Quest for the Presidency, 1992

By Peter L. Goldman; Thomas M. Defrank et al. | Go to book overview

30
To the Wire

S uddenly, in the final weeks, the return engagement of George Bush in his hit 1988 role as the Terminator seemed to be paying off again. The president and his team had put on one of the most unremittingly negative campaigns in our contemporary history, so strident that his own substantial virtues and his newly minted agenda for America were barely afterthoughts to the violence of his assault and battery on Bill Clinton. His handlers called his line of attack T&T, for taxes and trust, and once he finally got his lines straight in the third debate, it began drawing blood. The race narrowed giddily; for the first time since Labor Day, Bush's lieutenants could seriously imagine his winning a second term.

His situation in fact was more nearly remission than recovery, but while it lasted, it was white-knuckle time again in Clinton's War Room in Little Rock -- a bungee jump from a double-digit lead to five points in their own polling and to one in the most discouraging of the public surveys. The challenger's team couldn't be sure that he had touched bottom, and a campaign then still being taxed in the press with its overconfidence found itself in a state approaching terror.

"How scared are you?" George Stephanopoulos asked, dropping by James Carville's office one night for company watching the evening news.

"How scared?" Carville replied. "I'm this scared: if we lose, I won't commit suicide, but I'll serious contemplate it."

It was, ironically, Ross Perot who had set off their latest angst attack with his dominating performance in the last debate. Till then, he had been almost a de facto ally, concentrating most of his fire on the president; the enemy of their enemy had become, to that degree, their friend. But in East Lansing, he had turned on Clinton, bracketing him with Bush as twins separated at birth. The two of them were, in Perot's rendering, the look-alike progeny of a discredited political establishment; neither one had the wit, the plan, or the courage to do

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Quest for the Presidency, 1992
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • I - A Quiet National Crisis 1
  • 1 - The Autumn of a President 3
  • 2 - The Age of Anxiety 11
  • 3 - The Winds of Rebellion 20
  • II - The Challenger 29
  • 4 - The Man Who Would Be President 31
  • 5 - Waiting for Godot 48
  • 6 - The Look of a Winner 73
  • 7 - The Scent of a Woman 89
  • 8 - The Comeback Kid 126
  • 9 - Goin' Home 156
  • 10 - The Downside of Charisma 185
  • 11 - The Doom Crier 208
  • 12 - The Manhattan Project 245
  • 13 - The Man from Hope 269
  • III - The President 295
  • 14 - Where Was George? 297
  • 15 - The War against the Crown 318
  • 16 - The Last Inaction Hero 341
  • 17 - He Doesn't Get It 358
  • 18 - The Quayle Hunt 368
  • 19 - The Return of Little Brother 387
  • 20 - This Way to the Jihad 398
  • IV - The Billionaire 411
  • 21 - Citizen Perot 413
  • 22 - The Age of Innocence 424
  • 23 - The War of the Worlds 436
  • 24 - Point Counterpoint 449
  • 25 - The Long Goodbye 463
  • V - The Choice 481
  • 26 - The Boys on the Bus 483
  • 27 - The Search for a Silver Bullet 508
  • 28 - The Second Coming 538
  • 29 - Nine Days in October 553
  • 30 - To the Wire 579
  • Appendix - The Campaign Papers 615
  • Index 736
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