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Tipper Gore had watched Bob Dole's convention speech and been struck by Dole's elegiac hymn to a "better time." Dole's central metaphor--"Let me be a bridge to a time of tranquillity"--kept playing in her head. The only problem was that Dole was driving in the wrong direction. She told her husband about the image, and he mentioned it to Clinton, who relayed it to Morris and Penn. Other aides had been thinking about bridges too. It had a nice ring.
Penn and Schoen set about testing variations on the bridge theme. When they tested four versions of the bridge slogan, "Building a Bridge to the 21st Century" appealed to 61%, while "Building a Bridge to the Year 2000" scored 54%, and the more frank "Building a Bridge to a Second Term" rang up only 39%. "A Bridge to the 21st Century" it would be.
On the train to Chicago, Penn declared a "mood shift." It was time to usher in some more upbeat, Reaganesque Morning in America rhetoric. Even the congenitally gloomy Stephanopoulos and Ickes were seeing the sunny side of things.
The one person who seemed grim was Morris. His behavior was becoming alarming. He had been spooked by Elizabeth Dole's glittering performance and proposed that Hillary Clinton confine her convention speech to policy only--a bizarre suggestion for a First Lady who was still trying to live down her image as a backroom policy shrew. He had other odd ideas too. Penn and Schoen had tested Robin Williams, Barbra Streisand and other celebrities who might add star power to the opening-night theme of Americans who have overcome adversity. Christopher Reeve tested best. Gore's staff was handling Reeve's speech. Morris demanded that they insert a paragraph in the paralyzed actor's resolutely nonpartisan text that described the nightmare of lying in a hospital bed and hearing that Gingrich was plotting to cut Medicare. He was on some kind of manic high, thought Penn, who considered confronting Morris and relieving him of command. He was sure Morris would self-destruct.
His premonition came true on Thursday, Aug. 29, when news of Morris' liaison with a prostitute brought the strategist down. The President was delivering his acceptance speech that day; Clinton's coronation was marred by the adviser who had helped make it possible. The man who had shown Clinton the utility of family values now made the theme seem cynical.
When the story broke, Wednesday night, Schoen and Erskine Bowles told Morris he would have to resign. He could not come to terms with the chaos he had caused. "Dick, you had a good run," Schoen said. "Now go with as much dignity as you can." On Thursday morning, Sheinkopf and Squier escorted Morris and his wife from their suite at the Chicago Sheraton to a cab that whisked them to the airport before reporters knew what was going on. Even Morris haters like Stephanopoulos felt some concern for the fallen adviser. But Penn could not hide his sense of release.
At the first residence meeting after Morris' exit, Panetta walked in and sat down in Morris' chair. It was a symbolic victory for the chief of staff, who had always regarded Morris with contempt. Panetta would now lead the meetings. "We all know what Dick did," he said. "Now we're moving on." There was relief in the room--and the meeting was more businesslike, and shorter. "That was it. Boom!" Stephanopoulos recalls. "I said to myself, 'What a cold business this is.'"