Howard Fineman

Stories by Howard Fineman

  • Filling The Political Void

    From the start, he displayed a calming sense of involvement in the agony of Los Angeles. He visited the bedsides of hospitalized riot victims. In interviews, he preached compassion-and respect for law and order-to Crips and Bloods and Simi Valley suburbanites. He hosted a cathartic "town meeting" on television where Americans of all backgrounds could voice their feelings and fears. ...
  • Leadership? Don't Ask Us

    There's nothing like a horrifying riot to expose the 1992 presidential campaign for what it's mostly been: an exercise in rhetoric and timidity. While Los Angeles burned, the finalists fiddled, looking not so much to their hearts as to their voting blocs, and less to their consciences than their caution. Caught, like most of America, between revulsion at the King verdict and disgust at the violence it engendered, the candidates met their time of testing without showing what the nation is looking for in a president: boldness, straight talk and compassion. ...
  • Throwing A Mighty Tantrum

    History shows, however, that voters tend to head home once they get a close look at the new land. The most popular modern third party, the 1912 Progressives, had a former president, Theodore Roosevelt, as its standard-bearer. Still, it won only 27 percent of the vote, and helped elect Democrat Woodrow Wilson instead of its own man. Other candidates-from the Populists' James Weaver in 1892 to the Socialists' Norman Thomas in 1932 to John Anderson in 1980 - fared worse. "They tend to appeal to the child in us," says Democratic consultant Greg Schneiders. "They arise when we want to throw a tantrum against the system." ...
  • People's Politics

    Bill Clinton had lost his voice, so he couldn't make it to Washington to speak to the nation's newspaper editors. On doctor's orders he was at home in Little Rock, Ark., resting the vocal cords he'd ravaged in pursuit of the Democratic presidential nomination. The editors turned to a last-minute fill-in at their annual meeting in the capital last week, and the replacement they found had no trouble finding his voice. With his characteristic leathery east Texas twang, Ross Perot gave them a dose of the sound that has electrified the talk shows and clogged the phone lines of America. It is the voice of a $2 billion personal fortune, a can-do charisma and a mushrooming independent presidential campaign that threatens Clinton--and George Bush--by repudiating the system that produced them. "People are organized and at work in all 50 states," Perot announced to the editors. "It has little or nothing to do with me; it has everything to do with the fact that the American people are really...
  • A Blood Sport

    Bill Clinton beware: Pat Caddell is back. The 41 year-old polltaker is the permanent enfant terrible of the Democratic Party, a connoisseur and exploiter of voter anger, alienation and fear. He specializes in protest candidates who try to win by running against the party. In 1972 he cut classes at Harvard to help George McGovern's antiwar crusade. He ran the numbers for Jimmy Carter's classic outsider campaign in 1976. In 1984 he helped Gary Hart make life miserable for Walter Mondale. These days he's on the phone with Jerry Brown, whose upset victory over Clinton in Connecticut last week launched what could be another raucous season of protest politics in the party Caddell loves and hates. "Clinton's finished," he declares, in typically apocalyptic fashion. "It's over for him." ...
  • Can He Beat Bush?

    Bill and Hillary Clinton were taking a rare day off at home in the Arkansas governor's mansion last week when they got an unexpected phone call. It was former senator Paul Tsongas, saying he was leaving the race for the Democratic nomination. Clinton should have been jubilant: he had just moved a giant step closer to the presidency of the United States. Yet when he lumbered down the spiral staircase to head back onto the campaign trail, Clinton seemed oddly subdued. "This whole thing just started today," he said quietly. ...
  • The Method In His Madness

    If you hadn't accessed Jerry Brown until recently, you'd think the photograph on the right was weird. Wasn't Brown supposed to be the mad monk of presidential politics, the scourge of Democratic power brokers? Wasn't he the anti-candidate of late-night cable and the 800 number? So what was he doing with a United Auto Workers' jacket over his famous turtleneck sweater, applying the old-fashioned Big Schmooze to the labor skates? ...
  • Nasty As They Wanna Be

