COASTING TO THE GOP NOMINATION
"He's probably the least qualified person ever to be nominated for a major party. What is his accomplishment? That he's no longer an obnoxious drunk." -- Ron Reagan, son of President Ronald Reagan
THE "ALL- OIL" TICKET. Bush chose Dick Cheney, his father's secretary of defense, to head up a team in search of a running-mate. Both Cheney and the Texas governor's father, President George H. Bush, were deeply immersed in the oil business. The elder Bush began his venture in 1973 at the height of the oil embargo when skyrocketing gasoline prices hit the American market. The rise in oil prices prompted him to invest more in the oil industry. Then George W. Bush followed in his father's steps, investing in three Texas oil companies which eventually went belly up. This was the first "all-oil" ticket in American history.
And in the end, Bush reverted to the Old Guard by choosing that very person. But to enhance his chances of becoming the forty-third president of the United States, Bush needed either Powell or McCain as a running-mate in order to secure independent voters as well as Republicans who abandoned the party. Until he wrapped up the GOP nomination, Bush's anger toward McCain was obvious to all. In fact after Super Tuesday -- when Bush sewed up the nomination -- he said that he had learned nothing from McCain. A month later in April, Bush announced publicly for the first time that he would consider the Arizona senator for the number two spot on the November ticket.
However, McCain's spokesman, Todd Harris, immediately took the wind out of the sails by replying, "Talk like this is always flattering whether it's from Governor Bush or Jesse Ventura. However, Senator McCain has made it more than clear that he is not interested in being vice president." McCain himself said repeatedly and forcefully that he was not interested in the vice- presidency. The New York Times (April 18, 2000) quoted Bush at a news conference as saying, "I know he said he's not interested, but until I talk to him and find out how interested or not interested he is, I'll give him consideration." On May 9, McCain and Bush talked face-to-face for the first time since the governor sewed up the nomination. The Arizona senator said flatly that he would not accept the vice-presidential slot on the ticket.
CHENEY'S BACKGROUND. A large chunk of Bush's advisers throughout the campaign had been part of his father's administration. As secretary of defense, Cheney oversaw one of the largest privatization efforts in the history of the Pentagon, steering millions of military dollars to civilian contractors. Two and a half years after Cheney left his federal job, he began cashing in on the very contracts that he helped initiate.
Both Bush and Cheney were in bed with the oil sector. During the campaign, Bush had the strong financial backing the oil at a time when gasoline prices increased in mid-2000. His close ties to "Big Oil" dated back to the 1980s when he tried to follow in the footsteps of his father who had made a small fortune as an oil executive in the 1950s, lining up investors with the help of his family name and political connections. By the summer of 2000, Bush raked in $2 million from large oil corporations, while Gore's take was about $100,000. Gore tried to make his oil ties an issue. Bush responded to rising gasoline prices by blaming the Clinton administration, saying that it failed to get foreign oil producers to raise production.
Bush campaign spokesman Scott McClellan denied charges that Bush had cozied up to the oil industry, saying in a New York Times (June 23, 2000) article, "Al Gore is doing everything he can to divert attention away from the administration's failed leadership." While Bush was campaigning for the presidency, he was still helping the Texas oil industry. He assisted independent oil and gas producers in 1999 when he signed an emergency bill giving them tax breaks. McClellan defended the move: "The sector was in dire straits. The governor supported it to help small oil and gas producers and field workers who depend on the sector to put food on the table."
Cheney's political career dated back to the 1970s when, as Wyoming congressman, had one of the most conservative voting records of any member of Congress during his five terms in the House. The Washington Post (July 27, 2000) spelled out his position on numerous issues. Cheney voted against the Equal Rights Amendment, abortion rights, and a resolution to urge the release of Nelson Mandela from a South African prison during apartheid. He was one of just 21 lawmakers who opposed the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act. He was one of 33 Republicans who opposed authorizing funds for Head Start. Cheney took an even harder anti-gun control position than Reagan's attorney general, Edwin Meese III, who initially opposed the plastic gun ban but changed his mind after law enforcement groups lobbied him. He opposed abortion rights and voted against federal funding of abortions even in cases of rape, incest, or when a woman's life is in danger. As congressman, he opposed funding for the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.
Cheney also opposed funding for Head Start. He voted against spending more on "Superfund" environmental cleanups and supported oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. But he opposed gas and oil leasing in his home state of Wyoming and wanted to designate 650,000 additional acres in Wyoming as wilderness areas. Cheney was a staunch supporter of a strong defense and backed Reagan's Star Wars, the deployment of the MX missile, production of new chemical weapons, and military aid to the Nicaraguan Contras. He favored raising the Social Security retirement age from 65 to 67 . In the area of civil rights, Cheney opposed busing to achieve racial desegregation in public schools, and he supported prayer in public schools. Cheney's track record shows that he opposed limiting contributions by political action committees. Finally, he opposed coverage of long-term home care for the chronically ill under Medicare and voted against a measure that would have shielded Medicare beneficiaries from bills for catastrophic illnesses and provided prescription drug coverage under Medicare.
AS SECRETARY OF DEFENSE. In 1989, President George H. Bush appointed Cheney his secretary of defense. Almost immediately, Cheney paid Texas-based Brown & Root Services (BRS) $3.9 million to produce a classified report detailing how private companies -- like itself -- could help provide logistics for American troops in potential war zones around the world. BRS specializes in such work. From 1962 to 1972, the company worked in the former South Vietnam building roads, landing strips, harbors, and military bases. Later in 1992, the Pentagon gave the company an additional $5 million to update its report. That same year, BRS won a massive, five-year logistics contract from the United States Army Corps of Engineers to work alongside American GIs in places like Zaire, Haiti, Somalia, Kosovo, the Balkans, and Saudi Arabia.
A multi-million dollar lawsuit marred Cheney's career while serving in the Defense Department. As secretary of defense, he acted so precipitously in canceling a Navy jet program that he helped spark a lawsuit that could expose the government to billions of dollars in judgments. The controversy began in 1988 when the Navy contracted with the Boeing and General Dynamics to build the A-12, which was to be a "stealthy" jet that would take off from aircraft carriers. Although the other stealthy warplane of that period, the B-2, was suffering colossal cost overruns, the Pentagon insisted the A-12 work be built by the two aerospace giants under a fixed-price contract. But the A-12 soon hit technical snags, especially in mastering the art of stealth. The two firms overspent their budgets, and deadlines were missed. But officials of the Navy and the firms mostly reported up the chain of command that all was well. Finally, on the eve of the Gulf War, Cheney made the decision to cancel the program, leading to 20,000 defense layoffs. Some Navy officials projected that it compromised naval air power for years.
Author James Stevenson (The $5 Billion Misunderstanding) documented several warnings that Cheney received about the A-12's $1 billion overruns and schedule problems. According to Stevenson, "He (Cheney) was given numerous warnings, and he either heard them or he didn't. If he didn't, he was a manager asleep at the switch. If he did, he made misleading comments to Congress."
Cheney denied at trial in 1996 that he ordered the termination. But according to the judge and as reported in the Washington Post (August 7, 2000), he acknowledged doing so in a letter to President Bush on January 4, 1991. Cheney testified: "The A-12, I did terminate. ... No one could tell me how much the program was going to cost. ... Data that had been presented at one point a few months ago turned out to be invalid. ...So after agonizing over it, I made a decision to shut down the program."
In his decision, the trial judge, Robert H. Hodges Jr. of the United States Court of Federal Claims, raised the possibility that Cheney misstated events when he played down his role in the killing of the A-12 contract. Friends of Cheney vehemently denied that allegation, and Cheney himself has refused comment. After he terminated the A-12 bomber, a federal judge ruled that the United States government had to compensate two defense contractors $2 billion. General Dynamics and Boeing were the two plaintiffs in the civil suit that generated 70 million pages, half of which were highly classified. Later, an appeals court overturned the decision on technical grounds and a retrial was scheduled.
CHENEY'S VOTING RECORD. While registered to vote in Dallas county, Texas, Cheney only voted in two of the state's 16 elections over a span of five years. The Dallas Morning News (September 8, 2000) examined Texas' county records and showed that Cheney registered to vote in December 1995 after moving to Dallas from the Washington, D.C. The elections in which he voted were the November 1996 presidential election and the November 1998 race for governor and other state and local offices. He even missed Texas' March primary where he had the opportunity to vote for Bush.
