NARR: IT IS A RITE OF NATIONAL PASSAGE...THE TRIP TO WASHINGTON, ...OUR SILENT AWE AT THE VAULTING DREAM OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY...SO AT ODDS, WITH OUR DISDAIN FOR OUR CURRENT CROP OF POLITICIANS.
Woman in Rusty's: You really want my honest opinion?
HS: I sure do.
Woman: It stinks.
MOS: I think the presidency is really a figure head.
MOS: They're worse than a bunch of children fighting over toys.
MOS: I don't like the way they run the government. In fact I don't even vote anymore because I don't think it's worth it.
NARR: TONIGHT, WE THE PEOPLE STEP INSIDE THE POWER GAME.
Gore: The institution of the presidency has an advantage in a high-stakes showdown.
Stenholm: If that's what we need is a good democratic brawl let's have it.
Panetta: The Speaker said we thought we could break you going into these negotiations. It has not worked.
Dole: We reached a point where I felt maybe we were frightening people.
Gingrich: I am not sure we're going to win, I am certain how to avoid defeat.
Clinton: I challenge all of you in this chamber: Never shut the federal government down again.
NARR: BEFORE THE BALLOT BOX, THE PEOPLE AND THE POWER GAME WITH HEDRICK SMITH
Part One - The Elected
STANDUP: FOR ALL OUR CYNICISM ABOUT GOVERNMENT , WE AMERICANS ARE ACTUALLY POLITICAL ROMANTICS. EVERY FOUR YEARS, WE NURSE THE NOTION THAT WE CAN CHOOSE A SINGLE POWERFUL LEADER TO ALTER OUR NATION'S DESTINY.
TO GET ELECTED, HE MUST PROMISE US THE MOON AND THEN IF HE WINS, HE IS SURROUNDED BY A SYSTEM OF CHECKS AND BALANCES WHERE NO ONE IS REALLY IN CHARGE.
SO WHEN OUR PRESIDENTS DISAPPOINT US, THAT REFLECTS NOT ONLY THEIR PERSONAL FAILINGS BUT THE FAILINGS OF OUR SYSTEM... POLARIZED POLITICAL PARTIES...POWER MORE FRAGMENTED THAN EVER...TOO MANY POLITICIANS GOING THEIR OWN WAY AND NOT WORKING TOGETHER, BECAUSE WE THE VOTERS LIKE THAT KIND OF INDEPENDENCE.
AND YET THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM LIVES ON...OF A LEADER AS STRONG AND SURE AS FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT FIGHTING THE DEPRESSION. IN THE PAST FOUR YEARS, WE HAVE WATCHED TWO LEADERS TRY TO EMULATE FDR... BILL CLINTON AND NEWT GINGRICH. ... EACH INVOKING ROOSEVELT'S TRIUMPHANT FIRST 100 DAYS...EACH LIKE ROOSEVELT ...PROMISING MASSIVE CHANGE.
NARR: TWO AMERICAN BOYS WITH BIG DREAMS...BILLY AND NEWT...NEWT'S THE ONE WITH THE GUN...
NARR: THEY RODE OFF ON OPPOSITE PATHS...INTO OPPOSITE PARTIES ...WITH OPPOSITE BELIEFS. AS YOUNG MEN, BOTH HARBORED GRAND AMBITIONS FOR LEADERSHIP..AND THEIR PATHS BROUGHT THEM TOGETHER. THEIR DESTINIES BECAME INTERTWINED.
Gingrich: Let's shake hands in front of everybody...
NARR: DESPITE THAT HANDSHAKE, EACH ULTIMATELY BECAME THE OTHER'S NEMESIS. BOTH MEN RAN INTO TROUBLE WHEN THEY OVERESTIMATED THEIR OWN POWER. AT CRITICAL MOMENTS, THEIR OWN POLITICAL PARTIES SPLIT WITHIN... UNDERSCORING THE OLD RULE OF THE POWER GAME THAT SUCCESS IN OUR SYSTEM RIDES ON COALITIONS NOT THE COMMANDS OF INDIVIDUAL LEADERS.
NARR: LET'S WATCH THEIR STORIES...
ACT ONE: THE DEMOCRATS: DIVIDED WE FALL....
NARR: ON THE EVE OF BILL CLINTON'S INAUGURATION, THE CLINTON CROWD PAUSED FOR A LAUGH...AT THE EXPENSE OF THE PUNDITS WHO WROTE THEM OFF...
SOUND UP ON MUSIC: They all laughed at Christopher Columbus..
Chancellor: He's been shot, stabbed and electrocuted.
Barbour: Swimming around with two harpoons stuck in him.
Novak: Clinton is unelectable.
Sinatra: Ho. Ho. Ho. Who's got the last laugh now?
NARR: FORMER PRESS SECRETARY DEE DEE MYERS WAS AMONG THE NEW TEAM THAT MOVED INTO THE WHITE HOUSE.
Myers: There's always a little bit of arrogance when you win a presidential campaign against the Establishment. Not so much arrogance as - you know, we did win. The American people got to pick, and they picked us. Now, we're sorry if the Washington Establishment wasn't crazy about that, but they picked us. So deal with it. You know, he's the President now. Deal with it.
Ornstein: There's an attitude here that basically said, 'We won and whatever they tell us about how we can govern is wrong. We'll do it our way and we'll turn the world upside down and suspend the natural laws of checks and balances in government in Washington.
Mann: I think most presidents, most new presidents, overestimate the power of the office.
Stephanopoulos: ...we probably overread our mandate in 1993 and tried to do too much too quickly. All of the issues the President talked about...But trying to do them all at the same time was not sustainable in the system at that time.
NARR: WE AMERICANS HAVE A MYTHOLOGY ABOUT THE PRESIDENCY.
Mann: We imagine that he leads the government, that he sets the agenda and drives the agenda for legislation affecting the domestic affairs of this country. And it just isn't so.
NARR: THE PRESIDENT IS JUST ONE PLAYER AMONG MANY, AND BILL CLINTON, FRESH FROM VICTORY, ASSUMED TOO EASILY THAT DEMOCRATS WOULD FOLLOW HIS LEAD.
Panetta: There was a sense that a new Democratic President, Democratic agenda, Democratic Congress, uh, that there was a real opportunity here to just move an agenda through...because there was a feeling that we were riding a wave.
NARR: BUT WINNING OVER WASHINGTON IS A FAR CRY FROM BEING GOVERNOR, STRONGARMING THE ARKANSAS LEGISLATURE...AS CLINTON WAS WARNED BY LEON PANETTA, A VETERAN OF BUDGET WARS ON CAPITOL HILL.
Panetta: You're dealing with a whole series of different power centers and personalities and egos and turfs and jurisdictions and people who have their own political ax to grind one way or another....And somehow you've got to work with it and then eventually bring it together....It isn't easy.
NARR: RIGHT AFTER THE ELECTION, DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS VISITED CLINTON IN LITTLE ROCK TO DELIVER A STERN WARNING.
Gephardt: ...We inherited a mess. ... I congratulated him on a great victory, but I said, we now together have a terrible assignment....We have a huge growing debt. We have to deal with it... And I said it's going to cost us politically but it's the right thing to do. and we have to do it.
NARR: TO FIGHT THE RUNAWAY DEFICIT, CLINTON ABANDONED HIS PROMISED TAX CUT AND MOVED TOWARD A TAX INCREASE INSTEAD. AND HE WAS OPTIMISTIC ABOUT GETTING SUPPORT.
Clinton: I don't really expect the people to be out to give this country the shaft. I think the Republicans know the country voted for action, for an end to gridlock and blame.
NARR: BUT WHEN CLINTON MET REPUBLICAN LEADERS AT THE WHITE HOUSE. BOB DOLE, NEWT GINGRICH AND COMPANY TOLD THE NEW PRESIDENT NOT TO EXPECT ANY REPUBLICAN VOTES FOR HIS ANTI-DEFICIT PACKAGE .
Gingrich: I said we disagree deeply about raising taxes and hiring more bureaucrats...
Dole: We'd been bitten pretty hard by it in 1992. President Bush made the promise...no new taxes...read my lips...and we cut lost the election primarily because of that... cut and then Clinton comes along saying will you vote for some more taxes, and the answer was no.
Gore: I don't want to sound like the character in Casablanca who says he's shocked shocked, but really I did find it a little shocking... it's unusual many, many months before a package is even put together...to say in advance, you will not get a single vote from this political party.
NARR: SEVERAL WEEKS LATER, DOLE PUT STEEL INTO THE REPUBLICAN THREAT BY LEADING SENATE REPUBLICANS IN A FILIBUSTER AGAINST CLINTON'S PROPOSED STIMULUS FOR THE ECONOMY...AND CLINTON HAD TO SCRAP IT ENTIRELY.
NARR: THE REPUBLICAN STONEWALL MADE DEMOCRATIC UNITY AN ABSOLUTE NECESSITY. BUT CONGRESSIONAL DEMOCRATS, IN POWER FOR 40 YEARS, WERE NOT ABOUT TO KOWTOW TO THE FIRST DEMOCRAT IN THE WHITE HOUSE IN 12 YEARS.
Miller: ...So you don't really have a very tight union... between the Administration and the Congress that you have had 25 years ago or 15 years ago....
Obey: I think unfortunately, the Democrat Party in the Congress was not ready to govern. It had not been used to working with a Democratic President for years. Many people had been used to doing their own, uh, Lone Ranger imitations...
Scene Two: Lone Ranger Dave Boren
STANDUP: THE COWBOY HALL OF FAME IN OKLAHOMA CITY.... BRIMMING WITH IMAGES OF THE FIERCELY INDEPENDENT COWBOYS WHO TAMED THE WILD WEST..LIKE THIS FAMOUS STATUE OF THE BRONCO BUSTER BY FREDERICK REMINGTON.
AMERICAN HISTORY IS STEEPED IN THE FOLKLORE OF THE RUGGED INDIVIDUALIST, WHO PUTS PERSONAL PRINCIPLE AHEAD OF GOING ALONG WITH THE CROWD.
MODERN AMERICAN POLITICS, TOO, HAS PLENTY OF LONE RANGERS ...POLITICIANS WHO UNDERSTAND THAT IN THIS MEDIA AGE, OUTSPOKEN INDEPENDENCE GETS THEM MORE HEADLINES AND A HIGHER TELEVISION PROFILE THAN BEING LOYAL MEMBERS OF THE TEAM.
HS: They say you are a political Lone Ranger. Are you?
Boren: I guess in some ways. I am a product of where I come from.
(v/0 football game, OK theme song, band spelling B-O-R-E-N)
SOUND UP: OK THEME SONG
NARR: DAVID BOREN...GOVERNOR AT 33, THREE-TERM U.S. SENATOR... WINNER IN HIS LAST ELECTION WITH 83 PERCENT OF THE VOTE...AND HAILED BY FRIENDS AND RIVALS ALIKE AS THE MOST BELOVED OKLAHOMAN SINCE WILL ROGERS.
NARR: BORON RETIRED EARLY FROM THE SENATE TO BECOME PRESIDENT OF THE UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA...AND HIS SWEARING IN CEREMONY LAST YEAR WAS LIKE A CORONATION..
NARR: BOREN'S BOYISH FACE AND DOUGHY FIGURE HARDLY EVOKE THE DERRING-DO OF REMINGTON'S BRONCO-BUSTERS. BUT HE WAS JUST AS FREE AND REBELLIOUS.
Boren: ... even though I share core beliefs with the Democratic Party, I have a hard time believing that my party's always right. if I see a better idea coming from the other party or from some other source, I'm going to try to follow that..
NARR: NOR DID BORON FEEL ANY POLITICAL DEBT TO THE PARTY .
Boren: In modern politics the party doesn't mean anything in terms of building your career. The party, in all the years, for example, that I was in office, I imagine that the party probably raised me one-tenth of one percent of my campaign funds...
NARR: IN 1993, ALREADY A POWER IN CONGRESS, BORON WELCOMED HIS FRIEND AND FELLOW FORMER RHODES SCHOLAR BILL CLINTON TO WASHINGTON. BORON WAS EAGER TO BE AN INFLUENTIAL ALLY TO NEW DEMOCRAT CLINTON, AS HE HAD BEEN TO REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTS REAGAN AND BUSH.
Boren: We've known each other since we were in our twenties... I've like him as a person. We've been neighbors. From time to time our paths would cross. We would talk about our hopes for the future.
Clinton: Our nation needs a new direction. Tonight I present to you a comprehensive plan to set our nation on that new course.
Boren: He made a tremendous speech to the Congress, saying we have to think of the next generation, we have to be ready to make personal sacrifice, the things I wanted to hear.
NARR: IN FEBRUARY 1993, BORON GREETED CLINTON'S ECONOMIC PACKAGE WITH A PLEDGE OF UNCONDITIONAL SUPPORT, DESPITE CLINTON'S PLANS TO USE AN ENERGY TAX TO HELP FIGHT THE DEFICIT.
Clinton: I recommend that we adopt a BTU tax on the heat content of energy.
NARR: BORON SAID: "I'LL TRY TO FINE TUNE IT, TO IMPROVE IT. BUT EVEN IF I CAN'T GET ANYTHING CHANGED, I'M GOING TO SUPPORT IT."
NARR: WHITE HOUSE STRATEGISTS CHEERED THE NEWS. BORON WAS A KEY PLAYER IN THE SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE. WITH REPUBLICANS IN SOLID OPPOSITION, BOREN'S SUPPORT WAS CRITICAL.
Gore: The President and I had real good reason to believe that he would support the President's plan.
NARR: BUT WHEN THE PRESIDENT'S PLAN ARRIVED ON CAPITOL HILL, BORON CHANGED HIS MIND. HE WANTED DEEPER SPENDING CUTS.
Boren: ...I really felt he'd backtracked and ... we were seeing a budget that was much more like that, that could have come from an old-line Democrat, a tax and spend approach.
NARR: BORON ALSO KNEW THAT TAKING AN INDEPENDENT STANCE WOULD GIVE HIM MORE BARGAINING LEVERAGE.
Stephanopoulos: All politicians can find out the value of striking out on their own - independence means something back home. Just to say you're standing up against the President becomes a selling point and shows that you're independent. It might not help the system get something done. But it can help that particular member of congress or Senator.
NARR: IT HELPS ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU'RE DEFENDING THE HOME FOLKS OKLAHOMA IS OIL COUNTRY. BOREN'S HOMETOWN OF SEMINOLE, ONCE SITE OF THE WORLD'S LARGEST ACTIVE OIL FIELD, STILL BEARS RELICS OF ITS HEYDAY. TODAY, LITTLE PUMPERS SQUEEZE OUT AN AVERAGE OF THREE BARRELS A DAY. SO AN ENERGY TAX WOULD AFFECT MORE THAN 350,000 OKLAHOMANS DEPENDENT ON OIL.
Boren: I just could never be for letting the BTU tax pass. So I said, you either take it out or you don't get my support.
