Eleanor Clift
Eleanor Clift
War Without Bloodshed:  The Art of Politics
ISBN: 0684800845
War Without Bloodshed: The Art of Politics
Ms. Clift and Mr. Brazaitis talked about their new book, War Without Bloodshed: The Art of Politics, published by Scribner. They focused on the careers of eight political figures as representatives of various roles in the political machinations that occur in Washington, D C. Their subjects included Newt Gingrich, Stanley Greenberg, Frank Luntz, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Sheila Burke, Maxine Waters, and two health care lobbyists. The authors said these people exemplify how politics is currently executed in the United States.
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War Without Bloodshed: The Art of Politics
Program Air Date: August 25, 1996

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Tom Brazaitis and Eleanor Clift, where'd you get the name for your book, "War Without Bloodshed"?
TOM BRAZAITIS:(Author, "War Without Bloodshed: The Art of Politics"): Well, "War Without Bloodshed" came to us from Newt Gingrich, the speaker of the House now, who is one of our characters. He got it from Chairman Mao Tse tung, who said, "Politics is war without bloodshed and war is politics with bloodshed." Some people would say the way Newt Gingrich practices politics, there's plenty of bloodshed, but it's metaphorical blood.
LAMB: Eleanor Clift, did he cooperate with you in this book?
ELEANOR CLIFT:(Author, "War Without Bloodshed: The Art of Politics"): Newt Gingrich was the most enthusiastic of our eight characters at the outset of this project and he said, "You know, you've got to spend time with us, see what we do, how we do it and why we do it." And I remember in early 1994, March, we took a walk with him at six in the morning around the Washington monuments and it was Tom who asked him how he was preparing to take over the minority leadership of the his party and he stopped and he said, "Minority leadership?" He said, "That's like preparing to be vice president. I'm going to be speaker." And we thought, "Of course. Sure, buddy." But he turned out to be very, very right and what we do is chart his 17 year rise to power, and how he accomplished that.
LAMB: Who else is in the book
BRAZAITIS: Well, what we did was, we picked positions in Washington. We modeled it after George Wills' book on baseball, which took four key positions in the game of baseball, and then chose top players in those positions. In our case, we started with pollsters -- the president's pollster at the time, Stanley Greenberg and his arch rival on the Republican side, Frank Luntz. So you get a good contrast of how the pollsters from the two different parties approach the whole profession of polling. And they we had lobbyists, who are extraordinarily important players in Washington and throughout the states. And again, we picked two that were very important to the health care legislation that was then on the front burner in American politics, and we picked a lobbyist for hospitals and a lobbyist for insurance companies. Then...
LAMB: Who's this fellow right here?
CLIFT: That's Michael Bromberg testifying before the Ways and Means Committee. He represents the American Federation of Health Systems in Washington -- or did at the time, which was a network of for profit hospitals. And he is known in Washington as Mr. Health Care, and he had been involved in all sorts of health care legislation for a couple of decades. And he tried very hard to influence the White House and initially was an ally of the health care plan, but then in the end was one of those who worked to kill it.
LAMB: And this fellow ...?
BRAZAITIS: The other one is Paul Equale, who does represent the Independent Insurance Agents of America. And he, as the second pictures shows, was once a McGovernite, with long hair and facial hair and has evolved over his time in Washington to the point where he deals at least as easily with Republicans as with Democrats, which is what lobbyists have to do. They have to go with the flow, and Equale told us, he said, "You know, the one thing nice about being a lobbyists is that when catastrophic events, like the 1994 election, take place, the lobbyists watch the trains carrying the dead away from Washington and wave goodbye, and they're still there to fight another day."
LAMB: Why did you pick this man as part of this book?
CLIFT: Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan is our committee chairman, and in Washington, the chairman is second only, really, to the president in the aura that it carries. And Senator Moynihan, first elected in 1976, over the course of his lifetime served four presidents -- two of them Democrats, two of them Republican. And he, as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, was to be an important ally of President Clinton's in shepherding the health care plan. But, in fact, Moynihan worked to undermine the bill from the beginning. His allies say that he did it because he knew what was possible and what wasn't possible. But he used to hold the plan aloft, all 1,342 pages of it, let it drop with a loud thud and say, "You could murder somebody with this."
LAMB: Maxine Waters here with the president.
BRAZAITIS: Maxine Waters is one of 435 members of the House of Representatives and of those 435, only a relative handful ever achieve any notoriety or any fame outside their own districts. All of them, of course, work their districts hard. We wanted to look at how a member of Congress would get things done, especially against big odds. And Maxine Waters, once the '94 election took place and the Republicans took over, was a minority within a minority within a minority -- as a black, as a woman, as a Democrat. And yet, she still manages to achieve things for his district, and that's what we set out to show, how she does it from the inside.
LAMB: Sheila Burke.
CLIFT: Sheila Burke, at the time of this writing, was Bob Dole's chief of staff. She is now a volunteer in his presidential campaign. We chose her as our chief of staff to illustrate the anonymous power of staff on Capitol Hill. Sheila Burke started as a health care adviser for Bob Dole in 1977 and worked her way up through the ranks to become his most trusted adviser. And we compare the duo of Bob Dole and Sheila Burke to the dance team of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. That Sheila does everything Bob Dole does except backwards and on -- well, not high heels, medium sized heels.
LAMB: You have an appendix, and it seems that there's a thread through the book that you might help us if you can tell us more about this appendix and who wrote it ...
BRAZAITIS: Well ...
LAMB: ... and what's it all about.
BRAZAITIS: Well, the appendix is titled Money Matters, and in the end, it's about money, and it's about the role of money, specifically with out characters, and more generally in Washington. I suppose one could devote a whole series of books to this topic alone, because it is the one topic that dominates Washington politics, especially. Ed Roter, a gentleman who founded and runs something called Sunshine Press is an expert at the financial maneuverings in Washington; how politicians get their money and how they spend it.