The 14 Dallas county elections Cheney skipped were the presidential and state primaries, primary runoffs, and Highland Park city elections in 1996; two state constitutional amendment votes in 1997; a Highland Park school board vote, a Highland Park city election, a state primary, and primary runoffs in 1998; a hotly contested Highland Park school bond election and a constitutional amendment vote in 1999; and the 2000 primary and primary runoffs.
Acknowledging that he failed to vote in 85 percent of the state's elections, Cheney tried to brush off criticism, saying that he voted "in every federal primary and general election in the last 20-some years." Cheney rationalized that he "traveled a great deal. Dallas was my base. That's where I lived or was headquartered, but I was not involved in community affairs very extensively in Dallas. My focus was on global concerns." Even though Cheney was frequently away from Texas doing business for Halliburton Corporation -- the Dallas-based oil services giant -- where he was CEO, Texas election law generously allows for absentee voting.
To avoid a constitutional conflict with running mates from the same state, Cheney changed his voter registration to Wyoming, his home state, in July, days before being tapped by Bush. Then he did vote in the Wyoming August primary. But since presidential candidates did not appear on the Wyoming ballot, Cheney did not have an opportunity to vote for Bush.
The Gore campaign responded to Cheney's dismal voting record, saying, "It appears that Dick Cheney did not receive a major-league vetting by George W. Bush. What this shows is that George W. Bush ... picked someone who not only was a member of the Republican old guard, not only someone who is a big oil executive, but someone who doesn't even vote all that often."
THE HALLIBURTON CONNECTION. In 1991, Cheney oversaw the military's performance in the Gulf War. After Clinton's election cost Cheney his government job, he wound up in 1995 as CEO of Halliburton -- which just happened to own BRS. Since then, he made millions running a business that provided services to that same military. That business contributed $250,000 to the Republican cause in the first half of 2000. According to the New York Times (July 31, 2000), Cheney collected more than $10 million in salary and stock payments from the company. In addition, he was the company's largest individual shareholder, holding stock and options worth another $40 million. Those holdings undoubtedly became more valuable by the lucrative contracts which BRS had with the Pentagon.
Between 1992 and 1999, the Pentagon paid BRS more than $1.2 billion for its work in trouble spots around the globe. In May of 1999, the United States Army Corps of Engineers re-enlisted the company's help in the Balkans, giving it a new five-year contract worth $731 million. Cheney's work for Halliburton allowed him to improperly profit off of actions he took and contacts he made while in government. According to Tom Smith, "Over the years, we've tried to slow the revolving door to make sure decision makers don't benefit from decisions they make while they are in office. ... You have to question whose interests Cheney is looking after, and whether privatization has really benefitted the Department of Defense, or the defense contractors like Brown & Root."
The Washington Post (July 29, 2000) quoted Pratap Chatterjee, a radio journalist. Claiming that Cheney used his contacts within government to enrich himself, Chatterjee said, "We are talking about nepotism of the highest order and profiteering at the expense of the US taxpayers." Chatterjee pointed out that BRS got a one percent profit guarantee on their logistics contracts and that in Somalia, the company was given another eight percentage points for meeting various incentive clauses in their contract. Chatterjee added, "Compare that with average corporate profit percentages, which are about three percent."
While Cheney was CEO at Halliburton, American diplomats in Asia and Africa worked aggressively to help the oil giant secure lucrative overseas contracts, according to State Department memos released in the ,I>New York Times (October 27, 2000). The State Department memos were secured by the New York Times under the Freedom of Information Act, showing that American overseas personnel worked aggressively and eagerly to help Halliburton land contracts in Angola, Bangladesh, Algeria, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and elsewhere.
In an Angolan oil deal, State Department officials there boasted in a cable to Secretary of State Albright in 1998 that they had "literally camped out" at local government, banking, and oil- industry offices," in an attempt to obtain the "transfer of funds" on behalf of Halliburton. The cable continued: "The bottom line: thousands of America jobs and a foot in the door for Halliburton to win even bigger contracts." American officials said that they had "worked systematically to remove the barriers" to financing Halliburton's deal through the Export-Import Bank. The cable said that officials were able to help establish a special corporate structure for Halliburton's work in the country that "may serve as a model for even greater export financing deals" being developed by other companies."
In Bangladesh, where Halliburton wanted to begin tapping a gas field in which it had a stake, American officials lobbied on the company's behalf with Bangladeshi officials. And in Russia, a Halliburton executive met with United States embassy officials in Moscow to search for ways to navigate the troubled Russian economy. If companies such as Halliburton could not work out financing schemes with Russian oil companies, they "risk being beaten to the punch when Russian companies are ready and able to start paying again," one State Department cable warned.
The New York Times (October 25, 2000) reported that Cheney made nearly $46,000 on stock investments in the summer of 1999 -- for an 80 percent return -- by gaining access to nine initial public offerings for technology companies. During the October 5 vice presidential debate, Cheney claimed that "the government had absolutely nothing to do" with the wealth that he achieved in the private sector as head of the company.
But Mark Fabiani, Gore's deputy campaign director, said in an interview in the New York Times, "The evidence is now clear that Dick Cheney is a hypocrite. He not only relied on the government for contracts but he also used his government connections to win business. I know what he said during the debate before millions of people, and now we know it's not true." Fabiani said that such business dealings should raise suspicions in voters' minds. "The work of his company is now under federal grand jury investigation . . . and he received special ... treatment not available to average Americans when he got access to those initial public offerings."
In October 2000, the oil giant received more bad news. it was announced that Halliburton was under criminal investigation for allegedly defrauding the federal government out of millions of dollars in the closure of the Fort Ord, California military base. According to the New York Times(October 26, 2000), the probe was triggered by Dammen Gant Campbell, a former manager of Brown & Root Services Corporation which is a subsidiary of Halliburton. Campbell filed a whistle-blower lawsuit alleging that the engineering company billed the government for high- quality goods but substituted lesser-quality materials in its Northern California work.
Brown & Root landed a major contract after the military decided to close the 28,000-acre Fort Ord compound in 1994 as part of a wave of peace-time base closures. Brown & Root helped convert the Monterey base to government and civilian uses. But Campbell, who worked on the Fort Ord project, alleged in a federal lawsuit that the company engaged in "a scheme to defraud the government" by inflating and fabricating its billings from 1995 to about 1997. According to Campbell's attorney, Daniel Schrader, the overbillings could add up to $6 million. If Campbell could prove his case in court, he would be entitled to 15 percent to 30 percent of the damages under the Federal False Claims Act of 1986 -- with the remainder going to the federal government.
Schrader alleged that Brown & Root inflated its billings by promising high-quality material and services, then using cheaper products. For example, Schrader said that inspections of a converted office building revealed that Brown & Root had promised to use cast-iron plumbing and sheet metal heat-ducts but used much less costly materials. Key to the civil and criminal cases, Schrader said, would be determining whether top executives at Brown & Root and Halliburton were aware of the problems. "How far up the chain was it going? Who was ordering this?"
CHENEY'S LUCRATIVE WINDFALL. Since joining Halliburton in 1995, Cheney was paid at least $12.5 million and received stock and options worth nearly $39 million at its current share price. On the very day that Cheney accepted the vice-presidential post, the board of directors of Halliburton approved a retirement package worth an estimated $20 million, according to the New York Times (August 12, 2000). Cheney already owned 229,000 shares of Halliburton and had the option to buy 1.16 million shares at a price ranging from $21 to $54.50. Now the oil giant gave him a windfall for retiring -- 400,000 options and 140,000 shares.
