Clinton Fund-Raising Strategy Backfires

There's a turncoat inside Hillary Clinton's money machine. Over the past several years, Leonore Blitz has helped raise about $250,000 for Clinton's Senate races, and she signed up early to help the new presidential campaign. But in recent weeks the Manhattan marketing consultant has secretly attended finance meetings and fund-raisers for Clinton's archrival, Barack Obama. Under intense pressure from the Clinton team to pick sides, Blitz—who bundled more than $1 million for John Kerry in 2004—felt deeply conflicted. Clinton operatives have warned donors not to contribute to other campaigns, and put a price on disloyalty: early supporters will be valued and latecomers scorned. But now Blitz is coming out of the shadows, ready to test the rules. "I have been a lifelong advocate of women and minorities' participating and running for political office," she told NEWSWEEK last week. "Therefore, I'm supporting both Clinton and Obama."The Clinton campaign denies that it has strong-armed...

Bush's Latest Stab at Damage Control

Bush's latest efforts at damage control are extraordinarily fair-minded and cooperative. Or so the president says. Reading between the lines at the White House press conference.

What Are You Doing Here?

Judging by the photos on the walls of his vast office, the new Treasury secretary has a gentler approach to the world than, say, Vice President Dick Cheney. While Cheney likes to hunt small birds with a shotgun, Hank Paulson shoots them with a camera. Photos of unusual birds--Paulson's vacation pictures, taken by his wife--hang above Bloomberg computer terminals feeding the latest Wall Street data to his desk. "If you look around here," he tells NEWSWEEK, gesturing at his photos, "I have spent a huge percentage of my time off in beautiful places, outdoor places, saving the land, wilderness, parks ... Conservation is my passion."Paulson is a rare species inside the Bush administration. Environmentalists see this White House as a bastion of backward thinking; Bush has angered them (and America's allies) by sometimes questioning the science of global warming. Yet Paulson cares deeply about climate change: during his seven-year run as chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs, the investment...

The Last Word: Henry Paulson

He's been called the first treasury secretary with real clout since Bob Rubin, and arrived in office with the gilded pedigree that adorns former Goldman Sachs CEOs. So it's not surprising that Henry Paulson has since been fingered by pundits as the man behind George W. Bush's latest moves on issues ranging from China to, most recently, his call for a campaign to cut U.S. dependence on foreign oil. He spoke to NEWSWEEK's Richard Wolffe on his latest role last week. Excerpts: ...

Campaign Trail Highs. And Lows.

Barack Obama stepped into the concrete pavilion in Chicago to the roar of some 7,000 hometown fans and the Tina Turner anthem of “Simply The Best.” If the Illinois senator is the pop star of politics, Sunday night’s rally was arena rock. After all of two days as an official presidential candidate, Obama was drawing crowds as big as President Bush did at his final event of the 2006 elections.“It’s good to be back home,” he shouted, as his fans screamed. “Goodness gracious!” Goodness gracious? How earnest and wholesome can this rock star be?RELATED CONTENT Obama, By the Books Fineman: Inside Barack Obama’s StrategyA little too earnest, it turns out. Obama began a lengthy exposition on the failings of the health system and the need for medical records. “They have no paperwork when they take your money,” he said to the crowd’s delight, “so why is there paperwork when you need health care?”Then the hecklers started: a group of maybe a dozen young protesters who consider Obama’s antiwar...

The ‘Lame Duck’ Label

On Tuesday, President Bush popped in for a surprise visit to the Sterling Family Restaurant, a homey diner in Peoria, Ill. It’s a scene that has been played out many times before by this White House and others: a president mingling among regular Americans, who, no matter what they might think of his policies, are usually humbled and shocked to see the leader of the free world standing 10 feet in front of them.But on Tuesday, the surprise was on Bush. In town to deliver remarks on the economy, the president walked into the diner, where he was greeted with what can only be described as a sedate reception. No one rushed to shake his hand. There were no audible gasps or yelps of excitement that usually accompany visits like this. Last summer, a woman nearly fainted when Bush made an unscheduled visit for some donut holes at the legendary Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant in Chicago. In Peoria this week, many patrons found their pancakes more interesting. Except for the click of news cameras and...