    It wasn't pretty to watch, unless you liked the food-fight scene in "Animal House." Last week Sen. Bob Kerrey sneered that Gov. Bill Clinton would crack "like a soft peanut" if the Democrats made him their standard-bearer. Clinton derided Kerrey as a confused tool of his handlers and Paul Tsongas as a "cold-hearted" soak-the-poor toady to CEOs. Tsongas pleaded for a cease-fire but traded insults with rivals in a debate in Denver last Saturday night. ...
  • Wondering Who's 'Electable'

    Political insiders have a fancy word for it: "electability." It's jargon for the obvious, which is that the Democrats, who have lost five of the last six presidential elections, need to pick a winner. ...
  • Buchanan's Shock Troops

    They were at Pat Buchanan's side throughout his New Hampshire jihad against George Bush: hungry, hellbent young conservatives pledged to help their new mentor cleanse the Republican Party of what he calls "the Exeter-Yale GOP club." These are no ordinary campaign brats. They're a new generation of right-wing strategists, nurtured by Reaganites who staged their own 1976 uprising against Gerald Ford. They view the Bush presidency as a betrayal of the Reagan revolution and regard Buchanan as an avenging angel. Growing up in the Reagan-Bush era gives them an unusual edge. Unlike their '70s role models, they actually remember when conservatives held power. And they're hungry to get it back for themselves. "We want our turn," says Frank Luntz, the 29-year-old Oxford Ph.D. who serves as Buchanan's polltaker. ...
  • Now It's 'Don Quixote' Cuomo

    The Democratic Party insiders (DPIs) are very unhappy-unhappy enough to take Mario Cuomo seriously again. Well before New Hampshire voters turned out for this week's primary, the DPIs declared their distaste for the front runners, Paul Tsongas and Bill Clinton. The web of operatives, moneymen and state-capital intriguers see Tsongas as a regional, unelectable nudnik and Clinton as damaged goods, no matter what the New Hampshire voters think. The other declared candidates, in the insiders' view, are nonstarters. "We're watching a winnowing-out process that's going to winnow out everyone," said fund raiser Duane Garrett of San Francisco. ...
  • Northern Exposure

    Presidential front-runnerhood is the high-wire act of American polities, a dicey proposition with long falls, no nets and only the rare comeback. Even George Bush, who enjoys the cushy prerogatives of incumbency, feels every twitch and twinge at the top. But last week in New Hampshire it was Bill Clinton who struggled to keep his balance. As the final week of the crucial primary began, the Arkansas governor faced a late surge by former Massachusetts senator Paul Tsongas and gnawing concern among party leaders that tabloid allegations of marital infidelity-as well as a new charge that he contrived to evade the draft-had irreparably compromised his electability. Just a few short weeks after he was all but anointed Democratic nominee by most political journalists and Beltway chattermeisters, Clinton appeared to be fighting for his life. ...
  • The Books That Shape The Debate

    For Democrats, the road to New Hampshire began two years ago - in the bookstores of Washington, D.C. Without old-time bosses to steer them or a coherent, popular ideology, Democrats turned to authors for guidance. The gist of their message: middle-class resentment at Republican excesses can put the Democrats back in the White House, but only if they can shake their image as a party of big government, 1960s-style permissiveness and minority rights. In the candidates' speeches and ads, careful listeners can hear the echo of the books that shaped this year's campaign zeitgeist: ...
  • Bush's Bad Dream

    With No Vision To Sell To A Nation Desperate For Leadership, Bush Is Off To A Stumbling Start--Stalked By Buchanan, The Bully Boy Of The Right
  • Politics: The Inside Track

    Sen. Bob Kerrey's campaign was not going well. The candidate was supposed to be the Democrat with star quality among the unknowns who make up the 1992 presidential field. But his message was fuzzy, his staff in turmoil, his poll numbers going nowhere. It was Panic City. Time for his Washington consultants to get on a plane, fly to New Hampshire and meet the candidate. That's not "meet" as in "join up with." That's "meet" as in "nice to meet you." ...
  • The Man Called 'Nunu'

    Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater had barely reached the podium of the White House press room when the shouting started. "Has Boyden Gray been fired?" one reporter bellowed. "What about Nunu?" yelled another, derisively employing the Bush family's nickname for chief of staff John Sununu. Fitzwater smiled wanly and shook his head. "No, no, everybody's on the job," he said. It was the straight line the reporters had hoped for. "That's what we're afraid of!" they jeered. ...
  • Playing A Dangerous Game

    Middle-class voters are angry at the status quo--that's a given. Outsiders are in--also a given. But in Washington survival is all--and that, too, is a given. So survivalists in the capital are focusing on new ways to express "middle class" outrage, on how to masquerade as angry outsiders and on finding candidates (or clients) who really are new to the System and who can radiate the outrage reflected in last week's election results. "I'm gonna get me some real outside guys for next year," says Democratic consultant Dane Strother. "And I'm gonna throw long!" Leave it to the Washington political industry to turn voter alienation into new business. ...
  • Gops, Look Out! The Democrats' Atwater

    He's a Southern good ole boy, a political consultant with a hell raiser's reputation and an inborn feel for the fears of the middle class. His campaigns are as nasty as he can get away with, full of dark accusation, half-truths and last-minute leaks. He chuckles when the word "principle" comes up. ...
  • The Cuomo Dilemma

    His voice arrives on the speakerphone enveloped in an echo, as though he is talking from the Great Hall of a castle in, say, medieval Denmark. "Mario Cuomo," he announces, then picks up the receiver. Leaders, he says, must project ,'strength and sweetness." The telephone effect is just so: a lonely grandeur followed by sudden intimacy. Time for another Mario Scenario interview. It's become a ritual: watching the governor of New York decide whether to run for president. The Yankee Stadium of politics fills up; the playing field is Cuomo's own capacious mind. "The thing that confuses some people is that I tell the press exactly what I'm thinking," he began. "I'm not in a cabin in the woods deciding this." ...
  • Playing White Male Politics

    They sat 14 in a row, like so many graying birds on a wire. The Judiciary Committee panel that presided over Clarence Thomas's fate was symbolic of white male power in America. So was the Senate, all white and 98 percent male. Name any other power precinct of society and it's controlled by white men. So why do they think they're so oppressed? ...
  • The No Bull Campaign

    It's an angry, blunt-spoken American voice, loud and insistent. On talk radio, the nation's bitter vox pop, the voice is syndicated host Rush Limbaugh, the self-appointed basso profundo foe of Bull. In print, it's P. J. O'Rourke, whose cheeky, frat-boy tour of Washington, "Parliament of Whores," remains a surprise best seller. At the grass roots, it's the frantic newspaper ads of Florida retiree Jack Gargan. His "I'm mad as hell!" campaign to unseat Congress--every one of its members--has brought hundreds of thousands of fan letters and support from the likes of visionary tycoon H. Ross Perot. In Washington, the No Bull banner was unfurled recently by actor Tom Laughlin. Formerly "Billy Jack" of movie fame, he now plugs his own semi-serious presidential candidacy, lacing it with disgust at "double-talk and gobbledygook. " Don't laugh. When he finished his spiel on the "Fox Morning News," the stagehands gave him a standing ovation. ...
  • The '60S Democrats

    As a college student in 1968, Bill Clinton would recite solemnly, to close friends, inspirational passages he had memorized from the Rev. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. Paul Tsongas says his "formative experience" was his Peace Corps duty in Ethiopia. Bob Kerrey discovered his ambivalence toward government in 1969, when he was a wounded Vietnam War hero convalescing in a naval hospital. Tom Harkin's politics were honed by Vietnam, too, as a pilot and then as a congressional aide who opposed the war. Jerry Brown visited Mississippi in 1962, eager to see the civil-rights movement. And when Doug Wilder entered the Virginia state Senate in 1969, his maiden speech was pure '60s: a protest against Jim Crow lyrics in the state song. ...
  • Bush: The Churchill Scenario