And he was of huge assistance in pulling together that particular appendix, because he has a computerized base that he works from that can sort the information and find out how money factors into these races. I think that we hope you'll come away from this chapter thinking -- with all the talk about reform -- reforming the money process in Washington, the bottom line is: Can the very people who benefit the most from the money that pours in from special interest be the ones that reform it? And the answer -- our answer is no.
CLIFT: Yeah, we discovered the lobbyists, for example, who contribute sums of money to gain access and influence over policy, get frustrated as well. And it was Mike Bromberg who said, at one point, that he wished that all the lobbyists could rent out RFK Stadium here in the District, everybody take a booth and get all the fund raising over in one night so they wouldn't have to go to all those receptions. And it was Paul Equale, our other lobbyist who, in the final weeks before the '94 election, was clever enough to "reorient" -- that's his word -- the money of his political action committee -- his PAC -- from Democrats to Republicans so that immediately when the Republicans were in power he had an in.
LAMB: Husband and wife.
BRAZAITIS: That's us.
LAMB: Well, how did you meet, first of all?
BRAZAITIS: Well, we met because we live not far from each other. We're both in a second marriage now, and we worked closely together, at times, on covering the presidential campaign of Jimmy Carter. Eleanor was a regular on that campaign and I periodically was on there. And we'd see each other at various events. After we were both divorced from our first spouses, we started up a relationship and ended up with a marriage that's fairly typical in Washington, of people who have the same line of work. I think we understand each other pretty well because of that.
CLIFT: Initially, we were going to attack the single's scene together, as I recall. We found it easier to just hook up with each other.
LAMB: How long have you been married?
CLIFT: It'll be seven years in September.
LAMB: And what are your primary jobs?
BRAZAITIS: Well, I'm the Washington bureau chief for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and a lot of times people say, "Well, you mean you commute from Cleveland?" And I've got to say, "No, we have got five reporters here in Washington to cover Washington with an eye toward the news of interest to Ohio and to Cleveland, in particular." And so I've been the bureau chief since 1979 and we run an operation out of the National Press Building.
CLIFT: I've been at Newsweek virtually my entire adult life. I started in the dark ages of the '60s as a secretary and, like Sheila Burke, I worked my way up through the ranks. I covered Jimmy Carter's presidential campaign in 1976 as a newly minted reporter at the magazine, and covered the Carter administration, six years of the Reagan administration and then came back to cover Bill Clinton's presidential race, his first two years in the White House, and I'm now a contributing editor for Newsweek.
LAMB: "To our children." Tell us as much as you want about this list of people. Is that Eddie and Woody and Robert Clift?
CLIFT: That's right. I have three grown sons and my youngest is in college and the other two are in various forms of graduate school. Two of them live out on the West Coast, the third is in college on the West Coast and they're all delightful people and pursuing rather intellectual and interesting lives.
LAMB: And any work in journalism at all?
CLIFT: Not really. The youngest is interested in making films, maybe, and international relations, and the middle one is a teacher and the oldest one is getting a degree in communications, but I think he's pretty far from journalism.
LAMB: Mark and Sarah Jean Brazaitis?
BRAZAITIS: Well, Mark is my son and he's been through college and has a masters degree in creative writing. He has done some journalism work, but he went off to the Peace Corps in between college and his master's degree and served in Guatemala, and he's written a lot of fiction about Guatemala, some of which he's had published, and he hopes to be a published fiction writer. My daughter, Sarah Jean, is at Columbia University where she's studying for a doctorate in psychology, and she's quite close to getting it.
LAMB: Your hometown originally.
BRAZAITIS: Cleveland, Ohio.
LAMB: Eleanor Clift.
CLIFT: I was born in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in Queens, and you can still hear my accent even though I've been away from New York for quite a while.
LAMB: I want to read you a sentence from the appendix that we were talking about, on money. "The burgeoning national debt is a direct result of bidding wars whereby Congress tells each constituency what it wants to hear, then delivers. Members who vote to raise taxes risk the wrath of nationwide contributors." Is that a serious problem? And if it is, will it ever be changed?
BRAZAITIS: Well, the problem in politics, generally, and the reason politics is so hard today, is that it depends on being able to offer something. You know, for years in this country, especially after World War II when the country was in a boom, politicians were constantly able to offer things. And the idea of going out and saying that people needed to sacrifice was unheard of. It happened during the war, but once the war was over, it no longer was a question of politicians appealing for sacrifice. And even today, in the race we have this year, you have Bob Dole suggesting that we don't need to sacrifice so much as we need a tax break, a tax cut, in order to stimulate our economy. It's part of the same way of thinking, the idea that politicians present something at election time for the voters to benefit the voters and thereby win their votes.
CLIFT: There are very few profiles in courage on Capitol Hill and I think we have one passage in the book where we note that the lobbyists were looking for members with what they described as guts, who were willing to stand up to their own Democratic president in 1993 and '94 and defy the White House on health care reform. So in that sense, I guess there were a lot of politicians with guts, who to listen to the lobbyists and didn't go with their own president.
LAMB: This is also from that appendix. "The Independent Insurance Agents of America PAC gave money to members of the Senate and House who serve on more than 200 subcommittees."
BRAZAITIS: Well, yes. Because if you take each member of Congress, and take the number of subcommittees he or she serves on, they tend to serve on three, four different subcommittees, maybe even five, you multiply that by the number of people you give money to, and pretty soon you're spreading your money pretty widely. On the other hand, they chose those gifts pretty carefully, too. They wanted ones where the members of Congress had some, and one of those, or more of those subcommittees had direct influence on the insurance industry.
CLIFT: Yeah, but it's important to know that it isn't only through those contributions that they have influence. They exert a lot of influence beginning back home in the districts in the states of the members. And Michael Bromberg, who's a close friend of Bob Dole's and who's working in his campaign now, says, you know, "How many times can I go up and say, 'Bob, do me a favor?'" There aren't very many times you can do that, but you can go to the biggest hospital in Kansas and make sure the head of that hospital, who knows Bob Dole very well, he can call up and say, "Hey, you know, we don't like this provision or that provision." So you exert influence through the movers and shakers that are out in the countryside. And that is very effective, especially when we've got people like the head of the Mayo Clinic, and the head of the biggest hospitals in the country saying they don't like this or that. These are people who command a great deal of respect.