NARR: THE WHITE HOUSE, ANXIOUS NOT TO LOSE BORON, DROPPED THE TAX. AND CLINTON MET WITH BORON PRIVATELY ONE EVENING.
Panetta: The President has this -- this sense that given enough time, he can convince anybody about the logic of his position, anybody...
NARR: ACTUALLY, BORON DID MOST OF THE TALKING. AS SOMEONE WHO HAD THOUGHT OF RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT, BORON WAS NOT SHY ABOUT GIVING CLINTON ADVICE.
Boren: We talked for probably close to two hours...I said... You'll lose if you're only getting Democratic votes...I said, 'Don't you think it would be a good thing for me to try to work on a bipartisan proposal in the budget and maybe re-open the door to some bipartisan negotiations?' And he said he did.
NARR: BUT THE WHITE HOUSE WAS SHOCKED WHEN BORON AND THREE SENATE COLLEAGUES UNVEILED A BIPARTISAN ALTERNATIVE TO THE PRESIDENT'S PACKAGE.
Gore: It could well have been just a genuine, if serious and unusual, misunderstanding about the meaning of the English language, because our understanding was very different from that.
NARR: AT THE 11TH HOUR, CLINTON CALLED TO TELL BORON THAT HE HAD GONE TOO FAR, AND APPEALED TO BORON TO CANCEL THE ANNOUNCEMENT.
Boren: I was really astounded at that, and I guess what astounded me even more was, two or three hours later, I believe, he was in Philadelphia or someplace, he made a statement...personally attacking me for offering it...implying that the energy tax was the main thing I was upset about.
Clinton: Obviously the main purpose of some of them is to get away with the BTU tax...
NARR: DESPITE BOREN'S REBUFF AND WITH CLINTON'S PACKAGE HANGING ON A SINGLE VOTE, THE WHITE HOUSE APPEALED TO BOREN'S PARTY LOYALTY.
Boren: Vice President Gore was very aggressive...he said, the Presidency will be destroyed if you don't vote for this.
Gore: I felt a lot was at stake. I felt strongly about this.
Boren:...And I said, no, I think for the good of the country, I shouldn't vote for this. And I said, if the President wins on this, in my opinion, he destroys his presidency.
HS: Later in the game, a lot of what you wanted had been achieved with the President's economic package. The BTU tax was gone. The stimulus package was gone. The tilt on the spending/tax package has been shifted. ..Wasn't it reasonable for the President at that point to say, Senator, you've gotten most of what you want. Can't you go with us?
Boren: Well, I can see how you could argue that on behalf of the President. It is true, no one Senator should expect that ... the president's budget would be exactly as one Senator would write it.
NARR: BOREN'S HIGH PROFILE INDEPENDENCE WON HIM MANY A MOMENT IN THE MEDIA SUN.
Boren: ...But I've decided in conscience that I simply must vote against this plan..
NARR: AND BORON WENT FURTHER . HE RUBBED SALT IN THE PRESIDENT'S WOUNDS BY LOBBYING HOUSE MEMBERS TO TURN AGAINST CLINTON.
Gergen: ...the, uh, White House felt betrayed by Boren. Boren thought the White House had totally misunderstood him and felt betrayed by the White House. And that happens in politics occasionally, and it left some bad blood.
Boren: I think there was bad blood. To say I was disappointed is certainly an understatement. I felt angered.
NARR: IN THE END, CLINTON'S STRIPPED DOWN ECONOMIC PACKAGE BARELY LIMPED THROUGH THE SENATE.
Gore: The senate being equally divided, the Vice President votes yes and the conference report on the President's economic package is passed.
SCENE THREE: You Can't Crack the Whip
STANDUP: CLINTON WAS LEARNING THAT WITHOUT PARTY DISCIPLINE, HE WAS ALWAYS IN HOT WATER. IN THE SENATE, HE FACED A LONE RANGER. BUT IN THE HOUSE, HE FACED A FULL-BLOWN FACTIONAL WAR AMONG DEMOCRATS.
IN 1992, CLINTON HAD RUN AS A NEW DEMOCRAT, FAVORING TAX CUTS, WELFARE REFORM, AND SMALLER GOVERNMENT....TO STRIKE A CONTRAST WITH THE OLD DEMOCRATS, THE LIBERALS.
NARR: BUT IN THE WHITE HOUSE, CLINTON ALLIED HIMSELF WITH THE OLD DEMOCRATS... CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS AND THE BLOC OF 150 LIBERALS IN THE HOUSE. THEIR IDEOLOGICAL LEADER WAS DAVE BONIOR - A FORMER COLLEGE QUARTERBACK, UNION MEMBER, AND TEN-TERM CONGRESSMEN FROM MICHIGAN...WHO FAVORS AN ACTIVIST GOVERNMENT AND PROTECTING THE AVERAGE WORKER.
Bonior: We have got to say 'Stand up for working people! Put working people at the table.
NARR: TO THE WHITE HOUSE, BONIOR WAS ESSENTIAL TO PASSING CLINTON'S AMBITIOUS PROGRAM. AS HOUSE DEMOCRATIC WHIP, BONIOR HAD THE JOB OF CORRALLING DEMOCRATIC VOTES.
Bonior: Making the case, doing the nose count, and then when you've got the votes, you go. When you don't have the votes, you don't go.
NARR: HE WAS LIKE A HUNTER KEEPING HIS DOGS ON THE CHASE.
Bonior: We need to get the word out to all of our colleagues...
NARR: BUT CLINTON LEARNED THAT WHEN THERE'S WAR WITHIN THE PARTY, YOU CAN CRACK THE WHIP AND THE DOGS DON'T ALWAYS FOLLOW... ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY'RE BLUE DOGS.
Stenholm: A traditional yellow dog Democrat is one that would vote for a yellow dog if he was on the Democratic ticket. A blue dog has a better sense of smell and will bite you if you're not careful.
NARR: THE BLUE DOGS...FISCAL CONSERVATIVES..MOSTLY FROM THE SOUTH AND WEST. THEY MEET UNDER THE SYMBOL OF THEIR DEFIANCE AND MUNCH ON BARBECUE. IN THE 80S, THEY OFTEN SIDED WITH PRESIDENT REAGAN. BY THE 90S, SOME HAD RISEN TO SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIRMANSHIPS. WHAT UNITED THEM WAS FRUSTRATION WITH THE LIBERAL TILT OF THE HOUSE DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP.
Parker: When David Bonior called and wanted my vote....and I said, 'Dave, not only will I not support you for this. I will not support you for anything in the future.
NARR: IN MIKE PARKER'S MISSISSIPPI WORLD OF MANSIONS, MAGNOLIA AND OLD MAN RIVER, FIGHTING DEMOCRATIC PARTY LEADERS IN WASHINGTON IS MORE THAN SPORT. IT'S POLITICAL SURVIVAL.
Parker: I think unless you run against the national Democratic Party...then you cannot be elected in a state like Mississippi, or many of the states and districts around this country...
NARR: THE BLUE DOGS HAD HIGH HOPES FOR FELLOW SOUTHERNER BILL CLINTON. THEY CHEERED HIS NEW DEMOCRAT TALK ABOUT CUTTING THE DEFICIT, BUT LOST INTEREST WHEN THAT INCLUDED NEW TAXES.
Stenholm: ...He was co-opted by our own leadership and instead of going in a new direction, we found that the President began leading in an old direction and attempting to work with our leadership .
NARR: CLINTON LACKED LEVERAGE TO BRING THE BLUE DOGS TO HEEL. OVER THE PAST TWO DECADES, POLITICIANS HAVE INCREASINGLY RAISED THEIR OWN CAMPAIGN MONEY. SO THEY FEEL NO POLITICAL DEBT TO THEIR PARTY - AND FREE TO FIGHT THEIR OWN PRESIDENT.
Paster: Because of the way campaigns are run, because of the way they're financed,...people are much more apt today to take on Presidents of their own party than they were 25 years ago.
NARR: AND SO ON CLINTON'S FIRST BIG TEST IN THE HOUSE , HIS BUDGET, SOME TWO DOZEN BLUE DOGS DID WHAT DAVE BORON DID IN THE SENATE. THEY REVOLTED...THEIR DEFECTIONS ANGERED FIRST-TERM DEMOCRAT LESLIE BYRNE OF VIRGINIA.
Byrne: I went back and looked at some of their voting records, and it became apparent that they hadn't voted for anybody's budget amendments in several years running. ...they were more than willing to step up and spend the money once it was voted on.
Byrne on floor, ntsot: If the gentleman would yield...
NARR: BYRNE WENT AFTER THE RENEGADES - SUNSHINE DEMOCRATS, SHE CALLED THEM - ROUNDING UP 80 SIGNATURES ON A PETITION TO MAKE CHAIRMANSHIPS SUBJECT TO REVIEW BY THE ENTIRE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS.
Byrne: ...subcommittee chairmen are there to do the will of the Congress, that that's the gift we give them is the chairmanship itself, and they have to be accountable to all of those who have given them that gift.
Parker: I was so mad I could have chewed nails. I mean I was so furious. I can't tell you how mad I was. The audacity of this woman to play this game with people she didn't even know. I mean she'd only come here. She'd just got here.
Stenholm: Our attitude, first off, was disbelief that, uh, that anyone could be serious about disciplining a member of the caucus for voting their conscience and their conviction in their district....And then our attitude became one of saying, 'Come on, you know, if that's the attitude, if that's what we need is a good old Democratic brawl, let's have it.
NARR: AND BRAWL THEY DID...AT A CLOSED SESSION OF THE HOUSE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS. GEORGE MILLER, A CALIFORNIA LIBERAL, LASHED THE BLUE DOGS FOR TAKING A FREE RIDE WHILE OTHER DEMOCRATS TOOK THE POLITICAL HEAT FOR CUTTING POPULAR PROGRAMS AND RAISING SOME TAXES.
Miller: There is always somebody that is a moocher. They are living off of other people's work. They, in this case, people in the caucus who are subcommittee chairs or committee chairs didn't want to contribute...What I suggested was it was time for some of these people who never bellied up to the bar, who never chipped in, to start chipping in and helping the caucus.
Bonior: ...you know, when you're in power 40 years, you develop some bad habits, and I think that type of independence can be very, very dangerous... important to have some discipline within the party....You have to stand together.
NARR: BUT SPEAKER TOM FOLEY AND MAJORITY LEADER DICK GEPHARDT FEARED AN EVEN WIDER RIFT ...
Gephardt: It was a mistake. You can't do that. You cannot get people to heel in on what they believe about issues by threatening their ability to have normal, you know, advancement within the team.
NARR: THEY PERSUADED LESLIE BYRNE NOT TO INSIST ON A VOTE.
NAT SOUND: Shot of chamber: Those in favor vote Aye, opposed will vote no...
NARR: WHEN CLINTON'S ECONOMIC PLAN CAME UP FOR FINAL PASSAGE, SOME OF THE WAYWARD BLUE DOGS SUPPORTED HIM. BUT IT STILL TOOK THE PRESIDENT'S DESPERATE LAST-MINUTE PERSONAL APPEALS TO OTHER DEMOCRATS TO AVOID A HUMILIATING DEFEAT. THE MOST CRUCIAL CALL WAS TO FIRST-TERMER MARJORIE MARGOLIS-MEZVENSKY.
HS: Did you see Bill Clinton's Presidency at stake in your vote?
Mezvensky: I thought - I really thought that he would likely be a lame duck president for the 41 months that were left in his presidency. Yes.
NARR: MEZVINSKY GAVE CLINTON A ONE-VOTE VICTORY. BUT THAT VOTE COST HER..HER SEAT IN CONGRESS IN 1994.
NARR: AND WHEN THE REPUBLICANS WON CONGRESS, FIVE BLUE DOGS, INCLUDING MIKE PARKER, COMMITTED THE ULTIMATE ACT OF DISLOYALTY.
Parker: If you take a yellow dog Democrat and you put your hands around his neck and you squeeze hard enough and he can't breathe, he becomes a blue dog. And if you keep squeezing, he becomes a Republican.
Parker: From this day forward, I intend to serve the people of the Fourth Congressional District of Mississippi as a Republican.
Scene Four: Health Care POLITICAL COLLAPSE
STANDUP: EVENTUALLY, CLINTON'S BUDGET SUCCEEDED IN CUTTING THE FEDERAL DEFICIT IN HALF. BUT THE BRUISING INTERNAL FIGHT HAD ROBBED THE PRESIDENT OF WHAT HE MOST NEEDED - POLITICAL MOMENTUM AND A VITAL SENSE OF UNITY AMONG CONGRESSIONAL DEMOCRATS.
THOSE DEMOCRATS WERE EVEN MORE BADLY DIVIDED DURING THE BATTLE OVER NAFTA THE NORTH AMERICAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT. ON THAT ISSUE, MORE THAN 150 HOUSE DEMOCRATS DESERTED CLINTON, LEAVING HIM SORELY WEAKENED AS HE APPROACHED THE DEFINING ISSUE OF HIS PRESIDENCY, HEALTH CARE REFORM.
PASSING A NEW NATIONAL HEALTH CARE PLAN WAS MONUMENTALLY AMBITIOUS. EXPERIENCE SHOWS THAT REFORMS OF SUCH MAGNITUDE REQUIRE BIPARTISAN SUPPORT...AND ENLISTING CONGRESS AS A PARTNER IN DRAFTING THE NEW PROGRAM. BUT CLINTON CHOSE A DIFFERENT PATH.
Clinton: When I launched our nation on this journey to reform the health care system, I knew we needed a talented navigator, someone with a rigorous mind, a steady compass, a caring heart. Luckily for me and for our nation, I did not have to look far.
NARR: THE FIRST LADY ASSEMBLED A 500-MEMBER TASK FORCE TO WRITE A MASSIVE REFORM PLAN...WITHOUT MAJOR INPUT FROM ALLIES IN CONGRESS.
NARR: AND WHEN THE 1,400-PAGE WHITE HOUSE PLAN ARRIVED ON CAPITOL HILL MONTHS BEHIND SCHEDULE, EVEN POWERFUL PRO-REFORM DEMOCRATS LIKE JOHN DINGELL AND DAVE BONIOR WERE IRKED.
Dingell:...First of all it was not well handled by the White House....The plan was unduly complex. It came up here very late.
Bonior: We needed direction quickly, and we needed from the top, from the President. the President needed to send us a bill after three or four months in office on what he wanted us to do.
NARR: THE CLINTON PLAN GOT MIRED IN A MAZE OF COMMITTEES AND HAD TO COMPETE WITH RIVAL DEMOCRATIC PLANS. ONE WAS AUTHORED BY JIM COOPER OF TENNESSEE WHO TRIED PUSHING HIS PLAN PERSONALLY AT THE WHITE HOUSE.
Cooper: The reception that we got from the White House..was a very icy reception...They could not believe that a junior Democrat, someone from their own party, would dare to challenge them.
