SHOWDOWN: The Struggle Between the Gingrich Congress and the Clinton White House by Elizabeth Drew

SHOWDOWN: The Struggle Between the Gingrich Congress and the Clinton White House

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In the second installment of her narrative history of the troubles of the Clinton administration, Meet the Press commentator Drew (On the Edge, 1994) records the mounting tension between the Clinton White House and the leadership of the first Republican Congress in 40 years. The midterm congressional elections of 1994 swept Republican majorities into power in both the House and Senate, at one stroke crippling the Clinton administration. Georgia representative Newt Gingrich, formerly the indecorous ""bomb-thrower"" of the unruly Republican minority and now newly elected speaker, was the author of the Contract with America, on which many Republicans had been elected. He was regarded as the personal leader of the Republican revolution. In Drew's account, it was Gingrich, more than Republican Senate leader Bob Dole, who defined what the new conservatives stood for, and it was he with whom the Clinton administration groped to come to terms as the new Congress convened. According to Drew, Gingrich defined the terms of public debate for much of the following year; the Contract with America, which obliged the new Congress to bring key bills to a vote within its first hundred days, dominated Washington discourse, rather than Clinton's policy initiatives. Drew shows Clinton and his staff battling the congressional leadership over issues set by the Republicans: tax reform, welfare reform, and a balanced budget. Clinton has tried to seize moral high ground on traditional Democratic issues, like affirmative action, but rather than becoming a leader on issues, Clinton is being reduced to what the author describes as a ""synthesizer,"" selecting positions on different issues from among various available conservative or liberal choices. Ironically, he became more personally popular than either Dole or Gingrich, and as 1996 arrived, pundits gave him a real chance of reelection. An absorbing look at President Clinton's attempt to govern at a time when a grassroots movement may be redefining the extent of federal power.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1996
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster