Race to the Bottom
December 23, 1999

It would seem, on the face of it, that the only thing standing between George W. Bush and the presidency is a persistent reservation about his intellect. The doubts have crystallized around a reporter's now-famous pop quiz, in which the Texas governor could not identify various difficult-to-pronounce heads of state. Bush, according to many in the press, needs to wonk himself up, and fast. He needs to cocoon himself with all those Stanford Ph.D.s and reemerge with a deep, studied interest in the stability of Central Asia and the efficacy of scattered-site housing.

Gaming the System
July 12, 1999

In 1993, Congress and the White House realized that spending on the big entitlement programs, Medicare and Social Security, was out of control. So they appointed a blue-ribbon commission to examine the problem. The commission did just that, the members made their feelings known, but no legislative action followed. The next year, Congress and the White House realized that spending on the big entitlement programs was still out of control. So they eventually appointed two more blue-ribbon commissions--one to study each program.

Premium Idea
April 12, 1999

If the liberals on the just-dissolved National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare are to be believed, the reform plan pushed by its chairman, Democratic Senator John Breaux, and backed both by commission Republicans and by Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey, is about as evil as health policy can get. "They're jeopardizing the health and welfare of frail old people," says former Medicare program chief Bruce Vladeck. "These guys don't want to protect senior citizens from the industry," says Democratic Representative Jim McDermott of Washington.

October 19, 1998

Surveying the current state of uncertainty in the White House, one can't help but wonder whether things would be different if Rahm Emanuel were alive. In the corporeal sense, of course, the presidential counselor is still very much above ground. But, as far as the White House is concerned, its veteran cheerleader is history. On the day the Starr report hit, as the White House scrambled to respond, Emanuel had more important concerns: his wife had just given birth to their second child. And, at the end of October, Emanuel will quit his job to take a teaching post at Northwestern University. Col

Hard Labor
October 06, 1997

John Sweeney's name rarely appears in print without the word "militant" attached to it. Sweeney first gained national prominence in 1995, when, as president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), he led striking janitors in a sit-in that blocked morning rush-hour traffic on Washington, D.C.'s Fourteenth Street Bridge for two hours. Later that year, Sweeney burnished his reputation as a confrontationalist by running (and winning) an insurgent campaign in the first-ever contested election for the presidency of the AFLl-CIO. Heavy-set and balding, Sweeney comes across like central c

Hud Sucker Proxy
June 23, 1997

Upon hearing that I was planning to write about the proposed changes in federal housing policy, a press secretary at the Department of Housing and Urban Development graciously offered me an interview with the secretary, Andrew Cuomo. This was slightly odd. It's usually the reporter's job in these matters to solicit access to the Cabinet secretary and the flack's job to deny it. And I am the sort of reporter who quite properly would be denied; the story I wanted to write, examining public policy, didn't require access to anyone so grand as a member of the Cabinet.

The Contract with K Street
December 04, 1995

When 367 Republican House candidates signed the Contract with America on September 27, 1994, they pledged to create "a Congress that is doing what the American people want and doing it in a way that instills trust." As they stood on the steps of the Capitol, Texas Representative Dick Armey declared, "[W]e enter a new era in American government. Today one political party is listening to the concerns of the American people, and we are responding with specific legislation.

The Budget Inferno
May 29, 1995

In Dante's Divine Comedy, an imperfect order prevails amid the smoky chaos of the Inferno. The denizens of the Inferno dwell in their specific regions alongside others who suffer for similar earthly sins. As you descend through the progressively darker, murkier air of the nine circles of Hell, the population of each group of sinners decreases, while the evil of their sins increases. Which brings to mind the federal budget. Seriously. Dante's Inferno is an apt analogy for the ways in which the federal government subsidizes and enriches corporations, industries and people. In Washington's Infer

The Undertaker
January 02, 1995

"Let me begin," says White House aide David Dreyer, "by contesting the premises of your question." It's a windless evening in November, and Dreyer is in his West Wing office, listening to a new recording of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier and defending the role of Tony Coelho, for whom Dreyer once worked, in the Democrats' electoral debacle. "First," he says, "Tony was not the party chair. He was never, to my knowledge, actually in the dnc building. Second, the role of party chair in a midterm election is relatively unimportant anyhow.

No Exit
February 07, 1994

If these facts surprise you, it's because you haven't been given a straight story about the Clinton health bill. Take two examples: on November 4, Leon Panetta, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, testified to senators that the bill does not "set prices" and "draw up rules for allocating care"; a month later Hillary Rodham Clinton assured a Boston audience that the government will not limit what you can pay your doctor.