(5 of 25)
Values had always been Will's hobbyhorse, and others on the team, like Lacy and Warfield, saw things the same way. But in 1995, when they pushed Reed and pollster Tony Fabrizio toward the values axis, the two shied away. To them, values revived the tempests of 1992 and Pat Buchanan's talk of a cultural war. They saw values talk as code for abortion, and Dole wanted to steer clear of that. But Will pushed Fabrizio to do some polling about Hollywood. She understood that parents were concerned about trash on television, violence on the screen and the music their children were listening to. When Fabrizio finally posed a Hollywood question, the response was boffo. Dole bashed Hollywood in May 1995, and the right wing cheered. He seemed to be on message, and he left Gramm in the dust.
Schoen and Morris were convinced that for Clinton to achieve credibility with the electorate, he had to come out in favor of a balanced budget. Schoen pointed out that 80% of Americans supported a balanced budget and didn't care how many years it took. As early as February, in meetings with Clinton and Panetta, Morris and Schoen had called for Clinton to propose his own plan to bring the deficit to zero. Gore and Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin supported the move, but the White House liberals--Panetta, Stephanopoulos and Ickes--were vehemently opposed.
At a strategy meeting in May, Morris pushed it again, and this time, instead of the Old Guard responding, the President did. He blasted the move, saying it would enrage congressional Democrats and seem like another flip-flop. Schoen was crestfallen. But when Morris left the meeting, he was confident. Later Schoen figured out why. "I discovered that when Clinton is inclined to agree with you," he says, "he'll take a completely adversarial view."
By June, Clinton's mind was made up. "I have to do this," he told Stephanopoulos. It wasn't negotiable. On June 8, the night Captain Scott O'Grady was rescued in Bosnia, the President invited Morris and Schoen into his private study. Clinton told them he had made peace with the idea of a balanced budget. Tony Lake, the National Security Adviser, came in to inform the President that O'Grady was still in Serb airspace. Lake looked concerned that the consultants were in on classified information. "Don't worry," the President told Lake, "these guys don't leak."
The initial strike in the first campaign--Clinton's war against his liberal image--was a series of crime ads to be aired 17 months before the election. Clinton knew he needed to boost his job-approval ratings before the nation would listen to him without scoffing. He had to persuade people that what they believed about him was wrong. "The idea," as Knapp said, "was, 'This is not the guy you think you know.'" Crime was the place to start. Clinton had bucked Democratic orthodoxy on the issue by supporting the death penalty and stiff sentencing laws and because he had passed the Brady Bill, the assault-weapons ban and a crime bill. Says Schoen: "We wanted to take crime off the table."