Cheney found himself in a quandary. The "compassionate conservative" would have had to make a painful choice if the GOP ticket were to win in November. He would be compelled to surrender his options, since ownership of Halliburton stock would create a conflict of interest. By permitting Cheney to treat his departure as early retirement, the directors allowed him to keep $10 million worth of stock and options he would have forfeited had he simply resigned. Under Halliburton's stock option plan, 233,334 of the options, representing $3.4 million at the time he got the vice-presidential nomination, could not be exercised before he were elected. Halliburton would not allow him to sell or transfer stock options, according to Newsweek (August 28, 2000) because it did not want "to take any sort of special actions that would be accorded to just one individual." As a result, he would have to either abandon the holding or keep it until after the November general election, thus giving him a large stake in the future of Halliburton while he would serve as vice president. The chief financial officer of Halliburton, Gary Morris told the New York Times (August 17, 2000) that under the stock option plan, there was no way for Cheney to transfer the options, such as by giving them to a charity, before they were exercised. Halliburton said that it would report an $8.5 million expense as a result of Cheney's departure. Morris said that the expense covered the value of the options and the restricted stock that had not yet vested before Cheney retired.
The Washington Post (September 13, 2000) reported that Cheney made an $18.5 million profit by exercising stock options in Halliburton. He exercised options to buy 660,000 shares in the Dallas-based company at prices between $21 and $29.56 during the week of August 21 through 28. During that same period, he sold the Halliburton shares at between $52.28 and $53.93 a share.
In late August, Cheney appeared on a Sunday television talk show and said that he should not be required "to give away all my assets" in order to return to public life. But then on September 1, he announced that he would give up millions of dollars worth of stock options if the GOP ticket won in November. That meant that he would forfeit 233,000 shares of future stock options worth about $3.7 million, that would be available to him only after the inauguration.
Bush responded to Cheney's preferential treatment, telling the Los Angeles Times (August 13, 2000) that he saw nothing improper with the large retirement payment. And Bush said emphatically that he would not ask Cheney to disqualify himself from energy-related issues, should he become vice-president. Bush made clear the arrangement did not concern him, saying "I was aware that he was going to get a retirement package, like the standard practice for CEOs when they leave major companies. I think what you ought to do is ask: Does the board of directors know what they are doing, are they expert, and let the experts make the decision as to what's fair."
Bush also said that he saw no reason to ask Cheney to excuse himself from energy-related policy if elected. Bush added, "I'm going to take (Cheney's) advice on how to make our country less dependent on foreign sources of crude oil. I think he's a man of strategic vision; he sees the world the way it is and he's got good judgment. What I want him to do is not be owning oil stocks so he benefits from decisions we make in the administration. ... He'll follow the same rules I'll follow and that is we'll put all of our assets in blind trusts."
After Cheney was tapped as the vice presidential nominee, the Republican National Committee collected almost $800,000 in unregulated soft money donations from energy companies in the last week of July alone. Some of the companies had not given any soft money this year until Cheney joined the ticket. The $791,100 in energy contributions during the last week of July were part of the $25.2 million in soft money donations the RNC took in during all of July -- half as much as they raised during the previous six months. The party took in 86 donations of $100,000 or more.
BUSH CHARGES GORE WITH A CONFLICT OF INTEREST. In May, Bush charged that Gore that Gore had an oil-related conflict of interest because of a family trust that held stock in Occidental Petroleum Corporation. When his father died in December 1999, Gore inherited Occidental stock valued at as much as $500,000. Gore responded to Bush's charges, saying, "According to his will, that was put into a trust fund to benefit my mother for the remainder of her life."
For seven weeks after Cheney was crowned the vice presidential nominee, he remained silent on Gore's ties to "Big Oil." Finally in late September, Cheney said that three months earlier Gore had advocated extending a moratorium on royalties which American companies would have to pay to drill for natural gas in the Gulf of Mexico. Cheney said in the New York Times (September 25, 2000), "At the time, it was clear that perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the proposed extension was Occidental Oil." He added that Gore should step aside from any decisions that would affect the price of Occidental stock or else the family trust should sell the stock.
Gore spokesman Doug Hattaway responded in the New York Times to Cheney's criticism, "Bush and Cheney have been carrying water for their friends in the oil industry and they are obviously on the defensive about that."
THE WIFE OF THE NOMINEE. Lynne Cheney's background in politics dated back to the Reagan administration where she headed the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in 1986. She used her post at the NEH to fight the Republican culture wars of the eighties. At the NEH she also criticized colleges for shifting away from traditional Western Civilization courses toward global history and culture. She argued that the American experience was the high point of world history. She failed to pack the advisory panel of the NEH with arch- conservatives. She complained about too much favorable attention that were given to the women and minorities.
Lynn Cheney continued to serve as head of the NEH through the Bush years and moved to the American Enterprise Institute to write newspaper editorials as well as co-hosting the CNN's Crossfire Sunday. As a member of the NEH, Lynn Cheney also became a member of the American Enterprise Institute in 1993 where she directed the defense contractor Lockheed Martin. She also wrote Op-Ed pieces in the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard. and once in a the New York Times.
Lynn Cheney's biggest campaign was her 1994 battle against the National History Standards which were published that year with NEH funding. After her husband got the vice presidential nomination, she told Cokie Roberts on ABC's This Week (July 30, 2000) that the standards were "a disaster." She then launched her campaign against the standards in a Wall Street Journal Op- Ed piece in which she argued that they included too much about women and minorities and not enough about white men. She said that Harriet Tubman, the African-American who led escaping slaves to freedom before the Civil War, was mentioned six times, while George Washington was barely quoted.
At the GOP convention in Philadelphia in 2000, she introduced her husband but failed to be convincing. A few days later Newsday called her "the woman with the sock in her mouth," and the Chicago Sun-Times named her speech the "worst performance" of the convention, because she "felt compelled to portray herself so, well, lamely."
On the campaign trail in California, she played the Laura Bush role and did the wifely thing, visiting an elementary-school classroom for a photo-op with children. The conservative William Bennett told the Washington Post, "She'll be hard to muzzle." Perhaps Bennett meant that as the wife of a vice president she could lead a revival of the 1980s culture wars.
THE GOP PLATFORM. Well over a year in advance, Republican Party bosses had hand-picked Bush as their presidential nominee. Months before the coronation, they hammered out their party's 64-page platform. When the convention opened on July 31 in Philadelphia, the carefully choreographed "big show" commenced. As part of a tone to reflect "compassionate conservatism," the GOP softened its official position on issues ranging from education to immigration to the environment.
In 1996, the Republican Party proposed banning a number of federal departments. But four years later, in an attempt to woo independent voters, party bosses were moot on calling for the elimination of half a dozen federal departments -- from the National Endowment for the Arts to the Department of Education. Bush and the Republican leadership also differed over the role of a number of federal departments. While the party called for a limited federal government in the area of education, Bush proposed that the Education Department play a greater role. The platform called for a multi-pronged federal initiative to improve literacy and make it easier for parents to pay for their child's education. The platform also called for merit pay for teachers, improved training, and protection from meritless lawsuits.
The GOP also eliminated the hostile language on immigration which was incorporated into the 1996 platform in the wake of California's Proposition 187. The initiative targeting illegal immigration antagonized millions of Latino voters and created a backlash. In 1996 the GOP platform sought to forbid giving social services to illegal immigrants and sought a constitutional amendment ending American citizenship for their children. In 2000 the draft document included a strong endorsement of the role played by immigrants: "Our country still attracts the best and brightest to invent here, create wealth here and improve the quality of life here. As a nation of immigrants, we welcome these new Americans who have entered lawfully."
Four years earlier, the GOP platform sought to make English the "official" language of the United States. But the party leaders toned down this anti-immigrant sentiment in 2000 by suggesting that English should be considered "our common language" while encouraging "respect for other languages and cultures throughout our society."
In an explicit effort to reach out to female voters, the platform also contained a section calling for research into "diseases and health issues that disproportionately affect women." According to the draft, such medical research was "one of the few areas in which government investment yields tangible results." But the platform advocated a mostly hands-off approach to health care, favoring "a health care system that supports, not supplants, the private sector."
The platform called for tax cuts and sweeping changes in what it called a "dysfunctional" federal tax code. I n the area of environmental regulation, the platform favored a policy of cooperation with private interests and an emphasis on state regulation over federal mandates.
Throughout the campaign, Bush insisted that abortion should be legalized in instances such as rape and incest. He claimed that he would never have litmus tests and maintained that he favored abortion in cases of rape, incest, or to save a mother's life.
The GOP leadership argued over the issue of abortion which had been a perennial source of tension within the party. Quoted in the Los Angeles Times (July 29, 2000), delegate Meribelle Bolton of New Mexico said, "Many of us are under a higher authority. I'm under the authority of the creator of the universe, and he is pro-life. Always has been, always will be."
Toni Casey, a California delegate, said the platform not only contravened Bush's views but also failed to reflect the beliefs of "thousands and thousands of ... Republican men and women that are part of this great party and deserve a role and a voice in this platform." She called for dropping the abortion plank, arguing that the procedure is "a personal issue between a woman and her own religion." After Casey's motion was defeated in the subcommittee on a 10-3 vote, she proposed adding a paragraph to the platform welcoming people "on all sides of this complex issue. I can't understand why we are afraid of being inclusive." But other subcommittee proposed that no specific language to the abortion section be attached. Then the full platform committee took up the proposed amendments and overwhelmingly rejected both.
Ultimately, party bosses adopted a platform that favored a total ban on abortion while failing to acknowledge that some in the party disagreed. They also inserted a plank which called for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion, without exception, and the appointment of anti- abortion judges.
While Bush constantly pushed for Social Security reform, he continued to speak only in generalities. And nothing of substance was written into the GOP platform. Martin Feldstein -- the Harvard economist, former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, and adviser to President George W. Bush -- published a paper two months earlier, detailing how Bush's proposal to allow individuals to divert part of their Social Security contributions into personal retirement accounts "might" work. But the report contained a disclaimer which indicated that Bush had no plan. Feldstein's disclaimer read: "Although the plan described here resembles the proposal of Governor Bush, our analysis is not of the ‘Bush plan' since Governor Bush did not provide enough information with which to specify a ‘Bush plan.' "
THE ILLUSION OF INCLUSION. The Republican Convention followed in the heels of a GOP gala at the ancestral home of Jefferson Davis and the party's refusal to support a resolution condemning the Council of Conservative Citizens, the White supremacist group which had open access to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. And Bush's promises of inclusion followed his appearance at Bob Jones University and his unwillingness to condemn the Confederate flag in South Carolina.
According to Bush, the Republican Party was one large homogeneous group. He called for every single American who supported restoring dignity to the presidency to join his bandwagon. Throughout the campaign, Bush boasted that the GOP was the party of all Americans: Whites, Blacks, and Latinos; women and men; and rich and poor.
Of the 2,050 Republican delegates, one in five was a millionaire, and fewer than 10 percent had incomes of under $50,000 a year. Eighty-nine percent were Anglo. Latinos comprised only 4 percent; Blacks, 4 percent; and Asian-American, 2 percent. These numbers were less diverse for the American electorate which is comprised of Anglos who make up 81 percent; Blacks at 10 percent; Latinos at 6 percent; and Asian-Americans at 1 percent.
The choreographers of the "big show" in Philadelphia paraded an unprecedented number of minorities onto the stage. And they peered down to the 2,050 delegates, nearly all of whom were Anglo. Nearly every key Republican, except for Alan Keyes, was invited to the stage. A blind Black man recited the Pledge of Allegiance. A Black woman sang the Star Spangled Banner. Mexican singing star Vincente Fernandez performed. A Latino California congressman recited his speech in Spanish.
Even an openly gay Republican, Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe, was allowed to speak for three minutes. Many members of the Texas delegation responded by taking off their cowboy hats and bowing their heads in prayer as a silent protest during his speech. One held up a sign proclaiming, "There is a way out." Delegate Butch Davis of Houston said, "We believe there are moral rights and wrongs and we also believe that if any one of us did wrong, we would want others to pray for us."
GOP leaders insisted that their financial base was primarily small donors, but the party received more than $90 million from a relatively small pool of wealthy individuals and corporations. An elite group of 739 contributors provided two-thirds of the party's $137 million in soft money. According to the New York Times (August 2, 2000), party officials acknowledged that some donors have been directed by party officials to make their gifts in ways that disguise their identity and the degree of their largess. The party's platinum-level sponsors, the Republican Regents, consisted of 139 people and corporations that party officials say gave at least $250,000 in soft money since January 1999. Two-thirds of the Regents were individuals, and the rest were corporations. According to Federal Election Commission records, the select membership included Lawrence Kadish, a New York real estate developer; Kenneth Lay, the chairman of Enron Corporation; Jerrold Perenchio, the chairman of the Univision television network; and Alex Spanos, a developer and investor based in Stockton, California. But Federal Election Commission records showed only 54 corporations and individuals gave large donations to the party because some donors split them into smaller checks, at the suggestion of party officials. That effectively made the donors' contribution totals harder to trace. Some donors also wrote checks to state party committees, whose records were not filed with the Federal Election Commission and were hard to obtain. Several party fund-raisers acknowledged that some donors were told by finance officials to make contributions in the name of more obscure corporate subsidiaries that could not always be easily linked to individuals.
Bill Pascoe, the Republican Party press secretary, said he was not aware of a deliberate plan to direct large contributors to send checks to state party committees as a way of disguising the size of their gifts. But fund-raisers said big donors were willing to write numerous checks to different party committees to try to preserve their privacy. Some even asked for suggestions from party officials for ways to disguise their contribution levels.
In previous years, the donor elite was Team 100, a group of $100,000 contributors that began in 1988 to help elect President George Bush. By 2000 the club had grown to 600 members and accounts for more than $60 million of the party's $137 million in soft money. Some of the party's biggest donors also wrote large checks to state Republican Party chapters. For example 17 top donors to the national party also appeared as donors to the Indiana party, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. Sam Fox, the chairman of the Harbour Group, a Missouri manufacturing company, and the party's largest individual donor, was credited in state records with having given the Indiana party $275,000. But Fox said in an interview that he had not written a check to the state party. The institute found that 10 top national party contributors also gave a total of $367,000 to the New York party. A fund-raiser said that contributors were given credit for contributions to state parties when determining their qualifications for the Regents and Team 100 clubs money contributions are disappearing underground.
The only speaker to deviate from party policy was Colin Powell. Speaking on the issue of affirmative action, he challenged the Republican Party to improve its commitment to minorities. In a prime-time speech, Powell said that the party needed to sustain its outreach to minorities "every day," not just in an election year. He criticized the party for hypocrisy on the issue of affirmative action. Quoted in the New York Times (August 2, 2000), Powell added, "Some in our party miss no opportunity to roundly and loudly condemn affirmative action that helped a few thousand Black kids get an education, but hardly a whimper is heard from them over affirmative action for lobbyists who load our federal tax codes with preferences for special interests."
Bush added, "I don't know what specific policy he (Powell) had in mind, but he did refer (to) children not getting into places of higher education. And in my state, we took a very positive step toward ensuring that the racial mix of Texas universities reflects the nature of our population. You need to be a little careful when you see nothing wrong with that kind of preference or affirmative action, and it's fine, whether it's sugar growers in Florida or somewhere else in the tax code, but suddenly a preference system, as you call it, an affirmative action program, as I prefer to call it, that allows a few thousand kids to get an education, but this somehow is so damaging to our constitutional process that it has to become a major factor for our party and a major reason for the party to attack."
When pressed on affirmative action, Bush always claimed that he had a commitment to minorities. He frequently pointed to several high-profile appointments he made in Texas, including Tony Garza, his first pick to the state commission overseeing oil companies. However, Texas Democrats and minority groups criticized Bush for failing to make appointments that reflect the state's racial diversity. While estimates showed that Latinos constitute nearly 30 percent of Texas' population, they make up 13 percent of Bush's appointees. And while Blacks make up about 12.6 percent of the state's population, they amount to about 9 percent of the 3,000 appointments which Bush had made to various state boards and committees.
THE CONVENTION'S SPEAKERS. As a result of malaise among the American public, the networks scaled down coverage of the convention. And with each day of the convention, the number of listeners across the country diminished. According to the Washington Post (August 3, 2000), ABC saw its ratings fall about 25 percent, compared with the first two nights four years before. On CBS, the program "60 Minutes II" offered a repeat segment for the first half-hour and drew a 4.6 rating. That fell to a 4.1 once the convention coverage came on. Each rating point represented just over 1 million homes. The falloff was more drastic at NBC, where a "Dateline" segment on nursing homes drew a 7.2 rating in the first half-hour. The second half-hour of convention coverage lost almost half that audience, falling to a 3.8 rating.
On the first night of the convention, Powell spoke almost exclusively on domestic issues, despite the fact that he was chairman of the joint chiefs of staff during the war in the Persian Gulf. He shocked the delegates by castigating the party's position on affirmative action, and talked about the ills afflicting urban areas, the need to pay more attention to the education of the nation's children, and the problems of minorities. Only at the end did he probe into foreign affairs, assuring the delegates that Bush "will not repeat the mistakes of the past and let our insurance policy, our armed forces, fall into disrepair."
Speeches on the second day consisted mostly of similar generalizations. General Norman Schwarzkopf, who commanded American troops in the Middle East during the war, said that American military strength had withered since then. But he gave no prescription for rebuilding it, except to voice a wish for "another commander in chief named George Bush with Dick Cheney on his team."
McCain appeared to genuinely endorse his former rival, but it was still clear that the rift betwene the two had not subsided. They still ardently disagreed on campaign finance reform which was never addressed in his speech. Additionally, McCain never mellowed in his view that Bush's tax cut, a measure he attacked repeatedly during the primaries, was excessively large. Asked whether he would vote for the plan if Bush sent it to Congress if elected, McCain was quoted in the New York Times (August 3, 2000) as saying, "No. Nor would a majority of Republican senators and Republican House members." McCain also threw jabs at Clinton, saying that Bush "knows well that there is no safe alternative to American leadership, and he will not squander this unique moment in history by allowing America to retreat behind empty threats, false promises, and uncertain diplomacy.
Bush's foreign policy adviser, Condoleezza Rice, told the audience that Bush would not regard the American military as "a global police force" without a clue as to where and under what circumstances troops should be used. She promised that Bush would move at the earliest possible date to deploy an anti-missile system but gave no specifics. She added that Bush "recognizes the challenge the Chinese government poses to our interests and values" but never outlines how that challenge might be met.
Cheney, the keynote speaker on the third night, tried to temper his far right position on a number of issues. He claimed that he would no longer vote against funding the Head Start preschool program or tuberculosis vaccinations for children. He also said he no longer opposed funding the Department of Education. On the Equal Rights Amendment, Cheney said on CBS- TV's "Face the Nation" (July 27, 2000) that he supported it if it were made clear that the Pentagon would not required to draft women. One former stance Cheney said he would not change was his 1986 vote against a non-binding House resolution on Nelson Mandela that called for his release him from prison. Cheney told ABC's "This Week" (July 27, 2000) that he supported Mandela's release at the time but opposed the measure because the African National Congress "was then viewed as a terrorist organization. I don't have any problems at all with the vote I cast."
On the final night, Bush took the stage. Within 60 seconds, he compared himself to George Washington. Many of his lines were stolen directly from Teddy Kennedy. Historian Michael Beschloss told the New York Times (August 3, 2000), "No specifics, no nuance. I think the lack of content may be unprecedented. They argue that Bill Clinton paid less attention to foreign policy than any president since Herbert Hoover, which may be fair. But they have given no example here of how they would lead or where they would go."
One strategy of the GOP was to characterize Clinton and Gore as irrelevant bystanders in the years of an economic boom. Bush argued that the economy emerged almost as a natural phenomenon in the 1990s. Bush insisted, "For eight years, the Clinton-Gore administration has coasted through prosperity." But it was the Clinton-Gore's administration budget deals of 1993 and 1997 that replaced massive federal deficits with expanding surpluses that helped usher in a robust economy. Furthermore, the welfare reform bill of 1996 and the increase in the earned- income tax credit in 1993 lifted millions of working-poor families above the poverty line. The Democrats also enforced the Community Reinvestment Act, which pressured banks to lend to low-income borrowers, helped more minorities purchase homes. And the federal subsidies to hire thousands of new police officers under Clinton-Gore helped lower the national crime rate.
In his acceptance speech, Bush sounded as if it were the Republicans -- not the Democrats -- who had introduced Social Security, Medicare, Head Start, welfare, and civil rights legislation. On no less than nine occasions, he stole Clinton's ideas: The GOP nominee said, "Medicare does more than meet the needs of the elderly; it reflects the values of our society." "Medicare is more than just a program; it reflects our values." This came from remarks that Clinton made in 1997. "We will use these good times for great goals." And "Let us take our long look ahead and set great goals for our nation." Clinton made this statement during his State of the Union address in January 2000. The language fit into a strategy on the part of the Bush campaign to blur some of the traditional differences between the parties. Earlier, in a campaign stop on June 30, Bush told an audience, "How a country handles its moment of prosperity and opportunity is just as stern a test of our vision, our judgment, and our character as how we handle adversity." Clinton spoke similar words regularly six days earlier when he said, "How a country deals with its prosperity is at least as big a test of its judgment and its character as how a country deals with adversity."
Bush again showed his enthusiasm for a massive missile defense system. And he castigated the Clinton-Gore administration, accusing the White House of lowering the readiness of the military to a perilously low level. Bush also claimed that troop morale was extremely poor. He added, "If called on by the commander in chief today, two entire divisions of the Army would have to report: ‘Not ready for duty, sir!' "
Despite these charges, General Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff, responded by insisting that all Army divisions were ready for combat duty. A day after the convention shut down, Shelton acknowledged, according to the New York Times (August 5, 2000), that the armed forces had "some readiness shortfalls" that could not be fixed overnight. But he stated that all 10 of the Army's divisions were ready to carry out wartime missions. Shelton said the two divisions referred to by Bush had reported not being ready for war four to six months earlier -- partly because of commitments to missions in Bosnia and Kosovo-- but that the Army had "jumped right on top of that" and brought them back to combat readiness. Defending the Pentagon, Shelton said that Congress awarded the Defense Department $112 million in 1999 to replace low supplies of parts and equipment, and "that took care of our most critical readiness needs." He did acknowledge that the money was not enough to bring the armed forces to a level where he would like them.
PROMISING A POSITIVE CAMPAIGN -- AND GOING NEGATIVE. Until Cheney gave his red-meat speech on August 2 at the convention, the Republican Convention had gone for three days without ever mentioning Clinton's name. Becoming Bush's attack dog, Cheney attacked Clinton's for misguided policies. "We are all a little weary of the Clinton-Gore routine," Mr. Cheney said. "But the wheel has turned." Then, appropriating Gore's 1992 campaign slogan as his own, he said, "It is time for them to go!" Cheney portrayed Gore as mean-spirited by reviving former Senator Bill Bradley's dismissal of him six days before the New Hampshire primary: "A thousand promises. A thousand attacks." Cheney depicted Gore as intimately connected to an administration mired in scandal, and he sought to turn Gore's attacks on Bush's "risky tax scheme" back against the vice president.
The following evening, Bush spoke out of both sides of his mouth. On the one hand, he continued where Cheney had left off, firing barbs at the Clinton-Gore administration. While Bush hurled these insults at the Gore campaign, he asserted that the nation was "tired of the politics of personal destruction."
Just prior to the convention, Clinton suggested at a Democratic fund-raiser in Rhode Island that Bush was running for president on minimal qualifications. Speaking as if he were Bush, Clinton said, "I mean, how bad could I be? I've been governor of Texas; my daddy was president; I own a baseball team." Clinton possibly turned on Bush in response to Bush's own barbed comments that day on his inaugural campaign swing with Cheney. Bush described his running mate as "a solid man ... a man who understands what the definition of ‘is' is," referring to an often-ridiculed answer from Clinton during his 1998 grand jury testimony in the Lewinsky scandal. The elder Bush quickly stepped in, threatening to go public with his true feelings about the president "as a human being and as a person." Quoted in the New York Times (August 1, 2000), the former president complained that attacks on Cheney, were "coming out of the bowels of the Democratic National Committee." Then the ex-president threatened to unleash former first lady Barbara Bush if Clinton did not back off. Then the Gore campaign jumped in. Barbara Bush said that Americans were skeptical that Gore could return respect to the office. She said, "It would be very difficult, I think, with some of the things he's done."