LAMB: I wrote down a bunch of names, and I wanted you to talk about them, because they're not your main characters, but -- I'll name three of them. Paul Weyrich: Is he quoted in here quite a bit?
CLIFT: Yes, he is.
LAMB: I mean, are those direct quotes?
CLIFT: Yes, those are direct quotes. And we went and we interviewed Paul Weyrich, who's really the godfather of the movement right in Washington. And he very proudly has a replica of the sword of -- Genghis Khan, is it?
BRAZAITIS: Genghis Khan.
CLIFT: And proudly says that, so people can say that he's to the right of Genghis Khan. And he gave a lot of advice to Newt Gingrich early on. And I think he personally feels responsible for some of Newt Gingrich's early success. And Paul Weyrich also led the assault on Sheila Burke when it was feared that, as a former Democrat, a nurse, and a person of moderate leanings, was feared that she would push Bob Dole into a compromise on health care reform with President Clinton. And Weyrich is again proud that he's the first person to say out loud that Sheila Burke cannot be trusted. And in fact, the right wing almost -- they tried to get her fired. Bob Dole resisted. And then Scott Reed, who's now Bob Dole's campaign manager, at one point made a move on Sheila as well. But she seems to be pretty well entrenched, and I suspect if Dole does win the presidency, we would see Sheila Burke emerge as a possible secretary of Health and Human Services.
BRAZAITIS: Yeah, it's interesting that you would mention Weyrich, because he's important as on of those characters in Washington that few people know. And you seldom hear about him, although he does appear on op ed pages and he does show up from time to time, but you don't really connect him as a player in Washington. But he certainly is. And Newt Gingrich, when he was first running for Congress, one of the stops he made was to come to Washington, to meet with Paul Weyrich, and to try to persuade him to help finance his congressional campaign, to use his influence. And Weyrich gave him a lot of advice including, "If you want to make a name for yourself, go after some of the big name Democrats and, you know, throw some mud." He didn't say it in those terms, but that's what it amounted to. And Newt Gingrich, of course, went after Speaker Jim Wright. And it was there that he earned his reputation as a tough customer in Washington. So Weyrich's advice was good.
LAMB: Here's a quote from Paul Weyrich you have in the book. "I told him, `See here, you don't waste other people's time and effort unless you are serious about it. If you're not serious about it, don't expect us to take you seriously.'" When did Paul Weyrich talk to him that way?
CLIFT: Oh, well, I think that wasn't that long ago. I think anybody who has dealt with Newt Gingrich over the years understands that he throws out a million ideas, but his follow through is not great. And I think that quote probably goes back to the early '80s, soon after Gingrich arrived in Washington 1978. And, you know, he was just full of ideas about how to take over and so forth. And he would throw all these ideas out. But you can only marshal the troops to do so much. And Weyrich and others got tired of him, you know, getting them to march up the hill, and then, you know, nobody knew what to do next. I think we saw a little bit of that in Newt Gingrich's approach after taking over the Congress as well. Plan A was great: Get the president to cave on the budget. When plan A didn't work, there was no plan B.
LAMB: Has that story ever been told, that you have in the book, about Newt Gingrich calling some of the -- Barbara Connible and others into a room, has that ever been ...
CLIFT: No, that's never been told. And actually, we were fortunate to get the notes of that meeting from the person who was the note taker then. And this was shortly after Gingrich -- really, like just a few months after he'd been in Washington. He called all the leaders of the party together and chewed them out for not thinking like winners, and said at one point, "I wish I'd brought the movie "Patton" along, so I could screen it so you can see what a real army is like.'
BRAZAITIS: Yeah, that's the one thing that characterized Newt's -- separated him from the other Republicans who had been in office a long time in the minority. After all, over 40 years, you can serve a lot of time, and you know, you can be there 20 of those 40 years and get kind of used to the minority. Well, he wasn't used to it, and he wasn't about to get used to it. So he kept telling them, "Don't think like losers. Don't get up in the morning and look in the mirror and say, 'I'm a loser.'"
LAMB: Where was this meeting held?
BRAZAITIS: I think it was in his own office, actually. They came to Newt's office, which was kind of unusual, and they had to take out all the furniture that he had in there and put in suitable furniture for a meeting. But these leaders, reluctantly as I recall, they showed up late, sort of as a way to show Gingrich, Well, we're here, but we're not, you know, we're not all that persuaded. But it wasn't long before he did start to persuade people. And he really got the younger members of Congress and some of the more aggressive ones to be the core of his team. He never did quite win over Bob Michel and the older gentry of the Republican Party.
LAMB: Why would they go to a meeting like that anyway?
CLIFT: You know, Newt Gingrich, I guess, can be very persuasive, and he comes across as...
LAMB: He just arrived in town.
CLIFT: Right, he just arrived in town. Why would they go? Boy, we didn't think to ask that question. That's a very good question.
LAMB: What about the Salisbury meeting? That seems to play a heavy role in all of this, when Frank Luntz was over there, and he's one of your pollsters, but that comes in the Speaker chapter.
CLIFT: Right. Well, Frank Luntz had polled for Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot. And so while he was a Republican, the Republicans thought of him as as a bit treasonous for going off to work for these two people who, in effect, bolted the party and one who wasn't a Republican at all. But it was Newt Gingrich who realized that anybody who understood the mind set of people who voted for Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot understood the mind of the disaffected voter. And so Gingrich invited him to one of the gatherings of Republicans in Salisbury, Maryland. And said to him, you know, "I'm inviting you here. I want you to be daring. I don't want you to act like a 45 year old man." Frank Luntz is in his early 30s. "I want you to, you know, to defy conventional wisdom and challenge these members." And in fact, you know, Luntz did that, told them to shed their coats and their ties. They were acting too much like country club Republicans; had to get down with the people, had to change their language. Several Republicans got really steamed over it. Some of them walked out of the meeting. And at the end ...