NARR: THE COOPER PLAN, WHICH BECAME KNOWN AS CLINTON LITE, HAD NO PRICE CONTROLS AND IT WAS SLOWER TO OFFER UNIVERSAL COVERAGE.
Cooper: The Clinton bill was far more expensive for business than the Cooper bill. My bill had no business mandates - no requirements that they had to buy coverage for all employees.
NARR: THE COOPER PLAN UNDERMINED SUPPORT FOR CLINTON'S REFORM.
Gore: It made our job more difficult....It provided for a time a place where some Democrats and moderate Republicans could park themselves and say we're in favor of health care reform but a different kind than what the President's pursuing.
RATHER: Good evening. President Clinton lost a big one tonight in a battle to save his version of health insurance reform.
NARR: IN A SEVERE SETBACK TO THE PRESIDENT, MAJOR BUSINESS GROUPS ENDORSED THE COOPER PLAN IN FEBRUARY 1994. THEY SAID IT..
John Ong: ...fosters competition, which yields better health care products for the consumer at a lower price.
Gore: The interest groups that were lined up against change had lots and lots of resources to put a lot of advertising on the air, to cultivate influence with a lot of people in the House and Senate, to line up votes against the kind of change we were advocating. and we just couldn't get the votes.
NARR: DEMOCRATIC LEADERS TRIED TO GET COOPER TO BACK DOWN OR COMPROMISE.
Bonior: We had meetings with him and with the people that were sympathetic to his proposal, but we could never make enough progress...
NARR; BY THEN, COOPER WAS RUNNING FOR THE U.S. SENATE . HIS BREAK WITH CLINTON HAD WON HIM THE MEDIA SPOTLIGHT, AND HE WAS RAISING HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS FOR HIS SENATE CAMPAIGN FROM THE HEALTH CARE INDUSTRY.
HS: It certainly didn't hurt you to have business behind you when you were raising money for your senate race in Tennessee.
Cooper: You're right. It did help the campaign. But I had the bill before I ever thought of running for the Senate.
NARR: ELECTIONS WERE ON EVERYONE'S MIND BY THE SUMMER OF 1994,
NARR: AND FEW DEMOCRATS SAW THEIR OWN POLITICAL SURVIVAL TIED TO CLINTON'S SUCCESS ON HEALTH CARE. AFTER ALL, THEY HAD GOTTEN RE-ELECTED FOR YEARS, INDEPENDENT OF PRESIDENTIAL POLICY. WHAT'S MORE, THEY HAD ALL DONE BETTER IN 1992 THAN CLINTON, WHO WON WITH ONLY 43 PERCENT OF THE VOTE.
Miller: And so, then when it comes time that it is suggested that you have to do this for the President, many people say, 'Well, I ran ahead of the President in my district. I don't have to help the President. I'm more popular than the President is.' 'Course the cold hard reality is that when the President goes down big time, you will find out that your popularity isn't what you thought it was either.
NARR: REPUBLICANS WERE MOCKING CLINTON'S PROPOSED HEALTH CARE ALLIANCES AS A NEW RUBE GOLDBERG BUREAUCRACY.
Dole: Well, that's what we thought the Clinton health plan was all about...People realized how complicated the program was going to be, and we never had, the Administration never refuted it.
NARR: THE HARDENING REPUBLICAN LINE ALARMED CONGRESSIONAL DEMOCRATS.
Gephardt: I never believed that you could do something as complicated and politically difficult as health care except on a bipartisan basis. And what we hadn't counted on was that almost anything we had proposed would be opposed by the Republican side.
Gingrich: It is the most explicitly partisan bill imaginable.
NARR: NEWT GINGRICH SAW CLINTON ON THE ROPES.
Cooper: The closer we got to November '94, the Republicans realized the was blood in the water, and they were sharks ready for the kill.
NARR: COOPER HAD LINED UP 18 REPUBLICAN CO-SPONSORS FOR HIS PLAN BUT GINGRICH, THEN THE HOUSE REPUBLICAN WHIP, ORDERED REPUBLICANS NOT TO VOTE FOR ANY HEALTH CARE PLAN, EVEN COOPER'S.
Cooper: The Republicans refused to support a good health reform bill because they knew it would help President Clinton. They didn't want anything called health reform to pass because they knew it would help the Democratic Party.
HS: How do you know that? Did you ever talk to Gingrich about it?
Cooper: Speaker Gingrich basically told us about that at a meeting, toward the end of the process.
NARR: WITH GINGRICH PLAYING HARDBALL AND WITH SOME DEMOCRATS DEFECTING TO THE COOPER PLAN, THE CLINTON HEALTH REFORM DIED IN COMMITTEE. AND ALONG WITH IT, THE RE-ELECTION HOPES OF MANY DEMOCRATS...AND JIM COOPER'S BID FOR THE U.S. SENATE.
Bonior: We paid the price. He paid the ultimate political price in terms of politics - being defeated.
NARR: FOR MANY VOTERS, THE FAILURE ON HEALTH CARE REFORM EPITOMIZED GRIDLOCK UNDER THE DEMOCRATS.. . AND TO FORMER WHITE HOUSE CONGRESSIONAL LIAISON HOWARD PASTER, THE MISSING INGREDIENT WAS DEMOCRATIC PARTY LOYALTY ON THE BIG VOTES.
Paster: There's no other way to organize a political system. You can't drive the political system with a collection of 435 individuals in the House or 100 in the Senate. Parties are a necessary part of the democratic order...
NARR: IN SPITE OF PROBLEMS WITH HIS PARTY, BILL CLINTON DID BETTER THAN MOST PRESIDENTS IN GETTING HIS WAY WITH CONGRESS IN HIS FIRST YEAR.
Stephanopoulos:..We passed an assault weapons ban. We passed the Brady Bill to keep hand guns out of the hands of criminals. We put 100,000 police on the street. We reduced the deficit. We cut taxes on working people. We increased investment in education.
NARR: BUT THAT'S NOT HOW VOTERS SAW IT IN 1994, AFTER THE COLLAPSE OF CLINTON'S HEALTH PLAN.
NARR: AND WITH HIS PARTY ROUTED IN THE ELECTIONS, PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON PERSONALLY HAD TO TAKE THE BLAME.
Clinton: ...to whatever extent that we didn't do what the people wanted us to do or they were not aware of what we had done, I must certainly bear my share of responsibility, and I accept that...But what I think they said is they still don't like what they see when they watch us working here.
STANDUP: AS BILL CLINTON WENT OFF TO PONDER HOW HE HAD LOST THIS ROUND OF THE POWER GAME, NEWT GINGRICH CAME TO POWER DETERMINED NOT TO REPEAT CLINTON'S MISTAKES.
LIKE CLINTON, GINGRICH PROMISED A REVOLUTION...AND LIKE CLINTON, GINGRICH ASSUMED HE COULD BREAK THE OLD RULES OF THE POWER GAME AND MAKE HIS OWN.
AS THE FIRST REPUBLICAN SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES IN FORTY YEARS, GINGRICH UNDERSTOOD THAT TO ESTABLISH HIS SUPREMACY HE NEEDED A FAST START, A CLEAR GAME PLAN, AND HOUSE REPUBLICANS WELDED INTO AN IDEOLOGICAL ARMY.
WITH THAT ARMY BEHIND HIM, GINGRICH ATTEMPTED THE BOLDEST POWER GRAB IN SIXTY YEARS...TO MAKE THE CONGRESS, NOT THE WHITE HOUSE, THE DRIVING CENTER OF AMERICAN GOVERNMENT.
AND LAST NOVEMBER, GINGRICH WAS WELL ON HIS WAY.
NARR: AT THE PEAK OF THE ACTION, GINGRICH PAUSED FOR A MOST IMPORTANT PHOTOGRAPH...
Photographer: Looking at me through here. is that all right?
Gingrich: That's wonderful.
NARR:: ...TAKEN THROUGH THE JAWS OF ONE OF THE ORIGINAL MASTERS OF NATURE'S POWER GAME, THE TYRANNOSAURUS REX...
Gingrich: ..plus that's too strange to have the Speaker with a dinosaur head....Don't you love it though?
NARR: NEWT GINGRICH..... HISTORY PROFESSOR...DINOSAUR FREAK... COMMANDER OF THE REVOLUTION... BECAME THE FIRST SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE EVER CHOSEN BY TIME MAGAZINE AS ITS MAN OF THE YEAR.
HS: Since becoming Speaker, have you proven that you can run the American government from the House of Representatives?
Gingrich: I mean, you really can't run the government from up here. You can shape it from up here. You can't run it.
NARR: RESHAPING GOVERNMENT HAD BEEN ON NEWT GINGRICH'S MIND FROM THE MOMENT HE ARRIVED IN 1978. POLITICAL SCHOLAR THOMAS MANN REMEMBERS GINGRICH AS A YOUNG MAN WITH A BRASH VISION.
Mann: From the beginning Gingrich was different from everyone else...In our first discussions, in January-February of 1979... he outlined a strategy for elevating the Republicans into the majority party.
Gingrich: I mean if you're in the minority party and you've been in the minority since 1954, you ought to have at least one member who thinks, gee, shouldn't we plan to be the majority...
Scene One: The Gingrich Army
Wicker: Ladies and gentlemen, the gentleman from Georgia, the Speaker of the House. Freshmen: applause, chants of Newt, Newt!
NARR: SIXTEEN YEARS LATER, GINGRICH HAD HIS MAJORITY...THE 73 REPUBLICAN FRESHMEN ELECTED TO THE HOUSE IN 1994 WERE THE CORE OF HIS ARMY....GINGRICH HAD PERSONALLY RECRUITED THEM, CAMPAIGNED FOR THEM ...HELPED THEM RAISE MONEY..SENT THEM AUDIO TAPES OF HIS STUMP SPEECHES TO LEARN FROM.
THEY WERE A NEW BREED OF POLITICIAN. HALF HAD NEVER HELD ELECTED OFFICE. MOST WERE IN THEIR THIRTIES AND FORTIES...HARD-CORE CONSERVATIVES WITH TIES TO THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT.
THEY HAD COME TO ROCK WASHINGTON'S POLITICAL FOUNDATIONS. BUT THEY HARDLY LOOKED LIKE THE FOOT SOLDIERS OF A REVOLUTION.... WHO WERE THEY?
NARR: THE THIRD GENERATION OWNER OF A FAMILY BUSINESS IN GRABILL, INDIANA...AN ALL-PRO FOOTBALL PLAYER FROM THE BIBLE BELT IN TULSA OKLAHOMA...A FORMER MAYOR FROM CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA...
NARR: AND TYPICAL OF THE FRESHMEN... MARC NEUMANN..
Neuman: Hey, just keep putting in the effort. On those boards, nice job.
NARR: HOME BUILDER, COMPUTER WHIZ AND PART-TIME COACH....
Neuman: ...There's nobody guarding Unkie! There's nobody guarding him when you're coming down the floor!
NARR: FROM JANESVILLE, WISCONSIN...A PLACE WHERE FAMILY AND FAITH DEFINE PEOPLE'S PRIORITIES.
Neumann: Who's got the tuna?
NEUMANN:...It's about the future of our country. It's about these kids...I want Matt to at some point coach his kids in a basketball tournament, just like we were doing this morning. I just want my kids to have the same opportunities that we have.
NARR: IT'S NEUMANN'S PASSION, AS A FORMER MATH TEACHER, TO KNOCK SOME FISCAL SENSE INTO WASHINGTON THAT MOTIVATED HIM TO JOIN NEWT GINGRICH'S REVOLUTION.
Neumann: We used to do this in my math class...I would teach place values with the national debt. But the national debt back in 1980 and 1981 when I was doing this was $1 trillion. It's now five times that, less than 15 years later....We do not have a country if this is not stopped. It's that simple. That's what I'm doing out here.
Mann: I think the 73 Republican freshmen constitute the most consequential class in many decades...They viscerally resist the whole notion of career politicians, business as, as usual. They have more an ideological edge.
NARR: DURING ORIENTATION SESSIONS FOR THE FRESHMEN, EVEN STRONG CONSERVATIVES WERE SHOCKED AT THEIR ANTI-GOVERNMENT PASSION. DAVE MASON OF THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION PROPOSED A FIVE-YEAR PHASE-OUT OF THE FARM SUBSIDY PROGRAM...
Mason: ...and boom, the first question out of the box was a freshman who said, 'Why can't we just cut them off cold-turkey? And that really was the attitude throughout the whole orientation program: 'Let's do it now. Let's do more. Why does this program exist at all?
NARR: WITH REPUBLICANS OUT OF POWER FOR 40 YEARS, GINGRICH, LIKE A COACH, RAN THEM THROUGH PRACTICE SESSIONS ON THE HOUSE FLOOR.
Gingrich: We had members who practiced being Speaker. We had members who practiced, you know, making motions. We had members who practiced being Democrats obstructing the people who were making the motions. Any American who's been through cheerleader practice or who's been through, you know, baseball practice, would understand it. And every little league team does it.
Scene Two: the Gingrich Blitz
Gephardt: Our new Speaker, the gentleman from Georgia, Newt Gingrich.
NARR: GINGRICH, A MASTER OF POLITICAL SYMBOLISM AS WELL AS SUBSTANCE, SWIFTLY KILLED COMMITTEES, CUT STAFF, AND RAN A MARATHON FIRST-DAY SESSION TO REWRITE HOUSE RULES. LONGTIME GINGRICH FRIEND VIN WEBER.
Weber: one of Newt Gingrich's primary objectives, when the Republicans took control of the House, was to shock the system initially....We are going to change things from the opening gavel. That first day they were in session...sent a loud and clear message to everybody in the Congress, 'Things are going to be different.'
NARR: NOT JUST THE FIRST DAY, BUT GINGRICH'S FIRST 100 DAYS WERE A DAZZLING CONTRAST WITH CLINTON'S MUDDLED BEGINNING. GINGRICH MADE SHOCK AND SPEED HIS ALLIES...HIS WAY TO KEEP COMMAND OF HIS ARMY AND TO STEAMROLL THE DEMOCRATS.
Rangel: You haven't had a hearing. You've taken $270 billion a way, and that's from the poor.
Gibbons: This is just a railroad...
NARR:...AND LEAVE THEM SQUAWKING IN OUTRAGE.
Gibbons: You're a bunch of dictators. That's all you are.
NARR: LIKE A COMMANDER IN BATTLE, GINGRICH KEPT HIS TROOPS ON THE RUN WITH BARELY TIME TO THINK.....HIS INSPIRATION, LIKE CLINTON'S, WAS FDR'S 100=DAY BLITZ USHERING IN THE NEW DEAL.
HS: Why was the first 100 days so important?
Gingrich: Because it unified us and gave us focus as a revolutionary party, so that all the newly arriving freshmen and newly elected chairmen are kept busy doing new things in new ways....You had to have the speed to keep the focus so that everybody stayed so busy getting it done.
