Howard Fineman

Stories by Howard Fineman

  • Fineman: How Fred Thompson Fared

    Fred Thompson finally joined the fray, debuting in the Michigan debate. How he stacked up against the rest of the Republican field.
  • Fineman: Inside the Hillary Veepstakes

    Yes, it's ridiculously early to start speculating on who might round out Senator Clinton's presidential ticket. But the angling has begun. Who will be No. 3—to Hill and Bill?
  • Fineman: Live Blogging the Democratic Debate

       HANOVER, N.H. -- I am here in the student union at Dartmouth waiting to see if Hillary Clinton has chance to smother this Democratic presidential race before it begins. I just came from a dinner with a top strategist from a major campaign (not Hillary's) who put her chances if of winning the nomination at 8-out-of-10. And yet, having been through this drill more times than I can count, I find it hard to believe that this race will end before it really has begun. Somebody is going to challenge Clinton for real. The physics of politics and media make it inevitable. The question is whether the main challenger is Sen. Barack Obama or, as seems increasingly possible, somebody else....
  • Fineman: An Explosive Issue in Iowa

    The issue is emerging as a big one in Iowa—and it could wind up pulling the GOP contenders far enough to the right to cause problems next November.
  • In Search Of a GOP St. George

    Iowa Republicans will tell you that the Devil does not wear Prada; she wears a pantsuit, low-heeled shoes and a sunny, I-told-you-so smile. Karl Rove insists that Sen. Hillary Clinton is a "fatally flawed candidate," and many Democrats agree. In a new book, "The Neglected Voter," journalist David Kuhn charts the party's waning appeal among white men—a debilitating trend Clinton seems ill-suited to reverse. But Iowans aren't reassured by Rove or flow charts. They assume Clinton will be the nominee, and, with typical earnestness, are searching for the right Saint George to take on the dragon lady. "We have a healthy appreciation for her and what she would represent, which is a hard turn to the left," says Robert Haus, a local GOP media consultant. "The goal of preventing that is what unites us."Each would-be knight has an anti-Clinton sales pitch, implied or explicit. Mitt Romney offers his hyperfunctional, one-marriage family life, his Democratic Blue State home base and a new...
  • Fineman: Stumping at the Steak Fry

    Tom Harkin's annual steak fry is a key indicator of how the Iowa caucuses may play out next January. Let the Democratic jockeying begin.
  • Fineman: The Surge and the Polls

    This is supposed to be a make-or-break week in the conduct of the Iraq War. But politically, it's looking a lot like 2006 all over again.
  • Fineman: The Craig Effect in 2008

    The GOP hustled the Idaho senator off the stage as soon as news of his arrest in a Minneapolis airport men's room came to light. But Craig isn't going gently. The fallout could help the Dems win the White House next year.
  • Fineman: Inside Barack Obama’s Strategy

    SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Sen. Barack Obama’s first line was ad-libbed and  it made me jealous. “It’s cold out here, but I’m fired up!” he told the frozen outside the Old State Capitol. I was glad somebody was warm, because I certainly wasn’t.But it was more than worth the brief discomfort to witness the scene: the lean figure of Obama, framed by the Greek revival capitol, its worn limestone golden in the morning sun;  the young, multi-cultural crowd cheering for him; the echoes of Lincoln and the Heartland; the whistles of the freight trains.America at its best.It was inspiring and humbling. This, after all, was the very place in which Lincoln had warned that a nation divided against itself could not stand. It was here that the age-old argument over race reached toward its crescendo. And it is here that Obama began a campaign that might end that argument altogether-or so we can hope.And yet if Obama’s candidacy winds up being about race and history, he won’t be the Democratic...
  • Two Views on One Family's Road Trip

    Two Views: A NEWSWEEK father and daughter find that the campus visit is a journey of discovery—about schools, life and how one generation can best guide another.
  • Fineman: Americans Warm Up to Universal Health Care