The confrontation, which escalated when Barbara Bush criticized Gore on the convention's third day, worried many Republicans who felt that it will both distract from the carefully orchestrated show. A Bush insider, who did not want to be identified, told the New York Times(August 3, 2000), "It plays into (the Democrats') hands. It's what they want: a distraction from a perfect convention. Indeed, Democrats have welcomed the controversy."
Rove, Bush's chief strategist, rejected the notion that the Bush family-Clinton feud was interfering with the convention's carefully scripted message of moderation and civility. According to the Washington Post (August 3, 2000), Rove said, "I think what's more important ... is that the vice president is such a weak candidate that he's forced to rely upon a constant barrage of attacks launched by President Clinton. I think people see it as inappropriate and it paints a picture of Al Gore as a weak candidate and a weak leader."
Then Bush broke a self-imposed ban on attacking his opponent by name. The New York Times (August 2, 2000) quoted Bush: "This nation is sick and tired of the politics of personal destruction; they want are uniter, not a divider. This nation does not want four more years of Clinton-Gore." Bush continued to hurl barbs at the Clinton-Gore administration throughout the convention. He said, "It's amazing to me that the president of the United States would spend time trying to be a political pundit. He's so desperate to have his legacy intact by getting Al Gore elected, he'll say anything, just like Gore will." Later, in a satellite address to the convention, Bush praised three former presidents, including his father. "They served with honor and set high standards that I will work hard to uphold." During a rally on the second night of the convention, Bush told about 3,000 supporters in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania that he would bring to Washington "an administration that will raise this country's sights, an administration that will have big goals for the nation, an administration that sets a positive, optimistic tone." In Charleston, West Virginia, Bush continued his tirade, saying that Americans are "sick and tired of the politics of tearing people down. This nation is looking for an administration that will appeal to our better angels, not our darker impulses. This nation does not want four more years of Clinton- Gore."
After suffering days of Republican barbs in silence, Gore returned from vacation and began fighting back, accusing the Republicans of running a showy, but insubstantial convention and strongly claiming credit for having helped create the nation's roaring economy. In Chicago, Gore answered the Republican criticisms today by accusing the GOP of running a slickly choreographed convention that offered little more than "confetti and klieg lights." (Los Angeles Times, August 5, 2000). Gore told 3,000 members of the International Association of Fire Fighters, "When it comes to political pageantry, I've got to hand it to the other side. But you and I both know that a slogan never put out a raging fire. A sound bite never saved a child from a burning building. And political positioning will never heal sick children who don't have health care."THE BUSH-McCAIN RIFT CONTINUES. In an extraordinarily clumsy conclusion to the convention, Bush's campaign told McCain to go home early, only to reverse course early this morning and summon the former rival back here for the traditional unity pictures. The Washington Post (August 3, 2000) reported that McCain staff members said that the Arizona senator graciously agreed to leave town before the governor made his acceptance speech. A McCain staff corroborated the story in the Post, saying, "They finally told us to leave after a Hispanic event" with Bush on the morning of the third day. He added, "We didn't want anyone to accuse us of hogging the spotlight."
Bush staff members said they never asked the senator to vacate the premises, but agreed to go along with his decision because they had no further events planned with McCain. And some complained that McCain, claiming he had a doctor's appointment, could not be bothered to stick around for Bush's acceptance speech. The decision by Bush's advisers precluded the nominee of the usual post-speech image of party unity. Attempting to heal the rift, Bush campaign manager Joe Allbaugh told McCain political director John Weaver that the governor wanted all the convention speakers on stage with him after he accepted the Republican presidential nomination.
THE DEMOCRATS FINALLY RESPOND. On the first day of the convention, Democrats on Monday unveiled two 15-second television ads going after Bush's record in Texas, one on the environment and one on children's health insurance. The following day, another spot taking attacking Bush's record was unveiled in a $3.5 million ad. "Tonight in Philadelphia, you won't hear a lot about the environment,'" said one ad. It said that Houston was the nation's "smog capital" and contended that Bush appointed a "chemical company lobbyist" to enforce the state's environmental laws. The other ad criticized Bush for capping eligibility for the Children's Health Insurance Program, allowing fewer youngsters in than federal rules allow. "You'll hear a lot about ‘leave no child behind,' " the ad said.
After suffering days of Republican barbs in silence, Gore returned from vacation and began fighting back, accusing the Republicans of running a showy, but insubstantial convention and strongly claiming credit for having helped create the nation's roaring economy. In Chicago, Gore answered the Republican criticisms today by accusing the GOP of running a slickly choreographed convention that offered little more than "confetti and klieg lights." (Los Angeles Times, August 5, 2000). Gore told 3,000 members of the International Association of Fire Fighters, "When it comes to political pageantry, I've got to hand it to the other side. But you and I both know that a slogan never put out a raging fire. A sound bite never saved a child from a burning building. And political positioning will never heal sick children who don't have health care."
THE DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION. A week before the Democratic convention, Gore chose Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman as his vice-presidential candidate. First, Gore needed a moderate running-mate who, he thought, could help the ticket lure over the independent and undecided votes. Second, Lieberman was the first prominent Democrat to openly criticize Clinton's affair with Lewinsky, enabling Gore to escape from the shadow of the Clinton scandals. With Lieberman on the ticket, it became more difficult for Republicans to make the Clinton's character a campaign issue. Lieberman's role as chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council helped strengthen Gore with morally traditional swing voters now flocking to Bush.
But Lieberman came from New England, a traditionally Democratic area, where there was no necessity to win over voters. In addition Gore took the unprecedented risk by choosing an Orthodox Jew, although polls indicated that 90 percent of Americans claimed that it was a non- issue. However, analysts acknowledged that voters resistant to a Jewish president could be reluctant to admit those attitudes to a pollster, meaning that a backlash was possible. Finally, Lieberman's centrist voting record did not appeal to Democratic constituencies such as blue-collar union members who thought that Gore had sold them out by supporting free trade agreements.
Unable to attack Lieberman on his character, the Bush team lashed out at him on his voting record, claiming that he was more closely tied to their platform than was to the Democrats. In his two terms in the Senate, Lieberman often taken positions at odds with Gore and important constituencies of the Democratic Party on school vouchers, affirmative action, regulation of managed care, capital gains taxes, and product liability. Lieberman suggested that he could support Social Security reform -- as Bush had -- by allowing workers to invest a portion of their payroll taxes in the private markets.
LIEBERMAN'S LIBERAL SIDE. But Lieberman sided with the Clinton administration on all important budget votes, and unlike many other Democrats he supported the Clinton-Gore administration's positions on trade and welfare. The Connecticut senator was completely in tune with Gore's position on campaign finance reform, abortion, the environment, gun control, gay rights, and the death penalty. Throughout his career in Congress, Lieberman voted for proposals to overhaul the campaign finance system. He and Gore supported legislation that would ban soft money. He supported the Brady bill requiring background checks for gun purchasers, sided with the Clinton-Gore administration in favor of the NAFTA free-trade agreement in 1993, and repeatedly rejected GOP efforts to constitutionally ban the burning of the American flag.
The GOP tried to portray Lieberman as less than 100 percent in favor of abortion rights. They produced a letter he wrote to a constituent in 1989 suggesting that he favored a requirement that parents of a minor be notified before an abortion could be performed. But the organizations that favor abortion rights said Lieberman never wavered in his votes on abortion, and the National Right to Life Committee put out a statement criticizing Lieberman's record across the board. He opposed efforts to ban what opponents call late-term abortions.
THE GOP PORTRAYS LIEBERMAN AS ONE OF THEIR OWN. The Bush team pointed to a number of issues where they claimed that Lieberman strayed from the Democratic camp, emphasizing that he was one of their own. The GOP was quick to show that, while in the Senate, Lieberman supported and sponsored legislation establishing pilot programs in which the federal government would give parents vouchers they could use to pay their children's tuition at private schools, including those with religious affiliation. His testimony in 1997 before a Senate committee about schools in the District of Columbia was quoted in the New York Times (August 8, 2000): "There are some who dismiss suggestions of school choice programs and charter schools out of hand, direly predicting that these approaches will ‘ruin' the public schools. The undeniable reality here is that this system is already in ruins, and to blindly reject new models and refuse to try new ideas is simply foolish. We can and must do better for these children, and to cling stubbornly to the failures of the past will just not get us there."