SOUND: Music playing at Contract with America bash
NARR: REPUBLICANS COULD MOVE SWIFTLY BECAUSE GINGRICH HAD A GAME PLAN... THE CONTRACT WITH AMERICA, UNVEILED IN 1994. IT WAS A CONSERVATIVE MANIFESTO FOR ROLLING BACK SIXTY YEARS OF GOVERNMENTAL ACTIVISM BEGUN BY ROOSEVELT'S NEW DEAL .
Chair: members will record their votes by electronic device.
NARR: THE VOTES CAME PELL MELL...ON ALL TEN ITEMS IN THE CONTRACT ...AND WITHIN 100 DAYS ALL BUT ONE HAD PASSED.
Scene Three: The Gingrich Power Apparatus
NARR: IN THEIR EUPHORIA, REPUBLICANS GAVE THE CREDIT TO GINGRICH.
Souder: He's the symbol of our vision and in that sense he is really critical to all of us.
Brownback: He's a master strategist and tactician...
Weber:...I think he's the most powerful Speaker in any of our lifetimes.
NARR: BUT AFTER THE PROBLEMS DEMOCRATIC SPEAKERS HAD FACED, HOW HAD GINGRICH MANAGED TO RUN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES LIKE A MACHINE?
Weber: ...The Republicans, who are in the majority for the first time in 40 years in the House, really believe that it wouldn't have happened without him. That's almost unprecedented...And it gives him political clout with the membership that goes far beyond the formal powers of the office.
NARR: GINGRICH USED THAT CLOUT TO CENTRALIZE POWER IN HIS OWN HANDS. HIS FIRST MOVE WAS TO DESTROY THE INDEPENDENT POWER BARONIES OF COMMITTEE CHAIRMEN.
Boehner: What used to happen here in Congress is the power all rested with the big committee chairmen, the old bulls. They basically called the shots ... So the leadership had the responsibility to run the House, but frankly didn't have the tools to lead.
NARR: THE OLD BULLS GOT THEIR POWER BY SENIORITY. SO GINGRICH, BACKED BY HIS FRESHMEN, OVERTURNED SENIORITY ON A FEW CORE COMMITTEES .
Gingrich: Interesting side story, I actually called Coach Joe Paterno and asked his advice....
Paterno: ...You have a responsibility to the football team in my business, and I said, You have a responsibility to the Republican Party and to the country to get the best people in the best spots to get the job done.
NARR: IN KEY SPOTS, GINGRICH HANDPICKED HIS OWN CHAIRMEN... CONSERVATIVE, SCRAPPY, AND ABOVE ALL, LOYAL...BOB LIVINGSTON AT APPROPRIATIONS...TOM BLILEY AT COMMERCE ... HENRY HYDE AT JUDICIARY.
HS: The Speaker jumped you ahead of others on your committee.
Hyde: Oh I think the speaker looked at the membership and wanted a junk yard dog to be chairman of the Judiciary Committee and he settled on me.
NARR: GINGRICH WAS ALSO SENDING A WARNING ...DON'T CROSS NEWT.
Miller: He is fully prepared to play hardball. He is fully prepared to discipline the most senior person .. .And he is fully prepared to let you know that your political fortunes ride with his political fortunes.
NARR: DEMOCRATS LIKE JOHN DINGELL HEARD WHISPERS FROM INTIMIDATED REPUBLICANS.
Dingell: And you talk to Republican members today and they'll tell you, I agree with you, but I can't vote with you on that because I'll lose my chairmanship...
Smith: Have you personally had people tell you?
Dingell: I have had several senior Republican members on matters tell me exactly that.
NARR: TO ENFORCE HIS CONTROL OF SPRAWLING HOUSE FIEFDOMS, GINGRICH GAVE HIS OWN STAFF BROAD AUTHORITY OVER ALL HOUSE COMMITTEE STAFFS.
HS: But they tell me around here that your staff really is driving the process in a lot of ways.
HS: They're good.
Gingrich: very good..Dan Meyer has assembled a first class team.
Meyer: We do have a strong and active staff because we do work for a strong and active Speaker.
Meyer: This job, in many cases, tends to be a little bit like a fireman. You know, this fire pops up and you've got to go deal with it. And you know, there's a different fire over here...and you're just kind of carrying your hose with you all the time...
Meyer: Anybody else anything?
Staffer: yeah, telecommunications. I don't know what else we can tell Bliley and Dole's people are concerned about it .
HS: Are you 9-1-1?
Meyer: We tend to be 9-1-1 for, among House Republicans.
NARR: THE STAFF IS ALSO GINGRICH'S PRIVATE BRAINTRUST ON ISSUES THAT GINGRICH CONSIDERS TOO HOT FOR ANYONE ELSE TO HANDLE...LIKE MEDICARE.
Meyer: You got a group coming in tonight?
Cutler: The subgroup, asking what's going on on Medicare. They're asking about Medicaid, too.
NARR: DESPITE WARNINGS THAT TAMPERING WITH MEDICARE WAS SUICIDAL, GINGRICH WENT AHEAD ANYWAY. HE SET UP A SPECIAL MEDICARE TASK FORCE UNDER HIS OWN COMMAND...TO AVOID BATTLES BETWEEN RIVAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMEN.
Gingrich: You couldn't have done it any other way. This was so complicated and so difficult that you had to get the smartest best people in the party in one room.
Solomon/slams gavel: The Rules Committee will come to order.
NARR: AND IF MEDICARE OR ANY OTHER ISSUE SOMEHOW GOT OFF TRACK, GINGRICH COULD ALWAYS CALL IN THE MARINES - THAT IS, FORMER MARINE, JERRY SOLOMON, CHAIRMAN OF THE RULES COMMITTEE.
Solomon: The Rules Committee is the gatekeeper. It is the committee that determines what legislation is going to look like when it reaches the floor and under what terms of debate...I have the power to rewrite those bills.
NARR: WITH SOLOMON WRITING THE RULES AND REWRITING THE BILLS, GINGRICH BYPASSED OR OVERRODE NORMAL COMMITTEE PROCEDURES ON SOME OF THE BIG ITEMS MOST CRITICAL TO THE REPUBLICAN REVOLUTION.
Solomon: If you are going to complete this revolution, you have to bypass the committee system, temporarily.
NARR: DEMOCRATS LIKE JOHN DINGELL - NO STRANGER TO POLITICAL ARM-TWISTING - SAW A DANGEROUS SUBVERSION OF THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS.
Dingell: I am describing the fact that the situation is not open, the regular handling of amendments is not done, the hearing process is not open...it has become a curious closed oligarchy.
NARR: THE GINGRICH OLIGARCHY - THE INNER CIRCLE OF HOUSE LEADERS - UNDERSTOOD THAT VICTORY DEPENDED ON KEEPING ITS FOOT SOLDIERS IN STEP. COMMUNICATIONS WAS THE KEY.
Boehner: Let's settle down...
NARR: THE WEEKLY HOUSE REPUBLICAN CONFERENCE BEHIND CLOSED DOORS ...MEMBERS AIR THEIR PROBLEMS AND GET THEIR MARCHING ORDERS FROM CONFERENCE CHAIRMAN JOHN BOEHNER.
Boehner: The message of the day will be on your fax machines every morning as it has been every day this year.
NARR: WITH HIGH TECH DELIVERY, THE LEADERSHIP'S PARTY LINE HELPS KEEP REPUBLICANS IN WASHINGTON AND AROUND THE COUNTRY ON TARGET TOGETHER.
HS: So this is going - the message of the day is going- out to what, 10,000 customers?
Boehner: Oh, probably 5,000.
HS: That's a lot.
Boehner: And so it's important for us as, as a Congressional party to, to sing off the same page of the hymnal, to have a, a message that is short, understandable and that we drive home every single day.
NARR: MESSAGE OR NOT, FRESHMAN MARK NEUMANN MARCHED TO HIS OWN DRUMMER . IN THE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE, NEUMANN BUCKED THE LEADERSHIP AND TWICE REFUSED TO VOTE FOR HIGHER MILITARY SPENDING. THE FIRST TIME, GINGRICH SUMMONED NEUMANN .
HS: And what happened?
Neumann: Well, eventually - I mean what's been publicized is that Newt Gingrich wound up threatening me with my position on Appropriations if I didn't vote for it.
NARR: IN THAT INSTANCE, GINGRICH RELENTED...BUT THE NEXT TIME WAS DIFFERENT.
Neumann: We voted down the defense appropriations bill, we went home for about one week of recess...and we came back and I had a letter on my desk that said you're no longer on the defense subcommittee.
Livingston: And then we have Republican freshmen ....
NARR: APPROPRIATIONS CHAIRMAN BOB LIVINGSTON PURGED NEUMANN.
Livingston: We had our personal differences. They involved my approach to the defense appropriations bill.
NARR: THE FRESHMEN CLASS ERUPTED.
McIntosh: You could see a ripple on the House floor when Chairman Livingston's office released a press release saying that Mark had been stripped of one of his committee assignments....We all gathered in the back of the chamber and unanimously everyone said, 'This won't stand.'
Livingston: They wanted me to reverse my decision...and I chose not to.
NARR: THE FRESHMEN ASKED GINGRICH TO INTERVENE.
Gingrich: You're trying to balance something. You want the freshmen class to be aggressive, bold, reform-oriented. You want them to take risks...On the other hand, your chairmen sometimes get pretty irritated because they've got somebody who's never been in a legislative office before, who's having to learn.
NARR: IN THE END, THE LEADERSHIP BACKED DOWN. NEUMANN GOT A BETTER DEAL - TWO NEW COMMITTEE ASSIGNMENTS.
Voice: They're with Mark Neumann. They're with a star.
McIntosh:...the freshmen have learned that by sticking together, we have a much greater influence on the process.
NARR: GINGRICH, WHO HAD INTIMIDATED SENIOR REPUBLICANS, WAS INDULGING THE FRESHMEN...AND THAT TACTIC WOULD COME BACK TO HAUNT HIM.
Scene Four - Trouble in the Senate
Gingrich: The yeas are 300 and the nays are 132. The joint resolution is passed.
NARR: ...JANUARY 26, 1995...AN HISTORIC TRIUMPH IN THE HOUSE... PASSAGE OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO REQUIRE A BALANCED BUDGET.
NARR: ELATED HOUSE FRESHMEN MARCHED ACROSS THE CAPITOL GROUNDS TO SWEEP UP THE SENATE IN THE TIDE OF REPUBLICAN REVOLUTION.
STANDUP: GINGRICH SOON DISCOVERED THAT PASSING THE CONTRACT IN THE HOUSE WAS A CAKEWALK COMPARED TO GETTING IT THROUGH THE SENATE AND SIGNED BY THE PRESIDENT.
GINGRICH'S PLAN WAS TO CREATE STEAMROLLER MOMENTUM IN THE HOUSE AND TO STAMPEDE THE SENATE. BUT THE SENATE WAS A DIFFERENT WORLD - LIKE THIS OLD SENATE CHAMBER WHERE DANIEL WEBSTER AND OTHER GREAT AMERICAN POLITICIANS USED TO DEBATE - A DIFFERENT WORLD, WITH A DIFFERENT TEMPO, DIFFERENT RULES, AND A DIFFERENT STYLE OF LEADERSHIP. JAMES MADISON CALLED IT A NECESSARY FENCE.
DOLE: There's always a little mistrust between House members and Senators. They look upon us as the House of Lords. We're six-year terms. We're soft over here. We're not as tough as House members.
NARR: WHEN MAJORITY LEADER BOB DOLE SITS DOWN WITH SENATE REPUBLICANS FOR THEIR WEEKLY LUNCH, IT'S A FAR CRY FROM THE HURLY BURLY OF THE HOUSE. THE SENATE IS LIKE A PRIVATE CLUB, WHERE THOUGHTFUL CONSIDERATION WILL NOT BE HURRIED.
COHEN: In the Senate, it's not to expedite legislation, but to actually slow it down so that we can think about the consequences of major pieces of legislation before they pass.
NARR: SENATE RULES EMPOWER A MINORITY, EVEN INDIVIDUAL SENATORS, TO DELAY ACTION.
Dole: In the House, all you need to do is go to the Rules Committee and say there will be two hours of debate and then we vote. In the senate...In fact, I used to tell Newt, 'You did in two hours what it took me two weeks to do.'
Dole: We probably won't be voting today then, will we?
NARR: TO FORGE A WORKING PARTNERSHIP, GINGRICH AND BOB DOLE HAD TO PUT ASIDE THEIR PAST FRICTIONS.
HS: You and Gingrich have had a really prickly relationship over the years. How did you work it out?
Dole: Seldom do House members and Senators get very close to each other. But we trust each over. We don't play games together. We both have troubles with Democrats and the Republicans. But we are the leaders. He was the initiator with the Contract. We didn't have that in the Senate side...We did a good job....we have a good working relationship.
NARR: EVEN SO, BOB DOLE, THE MASTER PARLIAMENTARIAN, HAD TROUBLE ROUNDING UP A TWO-THIRDS MAJORITY, 67 VOTES, TO PASS THE BALANCED BUDGET AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION.
NARR: THE HUNT FOR VOTES CAME DOWN TO ONE REPUBLICAN...THE NEW CHAIRMAN OF THE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE, MARK HATFIELD, WHO BELIEVES THE MANDATE FROM THE FOUNDING FATHERS TO SENATORS IS THIS:
HATFIELD:.. be independent and give much more wisdom, much more study on the issue, rather than wet finger in the air to see which way the constituency was blowing at the moment.
NARR: IN HIS FIVE TERMS IN THE SENATE, HATFIELD HAS SHOWN A STRONG STREAK OF INDEPENDENCE...AN OUTSPOKEN OPPONENT OF THE VIETNAM WAR...A STAUNCH DEFENDER OF THE ENVIRONMENT..AND A STRONG OPPONENT OF THE DEATH PENALTY.
NARR: HATFIELD ALSO BELIEVES IN THE TIME-HONORED SENATE TRADITION OF CLOSE PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS, EVEN ACROSS PARTY LINES.
Hatfield (walking): Is Senator Byrd in?
NARR: NOBODY IS CLOSER TO HATFIELD THAN DEMOCRAT ROBERT BYRD OF WEST VIRGINIA.
HATFIELD: My relationship to Senator Byrd is one I treasure, and is one I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
Byrd: unblemished, untarnished, and unstained and always will be.
Hatfield: (laughing) that's right
Hatfield: ... we have based our friendship not only on our commonality in loving the history of the Senate, and loving the institution of the Senate, but we've also been able to prove again that we can make things work. We can move the business of the Senate along, in working together and in compromise and in coordination.
NARR: A FRIEND OF HATFIELD, BUT NO FRIEND OF THE REPUBLICAN CONTRACT WITH AMERICA...
Byrd: I'm not concerned about a Contract with America. This is my Contract with America, the Constitution of the United States.
NARR: BYRD ATTACKED DOLE FOR RENEGING ON A PROMISED VOTE ON THE BALANCED BUDGET AMENDMENT.
Byrd: This is no place for deal-making. Back room huddles. No wonder the American public has such a low estimation of the Congress.
NARR: DOLE WAS STALLING ...TO FIND ONE MORE VOTE..MARK HATFIELD'S.
HATFIELD: I could not vote for it. I told Senator Dole that from the very beginning. and, uh, it was difficult for him.
Dole: I rarely ask people, I rarely press people to vote with Bob Dole.
Smith: But he also said you had asked him if he wouldn't absent himself, just stay away so that...
Dole: Yeah, yeah
Smith: What did you say to him about that?
Dole: ...if he could just go to Oregon for the Weekend. I don't, just get out of town. Do something. Just don't vote.
Hatfield: I said I could not absent myself because i was physically there. It would look as though I was dodging the issue...And I said, I also have an option to resign.
Dole: I think he offered to resign, I mean, and I was criticized because I didn't accept it. On the theory that if I'd accepted, we'd only need 66 votes and we could have won. I don't think he was... he's a very sincere man, but I don't think he would have resigned had I asked him to. And I wasn't going to ask him anyway. This is one fight. They're going to be 50 others.
Clerk: Mr. Hatfield
Clerk: Mr. Hatfield, no.
NARR: HATFIELD'S 'NO' VOTE, THE ONLY REPUBLICAN IN OPPOSITION, SANK THE BALANCED BUDGET AMENDMENT. FRESHMEN REPUBLICAN SENATORS LIKE RICK SANTORUM, A FORMER HOUSE MEMBER , WERE OUTRAGED.
SANTORUM: Right after the vote, I sat down on the floor with the leader and I said, 'Well, you know, I've really got a problem with the chairman of our appropriations committee not feeling an obligation, as an elected leader of our party, to stand with us on an issue that was so fundamental to who we are as a party.
NARR: JUST LIKE THE HOUSE DEMOCRATIC FRESHMEN WHO WANTED TO DISCIPLINE THE BLUE DOGS, SANTORUM AND CONNIE MACK OF FLORIDA WANTED TO STRIP HATFIELD OF HIS CHAIRMANSHIP.
Santorum: Mark Hatfield has every right, as the Senator from Oregon, to vote on any piece of legislation any way he wants, to reflect the views of the people from Oregon. But if you are going to run as a leader and ask for our vote to be chairman, then you have a special responsibility to us...and if you betray that responsibility,...we as members of the conference, who elected him as chairman, can un-elect him as chairman.
NARR: REPUBLICAN MODERATES LIKE BILL COHEN OF MAINE WERE ALARMED.
Cohen: Any one of us could have been in that spot. So, yes, I identified with Hatfield's position, and I wouldn't want anyone to try to seek to take retribution on me for casting a vote which I deeply believed in.
NARR: EVEN NORTH CAROLINA'S ARCH CONSERVATIVE JESSE HELMS JOINED MODERATES IN BACKING HATFIELD.
NARR: AN EASY MAJORITY WANTED TO PROTECT THEIR OWN PREROGATIVE ...HATFIELD SMILINGLY EMERGED TO GREET THE CAMERAS.
Hatfield: I'm Chairman Mark Hatfield.
NARR: SANTORUM CLAIMED THAT HIS WARNING WOULD DETER OTHER DEFECTIONS. BUT BILL COHEN DISAGREED...
COHEN: It didn't change my position. I don't think it really altered John Chafee's position or any of the others that I put in that category..."
NARR: THE MOVE AGAINST HATFIELD PROVOKED THE SMALL BAND OF MODERATE REPUBLICANS IN THE SENATE TO ORGANIZE.
Specter: Bill, What do you with the House proposal that hasn't cleared the Senate...
Cohen: .. At that particular point it may be necessary to come forward with this this effort...just to say there are people who disagree with the direction of things in the House.
NARR: HATFIELD'S RESISTANCE HAD OPENED UP WHAT WOULD BECOME A SERIOUS RIFT BETWEEN SENATE MODERATES AND MILITANT HOUSE FRESHMEN WHO WANTED TO SHUT DOWN FEDERAL AGENCIES.
Cohen: The mandate is not to dismantle Washington, to sack it as if we're sacking imperial Rome, to tear down every visible institution, to say that we have finally come in and conquered Sodom and Gomorrah and now we're trying to give it all back to the states. That's not the mandate the people of Maine have given me certainly.
HS: ...What do you say to Senate moderates who are saying that?
Neumann: Retire....If they don't what to do what the American people sent us here to do and they don't understand the message of the '94 election, I think they should step aside and let someone else take over.
Scene Five - Collision: The Revolution Vs. Constituency Politics
STANDUP: THAT CLASH BETWEEN HOUSE AND SENATE REPUBLICANS WAS A BRAKE ON THE GINGRICH REVOLUTION. ANOTHER OBSTACLE OF THE POWER GAME IS THE PULL OF CONSTITUENCY POLITICS...PLAYED OUT IN ROOMS LIKE THIS...THE HOUSE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE.
IT'S EASY FOR REPUBLICANS TO CUT PROGRAMS FOR THE POOR . THEY DON'T SEE ANY POLITICAL COST.
BUT REPEALING FARM SUBSIDIES IS ANOTHER STORY. FARMERS ARE A CORE REPUBLICAN CONSTITUENCY. AND SO CUTTING THEIR PET PROGRAM TOUCHED OFF A FAMILY FEUD THAT RUPTURED REPUBLICAN UNITY.
AND THE PRICKLY TASK OF PUSHING FARM REFORM FELL TO COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN PAT ROBERTS.
Roberts: This committee has been charged with the responsibility.
NARR: A BALANCE-THE-BUDGET CONSERVATIVE, ROBERTS IS ALSO A THIRD-GENERATION KANSAS FARMER WHO DID NOT WANT THE AXE FALLING TOO HARD ON HIS FARMERS. HE WARNED GINGRICH NOT TO RISK LOSING THE FARM VOTE.
Roberts: 'You know, Mr. Speaker, we have 50, 60, 70 people who have pretty strong feelings bout this and they come from farm districts and they represent the backbone of the Republican Party. And if you're going to, you know, send off the artillery, you don't want to single out the friendly troops.'
NARR: ROBERTS FOUGHT A REAR GUARD BATTLE FOR THOSE FRIENDLY TROOPS. HE SAVED THE FOOD STAMP PROGRAM BECAUSE IT MEANT BIG MONEY TO FARMERS. AND HE PERSUADED THE LEADERSHIP NOT TO CUT SO MUCH FROM FARM SUBSIDIES.
ROBERTS: Deadlines, marching orders, ideology, discipline are all important...At the same time, what you're really recommending is policy and you want to make damn sure that what you are passing will work.
NARR: TO MAKE IT WORK, ROBERTS AND THE LEADERSHIP CRAFTED A PLAN THEY DUBBED FREEDOM TO FARM. IT ENDED GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIES TIED TO SPECIFIC CROPS, BUT STILL GUARANTEED FARMERS HUGE GOVERNMENT PAYMENTS FOR SEVEN YEARS.
Roberts: The entire Freedom to Farm Act was designed to lock up $43.2 billion investment in agriculture - more than any other plan that's being considered...
NARR: WHEAT AND CORN FARMERS IN ROBERTS' HOME STATE LIKED THE PLAN BECAUSE THEY COULD SWITCH CROPS AND STILL GET SUBSIDIES, BUT OTHER FARMERS FELT THREATENED...AND THE PLAN BOGGED DOWN.
HS: Why is it so hard to reform farm policy?
Santorum: You vote for my sugar cane farmers and I'll vote for your beef farmers, and you vote for my tobacco subsidies and I'll vote for your peanut subsidies, and you vote for my wheat... CUT and when you put it all together, it is just one big log-rolling.
Roberts: Those in favor say Aye
NARR: ROBERTS COULDN'T EVEN PASS THE BILL IN HIS AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE. FOUR REPUBLICANS DEFECTED...
NARR: AND WHEN GINGRICH TRIED TO SAVE HIS PLAN WITH AN END RUN TO RULES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN JERRY SOLOMON, GINGRICH GOT AN EARLY MORNING WAKEUP CALL. SOLOMON FOUND SOMETHING MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE REVOLUTION.
NARR: THE PECK FAMILY FARM IN BACON, HILL NEW YORK...NORTH OF SARATOGA SPRINGS. 4:45 A.M. ..MILKING TIME AND IT'S 34 DEGREES BELOW ZERO.
NARR: TO STAY IN BUSINESS, BILL PECK AND OTHER DAIRY FARMERS DEPEND ON FEDERAL MILK MARKETING ORDERS. THESE ORDERS PROP UP MILK PRICES TO FARMERS ALL ACROSS THE NORTHEAST AND PROTECT THEM FROM OUTSIDE COMPETITION.
Bill Peck Sr.: Without them, there would be chaos again. If you lost your market for a month or three months, it would almost put you out of business.
NARR: AFTER A HEARTY FARM BREAKFAST, THE PECKS GATHER OTHER FARMERS FOR A PROGRESS REPORT FROM JERRY SOLOMON, THEIR CONGRESSMAN AND WASHINGTON WARRIOR.
Solomon: We have to fight again to preserve the concept of milk marketing orders.
Solomon:...The fight is about how you stabilize the price of a perishable product. Now, why do you have to do that? You have to do it because you have other parts of the country like Wisconsin and California, where they have huge 5,000-head cattle ranches, and...if you don't have the milk available by region, sooner or later everybody else goes out of business.
NARR: TO PROTECT THEIR DAIRY FARMERS, SOLOMON AND OTHER GINGRICH LOYALISTS THREATENED TO SINK THE CENTERPIECE OF THE REPUBLICAN REVOLUTION, THE ENTIRE BALANCED BUDGET PACKAGE.
Solomon: ...the 50 of us representing life or death for small dairy farmers across this nation went to Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole and said, 'If you hurt our dairy farmers, we will not - we cannot under any circumstances - vote for the balance budget act. That means you're thirty votes short.
NARR: JOHN BOEHNER AND OTHER HOUSE LEADERS TRIED TO BREAK THE DEADLOCK.
Boehner: Well I remember sitting in that room several weekends before Thanksgiving, trying to do dairy policy. And over the course of a couple of months, it must have been 100 hours and we got nowhere.
NARR: TWO MONTHS LATER, COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN PAT ROBERTS WAS STILL LOOKING FOR A WAY TO PASS HIS FARM BILL.
Roberts: We're ready to move, but the key is how do you move. What horse do you ride to get there from here.
NARR: AFTER STRUGGLING FOR NEARLY A YEAR, REPUBLICANS FINALLY ENACTED A LAW THAT CHANGED THE OLD SYSTEM. BUT TO GET IT, THEY MADE THEIR CONCESSIONS TO CONSTITUENCY POLITICS....TO PEANUT FARMERS, SUGAR FARMERS, COTTON FARMERS...AND, OF COURSE, TO DAIRY FARMERS.
HS: In the end, on the ag bill, how did your farmers come out?
Solomon: They came out (laugh) they are very happy..
HS: So you saved the milk marketing orders?
Solomon: The milk marketing orders are saved.
SCENE SIX: SHOWDOWN
STANDUP: THE SUPREME TEST OF THE REPUBLICAN REVOLUTION WAS THE SHOWDOWN OVER BALANCING THE BUDGET. IT WAS HIGH DRAMA.
AFTER TEN MONTHS, THE REVOLUTION HAD BOGGED DOWN. THE HOUSE AND SENATE WERE DEADLOCKED ON MOST OF THE CONTRACT WITH AMERICA.
GINGRICH AND DOLE DECIDED ON A BOLD STROKE - CONFRONTATION WITH CLINTON OVER ONE MASSIVE BILL TO BALANCE THE BUDGET IN SEVEN YEARS...INCORPORATING ALL THE MAIN REPUBLICAN REFORMS.
GINGRICH CALCULATED THAT THIS ONE HUGE PACKAGE WOULD REUNITE HIS PARTY AND FORCE CLINTON TO SWALLOW THE REPUBLICAN AGENDA, OR FACE THE CONSEQUENCES OF SHUTTING DOWN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.
NARR: GINGRICH WAS HALF-RIGHT. REPUBLICANS DID FALL INTO LINE AND ON NOVEMBER 30TH...
Dole: We sent the White House the balanced budget bill and it's truly a historic document. It's actually going to balance America's budget for the first time in a generation. We're very proud of it...
NARR: THIS WAS THEIR FINEST HOUR.
Gingrich: The hardest single project was writing the 3,000-page balanced budget. Nobody had done it in a generation.
NARR: ALL YEAR, REPUBLICANS HAD SEEN CLINTON RETREATING...EDGING TOWARD A BALANCED BUDGET. NOW THEY FIGURED THEY HAD HIM CORNERED.
Gingrich: We had taken a gamble that given the excuse of government shutting down, Clinton would move to the center and sign a balanced budget...
Boehner: We thought Bill Clinton would do what he has always done under pressure, and that is to cave...
Panetta: I think the Republicans basically, because they thought the President was going to cave, came in with the attitude that this was not about negotiating. This was about basically working out the terms of surrender. And so they expected me to basically lay down a proposal that looked like the Republican proposal. I would - I was never going to do that.
NARR: CLINTON WAS TOUGHER AND CAGIER THAN GINGRICH HAD EXPECTED. BY AGREEING TO A SEVEN-YEAR BALANCED BUDGET IN PRINCIPLE, HE POSITIONED HIMSELF SHREWDLY. THEN HE VETOED THE REPUBLICAN PACKAGE.
Clinton: With this veto, the extreme Republican effort to balance the budget through wrong-headed cuts and misplaced priorities is over.
NARR: USING THE BULLY PULPIT OF THE PRESIDENCY, HE TURNED THE REPUBLICANS' STRATEGY AGAINST THEM.
Gore: The institution of the Presidency has an advantage against the institution of the Congress in a high stakes showdown...
NARR: CLINTON REFRAMED THE DEBATE BY ACCUSING REPUBLICANS OF GUTTING MEDICARE AND CASTING HIMSELF AS THE DEFENDER OF ESSENTIAL PROGRAMS AGAINST A REPUBLICAN REVOLUTION RUN AMOK.
Clinton: Now, the Republicans are refusing to talk and again threatening to shut the government down, unless I accept their deep cuts in health care, education and the environment, and their tax increases on working families. I would not give in to such a threat last month, and I will not give in today.
HATT: WHAT TIPPED THE POLITICAL BALANCE WAS THE PUBLIC REACTION. WITH BUDGET NEGOTIATIONS STALLED AND FEDERAL AGENCIES SHUT DOWN FOR 21 DAYS, PEOPLE COMPLAINED ABOUT NEEDING GOVERNMENT SERVICES. FEDERAL EMPLOYEES WERE NO LONGER SEEN AS FACELESS BUREAUCRATS BUT HARD-WORKING PUBLIC SERVANTS CAUGHT IN AN UGLY GAME OF CHICKEN.
chant: we want work!
NARR: REPUBLICANS BLAMED CLINTON, BUT VOTERS BLAMED THE GOP MORE.
NARR: AS THE TIDE OF PUBLIC OPINION TURNED IN CLINTON'S FAVOR, DEMOCRATS IN CONGRESS RALLIED AROUND THE PRESIDENT.
Daschle: I think the President earned his stripes during this budget debate. I think he learned a great deal about how you create the kind of cohesiveness that you need to be successful. And he hung tough.
Miller: Republicans have helped Bill Clinton define himself. ...I think that for two years, Bill Clinton was out on stage by himself, dancing against himself, compared to himself, and when Gingrich showed up on stage,...and Bob Dole showed up on the stage, the American public said, 'Hey, this guy's not so bad.'
NARR: THE WHITE HOUSE HEALED OLD WOUNDS WITH CONGRESSIONAL DEMOCRATS, INCLUDING THE BLUE DOGS.
Daschle: Leon Panetta was invaluable. In many respects, he was the glue that held us all together. He worked daily, hourly in some cases, with the House and Senate caucuses...
NARR: IN TOM DASCHLE, THE NEW SENATE DEMOCRATIC LEADER, CLINTON FOUND A SOFT SPOKEN TEAM PLAYER WHO WORKED WITH PANETTA TO DEVELOP A DEMOCRATIC SEVEN-YEAR BALANCED BUDGET. BUT PANETTA KEPT IT IN HIS POCKET.
Panetta: I wasn't going to lay down my last offer first. That's crazy. We wanted them to - to frankly step in it first, as it were.
HS: You mean, step on their own constituencies as well.
Panetta: Of course,... step on those sensitive constituencies that were out there and... test them as to whether or not they were going to walk off the cliffs that faced them down the road.
NARR: UNDER THE PRESSURE, THE SPEAKER SHOWED THE STRAIN...WHINING THAT THE PRESIDENT HAD SNUBBED HIM DURING A TRIP TO ISRAEL ON AIR FORCE ONE. CARTOONISTS AND DEMOCRATS MOCKED GINGRICH AS A CRY-BABY....LIEUTENANTS URGED HIM TO LAY LOW.
Boehner: Why the Speaker has frankly been overexposed. He's had a long year. He's tired. He's frustrated. And when you get to be that tired, that frustrated, you make mistakes.
NARR: GINGRICH'S BIGGEST PROBLEM WAS THAT HIS GAMBLE AGAINST CLINTON HAD GONE WRONG.
Panetta: I think the Speaker is, is someone who's very good at rallying the force together...but never really thought out what am I going to deliver on...the example that we often refer to is Bonaparte going into Russia. Bonaparte, you know, moved in quickly, but then bogged down, because he didn't look ahead....
NARR: THE SHUTDOWN STRATEGY OPENED UP DIFFERENCES BETWEEN HOUSE AND SENATE, BETWEEN GINGRICH AND BOB DOLE, WHO WAS ALARMED THAT REPUBLICANS WERE SINKING IN THE OPINION POLLS.
Dole: We reached the point where I felt maybe we were frightening people. Maybe, uh, people thought we were going too far on any program. Maybe it was the environment. maybe it was Medicare... but I knew one thing, that you shouldn't be punishing federal employees...They were sort of the hostages in this battle and I didn't think it was fair.
NARR: AS CHRISTMAS APPROACHED, CLINTON KEPT PRESSING DOLE AND GINGRICH.
Clinton: I had talks with both of them this afternoon. First, I asked them to open the government again, and to do it immediately.
NARR: DOLE WAS READY TO ACT BUT GINGRICH'S HANDS WERE TIED BY HIS HARDLINERS.
Livingston: Never, Never, Never give in! We'll stay here til doomsday. Defeat this motion to recommit and Merry Christmas!
Panetta: Gingrich basically at that point asked to see me...and he basically said, 'I can't deliver on this.'
HS: He said he could not deliver because of his freshmen?
Panetta: Sure. Yeah. He said, 'I just can't - I just can't do it. It's one of those problems, you know...And I mean Dole was angry about it.
NARR: AT A REPUBLICAN CONFERENCE JUST BEFORE CHRISTMAS, GINGRICH TRIED TO RALLY HIS TROOPS...BUT SHOWED HIS OWN BATTLE FATIGUE.
Gingrich: A year's work has put us in a strategic position where they can't beat us unless we beat ourselves... I am not sure how we are going to win, but I want you to take home with you this thought: I am certain how to avoid defeat.
NARR: BUT TWO WEEKS LATER, GINGRICH PRIVATELY ADMITTED DEFEAT, AS LEON PANETTA TOLD A HUSHED DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS IN EARLY JANUARY...
Panetta: If there is some moment in the negotiations where the Speaker said something that I will remember for a long time, because he basically looked at the President and said, 'I have to be frank with you, our strategy did not work. It has not worked. We thought we could break you six months ago. We thought we could break you going into the negotiations. It has not worked...We have a failed strategy on our hands.
NARR: ON JANUARY THIRD, DOLE AND THE SENATE SHIFTED STRATEGY AND VOTED TO REOPEN THE GOVERNMENT. REPUBLICAN UNITY IN THE HOUSE BEGAN TO CRUMBLE.
Boehner: We're at one of those uneasy points in terms of how far to push and how fast to do it. And as long as the shut-down's going on, there are certain numbers of members who are going to become uneasy.
NARR: FIFTY-ONE HOUSE MODERATES WANTED TO FOLLOW DOLE AND THE SENATE. AMONG THEM..MARGE ROUKEMA OF NEW JERSEY.
Roukema: The focus has gone off the President and his responsibility here, and it's now on federal employees who aren't getting paid, ordinary citizens who aren't getting services... I think it's very evident we need a new strategy.
NARR: REPUBLICAN HARDLINERS, LIKE FRESHMAN MARK SOUDER, DUG IN THEIR HEELS. THEY FELT BETRAYED.
HS: Is there anger building among House Republicans toward Bob Dole?
Souder: We feel we need to hang tough, that to cave at this point would be a major mistake. We fear... particularly by the action of the Senate yesterday, he put the onus back on us, which Republicans shouldn't do to each other. So, yeah, we're a little mad.
HS: Is this the moment you worried about, right now?
Neumann: The loss of leverage to get the President to negotiate, and that's what bothers me in the whole proposal. Yes, very much so. I think what you saw happen today was an opportunity for us to fold under the pressure...
NARR: AFTER A DAY OF MARATHON MEETINGS, GINGRICH PRESSED RELUCTANT HOUSE LEADERS TO REOPEN THE GOVERNMENT WITHOUT A BUDGET AGREEMENT FROM CLINTON. MEETING WITH THE PARTY RANK AND FILE THE NEXT MORNING, GINGRICH PUT HIS JOB ON THE LINE.
Gingrich: My basic point was if, you know, if they wanted somebody who would preside over chaos, they needed somebody else.... [edit to 00:07:35] ..either we're going to be the party that stays together and when we make mistakes, we recover together, when something doesn't work out, we fix it together, uh, or we're going to collapse into being like the liberal Democrats used to be.
NARR: GINGRICH HAD ENOUGH CLOUT TO CARRY HIS ARMY. ONLY FIFTEEN REPUBLICANS, AMONG THEM MARK SOUDER, VOTED NO. EVEN MARK NEUMANN SUPPORTED GINGRICH.. THE TACTICAL RETREAT HAD WIDER SIGNIFICANCE. IT BOWED TO A BASIC RULE OF THE POWER GAME - THAT NO SINGLE POWER CENTER IN OUR GOVERNMENT CAN IMPOSE ITS POLICIES BY BRUTE POLITICAL FORCE.
Gingrich:..what we misunderstood was that the American public would decide that closing the government was too disruptive and too great a cost for any political goal.
NARR: WITH A POLITICAL CEASE FIRE, THE TWO SIDES COULD TACKLE THE BIG ISSUE OF BALANCING THE BUDGET IN SEVEN YEARS. CLINTON CAUGHT THE REPUBLICANS OFF GUARD BY QUICKLY UNVEILING A DEMOCRATIC PLAN...AND HIS NEGOTIATOR, LEON PANETTA, OFFERED REPUBLICANS A FORMULA FOR BIPARTISAN AGREEMENT.
Panetta: I think I put about ten items on a board... And I said, to get an agreement, both sides have to be able to claim some wins ...and I said, look, you know, on, on balanced budget, seven years, we're moving to you...On Medicare, you got to move to us, and so...I said, you win on three, we win on three, we split the difference on the others.
NARR: GINGRICH AND HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER DICK ARMEY SPURNED THAT KIND OF COMPROMISE.
Gingrich: We came to the conclusion that when you went down the list, it was frankly a lousy deal for our children and would have sold out all the values we came to Washington with. It would have been one more phony Washington deal.
Gephardt: The Speaker said to the President, I will not schedule a budget that doesn't get all the Republican votes. That is extraordinary. The President would say back, 'No, if it's an honest compromise, in other words, one that you all can agree to and I could agree to, it's probably got to be more like 100 Democrats and 118 Republicans. And Gingrich would say No, I won't schedule it.
NARR: DOLE WAS MORE PRAGMATIC.
Dole: ... if you go into negotiations and say I'm not going to give anything or I can't give anything because my troops won't let me give anything, you know, why -- why go in the first place? I mean, compromise is not bad. You know, I get faulted for compromising sometimes. If I can get 80 - 85 percent this year, maybe get the rest next year, and never get the rest, that's better than zero.
NARR: IN FACT, THAT'S THE APPROACH DOLE TOOK THIS YEAR AFTER CLINCHING THE REPUBLICAN NOMINATION AND TAKING OVER AS THE CHIEF REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST IN CONGRESS. DOLE WORKED AT PROGRESS WITH CLINTON, ONE BILL AT A TIME...A TELECOMMUNICATIONS BILL, THE LINE-ITEM VETO AND FINALLY, IN APRIL, THE LONG OVERDUE BUDGET FOR 1996. IT WAS SEVEN MONTHS LATE - THE WORST RECORD IN AMERICAN HISTORY. AND WORSE YET...WHAT REPUBLICANS HAD TRUMPETED AS THE CENTERPIECE OF THEIR REPUBLICAN REVOLUTION, THE SEVEN-YEAR BALANCED BUDGET PACKAGE WAS STILL STYMIED - A VICTIM OF PARTISAN GRIDLOCK.
STANDUP: IN THE END, BOTH CLINTON AND GINGRICH FAILED IN THEIR GRANDEST GOALS BY OVERREACHING. DESPITE THEIR CONSIDERABLE SUCCESSES, THEY FELL SHORT BECAUSE THEY OVERREAD THEIR MANDATES.
BOTH MOVED THE NATION'S AGENDA IN NEW WAYS. BUT THEY WOUND UP BLOCKING EACH OTHER - GINGRICH MAKING IT ALL BUT IMPOSSIBLE FOR CLINTON TO PASS HEALTH REFORM...CLINTON STANDING IN THE WAY OF GINGRICH'S AMBITIOUS BUDGET. AS WE SAW, IN OUR SYSTEM, IT'S OFTEN EASIER TO OPPOSE ACTION THAN TO TAKE ACTION AND ACHIEVE RESULTS.
THEIR FAILURES HAVE LARGER MEANING. OUR SYSTEM OF SEPARATED POWERS, LOOSE POLITICAL PARTIES AND SHARP PARTISAN CONFLICT MAKES FOR GRIDLOCK. THE FORCES OF DIVISION ARE OFTEN STRONGER THAN THE FORCES OF COHESION. POLITICIANS HAVE MORE INCENTIVE TO DISAGREE THAN TO WORK TOGETHER.
THE MOST SWEEPING REFORMS REQUIRE COOPERATION, BIPARTISANSHIP . AND YET ALL OF US - POLITICIANS, MEDIA AND THE PEOPLE - TYPICALLY TREAT COMPROMISE AS SURRENDER. AT OUR PERIL, WE FORGET THAT COMPROMISE IS THE LIFEBLOOD OF OUR DEMOCRACY.
TO DISCUSS HOW WE MIGHT MAKE WASHINGTON WORK BETTER, WE TURN NOW TO A PANEL OF EXPERTS AND EXPERIENCED PUBLIC OFFICIALS AND TO YOUR STAND-INS, A GROUP OF CITIZENS FLOWN HERE FROM ALL OVER AMERICA AND CAREFULLY CHOSEN TO REPRESENT THE VOTING PUBLIC.
SMITH: In the end both Clinton and Gingrich failed in their grandest goals by overreaching. Despite their considerable successes, they fell short because they over read their mandates. Both moved the nation's agenda and new ways. But they wound up blocking each other, Gingrich making it all but impossible for Clinton to pass health reform, Clinton standing in the way of Gingrich's ambitious budget plan. As we saw in our system it's often easier to oppose action than to take action and achieve results. But these were not just the failures of two men. Our system makes for gridlock. The forces of division are often stronger than the forces of cohesion.
Politicians have more incentives to disagree than to work together. Under our Constitution power is shared. No single power center can dominate the government. The most sweeping reforms require cooperation, bipartisanship. And, yet, all of us, politicians, media and the people typically treat compromise as surrender, at our peril. We often forget that compromise is the lifeblood of our democracy.
To discuss how we might make our system work better, we brought together a group of experienced public officials and experts And a group of citizens, to your stand-ins, a group of citizens flown here from all over America to talk about ways to improve our system. We meet in the Lyndon Baines Johnson room of the United States Senate. And I think after watching that documentary, Ms. Brody, maybe the question is are you satisfied with the way our system is working today?
BRODY: I think it has its pluses and minuses. I'm a little appalled at the way votes are traded on unrelated issues. I can understand a little bit of compromise on a single issue. But trading a vote for one issue for a completely unrelated one amongst Congressmen bothers me.
SMITH:Mr. Dohm, how do you size it up, is it working the way you want?
DOHM: No, it's not working the way I want. I think -- I would like to think the politicians think more of the American people's problems rather than their own parties.
SMITH: Mr. Spinrad, do you think that we expect too much of one leader. When we look at the President, we have this notion that he's almost a political John Wayne, standing there with six-shooters and he can gun down anyone. Do we think the President has more power than, in fact, he has?
SPINRAD: We do expect a lot from the President and we don't give him a chance to go through. We're very fickle. We elected a President and then two years later [Inaudible - somebody coughing] Congress and didn't give him a chance to do his job.
We have to do something about changing that so that the President can at least have four years to do a proper job. After four years, he doesn't do the job, the electorate takes over.
SMITH: You're almost suggesting that the members of the House should be in four years along with --
SPINRAD: Everybody be in for four years [Inaudible - somebody coughing] Congress, everybody, four years and four years complete the election.
SPINRAD: For six years, just the one term.
SMITH: Mr. Slater, how do you size the record up without necessarily looking at the individuals, but just looking at the performance of Washington all together. Is it working?
SLATER: I think it's the best that we can expect. Here's a second time in the last ten years where we voted in a Congress of one party and a President of another. We had the same thing, of course, before that when we had President Reagan and Bush. I think for one we get exactly what we asked for -- we asked for no increase in taxes, but we asked for more benefits. -- uh -- whenever we try to do something like a balanced budget, one group sees it as, great they're going to raise the taxes and the other group says, great they're going to cut the spending.