A New Tone

For the all the hype generated over energy policies and health-care proposals, last night’s State of the Union Message ended up being less about what President Bush said than how he said it. In his second-to-last major speech before the Congress, Bush sounded like a different leader than he was just a year ago, a reflection of the difficult political circumstances he faces in Washington heading into the final years of his presidency.Last year, Bush came before Congress as a man who refused to cede any ground on Iraq, lambasting Democrats for their “defeatism” on the war. Last night was a different story, as Bush essentially pleaded with Democrats and many Republicans to stick with him on his plan to send additional troops to Iraq. “This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in,” Bush somberly admitted, urging lawmakers to “give it a chance to work.” Few presidents in recent memory have ever been so contrite in a speech before the Congress, but that’s the...

What Bush Will Say

For all the hype, the State of the Union speech has a disappointing history. Few presidents have ever delivered a memorable address. Despite a few rhetorical flourishes that stick—41’s “thousand points of light,” for example—most are just laundry lists of promises soon broken or forgotten. Remember President Clinton’s detailed plan to store up 15 years of budget surpluses in order to salvage Social Security? Neither do we. President Bush has uttered one memorable State of the Union phrase in his six-year tenure: “axis of evil.” You don’t hear it much around the White House these days.Despite the speech’s sorry history, Bush knows he needs a big night tonight. His last address, announcing a “surge” of American troops as his new way forward in Iraq, failed to catch fire with the public, and left a growing group within his own party looking for other answers. In order to come out from under the Iraq cloud, and regain momentum on his domestic agenda, Bush is returning to a topic...

More Political Science

Last summer President Bush invited several scientists to the Oval Office to revisit one of his earliest--and most contro-versial--decisions: to fund, but strictly limit, stem-cell research. Bush wanted to explore the impact of his 2001 policy to approve research only on existing stem cells drawn from human embryos. So he asked the scientists about the viability of the 21 approved stem-cell lines. And he quizzed them about possible contamination with mouse cells. One month later, he issued the first veto of his presidency against an expansion of stem-cell research.With a new Democratic-led Congress, Bush is now facing a greater political challenge than he was then. Last week House Democrats voted once again to approve funding for research using stem cells drawn from embryos slated for destruction at fertility clinics. The final vote fell short of a veto-proof majority, and the White House promised to block it again.But this time around, Bush's aides feel far more confident about...

A Tale of Two Speeches

Presidents don’t typically deliver two major addresses during the month of January—especially not less than two weeks apart. But the deteriorating situation in Iraq has denied Bush the luxury of laying low at the start of the year, developing the domestic policy goals that he hoped would be the legacy of his second term. Instead, the White House was forced to work on two tracks—one speechwriting team focused on next week’s State of the Union address, another on last week’s “troop surge” speech.Both Bush aides and congressional Republicans had hoped that by dealing with Iraq in a separate speech to the nation, Bush would be able to focus on other pressing issues during his annual speech on Capitol Hill, including a renewed push for alternative energy, immigration reform and efforts to make his tax cuts permanent. But like so many of Bush’s goals in recent years, the majority of his State of the Union pledges have been overtaken by events in Iraq. The flagship address is still days...

Iraq: Friends at War

War itself is a foreign concept to many solons of Capitol Hill; a small number--perhaps as few as 25 out of 535--have come under fire in combat. John McCain and Chuck Hagel are obvious and visible exceptions. McCain, a Republican from Arizona, was a Navy bomber pilot, shot down and imprisoned by the North Vietnamese for five and a half years. He has, he sometimes says, "more scars than Frankenstein." Hagel, a Republican from Nebraska, was an Army grunt in Vietnam who won two Purple Hearts and still has shrapnel in his chest. Both men have seen the face of war up close. But on the question of the Iraq war, they are almost mirror opposites.Hagel is "obsessed" with the war in Iraq, says his brother Tom, who served with him in Vietnam. "You can't have a conversation with him without this coming up." During Christmas, Hagel looked "markedly older and grayer than when I saw him this summer down at the beach," says Tom. In an interview with NEWSWEEK last week, Hagel teared up when he began...