LAMB: This is at Salisbury, Maryland?
CLIFT: In Salisbury, Maryland. And at the end, you know, Newt Gingrich was sitting back there just enjoying it, and said to Frank Luntz, "You remind me of myself at that age." But I think the fault of both Frank Luntz and Newt Gingrich sometimes is they don't know when to stop challenging and when it's time for diplomacy.
LAMB: Now Frank Luntz -- I'll get the picture from the book for those who might not remember what he looks like -- is a character in your book. He leads off the first chapter on pollsters, along with Stan Greenberg. But you get into a lot of his personal life, and in a lot of the personal lives of all these people. What did you learn about Frank Luntz that you put down in this book that you thought people would be interested in?
BRAZAITIS: Well, the reason we went after the personal lives in all cases is that I think it helps flesh out characters and helps people understand that these are human beings, after all, who are struggling to live lives as well as to change the way we affect our government, the policies of our government. Frank Luntz is an interesting character because, while he preaches the politics of inclusion, he's a loner.

You know, he basically, at a party, at a gathering in Washington, will be off to the side, maybe taking a book off the shelf and reading it. He's not one cocktail party sort of fellow at all. And we do have an exchange there with the woman who was then his girlfriend at the time. And she pointed out that at a crucial point, when she had invited him to an important social gathering, he chose instead to answer an invitation to go on "Nightline" that night. And, you know, that showed where his priorities were.
LAMB: I have the page there, because it's not just a social gathering, I think it was a -- it was a religious occasion.
BRAZAITIS: Yes, it was.
LAMB: But let me just read some of what she says. And this is Jennifer Laszlo, and our audience sees both of these people all the time on this network.
CLIFT: Right.
LAMB: She's quoted as saying, "'He's the worst schlepp,' a friend and sometimes date, Jennifer Laszlo, said. Laszlo worried about Luntz after the election. He had vaulted to the top of his profession at a young age. It was what he wanted, yet he was paying dearly." Quote, "'He misses real life,' says Laszlo. 'He's like me, over 30, not married, no kids, and wondering if he'll ever have that. He went home for New Year's -- well, not home, his family in Connecticut, but home to the University of Pennsylvania to hang out with kids he went to college with. He's in an emotional crisis right now.'" There's more about -- you go on say "We've never even kissed," quoting Laszlo. Why did they all talk about this stuff with you?
CLIFT: Well, we spent a lot of time with these people. We chose our characters in 1993, and we followed them really until early 1996. And we met with them periodically. And I think you form a relationship with each of the characters. And the arrangement that we had with everyone was that we would let them read the chapter about themselves, and they could correct inaccuracies, they could fight with us about interpretation. And, in fact, that little notation about they had never kissed, Frank did adjust that to say that had been corrected. But, you know, I think people do bare themselves, and, you know, there are some things that, you know, we deemed were too personal that we left out. But I think, you know, that passage from Jennifer captures not only the lives of Jennifer Laszlo and Frank Luntz, but a lot of young people in Washington who are on the fast track and, at some point, realize they're no longer the youngest somebody in the room, and they're wondering what they're giving up.
LAMB: Let me read a little bit more. "He has told me that he would not want the mother of his children to be a Democrat." And she's a Democrat. Says Laszlo, "Luntz rejects a lot of what is superficial in Washington culture, from dress code to dinner parties. I had invited Frank to Yom Kippur dinner. He canceled to go on Nightline. I was so mad and disappointed, I told him, if work is more important than God, that tells me a lot."
BRAZAITIS: Well, that is the point of Frank making that kind of choice. And Frank Luntz appears throughout this chapter as the guy who has the pulse of America, which he does by focus groups. And in a way, Frank lives his life through focus groups. Those are the small, carefully selected groups of people that are not a -- it's not directly a poll. It's more getting underneath the feelings and attitudes in a poll and finding out what people really think and why they think it. And he learns a lot that way, but he's always in charge, and he's always running the shows, but in a strictly day to day friendship basis or, you know, communication basis, he's on the outside.
CLIFT: But, you know, in terms of the personal lives, Stanley Greenberg is married to a member of Congress, Rosa Delauro who's from Connecticut. And when Stan Greenberg was promoting the president's agenda, which was pro the north -- the NAFTA treaty, Rosa Delauro was opposed to it. And when Greenberg briefed members of Congress, they were jeering him, saying, you know, "Why should we believe you that this vote won't cost us the election when your own wife doesn't believe you?" And Liz Moynihan, the wife of Senator...
LAMB: That was the next one on my list.
CLIFT: OK. Senator Moynihan has taken a very active role in her husband's campaigns. She raises the money. She handles a lot of the day to day political activities to sort of spare him for the big thoughts. And shortly after the Clintons came to Washington, Hillary Clinton invited Liz Moynihan to the White House for lunch, trying to enlist her in the health care fight, and also saying to her that "I admire the relationship you have with your husband. You are a political partnership the same way that Bill and I are." And Liz Moynihan left that lunch saying, "Nobody ever called me a co senator." And she really did not approve of the way that Mrs. Clinton had taken power onto herself in such an obvious way in the White House.
LAMB: What ...
BRAZAITIS: Incidentally, Nancy Reagan, who has become somewhat of a friend of Eleanor's because Eleanor has written a couple of pieces about her, and Nancy thought that they were fair and showed her first ladyship in a different light than was generally thought, has been reading the book. And she came to us and said she was especially struck by the Moynihan chapter and the role of Liz Moynihan. And in thinking about it, it's because Liz Moynihan plays her relationship with Senator Moynihan the way Nancy did with President Reagan, in the background, and not up front.
CLIFT: But these women act as buffers for their husband in the real world, everything from the housework to the political fund raising.
LAMB: Now how did you -- I want to come back to that, because there's a good story in here I want to ask you about -- how did you two divide up the work?
BRAZAITIS: Well, first of all, it took about three years to do it altogether. And we did a lot of the interviewing together. We would go during our workdays; we both had permission from our bosses to spend some time on this project. And we would do some interviews during the day or at night, over dinner at various restaurants. This went on for a considerable amount of time. Once we got into the phase where we had to sit down and write, we did a lot of the outlining together. We talked about approaches and how we should handle each chapter. And then when it came through to doing the first rough draft, that was basically Eleanor's work. I did a lot of it in sections here and there, but it was basically her work. And then I did the second run through on almost all of it. And then we, together, tried to smooth it out in the end. And we have been saying that it was easier working together on this than it would be remodeling the kitchen.
CLIFT: Well, we initially talked about dividing up the chapters. And then Tom decided that the book had to have one voice. So therefore, I got to do the initial draft. And I know some of our friends said, "Very clever on his part."
LAMB: Now where did you write it?
BRAZAITIS: Well, we have offices at home, actually, two bedrooms that are back to back, and our computers are back to back with a wall between. And we at first tried to use the computer technology to talk back and forth, but we found it easier to just walk from one room to the other, sit down, and have a conversation when we had something to talk about.
LAMB: Is one of you faster at writing than the other?
CLIFT: Well, I don't know. I can't answer that, but I took a six month leave of absence from Newsweek and that's really what got us going. And frankly, I was naive enough to think that it would all be done in that six months. And if there was one lesson that I think both of us learned, is that writing a book and getting it through to conclusion takes a lot longer than you ever imagined. It's sort of like getting a bill through Congress. Takes forever.
LAMB: When was the last word written for this book? What date, do you remember?
CLIFT: Oh, wow. I remember we were in New Hampshire covering the New Hampshire primary this year and when we were faxing back corrections. And again, every one of the characters got to comment. And Maxine Waters filled an entire legal pad with written changes, challenges, complaints, whatever. We ended up getting a much better story out of her. But that was what we were doing well into February of '96. And so, I guess the very last changes were in the spring of '96.
LAMB: Was there someone you had picked that you changed your mind about in the early days?
BRAZAITIS: What do you mean by "change your mind"?
LAMB: In other words, you had a character picked and then it just didn't work out.
CLIFT: No. We hedged our bets, though. There are two chapters that have two people each, and the pollsters -- we started out with Stan Greenberg, the president's pollster, but we quickly realized that because he worked for the White House, he was going to be super sensitive about what he told us. And, in fact, he wouldn't give us any memos. We do have some memos which we got from other means, and so then we started in with Frank Luntz, when, as Frank points out, he was still irrelevant, and we felt fortunate when he became a major player in the Republican Contract, so we decided to include both of them. And with the lobbyists, we were afraid we would never find a lobbyist who would be truthful with us, and so we started out with two, because normally lobbyists operate beneath the radar. They don't like the public or the press to see what they're doing. We ended up with two people who we thought were quite forthcoming, and so we have two in each of those chapters. We had an abundance of riches, actually.
BRAZAITIS: Each one of these characters presents a different challenge, and, for instance, Daniel Patrick Moynihan is so professorial, when we interviewed him, we always remember, we took a book down from his shelf in his office, and he began to quote from it. It turned out it was a book he himself had written, so he was quoting himself to us during this interview. He was awfully charming, and when he got the chapters, he sent us three different notes commenting on various parts of it, correcting us on a factual error, but never disabusing us of our own interpretation.
LAMB: Back to the Moynihans for a moment. You had a story in here about Todd Purdum of the New York Times Magazine who wrote a piece about the Moynihans and their son and daughter in law?
CLIFT: The Moynihans have sons, and one of them is married to an African American. And the Moynihans appeared at a Democratic rally in upstate New York, and they had the family on the stage, including their black daughter in law. And Todd Purdum commented that this -- well, he suggested that they had her appear for political reasons. And Liz Moynihan took great offense at that, pointing out that she had traveled with them the entire day, they had all the family with them and that this was not to send any particular message. Moynihan, at that point, was being challenged in the primary by Al Sharpton, a black minister in New York. And Liz got so infuriated about it. I mean, she talked about how, over the course of their political life they had been covered by so many generations of reporters, and that each generation had gotten worse in terms of delving into their private lives, and she felt that they had never used their children for political purposes, and that was unfair.

And we did talk to Todd Purdum who said that he'd gotten a letter written by Mrs. Moynihan on Hotel Carlyle, I think it was, stationery, which was just, you know, filled with her fury at him. And you know, I think that it's an example of the tension between public and private lives and where do you draw the line? And Purdum, I think, is a very good reporter, and the Moynihans thought that they had a good relationship with him, and they felt very, very dishonored by that.
LAMB: He's quoted in here as saying, "She thinks" -- meaning Liz Moynihan -- "thinks I'm the devil incarnate." And you report that he tried to get a hold of her and she didn't take his call. And then later on you talk about where Newt Gingrich is being avoided in the White House by George Bush -- in other words, after they had that blowup over taxes. And the reason I bring this all up is, have either one of you gotten into a situation in your reporting where someone, after your report, won't talk to you? Or do you feel some need to go back to people and say, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you"? You ever been in that kind of position?
BRAZAITIS: The "I'm sorries." I don't ever recall actually ever saying that. Certainly I've had instances during my reporting career where people will not talk to me after something I've written. And usually, however, with politicians that doesn't last. And not only the two of us, but I think all reporters have the highest respect for the politician who can take the big hit -- that is, the negative story -- and still come back and carry on a relationship. That is, take it in stride, or at least not show their bitterness. Members of the Congress or other politicians have reputations for being thin skinned. We know who they are. You know, those can never find any story about them that they feel has been fair. And you just have to deal with that kind of personality.
LAMB: You know, you go to the "McLaughlin Group" show and when you and Fred Barnes or whatever yelling at each other over something. People have an image of the town that after all this is finished, everybody goes, when they're off camera, and pats everybody on the back and says, "You know, I didn't mean anything by that," and you're friends. And you get some sense in here that some of this stuff really sticks and that there's -- very personal. Do you run into that?