    Michael Moore is a uniquely American hybrid: the profit-making, anti-establishment agitator. In that line of work, your instincts have to be sharp. His are. In films that mix brave journalism and brazen agitprop, he has been ahead of the curve on the demise of heavy industry; the deadly blend of teenage rage and the gun culture, and the shaky reasoning behind, and execution of, the Iraq War. In person, he is a friendly bear of a guy—until the tape is rolling. Then the populist piranha pops out. I watched him working the lobby of one of his Washington premieres. He had a film crew in tow. Beltway types (including me) were glad to say hello. Few (including me) lingered on camera.Now Moore is back with "Sicko," his docu-tribe about our health-care "system." Once again, Moore's timing is perfect. Aside from Iraq, there is no bigger issue on the minds of voters. Two presidential candidates, John Edwards and Sen. Barack Obama, have come forth with ambitious plans that call for vastly...
  • Fineman: The Politics of Pittsburgh

    A city down on its luck has an optimistic young leader. The scene there mirrors our national situation. Maybe we can all learn something from Luke Ravenstahl.
  • Fineman: Bracketology for the 2008 Race

    With 19 candidates and counting, the 2008 presidential race is tough to sort out—even for the political pros. A user's guide to the ultimate tournament.
  • Running Hard By Staying Out

    If you want to send a message in Washington, issue a press release—or go to the Palm. It's a restaurant where the jocular masks the manipulative: a stock exchange of politics, with bigger portions. It was perfect for Michael Bloomberg, the nominally Republican billionaire mayor of New York, who wants to run for president as an independent. Not long ago he asked Sen. Chuck Hagel, the maverick antiwar Republican, to dine with him there. They sat at a prominent table. Predictable things happened. The Washington Post ran a gossip item the next morning. TV bookers read it. "Face the Nation" booked Hagel, who praised Bloomberg as a man "not tied down and captive of a political ideology" and didn't say "no" to running mate. "It's a great country," he said, "to think about a New York boy and a Nebraska boy teaming up to lead the nation." Check, please!We are in the Palm phase of the 2008 campaign. Alluring (or merely diverting) scenarios of late-entering, out-of-the-box candidacies flow...
  • Jerry Falwell, 1933-2007

    Jerry Falwell loved his jet. in 1980, it was no small thing for a preacher to have one, even if he was a preacher with a TV show, "The Old Time Gospel Hour." The plane was a Lear, he told me as we climbed aboard on a September day in that crucial year, "specially reconfigured by an Israeli company." He saw this as providential—as if the jet had been anointed by the engine oil of the Holy Land. And it was dart-quick. His congregation, Thomas Road Baptist, was locked away in the Blue Ridge town of Lynchburg, Va. With the plane, he could roam the Bible belt, from Okeechobee to Oklahoma. This trip, the destination was Alabama.We lifted off with a prayer in the name of Jesus, but the flight wasn't aimed at saving souls. It was about electing Ronald Reagan. With the advice and financial backing of national conservative and GOP activists, Falwell had launched a group he had the chutzpah to call the Moral Majority. The goal was to use the then-new tactics of "independent" grass-roots...
  • Fineman: Leveling the Media Playing Field

    As the 10 Republican presidential candidates debate this week on their favorite cable network—Fox News—Capitol Hill Democrats are planning a new drive for access elsewhere, on talk radio and local broadcast TV.The goal? To level the media playing field in time for the 2008 election.Talk radio has long been a crucial power base for conservatives and Republicans; local TV stations are not.They shy away from public-affairs programming altogether, and yet they rake in ever-larger wads of cash on political advertising.Democrats have two media-access goals.One is to prod local broadcast television and radio stations to renew their atrophied commitment to producing and airing their own public-affairs programming—shows that Democrats think would at least give them a chance to be heard. Some Democrats want to require stations to give free time for campaign debates, and even free campaign advertising as part of the stations’ “public-service” licensing requirement.The Democrats’ more ambitious...
  • Fineman: The Megastates Gamble

    The New Yorkers in the presidential race are placing their bets on California, Florida—and their home state. But there's a danger in writing off the grass roots.
  • Both Parties Struggle With War Message

    It is absurdly early in the '08 campaign for pivotal moments, but Sen. Hillary Clinton's handlers were convinced they spotted one at the Democrats' first presidential debate, in South Carolina. Answering a question about how he would react to another Qaeda strike, Sen. Barack Obama talked about the lack of disaster preparedness in New Orleans and the need for reliable intelligence. He said that he would carefully target "some action to dismantle" the terrorists' network, but do so without the "bluster and bombast" that would "alienate the world community." The one thing he did not explicitly mention: the use of military force. Asked the same question by moderator Brian Williams of NBC, Clinton morphed into the commander in chief as aggrieved New Yorker. "I understand the extraordinary horror of that kind of attack," she said. "I think a president must move as swiftly as is prudent to retaliate." In Clinton's staff holding room at South Carolina State, there were smiles and high...
  • Fineman: Obama's Secret Service Protection