'Where Mistakes Have Been Made'

Everything was meant to signal change. The long internal debates with advisers. The meetings with outside experts. The talk of a new way forward.Even the setting was intended to put the president in a fresh light. The old Bush was a man of action on the deck of an aircraft carrier or at his desk in the Oval Office. The new Bush: a thoughtful realist speaking to the nation from his library, with the wisdom of all those books behind him.But if you listened closely to President Bush on Wednesday night, the much-anticipated speech didn’t change the central mission much. It’s clear, hold and build—only this time with money behind it, but not that much money, and not enough new troops to really make a difference. And, Bush signaled loud and clear, it’s really the Iraqis’ problem now.Yes, the president accepted a degree of responsibility for the failures that have characterized the war in Iraq. “Where mistakes have been made,” he said, “the responsibility rests with me.” But he didn’t go...

A Stagger, More than a Surge

After all the hype, all the leaks, and all the punditry, what more can the president say on Wednesday night that hasn’t been said already?The answer, according to senior Bush aides, is quite a lot.Take the idea of a “surge,” for instance. The much-debated escalation suggests a lot of troops moving quickly to Iraq. Yet two senior White House officials, who declined to be named discussing sensitive policy matters in advance of the speech, tell NEWSWEEK that the president’s approach will be far more cautious. The White House expects all the new troops to be deployed in Iraq. But they won’t go until the Iraqis have met several conditions--or benchmarks--to get the extra help they say they need.Chief among those benchmarks is that the Iraqi government follows through on its own security plan, announced on Saturday. That means Iraqi troops need to report for duty, sweep through neighborhoods regardless of sectarian interests, and follow a clear chain of command that leads to Prime...

'Surge' Strategy

He was caught just like a rat." Those were the simple, happy words of Ray Odierno three years ago, after units of his Fourth Infantry Division cornered Saddam Hussein in Tikrit. The hulking general went on to declare that the capture was a "major operational and psychological defeat" for the insurgents, who had been "brought to their knees." It was a heady moment, but as it turned out that's all it was--a moment. On Dec. 14, 2006, three years and a day after Saddam was hauled out of his hole, Lt. Gen. Odierno returned to take day-to-day command of Coalition forces in Iraq. His mood since then has been far more sober. "You now have different groups ... trying to vie for power within Iraq," Odierno told NEWSWEEK in an interview last week from his headquarters at Camp Victory near Baghdad. "That's what makes this extremely more complex than this has been in the past. It's not simply Sunni insurgents or Al Qaeda that we're fighting anymore--fighting is the wrong term--we're trying to...

From Watergate to Monicagate

To understand Gerald Ford’s place inside the Bush administration, you need to turn the clock back six years.Before 9/11, and before Iraq, there was an inexperienced Texas governor who won the presidency — after a few legal hitches — on a relatively simple pledge: to restore honor and integrity to the Oval Office.In late 2000, President-elect Bush and his team in Austin, Texas, saw themselves as something of a restoration. Not the restoration of the father’s presidency, given the fraught relationship between 41 and his eldest son. But, in their own eyes, they represented a return to the decent, principled government that would think strategically and professionally about the United States and the world beyond.Just like the Ford team, they believed they could clean up the West Wing after impeachment and partisan wars, drawing on their own talent and experience to set a new course. After Monica, they thought they would end America’s latest “long national nightmare.”The mission wasn’t...

Bush: Sneaking Into Iraq

The journey started with a brief e-mail: "U reachable?" asked the senior Bush aide in June. He invited me to meet at a local diner. "We're going to Baghdad," he said, sipping a Diet Coke. "Want to come?" There was just one condition, he explained. "You can't tell anyone. Not even your wife."My wife guessed immediately. A day later I took a taxi to a Virginia hotel--not the usual rendezvous at Andrews Air Force Base, where someone might see the press arrive. Another White House aide told us to surrender our cell phones, pagers and BlackBerrys.At dusk our plain white vans backed up to the stairs of Air Force One, parked close to its hangar, out of sight of the terminal. An hour later, under cover of darkness, the president bounded up the stairs. "POTUS is onboard!" he declared, referring to himself by his own acronym: president of the United States. The trip seemed unreal until they started handing out flak jackets and helmets. The White House believed that our secret was still safe,...

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