerous accommodationist. ...
  • Running Scared

    So there is, after all, an October Surprise. Just when the politico-media-industrial complex was ready to anoint Bill Clinton and consign George Bush to oblivion, here comes Ross Perot--billionaire skunk at the garden party of conventional wisdom. ...
  • THE TORCH PASSES

    Coatless in the chilly Arkansas night, his voice weak but his heart full, Bill Clinton stood before a raucously happy crowd in Little rock this week and evoked the leader of generational change who had inspired him-and whose burden he now carries. "My fellow Americans," he began, echoing the salutation of that young victor of another presidential race 32 years ago. "With high hopes and brave hearts, in massive numbers," Clinton proclaimed, "the American people have voted to make a new beginning." ...
  • THE INNER CIRCLE

    It was a kitchen cabinet--literally. In the summer of 1991, as he was inching toward running for president, Bill Clinton would convene informal breakfasts in the kitchen of the Arkansas governor's mansion in Little Rock. Seated around the central counter, Clinton and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, would talk things over with two of their best friends, Bruce and Bev Lindsey, and a procession of other guests. At the end of one particularly intense chat, Bruce Lindsey had a question. "Bill," he asked in mock distress. "What do we do if we win?" ...
  • FACE TO FACE TO FACE

    George Bush seemed reluctant to look the camera in the eye even though 70 million Americans were waiting to be convinced that he should be president for another four years. Whatever was said in St. Louis Sunday night in the first, and probably most pivotal, presidential debate, it was the body language that had a story to tell: Bush, often staring down at his lectern, smiling his oddly apologetic smile, had not convinced himself, and therefore could not convince the country. ...
  • MIXING IT UP--AGAIN

    Ross Perot's first half-hour infomercial airs this week in a $380,000 chunk of prime time. And here's the beauty part: he's pre-empting a show on CBS called "Rescue 911." Only it isn't clear who's being rescued. Is it George Bush, who attracts a mere 36 percent of the voters in the new NEWSWEEK POLL, and who needs to shake up the race? Is it Bill Clinton, who's tiptoeing along at a less-than-secure 44 percent, and who needs Perot to help him undermine Bush's economic credibility.? Or is it Perot himself (14 percent), who needs to prove that his revived candidacy isn't just an ego trip? ...
  • What Does He Want?

    Ross Perot is just inquiring, of course. His London-based advertising agency, Saatchi and Saatchi, networks to ask about buying half-hour chunks of prime time. He wants to air the ultimate political Veg-O-Matic ad: an " infomercial" featuring him, his apocalyptic charts, his spread the-pain plan to save the economy. Though he's now on the ballot in 50 states (at a cost to him of $18 million), the networks say they won't sell him time because they don't consider him a "candidate." ...
  • Stumbling Blocks On The Draft

    At Bill Clinton's headquarters in Little Rock, Ark., James Carville is in full cry: a piercing whine of programmed disgust. As strategist and chief of "rapid response," he's denouncing the national press corps's "fixation" on Clinton's draft record during Vietnam. "It's 'gotcha' journalism," he says, a game for dimestore "conspiracy theorists," a beside-the-point pastime for Washington elitists who know nothing about real concerns. "The only people who care about this," he shouts, "are pundits on 'hot air' shows who don't see poor people or know anyone who is unemployed!" ...
  • Bush: What Bounce?

    George Bush was eerily confident, even jovial. Presiding at a family dinner at The Houstonian on the eve of his acceptance speech, he offered needling toasts, gently teasing his grandson George P., who would have to shill for "Gampy" that night on national television. To hand-wringing Republican leaders who dropped by the president's condo, he offered a soothing mantra: read the new biography of Harry Truman. Just like Give 'Em Hell Harry, the president would come from behind and confound the pundits. He had a game plan, ancient but serviceable: he would savage Bill Clinton as yet another "out of the mainstream" liberal. His old buddy Jim Baker was back to run the show. Clinton wasn't so tough-"a mile wide and an inch deep," said a Bush family member. No need to worry. It would all work out. ...
  • Texas Two-Step

    In 1957, when Ike was president and sputnik had put the fear of God-or godless communism-into America, two lanky young men teamed up on a tennis court in Houston. They were ideal doubles partners: lefty and righty, excitable and cool. They were products of the same world: of boarding schools, the Ivy League, military credentialing. They shared a knack for business, a hunger to lead and a desire to build the Republican Party as their vehicle. ...
  • Bush: Back To Basics

    The last time Ray Price wrote a speech for a president, they ear was 1974, his boss was Richard Nixon and the topic at hand was resignation-Nixon's. Price evidently enjoys the close air of a political bunker. At 62, the New York author and PR man has come out of speechwriting retirement to craft George Bush's address to the Republican convention next week. GOP strategists and foot soldiers think the speech is make-or-break. "It has to have vision," says Connecticut Republican chairman Richard Foley. "Not a vision 'thing' or a vision mode,'but vision." ...