Bush's advisers pointed out that Lieberman also criticized government programs that gave special breaks to Blacks and other groups to make up for past discrimination, while Gore was a strong supporter of affirmative action. In a speech on the Senate floor in 1995, Mr. Lieberman said: "Affirmative action is dividing us in ways its creators could never have intended because most Americans who do support equal opportunity and are not biased don't think it is fair to discriminate against some Americans as a way to make up for historic discrimination against other Americans. For after all, if you discriminate in favor of one group on the basis of race, you thereby discriminate against another group on the basis of race."
His vote in 1996 in favor of overhauling the welfare system lost him friends among liberal Democrats. And his consistent support of international trade measures like the North American Free Trade Agreement and favorable trade relations with China runs against the views of organized labor. Yet on other issues of primary importance to the unions like increases in the minimum wage and prohibitions against employers' hiring permanent replacements for striking workers, Lieberman has taken labor's side.
In 1999 Lieberman was part of a bipartisan group that tried to break a deadlock between the Clinton administration and Republican senators over how to regulate health plans. The administration maintained that the legislation Lieberman favored was too generous to insurance companies. Consumer groups and labor unions were among those siding with the administration.
In the early 1990s, when Democratic senators used a filibuster to block the Bush administration's proposal for a cut in the capital gains tax, Lieberman opposed his party's leaders and voted with Republicans against the filibuster and in favor of the tax cut.
Lieberman also regularly voted for legislation to limit damages that can be assessed in civil lawsuits. In doing so, he took on not just the Clinton administration but also trial lawyers, who were among the Democrats' biggest contributors.
On the advent of the Gulf War in 1991, both Senators Lieberman and Gore were among only 10 Democratic senators who voted to give President Bush the authority to use military force in the Persian Gulf. Throughout the eight years of the Clinton administration, Lieberman supported the White House in most cases. He regularly voted against efforts to reduce the military budget and supported submarines and aircraft built at least in part by the many military contractors in Connecticut. Until the Clinton administration took office, Lieberman favored cutting funds for Star Wars, but he was one of the first Democrats to endorse deployment of such a system as soon as it was technologically realistic.
BUSH MERELY GENERALIZES WHILE GORE DELIVERS ON SPECIFICS. Bush skipped over specifics in his acceptance speech, lightly touching on a few issues -- taxes, Social Security, education, and nuclear weapons. He mainly spoke in generalities with one-liners such as, "We must usher in an era of responsibility."
In contrast, Gore took the opposite approach in his acceptance speech. He declared that "the presidency is more than a popularity contest. I am here to talk seriously about the issues." And that he did. He clearly spelled out his position on favoring abortion and homosexual rights, affirmative action, gun control, a higher minimum wage, and restricting the marketing tobacco products. He opposed tuition vouchers for private school students and diverting Social Security taxes into private retirement accounts. Gore showed the stark contrast between Bush and him on the use the budget surplus which was projected by the CBO to be about $4.5 trillion over 10 years. Gore said that he would earmark the $2.4 trillion in the surplus that will come from Social Security taxes to bolster the Social Security system. He would use this money to pay down the national debt which in turn would improve the economy and make it easier to pay Social Security benefits after the baby boomers retire. As for the rest of the surplus, Gore told the convention that he would spend most of it for universal health insurance for children, for prescription drug coverage under Medicare, for medical research, for hiring and training teachers, and for environmental protection. Gore added that he would also use a relatively small bit for specific tax cuts, mostly to make college tuition tax deductible, to modify the estate tax, and to eliminate the tax penalty paid by some married couples.
By contrast, Bush only made generalizations in his acceptance speech. But looking at previous speeches, Bush proposed using a big chunk of the Social Security surplus to cover the cost of creating private retirement accounts that would be invested in the financial markets. He would also use most of the money not set aside for Social Security for across-the-board tax cuts: lower tax rates for taxpayers at every income level, tax breaks for all married couples regardless of whether they owe a penalty, and a complete elimination of the estate tax which is owed only on estates worth more than $675,000. Bush previously said that he favored prescription drug coverage for those on Medicare. But he has set no money aside for this initiative which could cost $250 billion over 10 years.
In his speech, Gore derided the Bush tax plan. "For every $10 that goes to the wealthiest 1 percent, middle-class families would get one dime. And lower-income families would get one penny." Gore added, "In fact, if you add it up, the average family would get about enough money to buy one extra Diet Coke a week, about 62 cents and change." According to the New York Times (August 19, 2000), those figures were developed by Citizens for Tax Justice, a labor- backed research organization. In 1999, the richest 1 percent of Americans were taxpayers with incomes over $319,000. The average income in this segment was $915,000, and the average tax cut under the Bush plan would be $46,072. Taxpayers with incomes in the middle 20 percent of all taxpayers (40 percent had higher incomes and 40 percent lower) had an average income of $31,100, and their average tax cut would be $453 (less than 10 cents for every $10 saved by the wealthy). By these statistics, the daily tax cut would be $1.24 -- twice what Gore suggested, perhaps "enough for a bag of chips with the Diet Coke." The poorest 20 percent of the population, those with incomes below $13,600, would get an average annual tax cut of $42.
The Bush campaign accused Gore of missing the point. Under the tax plan, said Dan Bartlett, a campaign spokesman, a family of four making $35,000 would have its entire $1,500 tax bill wiped out. A family of four making $50,000 would have a tax bill of about $4,000 cut to about $2,000. And a family of four with an income of $75,000 would have a 25 percent cut, to about $7,500 from about $10,000.
The Gore and Bush calculations were both accurate, according to the New York Times(August 19, 2000). The reason for the different emphases is that the Gore figures counted all taxpayers at particular income levels, single people as well as families. At middle-income levels, families would fare better under the Bush plan than individuals. Still, there was no dispute that the giant share of the tax cuts under the Republican proposal would go to the wealthy. The question was whether that would be fair. Republicans claimed that it was, since the wealthy were the ones who paid most of the taxes to start with. But Democrats maintained that it was unfair, since people that rich could afford what they were paying.
THE CLINTON SCANDAL RESURFACES ON THE DAY OF GORE'S ACCEPTANCE SPEECH. Only hours before Gore was to deliver his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention, a story broke announcing that Independent Counsel Robert Ray had seated a new grand jury to consider if there was sufficient evidence to indict Clinton in the Lewinsky matter once he left office. The selection of the grand jury actually took place on July 11 -- 37 days earlier. Yet the story was released just hours before Gore was to make the most important speech in his career.
Democratic Party loyalists decried the story as a politically motivated leak designed to hurt Gore. New York Congressman Charles Rangel, complained, "If Clinton was to drop dead, the Republicans would dig him up," according to the New York Times (August 18, 2000). The timing of the news "hours before Al Gore is to give this speech "warrants a federal investigation," commented Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. or Illinois. House Minority Whip David Bonior said, "You can bet your bottom dollar that the Republican Party was behind" the leak. "I think the American people are going to reject this kind of behavior." And Gore spokesman Doug Hattaway said that the judicial system was being "manipulated for political purposes." Even Bush campaign spokeswoman Karen Hughes piped in, claiming, "We think the timing of this was wrong. It was simply not appropriate for this kind of news to come out on Al Gore's big day."
The following day, Richard D. Cudahy of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, revealed that he leaked the news. Of the three appellate judges who preside over independent counsel matters, Judge Cudahy was the only Democratic appointee. The other two judges, David Sentelle of the United States Circuit Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia Circuit and Peter Fay of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta, were Republican appointees.
Cudahy, appointed to the bench by President Carter in 1979, said that he had inadvertently mentioned the new grand jury to a reporter from The Associated Press (August 19, 2000). The judge said that he did not want prosecutors in the independent counsel's office to be blamed for the leak. He said, "I didn't think Robert Ray ought to get blamed for the whole thing, as far as timing was concerned." Judge Cudahy said that he revealed the existence of the new grand jury in response to the reporter's questions about a one-sentence order issued by the three-judge panel. That order authorized Ray to continue his investigation for another year. The judge said he inadvertently mentioned the grand jury while explaining why he had changed his position on the independent counsel. In 1999 Judge Cudahy was the only one on the panel who voted to terminate the independent counsel's operation. He said that in explaining his reason for changing his position and voting to keep the inquiry open, he mentioned the new grand jury to the reporter. The judge said that Ray had told the judicial panel in early 2000 that the impaneling of the new grand jury was one reason prosecutors should be allowed to continue the investigation.