    Democrats have this fantasy of history repeating itself. A patrician leader with globe-spanning contacts presides over the demise of a totalitarian enemy nation. He expects praise and easy re-election. But he has no deep interest in domestic affairs, and his foes seize the opening. Shockingly, he is defeated by a sudden change in the voters' mood and their long pent-up demands for government action on jobs, national health insurance and education. ...
  • This Time, Being Outside Is In

    Russian President Boris Yeltsin transformed an empire when he stood on a tank and faced down the Soviet old guard. Now that the whole world has seen the power of outsider politics, the question for the Democratic Party may well be: can anybody jump on the tank? Big-name Democrats have concluded the '92 presidential nomination isn't worth much. But the latestarting race is made for an unconventional candidate with a megamessage. ...
  • To Help Or Not To Help?

    No matter how the post-coup purges and political turf battles in the Kremlin finally shake out, the disintegration of the Communist Party and the ascent of pro-democracy reformers in Moscow constitute historic foreign-policy windfalls for the United States and its allies. A week that began with the world fearing a new cold war ended with growing prospects for even greater Soviet cooperation with the West. No longer can hard-liners in Mikhail Gorbachev's cabinet wield an implicit veto against such policies as the START arms-control treaty, Baltic independence and support for the U.S.-led coalition in the gulf war. Gone, too, are the few remaining Soviet sympathizers of such Third World radicals as Iraq's Saddam Hussein, some Palestinian factions and Cuba's Fidel Castro. "The last holdouts...have had their hopes dashed," said Martin Indyk of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "They'll be under even greater pressure to resign themselves to the 'new world order'." ...
  • Second Thoughts On 'Character Cops'

    Journalistic "outing" is nothing new among heterosexuals. Ask the man in the adjacent photograph. In 1987, Gary Hart and the media made "character cop" reporting-up to and beyond the bedroom wall-a standard feature in our politics. ...
  • Middle-Class Maneuvers

    It is little more than a rumble, but that faint sound you hear on Capitol Hill is the Democrats finding their old voice. They're gearing up a new bid for the middle class, whose shifting allegiances decide national elections. With George Bush logging so much mileage abroad, Democrats think they see an opening at home to reclaim their role as the "we're on your side" party. Bush testily defended his domestic policy last week before heading off to Camp David to plan his presidential campaign. "We've got excellent programs," he said. But Democrats are floating legislation to appeal to the middle class-without having to shell out money to prove it. The agenda: ...
  • The Democrats' Mr. Right

    The Democrats' search for a 1992 nominee has a funereal air--and why not, considering that dead Whig Zachary Taylor gets more respect than most live Democrats. Recent polls put George Bush far ahead of any foe. But Democrats shouldn't despair. They do have the candidate material to beat the president. It's just not in the body of one person. Here are the qualities needed to challenge the president, and a contender who can stake a claim to each. What it adds up to is a composite sketch of a missing person--a plausible, Democratic Mr. Right: ...
  • Shaking Things Up At Now

    For a feminist, Patricia Ireland has a startling political role model: George Wallace. When she was a flight attendant in Florida in the late '60s, Ireland saw the ex-governor of Alabama barnstorm the South, pulling voters to the right with his angry, third-party appeal. As the new leader of the National Organization for Women, the 45-year-old Miami lawyer hopes to stir a similar upheaval--on the left. With the Democrats seeming confused, and abortion rights under siege, Ireland wants to lead American women, Wallace-style, founding a new party if she has to. "He shook things up," she says, "and so can we." ...
  • How Far Right?

    When George Bush heard the news that Thurgood Marshall had resigned from the Supreme Court last week, the president did not exactly jump for joy. He did not cry, "Eureka! A victory for the unborn!" Or, "Thank goodness, now we can lock up those criminals!" Instead, Bush responded, cautiously and rather tepidly, "That's very interesting." ...