CLIFT: Well, some of it really sticks, and then you've also got, you know, people who are combative over television and, for example, Frank Luntz was invited to spend the weekend after the November election at the home of Tony Coelho, who was the White House political strategist, former Democratic leader. Coelho was a big loser and he called Luntz and said, "Come to my Delaware beach house." And the two of them, you know, spent that time together just as veterans of the wars. But, you know, I think overall, politics has gotten more personal now, and more polarized, and I think that's one of the reasons you see the exodus from Capitol Hill. While you don't want to think of it as a game, because that's equally disheartened, you also want to believe that people can debate civilly over issues of public policy, and not make it a series of name calling.
LAMB: Because you take strong positions on programs, you get some strong criticism. You've heard here on ...
CLIFT: Absolutely.
LAMB: Does it hurt?
CLIFT: Well, you know, they often go at, you know, your worst insecurities. I mean, people will comment on, you know, what your appearance or -- I mean, things that you can't really control. And, you know, they will attack you and say you're never being fair and so forth. And I think people sometimes don't understand the different roles that a reporter, like myself, plays.

On the "McLaughlin Group," I am called upon to take positions. The few times that I have tried not to take a position, McLaughlin has called me "Cop out Clift." I mean, that's what you do, and it is the purpose of the show is to get at the polarity of various issues, and to hear different sides. My role at Newsweek is different. I've been really more of a reporter there over the years. And this book, as you probably know from reading it, is a very heavily reported book, and we deal with Democrats, Republicans, elected officials, unelected officials. And, you know, I think people who deal with me as a reporter understand that I know how to be fair, and I know how to put things into context.
LAMB: What's it look like -- you're not as, I didn't want to say outspoken, but you're not in a role often, the same way Eleanor Clift is, your wife.
BRAZAITIS: That's true, although I do have a reputation among my own readers of being on the liberal side of the equation in terms of politics. I have a column every Sunday and it tends -- whatever that means these days, people interpret it as being liberal. My mother, who lives in Cleveland, told me about a radio show that was going on in which somebody called in and said, "Well, Tom Brazaitis actually liked Dole's appearance at the Republican Convention. You know, this is reason to celebrate, because he never says anything nice about Republicans."

So I've written a lot about this, actually, trying to address the readers on this subject and pointing out that like beauty, you know, politics are in the eye of the beholder. Those who feel strongly in one way see everything from that perspective; those who feel strongly, on the other side, tend to see that. In other words, conservatives see liberals everywhere, and liberals tend to see conservatives everywhere. And I like it when I provoke people. I don't want to have them angry, I don't want to have them, you know, taking physical action against me, but I want them to think. And I do think it's better than to try to present a sort of flat, even presentation trying not to offend anyone. I think it's better to point out where I'm coming from, and then let them come at me from where they're coming from.
LAMB: Let me go to the lobbyist chapter. And Paul Equale is, again, who? What's he do?
BRAZAITIS: He's the lobbyist for the Independent Insurance Agents of America.
LAMB: And what are they?
BRAZAITIS: Well, they're the ones who represent a lot of different insurance companies. In other words, one agent could sell you a policy from any number of different insurance companies. He just wants to get you the best coverage that fits your needs, is the way he would put it.
CLIFT: And as people, they are generally the pillars of the community. They serve on the hospital boards, they're the Rotarians, they are the stars in their home communities, and, therefore, have a lot of influence on local politicians.
LAMB: I just want to read some quotes. Well, here's one. He says, "I get to play with the fire without getting burned," being a lobbyist. "They have to vote" -- meaning the Congresspeople -- "which is the worst part about being a member of Congress. It would be a great job if you never had to vote."
CLIFT: Right. Well, Paul Equale says that he has an office on Capitol Hill, which he says is the equivalent of waterfront property. And, you know, he is a member of the permanent establishment. He doesn't have to stand for vote every two years and he gets to play the game. And, you know, Michael Bromberg, our other lobbyist, says the same thing. He says it's much more fun to be the chess player than one of the pieces.
LAMB: "'Mr. Moakley spent some good time a couple of weekends ago with some of my members on a boat,' Equale said. 'Many activities that our members do are to make sure Joe Moakley is enjoying himself.'"
CLIFT: Joe Moakley was a member of the House Rules Committee.
LAMB: Chairman.
BRAZAITIS: Chairman.
CLIFT: Chairman, that's right. And the Rules Committee in the Democratic Congress had a lot of say over what came up and what form it came up in and so forth. And so, yeah. And so they spent a lot of time courting Joe Moakley, and I think Paul Equale says, "It was cheaper to do it on a boat in the Boston area than to pay for a fund raiser here in Washington."
LAMB: Well, here's another quote, and this is from Joe Equale. I mean ...
CLIFT: Paul Equale.
LAMB: Paul Equale. "Inside Washington, it is maybe 1,000 bucks to have dinner with Joe Moakley. Frankly, I would rather be home with my kids. If you go to Boston, for $100, you can go to that fund raiser." Now in both of those statements you have, "Many activities that our members do are to make sure Joe Moakley is enjoying himself." Is that cynical? Do they really want Joe Moakley to enjoy himself?
BRAZAITIS: I think he really does. I think Paul Equale's the kind of person that does thrive on friendships. I mean, he makes friends easily, and I think he values friendships. And when -- was it "PrimeTime Live" exposed his lobbying organization for hosting some staff members on a Caribbean type of vacation, it was Equale who took the heat and went on television and said, "Well, wait a minute. Sam Donaldson, who is on that same show, took $30,000 to speak to our organization just a year ago. What's the difference here?"

And so, you know, he is very much involved in the give and take here. Again, going back to Eleanor's earlier point, in fairness to these lobbyists, these decisions are not made over drinks in Boston or in Washington. They're made because these lobbyists are able to mobilize the pillars of the community, to put pressure directly on members of Congress at the community level where they get their votes. And I think that's the secret to lobbying.
CLIFT: Yeah.
