The Pact: Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and the Rivalry that Defined a Generation
Steven M. Gillon
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Most Americans saw President Bill Clinton and Speaker Newt Gingrich as staunch foes--"the polar extremes of Pennsylvania Avenue." But as Steven Gillon reveals in The Pact, these powerful adversaries formed a secret alliance in 1997, a pact that would have rocked the political landscape, had it not foundered in the wake of the Lewinsky scandal.
A fascinating look at politics American-style, The Pact offers a riveting account of two of America's most charismatic and influential leaders, detailing both their differences and their striking similarities, and highlighting the profound and lasting impact the tumultuous 1960s had on both their personal and political lives. With the cooperation of both President Clinton and Speaker Gingrich, interviews with key players who have never before spoken about their experiences, along with unprecedented access to Gingrich's private papers, Gillon not only offers a behind-the-scenes look at the budget impasse and the government shutdown in 1995--the famous face-off between Clinton and Gingrich--but he also reveals how the two moved closer together after 1996--closer than anyone knew. In particular, the book illuminates their secret efforts to abandon the liberal and conservative wings of their own parties and strike a bi-partisan deal to reform the "third rail of American politics"--Social Security and Medicare. That potentially groundbreaking effort was swept away by the highly charged reaction to the Lewinsky affair, ending an initiative that might have transformed millions of American lives.
Packed with compelling new revelations about two of the most powerful and intriguing figures of our time, this book will be must reading for everyone interested in politics or current events.
to listen to their complaints and defuse a tense situation. “Oh, I hear we have a problem,” he said with a tone of sarcasm. Just in case they had any doubt, he underscored that he planned to stay on as Speaker and that he was the one calling the shots. As Speaker, he said, “I am in essence the head coach of the House Republicans.”43 The coup quickly evaporated, the plotters running for cover, pointing accusatory fingers at each other.44 If the coup was designed to send a warning signal to the
1998. 29. Bill Clinton, My Life (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), 813. 30. Newt Gingrich interview. 31. Karen Tumulty, “On the Fast Track to Impeach,” Time, October 12, 1998. 32. Mel Steely interview. 33. Clinton, My Life, 836. 34. David Maraniss, The Clinton Enigma (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998), 10–11. 35. Gail Sheehy, “The Inner Quest of Newt Gingrich,” Vanity Fair, September 1995. 36. David Corn, “The ‘Big’ One That Got Away,” Salon.com, August 12, 1999. 37.
segregationist Democrat. Gingrich scored his strongest support from suburban areas, which made up 66.9 percent of his overall vote, while his lowest totals came from rural districts.23 Fortunately for him, the suburban areas were the ones experiencing the largest increase in population.24 In all of his campaigns, Newt Gingrich went out of his way to reassure conservative voters that he was a good family man, as can be seen in this flier from one of his early campaigns. (Chip Kahn.) Flynt,
to turn out their base, candidates frequently used emotionally charged, negative television ads designed to arouse passion and indignation. Powerful new computers allowed campaigns to design more effective direct mail and fundraising appeals. The negative tone and simplistic appeals alienated many middle-of-the road voters, who either declared themselves independents or dropped out of the system altogether. In the South, voter turnout declined from 73 percent in 1960 to 54 percent in 1988. The
congressional districts in the nation, but it did little to diminish his desire to play a major role on the national stage. He continued to offer the president political advice. Over Labor Day, Gingrich warned Republicans not to underestimate Clinton. “Bill Clinton is one of the greatest campaigners I’ve seen,” he said. “Don’t take him for granted.”34 The situation grew even more complicated after Perot decided to get back into the race. Gingrich believed Perot posed a special threat because he