    I got word of Sen. Barack Obama’s new Secret Service protection in an appropriate spot: the Reagan Library, on a stage beneath a gleaming Air Force One. The retired plane, polished to a mighty shine, is a symbol of the presidency’s role as the most crucial job on the planet. We (and I mean the world) invest it with the power to summon us to soaring flights of hope, but those flights can shake loose deep forces of hatred and violence.We probably care too much about the presidency, but we can’t seem to help ourselves. In a busy and fragmented American life, it is our relentless focus.And that can be dangerous.We tend to forget that Ronald Reagan’s presidency nearly was snuffed out at its start by an assassin in 1981. The Gipper was lucky to have survived the attack by a lunatic gunman, which took place at the entrance to the Washington Hilton—the same doorway that partygoers use each year for the White House Correspondents Dinner. Reagan’s “Morning in America,” the sunny upland of a...
  • Fineman: The Power of GOP 2nd-Tier Candidates

    They don't grab the headlines, but the second- and third-tier candidates are worth watching in tonight's GOP presidential debate. They help set the conservative benchmarks the front runners will have to meet.
  • Fineman: Obama's Talking Points

    Here’s the private advice Sen. Barack Obama’s staff gave him the other day as he prepared to make a series of phone calls in search of support:Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee is a “huge finance wonk,” and the way to win him over is by “giving Cooper a role in policy discussion.”The route to D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty’s heart is a spot on your “national leadership team” and a role as a “national surrogate” and adviser on education.Rep. Yvette Clarke of New York is in play—the only Democratic in the New York delegation not to endorse Sen. Hillary Clinton—because Hillary’s “senior press aide worked on behalf of Clarke’s primary opponent” last year.Federico Peña , Bill Clinton’s secretary of Transportation, “would be a good high-level Hispanic endorsement, especially considering the recent endorsements of both former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros and California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez for Senator Clinton. YOU should make a hard ask for his endorsement and offer him a position...
  • Fineman: Previewing the Democrats' Debate

    Tonight's Democratic debate, the first of the '08 campaign, will showcase the battle for black votes—a bloc as vital to the party's fortunes next year as evangelicals have been to the rise of the GOP.
  • Fineman: The Return of Pragmatism?

    As he prepared for the Democrats’ first presidential debate, Sen. Barack Obama sought advice from a wide circle, including, I am told, Gen. Colin Powell, who now deeply regrets his role in making the case for war in Iraq.On the Republican side, Gov. Mitt Romney (another foreign policy neophyte) has reached out to a number of advisors, among them, I am told, Gen. Brent Scowcroft, an early foe of the war in Iraq and a close ally of Powell’s from the first Bush presidency.We are in a crucial—but little understood—phase, not only in the presidential campaign, but also in the shaping of foreign policy. ...
  • Starr: Don Imus Is Us

    There's another hot story in morning radio: African-American comedian Steve Harvey. In 17 months, his show has rocketed to prominence in top-50 markets. He's based on urban stations, but exhibits strong crossover appeal. He and his studio gang talk about race, to be sure, but with nonabrasive humor and upbeat music. They dispense advice on subjects ranging from love (be faithful) to barbecuing in the front yard (don't). "He's not a shock jock," says his syndicator, Martin Melius of Premiere Radio Networks. "He wants to be inspirational and positive, not divisive."Winning by division has long been the reigning theory of radio—not to mention politics and, in the age of George W. Bush, international relations. Democrats and Republicans compete to see who can be more convincingly apocalyptic about the other side. No sense addressing the entire country, let alone the world. You stick with your crowd. You target and narrowcast. To combat terrorism, you identify an Axis of Evil, and...
  • Fineman: Gun Control? Don't Hold Your Breath

    The shooting spree in Virginia will trigger the usual round of calls for tighter restrictions on gun traffic. But politically, that dog likely won't hunt, even now.