LAMB: But the second part -- let me just jump in on the second part of this. "Inside Washington, it maybe 1,000 bucks to have dinner with Joe Moakley. Frankly, I'd would rather be home with my kids." Does Joe Moakley come to these dinners saying, "I don't want to be here either, but I need the grand"? And to the lobbyists go there saying, "I don't want to be here, but here's the grand"? And ...
CLIFT: Right. So you almost wish that they could find a way to redistribute the money without having to go to the social occasions, except it's illegal, I guess, to just trade bags of money nowadays. I mean, it's done in a much more subtle way. But, you know, the reason that Paul Equale wants to keep Joe Moakley happy, or the Joe Moakleys of the world, is that when he makes a phone call or he wants to gain access to make his case for something, that he can get in the door. What it does is it buys you access and it buys you the benefit of the doubt.
BRAZAITIS: I think you made a good point, though. I think there is a lot of sort of automated money exchanging here. The so called "parties," you know, in quotes. You can go to one of these any night -- several of them any night during the congressional season in Washington, and people are going through the motions of a party. There's food, there's drinks, there are handshakes, there is small talk, but basically it's an exchange of, you know, money from the lobbying community to the politicians.
LAMB: But you start off with this appendix -- the Money Matters appendix, saying that "On October 15th, 1974, barely two months after he had taken the oath of office, President Gerald Ford signed into law the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1974, which changed the rules for the getting and spending of campaign money, and created the Federal Election Commission." Quote, "'The unpleasant truth is that big money has come to play an unseemly role in our political process,' Ford said. 'This bill will come to right that wrong.'" And then you go on in this memo to say it didn't do anything like that.
CLIFT: Well, because the lobbyists and the members of Congress figured out how to get around it. I mean, it was that law that created the political action committees, and now the political action committees, basically, serve as funnels between the lobbying community and the political community. And I think that is the cynical argument against any kind of campaign finance reform, that they will somehow -- as long as we live in a political culture where politicians have to spent big money on television advertising, and the money is in the trade associations and the corporate groups and so forth that you're going to find out how to get it from one place to the other.
BRAZAITIS: And that was my point earlier. We can't expect the laws that benefit the members of Congress to be reformed by the members of Congress. And I remember Wayne Hayes of Ohio was a main player in drafting that reform law. And these politicians saw pretty far ahead the political action committees are of terrific benefit to incumbents, because special interest know that they are more than likely to be re elected, and so they direct their money to the person who will be in office the next time and very seldom to you see challengers get much special interest money.
CLIFT: Well, it's been more than a year since Newt Gingrich and President Clinton shook hands over the idea of, I think, just even creating a commission to look at campaign finance reform in that famous New Hampshire town meeting. And they haven't even been able to agree on how many members of the commission and who appoints whom. So that has stalemated. I think it's the biggest invitation to Ross Perot or another third party candidate on that issue.
LAMB: Maxine Waters. Maxine Waters says, "She curses," quote, "not nearly," unquote, "as much as the men do, but maybe more than they've heard a woman do. Profanity is part of the fearsome manner she has cultivated over the years." Did you witness any of that in your association with Maxine Waters?
BRAZAITIS: Actually, she didn't use curse words in any of our interviews, although she got pretty angry with us at the way -- at her reading of our first draft. As Eleanor pointed out, she filled a legal pad with things that she thought we didn't get right. We didn't understand her. And maybe we don't understand her to this day. I think it's awfully hard to get to know another person in -- in this way, and she may not still think we quite got her right, but we got her to the best of our ability. We captured who she is. She's a tough woman, and the chapter is Knocking Down the Door, it's called, the Maxine Waters' chapter, because when Maxine is told she can't be someplace and she wants to be there, by God she's going to get there. And that happened right after the rioting in Los Angeles, which occurred right in her district after the Rodney King decision. And George Bush, president at the time, assembled a meeting in which he invited congressional representatives to the White House and she was excluded. Well, she put pressure on Tom Foley, the speaker at that time, to make sure that she got into that meeting.
CLIFT: Politicians are afraid of Maxine Waters because they know that if they don't satisfy her in private, that she will take her case to the public and that she is relentless. And she also doesn't abide by all the rules of seniority that exist in Washington. You know, if you want to get somewhere in the Congress, generally you're supposed to, you know, make friends and schmooze and work your way up through the ranks. She's not interested in that, and she challenges the existing order and demands to be included.
LAMB: Here's a quote from your book. "In a private meeting at the White House, she threatened to leave the Democratic Party if Clinton backed away from affirmative action." Quote, "'You do it, I'm going, and I'm taking some people with me,'" she told Clinton aides." Did she tell the president that to his face?
CLIFT: She -- no. She told the aides that to their face, and to their shock Kweisi Mfume, who's now head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, also said that he would leave the party. On another occasion, she did directly confront President Clinton, and that was when he abandoned some of the more liberal provisions in the crime bill that year. And she told him that she would not go out and campaign for him in '96, and the president was reduced to basically saying, "Look, I'm trying to do the best I can in a conservative climate and, you know, I just can't get preventive measures through in any other way except if I accept the tough measures as well."
BRAZAITIS: I think this shows -- in addition to showing something about Maxine, shows something about the difficulty a president has in balancing all the interests that are very adamant about their positions and trying to twist his arm. I mean, Clinton is accused of waffling on issues when, in fact, he's got a weave his way through all these interest groups. And Maxine Waters' support for him in 1992 was important in his campaign and he didn't want to lose her.
CLIFT: And Maxine Waters is also close to Jesse Jackson, and I think if President Clinton had abandoned entirely affirmative action, I think the White House knew they probably would have seen a challenge from Jackson in the primaries, which they didn't want.
LAMB: Is this insight into the president on page 307 where you quote Bill Clinton as saying, "What would you have me do? Look, I'm a Democratic president confronted with Republican, right wing attitudes. If I come to Congress with a progressive prevention practice, it will never pass. So, in essence, what I've done, I've forced them to take this prevention stuff."
CLIFT: Right.
LAMB: I mean, is that what's going on in this town all the time because there's a Republican Congress and a Democratic president.