In many respects, we'll get exactly what we voted in and we're getting exactly what the Constitution said we should have and that is to do things like a balanced budget, you need two-thirds, there just wasn't a consensus in the population to do that. I do have one other problem and that is I don't remember electing Newt Gingrich. -- uh -- I appreciate his vision, somebody needs to have one there. I appreciate a leader and someone that could point the country in a direction, but to do that takes a lot of consensus. That's the way the Constitution was written.
SMITH: Miss Garriga, I noticed you were nodding your head as Mr. Slater was speaking. What's your thinking?
GARRIGA: I think that what we -- you know, the problems that we have with gridlock tend to be related to the fact that these are ideas, especially in health care and, you know, other major issues, like a balanced budget amendment, that to enact them immediately without a lot of public discussion and without coming to a public consensus would probably cause a lot more problems than it solved.
SMITH: You know, it's interesting, Mr. Phillips, in the Constitution and in our political science classes it's called checks and balances. When we talk about it publicly it's called gridlock. Checks and balances is supposed to be great, gridlock is supposed to bad. Where do you come out on checks and balances versus gridlock?
PHILLIPS: Well, I think checks and balances are important in our society and our political system. And I would rather fall on the side of checks and balances -- uh -- versus getting rid of all the gridlock. Because in my mind -- The power was based in a very small group of people still and the voices --uh -- I think from a diverse group were probably not heard as people were fighting politically to get either the balanced budget or to get the other piece of legislation we were talking about.
SMITH: Health care.
PHILLIPS: Health care reform. And I'm very glad actually, as I looked at that documentary that the Senate was there to kind of say, let's think about this rationally.
SMITH: Mrs. Laughman, let me ask you gridlock, checks and balances, do you like it or do you see it as a down side?
LAUGHMAN: When I look at the scenarios, the situations of our Congress, of our Senate, I see gridlock, I see toe to toe, I see nose to nose more than I see check and balance and that's a little scary. When -- when you're supposed to have this check and balance in this film that we saw where Gingrich was pretty well almost the dictator. That was scary. It was like oh, who gave him the authority to do that, who gave them the authority of the chairpersons [unintelligible] didn't do to their whim they pulled the chair. And to me having Republicans, Democrats is good, you need that check and balance, you need the compliment, you need their point of view versus my point of view. You need all points of view.
SMITH: Let me ask you, a gentleman over here said that in last ten years twice we have had the Congress in the hands of one party and the White House in the hands of another. In fact, it's been much more than twice. In all but two years in the last six Presidencies, Congress has been in the hands of one party, at least part of it and the White House has been in the hands of the other.
LAUGHMAN: You always had two different systems fighting and I think they forgot to look why they were there. I think that was the main thing. Why are we here. What are we doing, what's our agenda. For the people, it's not for us, it's not for personal gain, but you see more personal gain than you should.
SMITH: Mr. Wilson, let me ask you, from your perspective, you're in business, as I recall. Do you see people too much at odds with each other, not working together. I mean, if you run a business, after all, eventually, at some point people have to come together, you don't get the product out, you don't get sales, you don't move on. Have we got something here that's stuck?
WILSON: I believe so. I think -- uh -- you know, in government there is concession, there is compromise, there has to be. It's just like almost a marriage -- uh -- can't dictate our own thoughts -- uh -- without consideration of others and I think there's too much partisan politics rather than each doing the good for the people, period. I, uh, it's frustrating.
SMITH: Sara Stewart, do you share in the frustration?
STEWART: Well, of course. -- uh -- I see that it's very very sad that we've come a situation of, you know, do I like you, as opposed to do I agree with you and -- and politicians not voting from their hearts in dealing with the issues -- welfare reform, but, no. Okay, well, did you say something I liked in the bathroom last week, you know. It's come down to the nitty-gritty of it all instead of dealing with facts.
SMITH: You notice the point that was being made a number of times here, Miss Allender, it was about compromise. When was the last time you heard a politician run for office, say that it was going to take compromise in order to get something done?
ALLENDER: I don't think I ever heard it. Maybe I missed it somewhere, but I don't think I've ever heard somebody [unintelligible] say that they were going to compromise what they thought about something.
SMITH: And, yet, do you think it's necessary to have compromise to get somewhere?
ALLENDER: Compromise is life. You have to compromise in everything you do, but not to the point where you give up on the whole issue. Sometimes they compromise so much that the American public misses out on things.
SMITH: Miss Potashnik, how do you size up what Bob Dole said there towards the end? Remember at one point, he said, compromise is not bad.
Do you think that's good politics --
POTASHNIK:-- it might be necessary sometimes. It's -- it's -- nobody gains if nothing is accomplished, so you cannot always win and we definitely have very strong opposing views, we have very strong people who are elected to office. And if there isn't compromise. I don't think anything is going to be accomplished.
SMITH: Mr. Tanner, let me ask you, you come from Oregon.
And your Senator from Oregon is Mark Hatfield. And you saw, there he was, the only Republican who refused to go along with the balanced budget amendment. And you saw other Republicans saying, hey, get on the team, be with us and try to discipline it. Now, where do you stand on that, should you be on the team or should you stand alone?
TANNER: I have to trust his judgment. I believe he did what he thought was best. Unfortunately, the -- his was the deciding vote. So, it went down.
I think maybe we lost out on -- on the fact that they didn't accomplish what they set out to, but hopefully his judgment call on that was correct.
SMITH: Miss Stacy, we saw lone rangers, not just Mark Hatfield, but we saw others. We saw blue dogs, We saw the Congressman from Tennessee, who had an alternative plan to the President's. -- uh -- we saw Senator Boren of Oklahoma -- uh -- we like independent politicians, we like our home state person to stand for something and kind of stand up. But what's the impact on the system? What's the trade-off?
STACY: When people stand out too much and try to be too independent, nothing gets done. And I think that compromise is very very important and I think what they're doing in the -- in Congress should reflect what we as citizens have to do in our daily lives, which is compromise to get what we want.
SMITH: Mr. Prindle. Do you have the feeling as though it's work less well than it used to work? Or has it been this way as long as you can remember?
PRINDLE: I like the way it works. -- uh -- I think it's the best system in the world. -- uh -- we sometimes forget how diverse our population is and that the Congressmen and Senators are representing their constituents and that's exactly why we have gridlock and why we should expect gridlock at times. -- uh -- I wouldn't trade it for anything.
SMITH: Barbara Sinclair, you're a professor of political science at the University of California in Riverside. If you had to put your finger on a couple of key products, what would they be?
SINCLAIR: Clearly you had a system that is to some extent designed for gridlock. Well, how do you make that work. You need teamwork, somehow or another and --because to get -- so you can get major legislation passed. You got to have a majority of the House, probably 60 percent of the Senate, the President. Now, how are you going to get that team. You can have on each issue someone the President, the leader in Congress try to put together, you know, a team. But that's hard. It's time consuming and by the time you have your next election, that team is gone. That coalition is gone. You can't hold them accountable.
SMITH: So, what do you do?
SINCLAIR: The other way is you elect the team and that means a party. And, so, I would say we might think about ways of strengthening party. But the strengthening it out in the countryside. I mean, don't give a Congressional leader -- uh -- the power to coerce someone. See if you can get a system so that the coalitions are built from the bottom up.
SMITH: Congressman Orton, you are a blue dog. You are a member of the Democratic Party, but you're also a member of a faction within the Democratic Party. How do you react to people who say, you need to have a team, you need to have a party together if we're going to pass the President's budget --we're going to get it done -- Where do you come out?
CONG. ORTON:I think the team we're all on is the team that
represents the country and the American public. I wasn't elected by Democrats or Republicans, I was elected by a group of people from Utah. And I was sent here to try and find the best solution to a problem, not a Democratic nor a Republican solution, but the real solution. And what I see as part of a problem with the way the system is operating is both political parties are really controlled by the extreme factions on the political spectrum, either the radical right or the radical left and most of the people are not either. They're centrists.
Yet, within the party structure, within the Congress, if you're a centrist, then you have to look to the other party center to work with you. That's the bipartisanship. And, in fact, when you really have solid solutions to problems, it has to be bipartisan. It has to come from the center.
And that's why several of us, within the Democratic Party, formed what was called a coalition to bring common sense solutions to try to reach across party lines, to be a bridge between the parties, between the Houses and between the Congress and the President.
SMITH: Congressman Orton just mentioned that some people are getting fed up with the sense of polarization . Senator Bill Cohen, you're from Maine. You have served in the Senate for three terms. You are leaving voluntarily. Does the polarization of politics in the Congress today have anything to do with your departure.
SEN. COHEN:That's one facet of it, not the entire story. I think for me at least I'd like to do something else with the remainder of my productive years. But, obviously, there's a sense of frustration, of being in the Senate at a time in which everything and everyone seems to be in check, but no one's in charge. The reason you have this so-called gridlock in Washington is you have gridlock in the country. There is no consensus in the country. And what's taking place today, is an important debate and forcing ourselves to reevaluate exactly how much government we want -- uh -- at what level, how much are you willing to pay for it. The American people have not decided that and that's the reason why you've got such a paralysis or what someone has called demo-sclerosis where the democratic system gets so sporadic nothing moves in any direction. And I think when the --
SMITH: [Interrupting] Hardening of the arteries here.
SEN. COHEN:Hardening of the arteries. So, when that happens then you have stalemate, breakdown, paralysis and people get disgusted with the government saying it's not working, why isn't it working.
SMITH: Lloyd Cutler, you have the perspective of the White House. You've served in two Democratic administrations, the Carter administration, the Clinton Administration. When you see it from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue What's the frustration there?
CUTLER: Well, I'm very much with Professor Sinclair. We do have a system that is designed for a certain amount of the gridlock because of the checks and balances. On the other hand, the framers were trying to get a more efficient, more pro-active government than the one that existed under the Articles of Confederation. They wanted something that actually worked. And the framers, themselves, in order to make this brave new system and where I agree it's a wonderful system -- in order to make it work, they invented the National Political Parties. And throughout the 19th Century, whichever party carried the White House, carried a majority in both Houses of Congress.
And every one of the people we recognize as the great Presidents, accomplished whatever he accomplished, because -- his party controlled the majority in both Houses of Congress.
So, I agree with Professor Sinclair what we need to do, if at all possible, if the public can somehow be encouraged to restore its faith in political parties and let one party and one party's program be responsible for managing the government for an electoral period, and I agree with the gentleman who said, we ought to have identical electoral periods, terms, for the president, the Senators and the Congressmen.
Then you'd have a chance to put a balanced program together, devised by a party and if we didn't like the results of that program, we would know whom to blame.
CUTLER: The worst thing about this system is we don't know whom to blame.
CUTLER: Every member and every party faction, President, Congressional leaders can easily blame the public dissatisfaction on the others.
SMITH: How do you cure that? What do you do about that?
CUTLER: There are ways in which you can encourage voters to at least think about whether they wanted a President of one party and the majority in Congress of the other party or whether they would like to try one party running all of the three power centers, which could be held squarely accountable for whatever it did.
SMITH: Miss Czarnecki are you wiling to trust the parties that way, the way it has been suggested here?
SMITH: You are.
SMITH: So, you think political parties are a good thing, a necessary part of bringing some cohesion and direction to our government?
CZARNECKI: Exactly, I like his idea of one party working together in tandem for a set period of time.
SEN. COHEN:I have a question?
SEN. COHEN:Does that mean there are no blue dogs or yellow dogs in the Democratic Party or bulldogs in the Republican Party. There are no -- are they all monolithic, in other words no diversity of opinion within the parties so that you assume, just because one party is in power, that every member of that party necessarily holds the same view. I don't think that's the case.
CUTLER: No, Bill, because of the checks and balances that will never happen any way, in our system particularly with every member able to raise his own election funds and really get himself nominated and elected almost without regard to the leaders of his party. He gets very little of his money, for example, from his party. But at least the party would be putting forth a cohesive program.
CUTLER: The real trouble with just compromise -- the good thing is you can have a set of half a loafs, you can have ten compromises, which put together do not make a cohesive sensible program and everybody in Congress will admit that. Everybody in Congress thinks we should balance the budget or reduce the deficit. No one agrees on how to do it. And everybody says, it's not my fault, I'm in favor of it. It's the fault of those other fellows.
SMITH: Are you prepared Miss Frazer to let one party take it over?
FRAZER: No, not even if it were the Democratic Party and I'm a Democrat. I wouldn't trust them on their own. I don't trust either party on their own. They would -- it would be looking for trouble to say, well, we're in charge these six years and -- uh -- maybe in six years you'll be in charge, but right now we're in charge. It wouldn't work out.
SMITH: Mr. Spinrad?
SPINRAD: We have two parties in power now that's getting us no place. We're totally gridlocked. If we go to a one party system, we'll still always have these blue dogs and bulldogs, or whatever they are, the maverick that will hold -- keep it honest so to speak. One party would be good with checks and balances.
SMITH: Randy Walker, how do you feel about -- do you want to give it over to one party?
WALKER: I believe I like it like it is now to keep each other honest.
SMITH: Don't trust them quite.
SMITH: Mr. Slater?
SLATER: I believe that's exactly where we ought to be if there's no consensus in the country. If there's not a consensus in the country to go one direction or the other then we're exactly where we belong.
CUTLER: When you say one party, Rick, you would have a Congress in which the split in the Senate might be 53 -47, 60 to 40. It isn't one party. But there would be a majority of the same party that holds the White House.
SMITH: Now the question is, how do you do that?
CUTLER: Well, one suggestion which does not involve amending the Constitution is for Congress to exercise its power under Article I to regulate the time, place and manner of federal elections. And Congress could provide to run the Presidential election, let's say, 30 days before the Congressional election. The new President elected, let's say, in the first election would then have an opportunity at the very height of his appeal to the people to say you've elected me, you seem to approve my program. Now, give me a chance to carry it out.
SMITH: Let me go to Professor Sinclair. You were talking about strengthening parties. Is there any way to strengthen parties?
SINCLAIR: One thing you can do -- uh -- is funnel more of campaign money through the party.
SMITH: In other words, the people would make their campaign contributions, not to the candidate but to the parties.
SINCLAIR: Yeah and --
SMITH: [Interrupting] And the parties would parcel it out?
SINCLAIR: That would be a possibility -- uh -- also within terms of broader campaign finance reform -- uh -- the parties could be given that TV time, the frank, the mailing privileges and the parties would do both more generic advertising for the party and the platform as a whole. Also a more radical suggestion would be to get rid of primaries, go to caucuses and conventions and, therefore, give voters, I think, a greater incentive to become active in their local parties.
SMITH: Wouldn't there be a danger that people would not become more active, but would withdraw entirely, say, well, it's all the professional politicians, they're going to conventions, they don't care about me, don't even have a primary?
