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Schoen could see that the Clinton-Morris relationship was evolving but that the President was still on guard. He wasn't completely committing. "I don't want to read about you in the press," he told Morris and Schoen. "I'm sick and tired of consultants' getting famous at my expense. Any story that comes out during the campaign undermines my candidacy." Morris was brilliant, Schoen knew, but erratic. There was an excellent chance he would flame out. So when Morris turned to Schoen for help in assembling the message team, Schoen recruited one that could survive without Morris. At the heart of it was Squier Knapp Ochs, a firm Schoen had worked with before and one that had the manpower to handle a presidential race. Clinton asked Schoen if he could trust Squier. "Absolutely," said Schoen. "I'd trust him with my family and my bottom dollar."
In the Yellow Oval Room of the White House residence, Clinton had been convening weekly strategy sessions that included members of the team. The meetings were small and secret, attended by Clinton, Morris, Gore, Schoen, Ickes, chief of staff Leon Panetta, senior adviser George Stephanopoulos and then deputy chief of staff Erskine Bowles. Schoen had persuaded a reluctant Morris to let Penn get involved, and he was beginning to attend. Penn and Schoen were disturbed to find that the President, a commanding figure, was not in control of his White House. The liberal institution was running itself. The White House staff had the power to get almost anything killed--even things Clinton wanted. The place was being run on an ad hoc, week-to-week basis. The events of the week created the message of the week, which created the poll of the week, which created the meeting of the week. There was no long-term thinking.
To the consultants, the White House Old Guard of Panetta, Ickes and Stephanopoulos seemed to have one short-term plan: to show Morris the door as quickly as possible. Panetta regarded Morris as Clinton's "flavor of the week," while Ickes predicted he would be gone within six months. Both men were valuable to Clinton: Panetta brought new discipline to the White House operation, and Ickes built a machine that scared away potential primary challengers. But to these loyal Democrats, the Morris strategy of triangulation--positioning the President above and between both parties--sounded like selling out.
HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD
Bob Dole had only one move to make in 1995--a shift to the right side of the road. For the close circle around Dole, the question was not whether to flank Phil Gramm, but how soon and by how much. Dole knew the truth of Nixon's dictum: run hard to starboard in the primaries; tack back to the center for the general. The trick, Dole understood, was not getting out so far that he couldn't make it back to safety.
In early 1995, Will set about capturing the right-wing activists in Iowa and New Hampshire, all of whom were naturally suspicious of the pragmatic Kansan. Will believed the race would be about back-porch issues--not tax cuts or foreign policy but the everyday hopes and fears that Americans had for themselves and their children. If Dole could address those issues, he would not only outflank Gramm; he might even outflank Clinton.