CLIFT: Well, that's right. And Clinton likes to view things optimistically, so he was trying to say to Maxine, "Look, I'm getting them to do all these good things, and they're the ones who are being snookered." Where as she was saying, you know, "You're being had by the Republican Congress." It's all how you look at it. But, in fact, Tom is right. I mean, Clinton is in the middle. I mean, he's got to always balance what he would like against what is achievable, and that, in fact, is the art of politics.
LAMB: You do read, from time to time, some language out of everyone's mouth in this book, and here's another one. This is Sheila Burke saying -- she's talking about her son. I won't say it, but anyway, "He's ticked." There's another word that she used.
CLIFT: Right.
LAMB: "Why don't you quit that stupid job and come home." This is 7 year old Daniel saying this to his mother?
BRAZAITIS: Well, this is her interpretation of what he said. "Quit that" -- he didn't use any language where she did, as I recal l...
CLIFT: No. No.
BRAZAITIS: ... but it's an interesting exchange because, I think, women especially will relate to it -- working women everywhere will relate to the fact that here's a woman in a job close to the majority leader of the Senate, Bob Dole -- he was the majority leader at that time -- who practically has no other life other than his job. And so she had to devote a great deal of her life to it, and at the same time, she's raising a family. And her give and take with her son sort of brings out the tug and pull that a lot of women feel.
CLIFT: Yeah, Sheila Burke has three children, and at the time of this writing the oldest was seven. And she is extraordinarily efficient and is often noted that she gave birth to two out of the three children when Congress was on recess, so she barely had to, you know, take a breath. But as the children get older, I think it becomes more complicated, and the long hours -- I was there when that phone conversation happened, and she was returning a stack of pink slips -- Sheila Burke is also uncomputerized. So she still operates with pink telephone slips, and she was calling back a number of people, including her husband. And her son answered the phone and she said, you know, "Tell Daddy I called. I returned his phone call." But the son wasn't going to let her off the hook and wanted to know when she was coming home, and it would be late and he wanted to know why and that's when he said, "Why don't you quit that stupid job and come home?" And, you know, as any mother knows, boy, you get the guilts.
LAMB: Labels. Sheila Burke was a Democrat, and now she's a Republican. Michael Bromberg was a Democrat and now he's a Republican, if I've got this right.
CLIFT: Michael Bromberg may not be a registered Republican. He calls himself a Scoop Jackson Democrat, but I think if you ask him, he voted Republican and now he's working for Bob Dole.
LAMB: Frank Luntz was a Republican, or is a Republican, worked for Ross Perot. I mean, do labels mean anything in this town? Are they loyal to anything?
BRAZAITIS: Well, I think party -- that's a very good question; probably deserving of a book in it's own right. What's ever happened to what we called party, you know? And one of the things we say about Congress is these days they're more like 400 -- 535 separate corporations dedicated to re electing the CEO, number -- mainly the member of the House or the member of the Senate, and so they don't rely so much on party anymore. You know, they've got television to appeal directly to the voters. They've got special interests to get their financing. So the idea of party is somewhat faded, and in the case of Luntz, in the case of Ed Rollins, in the case of Hamilton Jordan, all of whom went to...
CLIFT: Dick Morris.
BRAZAITIS: Dick Morris. All of whom...
CLIFT: Right.
BRAZAITIS: The previous three went to work for Perot, they knew from seeing others -- Dave Gergen comes to mind -- that you could get away with switching sides and still come home. So I think that's relatively recent, but it's becoming more prevalent.
CLIFT: You can put a good face on that in the sense that some of the people who switch are abandoning the more polarized segments of their party and searching for this elusive middle.
LAMB: You all finished the introduction with this sentence, "Imperfect as it is" -- and I want to know how long it took you to write this sentence. "Imperfect as it is, politics reflects the reality of the human condition: High ideals compromised by what is achievable." Whose idea was that sentence?
BRAZAITIS: Wow.
CLIFT: I'll take credit for that.
BRAZAITIS: I'll give Eleanor credit. I don't remember, but...
CLIFT: Right.
BRAZAITIS: ... it certainly we both subscribe to that this is what the game comes down to. These people, no matter what the public thinks, they're not craven people. They come to Washington with a set of ideals and wanting to accomplish things, and yet there's compromise.
CLIFT: Yeah. I was especially concerned that I didn't want to just add to the cynicism that's out there, and we actually started this book as a spirit of celebration. It was conceived when it looked like major health care reform looked like it was certain to pass. And for a moment, at least, some of the gloom had lifted over electoral politics. And we thought we might write a positive book about political professionals in this army of handlers. Well, health care reform failed, the country rebelled against the Democrats and, in fact, the cynicism in the country deepened. But I think if you look at what people do in any profession -- in a board room, in academia -- you will find the same sort of, you know, jockeying for personal gain that you find in the political community and this is mixed with the same noble calling and, basically, you know, that is -- that is the human condition. And I suppose what we're saying is you can't expect our politicians to be so much better than we are.
LAMB: Will you do this again together?
BRAZAITIS: We will, Brian, if you or any of the viewers can give us a darn good idea, preferably one that will be a best seller. Just send your ideas to us, care of C SPAN.
CLIFT: That's right.
LAMB: What was the toughest part about writing a book together, or writing a book at all?
CLIFT: Wow. I think in a way the publicizing of it is a bigger challenge than the writing of it. I mean, there are so many books printed every year, and you need to punch through somehow and the books that seem to punch through are the ones that make outrageous allegations. And while we have a number of revelations for this book, it is grounded in fact and reporting and we can defend every line in it, and that's unlike some of the books that are out there.
LAMB: By the way, where'd you have this picture taken?
BRAZAITIS: Well, the picture of us was actually taken in a studio in Virginia, across the river, and the capital was taken separately and by magic, we're together on the cover.
CLIFT: Right.
LAMB: And we're out of time.
CLIFT: OK.
LAMB: The book is "War With" -- excuse me. "War Without Bloodshed." Eleanor Clift and Tom Brazaitis, thank you very much for joining us.
BRAZAITIS: Thank you.
CLIFT: Thank you.


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