SINCLAIR: Sure that's a danger, but we're getting pretty close to that now any way with this -- uh -- only about half of the people voting in the Presidential elections.
SMITH: Let's talk about this idea of funneling of campaign money and television time through the party. Senator Cohen, how would you react if you were running again, if your Republican National Committee or the Senate Campaign Committee was the repository of a lot of money, not all of it, but a lot of the money and a lot of the time.
SEN. COHEN: There's some attractiveness to the proposal about strengthening the parties in terms of getting more discipline.The difficulty, however, has been pointed out -- is that-- uh -- the people who are in charge of parties tend to be more ideologically rigid, so that whether you're a Democrat or Republican those who have the handles on the levers of power and money would insist upon your ideological conformity, which means you'd have less people of independent mind,less ability to say, wait I think this is an issue that goes beyond party discipline
Parties would then represent the more ideologically . Conservative or -- or liberal views which is going to make it more difficult to get back toward the center, so you can reach this compromise of consensus.
SMITH: Let me ask you all, both practicing politicians and citizens, how do we encourage a political system and an election system that celebrates and encourages compromise. If you listen to campaigns this fall, it's going to be polemics. Everybody is going to find the tiniest issue on which they can divide and separate each other. Well, you need to do that a little bit in elections, but our public dialogue about how a government operates at the time of elections is wholly unrealistic, isn't it?
CONG. ORTON: It is and the Senator is absolutely right. Part of the problem and the lesson that we should have learned over the last several years in the Congress that we saw very vividly in your documentary is that, in fact, you cannot focus power and control in one person or one faction or one group.
And if you try doing that with the political parties that is what has actually occurred. That is why the Republicans' revolution is now crumbling. Because it was the vision of a particular individual or a particular focal group that then wanted to push that forward. And the centrist, the compromise, the people in the country disagree with one particular vision.
And, so, I believe that what we're seeing right now, rather than strengthening of parties, is the collapse of the two-party system.
SMITH: Miss Brody, when you're voting this fall, are you going to go for a candidate that says I'm for compromise, I'm really strong for the center? Or are you going to go for somebody who says I really differ from the other side by X -- on Medicare, on -- uh -- minimum wage, on the gas tax, whatever it is?
BRODY: I don't think I can say I'd vote for either of those. I'd listen to how -- what they feel about the issues. I'm concerned that people identify more with their party than solving the issue. For instance, if everybody in Congress is for a balanced budget, I find it hard to believe that they can't sit down and compromise there. I would be for compromise -- uh -- in a situation like that. The Congressmen seem to identify too much with their party and rather than finding the solution in the middle that would benefit the American people. That's what I would like to see.
SMITH: Let me go back to the Professor. You're talking about strengthening parties and you find in this group here a very kind of wary attitude towards political parties. Whoa. We know that the voting is heavily along party lines in the Congress today. How do you answer these people?
SINCLAIR: I think in part it's important to realize that there are some real deeply felt differences in terms of solutions to problems. I mean, people truly disagree about what is good public policy and that at some point the voters are going to have to make the choice. I mean, you can make the choice by voting in, you know, your district and the person you vote for by themselves they can do nothing. They can only do things in concert with others.
You see, I fear that the way in which people are becoming so cynical about their government will lead to fewer and fewer people being engaged and a de facto oligarchy, you know, the few people who have a clear financial interest running the country just because the rest of us don't do anything. And partly it's because we don't think anything we do is going to have an impact.
SMITH: Let me ask you Congressman Orton, you're an advocate of term limits, that is limiting the amount of time people could be in Congress. Why do you advocate term limits?
CONG. ORTON: Well, a term limit is not a reflection of disagreement with your own representative. They've got a term limit. It's two years. You can throw them out in two years. I support it because I think the genius of our government is that it's of the people, by the people and for the people. And if you limit the amount of terms that you can serve, you bring more people in with new ideas, with greater energy. You bring people into this place who haven't figured out that you can't do something a certain way. And they'll come up with different ideas and that's --that's the strength of our democracy and our representative system.
SMITH: Miss Garriga, how do you feel about term limits, good idea?
GARRIGA: I think that an incumbent has a lot of experience and know how about how to get things done in Congress. It's very important to know people and to know how the procedures work. And I know there's a lot terminology and lingo that goes along with it.
-- uh -- and to have somebody learning that each time there's a longer period of time before they become effective, I think, or as effective as they could be. So, it might actually slow things down further.
SMITH: Tanya Baldwin, how do you feel about term limits?
BALDWIN: I think that until we get term limits set and get rid of the good boy network -- well, now, I'll vote for you program if you'll vote for mine --
SMITH: And sugar and peanuts and tobacco --
BALDWIN: Exactly. I mean, if we're going to balance the budget, let's balance it, reduce it 5 percent this month, across the board. Everybody's program gets hurt. But until we do that, we're not going to have a country to turn down to our grandchildren.
SMITH: Mollie Fields, is term limits an answer. Cut them off, tell the politicians you can't stay in Washington any longer?
FIELDS: I don't think so. -- uh -- I think the people in each district know who they would like to represent them and they can vote them in or out. -- uh -- my concern is that the people we send seem to forget these little words, we, the people. That's what we sent them there for.
SMITH: Mr. Pagenhart, term limits, do you like the idea?
PAGENHART:No, I don't. I don't like the old guard and I don't like the radical new guard, because they have -- they are the ones with the cause of this gridlock.
SMITH: Let's go back to the issue that Miss Baldwin was just talking about, balancing the budget, bringing down the deficit. It's been a key issue, we've been talking about it -- and my recollection -- for at least 15 years and maybe longer, ok?
You go back to 1988, we elected a Republican President and a Democratic Congress. Didn't like that, how that came out, so we elected a Democratic President and a Democrat Congress. Didn't work out terribly well for a couple of years, so we kept the Democratic Congress and we elected a Republican.
If I understand Mr. Cutler correctly he's saying that as long as we keep it shifting around, dividing it, we don't know who to say, hey you're doing a terrible job and we're going to keep you out for a while. Is that the point?
CUTLER: The point is to let the voters at least think about whether they want
to equip the new President with his new program with the majorities he needs in order to have a chance to do it.
SMITH: Mr. Spinrad, early on in the conversation mentioned that he thought that the terms of members of the House should be the same length as the terms of the President. That's an idea you have as well, Congressman Orton. Share with us why you think that's a good idea.
Well, there are a number of reasons. One, a two year terms -- you spend a great deal of your time raising money and running for reelection. And the people get tired of that. Every time you go in and vote -- uh -- it's how will that look to the constituency, to this interest group or that interest group. And, so there's a great deal of that kind pressure. I think a longer term relieves some of that pressure and I think a longer term can put more synergy between the Congress and the President in being able to work out a particular agenda.
SMITH: Miss Czarnecki, do you buy that? Is that a good idea?
CZARNECKI: I think it's an excellent idea. I've thought that for a long time.
SMITH: Take a Constitutional amendment. This would be a big deal.
CZARNECKI: Oh -- oh, yeah...
SMITH: Other people around the room, how do you feel about it? Mr. Cathcart?
CATHCART: I found I disagree with it, because in looking at the way the Constitution is set up at the present time, I know there is a need for change, because of gridlock now.
-- uh -- but we also need to look at the way things are fashioned and this was fashioned in such a way that --uh -- it has worked beautifully for over 200 years.
SMITH: But wait a second. You say it's worked beautiful. But if you look at any opinion poll in this country
The governments -- the country's off track, Washington's stuck in gridlock.
CATHCART: We need to work in a way to, say, avoid this gridlock but as far as having -- uh -- a solution to that, I right now don't have a solution.
SMITH: That's fair enough. Mr. Dohm, how do you feel about parties and pulling you know -- holding them together and this idea of trying to get a greater bond between the White House and the Congress by having House members run for four year terms along with the President?
DOHM: I would have to go along with the four-year term. I think that would be the best.
ALLENDER: It sounds good but I don't know if it would ever come to be.
SMITH: Mr. Prindle, how do you feel about a four year term?
PRINDLE: I like the two year system for Congressmen. I think it's up to the voters to decide if that person is representing them well not just as a party member but on the issues.
SMITH: Mrs. Stacy, let me ask you how do you feel about lone rangers, do you want your senator or congressman to be a lone ranger? Is that good?
STACY: It could be good, but if it's not going to get done what we need to have done, then no. I don't want him to be a Lone Ranger. I want him to be a person who's willing to compromise. \And I don't -- I don't want him to sticks -- uh -- to party lines. I want him -- I don't know why we can't do away with the parties all together and vote issues and vote people rather than parties.
SMITH: Let me ask you, Julie Sung, you're the new citizen. How important is party to you.
SUNG: Um, I consider myself a Republican. Yet whether you're a Democrat or Republican, you shouldn't go to the extreme.I think there needs to be what we all said, compromise. They need to go back to, you know, you know the poem, "What I Learned In Kindergarten." how to share and compromise and the social skills, you know. -- uh -- I think they're just -- uh -- they're too concerned about saving face rather than -- uh -- the general welfare of the American people.
SMITH: How about you, Mr. Perez, how important is party to you?
PEREZ: -- uh -- not -- not at all. I mean, I'm a registered Republican, but I haven't voted Republican in I don't know how long. I'm embarrassed that we had to shut down the government, I mean, because they couldn't --they couldn't come to terms. They couldn't compromise. I mean, we're the United States. We set the example and there we are shutting down the government. I mean, I was very embarrassed when that happened.
SMITH: Jean [SIC] Brody, how did you feel about the government shutdown?
BRODY: I was embarrassed too. I think they need to learn to compromise, but if I could regress [SIC], the idea of the four -- the term together --
SMITH: Four year term.
BRODY: Yeah, I just want to say that it worries me that the oligarchy will become more of a monarchy if all that power is centered. And if we do have those party identities right now, what will keep us from swinging too far to the left when the left is in power and then -- and then where there's dissatisfaction we'll swing way far to the right when -- uh -- when that party is in power and that would worry me.
SMITH: Lloyd Cutler, what do you say to that because you've been advocating that we ought to put one party or another in charge either Miss Brody and others saying, I don't want to see it swing so far. What's your --
CUTLER: That's where the other checks and balances that were put into the Constitution come in. I'm not saying we want every program of the majority party to be carried out. They have to survive the checks and balances built into the Constitution.
Some things such as a balance the budget amendment take a two-thirds majority. The filibuster rule that Bill Cohen was talking about means you need 60 votes --
SMITH: In the Senate to cut off --
CUTLER: In the Senate. -- uh -- the blue dogs and their counterparts [Inaudible - somebody coughing] and the --
CUTLER: the blue dogs and the -- their counterparts in the Senate are going to continue to exist. But the record shows I think pretty clearly that with all the problems, the government has worked better when one party was in control of all three branches.
We can't make even these minor fiddles in Medicare today with the President of one party and a majority in Congress in both Houses of the other party. That's the essence of what I'm saying.
SEN. COHEN: I wanted to take issue with your premise that you stated a few moments ago when you said our Congress is in great disrepair. Never has a country been more dissatisfied than they are about -- uh -- Congress as an institution.
SMITH: Government, I said, as a whole.
SEN. COHEN: First I'd point out that historically Congress has never been held in high esteem. On rare occasions only. Today, it perhaps is more cynical than ever, but there are a couple of reasons for that that we haven't talk about.
One, our members of Congress who run against the institution by denigrating; second is the proliferation of media who constantly stress the negative and who have shorn the mystique -- if any mystique -- that Congress might have held in the past. And, so, what you have is a combination of people who are inside throwing stones at the institution and those on the outside who are throwing stones at the institution. And that has contributed this denigration of the best institution in the world.
John Gardner, sometime ago, wrote a book called the recovery of confidence and that's something I think that we should be talking about, how do we restore confidence in our institutions that we're satisfied that they work.
So, the restoration of confidence -- the problem is that our institutions have become caught in a savage cross fire between unloving critics and uncritical lovers. And what he was suggesting is we have to have critical lovers of the system and that's what's missing in today's society.
SMITH: Mr. Slater, what would it take to restore your confidence in the system even more than you have it today?
SLATER: I would feel that if the media were to portray the actual situation perhaps with a -- with a less biased leading question that we would find that perhaps the confidence is higher than what people might expect.
SMITH: Mr. Walker, what would it take for you?
WALKER: I believe if -- if the Congressmen and the Senators could check their egos and not worry about what the media says about them and roll up their sleeves and go at it -- I wish you could. I mean, I know that -- I know that the media has a lot to do -- you know, your image and all, but I think sometimes --
SEN. COHEN: It doesn't have to do with image. It has to do with what they're saying to the public to make you cynical about the process.
SMITH: Mr. Tanner, what would it take for you to have greater confidence in the system?
TANNER: Oh, I don't -- I don't think that I have a problem with the system.
The reason it occurred was because we had two different strong individuals who wanted to ride roughshod over everybody else. So, the system kind of buckled down on them. They didn't accomplish what they needed.
I'm encouraged by that. I know we got monumental problems and we really have to solve them. But I'm not ready to throw our system out.
SMITH: Sara Stewart, what would it take for you?
STEWART: I think our politicians need to get to the point, stick to the facts -- uh -- make their decisions based on that, their feelings, their heart and not personalities and egos, put the American public's interest and desires out in front.
SMITH: Kathy Czarnecki I saw your hand up?
CZARNECKI: Yeah, I like the idea of town hall meetings. I know they can't get back and forth real often to their particular town or state. But if you did this -- and I've been to a town meeting, it's very enlightening and it makes you have a closer relationship with that person then. You can kind of talk one on one.
SMITH: Mary Jean Frazer?
FRAZER: I would like the Senators and the Congressmen to think of their job more as a job, not as a prize. They're supposed to be serving me. They're supposed to go and do their job instead of being so concerned with the trappings of their office. I am the Senator, I have the power, I am on this committee and don't you forget it. I'd rather they went in, did their job and went home in a few years.
SMITH: Scott Phillips, what would it take for you -- can you think of one thing to restore you confidence in the system?
PHILLIPS: To see the leaders of the power centers work to get something accomplished. -- uh -- I think what we're really missing is -- uh -- in this whole debate and as we watched the documentary -- at no point in time, in my mind, did I see people really honestly coming together to have discourse and discussion to come to some resolution on an issue. And I think if we saw that it would help us to restore our faith in our government. And it -- it just hasn't happened.
SMITH: I want to thank the participants here. The elected officials, the experts, you all who've flown in from all across the country. What we have shared with you this evening, viewers, are some of the problems in our political system. You've seen the deadlock between a Democratic White House and a Republican Congress. You have seen some progress on the issues.
But you heard a discussion which seeks to go beyond the personalities and the parties, to try to talk about potential solutions. Some talk about solutions in the center and compromise. Others talk about the solution of strengthening the parties, strengthening the connections between the White House and Congress.
But our democracy will not work better and will not be strengthened unless we the people as citizens engage ourselves in the great enterprise of making our democracy work better. I'm Hedrick Smith. Thank you for watching.