BUSH BRINGS IN MORE CAMPAIGN FUNDS. During the 2000 campaign, both the Bush campaign and the Republican National Committee pocketed record amounts of soft money. According to the New York Times (March 9, 2000), GOP chair Jim Nicholson estimated that the party would spend about $177 million between the Republican convention and the general election. The Republican Party first big fund-raiser brought in $15 million at its annual dinner on April 26. That surpassed the previous record of $14 million collected in 1999 when Bush's father, the former president, headlined the affair.
Bush shattered records in the first three months of 2000, raising more than $84 million. According to FEC records, 37 House candidates raised at least $1 million from January 1, 1999, to March 31, 2000, compared with just seven candidates during the same 15-month period two years earlier. Overall, House and Senate candidates raised $463 million -- up $125 million -- over the same period in 1998.
During the same time span -- between January 1, 1999 and March 31, 2000 -- the GOP took in $86.4 million in soft money, a 93 percent increase over the $44.7 million the party raised during the same period in 1995-96. The Democrats raked in $77 million
For the first half of 2000, the Bush campaign closed in on the $100 million barrier. Between January 1 and June 30, the campaign raked in:
$95 million from individuals and PACs for the primary campaign -- and spent $87 million .
$2.5 million from individuals and PACs for a special fund that Bush created to pay for legal and accounting costs in the fall election.
$2.3 million in transfers from other political committees, interest, and dividends and other sources of income.
The pharmaceutical and medical supplies industry was concerned about Medicare and prescription drugs proposals by Bush and Gore and consequently stepped up soft money contributions. According to Common Cause, the sector gave $9,172,656 in soft money from January 1999 through June 2000 -- more than doubling the $4,563,141 it gave during the same period of the 1996 cycle. The industry contributed $5,571,821 to Republican party committees, and $3,600,835 to Democrats.
With Bush strongly advocating tort reform and congressional lawmakers floating proposals that could place a ceiling on the amount that juries can award plaintiffs in lawsuits, trial lawyers kicked in record contributions to both parties. They were also concerned about the "patients bill of rights" -- legislation that was stalled in Congress. The lawyers supported legislation advanced by congressional Democrats that would give patients the right to sue their HMOs. Trial lawyers and proponents of the plan said that it would keep HMOs accountable to patients while opponents claimed that it would lead to excessive lawsuits that would result in an increase in overall healthcare prices. Trial lawyers funneled into both camps $7,351,073 in soft money during the first 18 months of the 2000 election cycle, more than double the $3,136,432 they gave during the same period of the 1996 cycle. Only $13,500 of the soft money given this election cycle by trial lawyers went to Republican party committees.
With passenger complaints about airline service dramatically escalating during the election, the commercial airline industry upped its soft money contributions to $3,312,589 from January 1999 through June 2000. Of this amount, $1,990,565 went to Republicans and $1,322,024 went to Democrats. In 1999 Congress threatened to enact a "passengers bill of rights" which would create federal mandates for airlines to improve their customer service. After intense lobbying and donations of soft money, Congress backed down in June 1999 and allowed airlines to voluntarily improve customer service. In June 2000 the Department of Transportation's inspector general released a report which stated that the airlines still "have a ways to go to restore customer confidence." Lawmakers, who had supported the voluntary plan, threatened to revisit the subject of passenger-rights legislation if the airlines were unable to deliver the better quality service they had promised.
With increased oil and gas prices in 2000, the energy sector increased soft money contributions in a bid to stall any federal regulations that might infringe on its profit margin. Oil and gas interests contributed $8,763,914 in soft money from January 1999 through June 2000, more than 75 percent of which went to Republican party committees. The industry opposed a ruling by the Interior Department calling for the re-valuation of oil produced from federally leased land. The Interior Department and environmental groups contended that the new rule would allow the government to collect royalties from this oil at market value, eliminating a $70 million annual windfall for oil producers. The oil industry denounced the ruling as an unfair new tax on the industry. The oil and gas sector also lobbied to open a section of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northern Alaska for petroleum exploration. Proponents of the plan said that taking advantage of domestic oil resources could reduce the current rate of gas prices and lessen American reliance on foreign oil. The Clinton administration and environmental groups defended the ban on drilling in the region, saying that it would do permanent harm to pristine land, and would produce only a three-month supply of gasoline.
In July alone, Bush outspent his rival by 700 percent. According to the Federal Election Commission, Gore raised $771,000 from private contributors, while Bush raked in $5.4 million from individuals and political action committees. Bush was free to raise and spend unlimited amounts, while Gore was bound by spending limits since he accepted $67.56 million in federal aid.
By Labor Day Bush reached the $100 million plateau, cracking the milestone for the first time in American history. Over 350,000 different donors in all 50 states contributed to his record- shattering campaign. The past record for fund raising in a single presidential race belonged to Ross Perot who brought in $72.8 million in 1992. But nearly all of that money came from his own pocket, and not donors.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the oil and gas industry and its executives gave 21 percent of their money to Democrats this election, about the same share as four years ago but down from 33 percent in 1992. The disparity in presidential giving is far more stark, with the Bush campaign collecting nearly $1.7 million from the industry to the Gore campaign's $104,000.
Enron Corporation gave more than $290,000 of his own money to the Republican Party, and CEO Kenneth Lay as well as dozens of Enron executives chipped in $1,000 or more to Bush's campaign. But Enron, one of the biggest political players among oil and gas companies, was not an exclusively GOP operation.
House Republican leaders were furious over business groups hiring Democratic lobbyists, and in 1998 they delayed a vote on intellectual property treaties as a message to the Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA), which had hired former Democratic congressman David McCurdy of Oklahoma as its president. But in 1999 the House ethics committee privately chastised Majority Whip Tom DeLay for threatening the EIA with retaliation.
Enron also gave $330,000 -- or nearly 45 percent of its corporate soft money -- to Democratic Party organizations. The company sponsored several lavish events at the Democratic National Convention, and about 30 percent of the money its political action committee has given to candidates has gone to Democrats -- including liberals such as Senators Edward Kennedy and Charles Rangel. Enron also dished out contributions to Texas Democratic representatives Sheila Jackson-Lee and Martin Frost and backed New York Congressman Charles Schumer in his successful bid to take over the Senate seat of Alfonse D'Amato in 1998. Enron also sponsored a breakfast for the California delegation and events for Texas and New Mexico Democrats, including New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman, ranking Democrat on the Senate Energy Committee. Bingaman favored further electricity deregulation which benefitted Enron.
In the fall of 2000, Lay surprised Republicans when he attempted to distance himself from the Bush camp by hiring a Democrat from the Clinton administration to head Enron's Washington office. Linda Robertson, assistant Treasury secretary for legislative affairs and public liaison, joined the energy company as vice president for federal government affairs. A GOP leadership aide commented in the Washington Post (October 11, 2000), "But that didn't insulate Enron from criticism in some Republican quarters on Capitol Hill. Enron has just slapped George W. Bush across the face. It just makes little sense."
BP Amoco, which was created by the mergers of Amoco, ARCO and British Petroleum, gave 33 percent of its soft money to Democrats, while Chevron Corporation contributed about 42 percent to Democrats. Similarly, oil and gas company political action committees have given about a quarter of their money to Democratic candidates this election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. At the Democratic convention, BP Amoco shelled out $1.2 million for office space for the party and co-sponsored an event in a skybox at Dodger Stadium.
Texaco contributed to the reelection campaign of Senator Lieberman who eventually was chosen as Gore's running-mate. Some companies or their executives gave soft money exclusively to the Republican Party -- Anadarko Petroleum ($64,000), Catamount Petroleum ($180,000), Kinder Morgan Energy Partners ($240,000), and Green Mountain Energy ($240,000), headed by Bush friend Sam Wyly of Dallas.