The Pact: Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and the Rivalry That Defined a Generation

By Steven M. Gillon | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THIRTEEN “You Ain’t Seen
Nothing Yet”

AFTER SUCCESSFULLY NEGOTIATING the balanced budget bill, Bowles believed he had completed the job for which the president had hired him. He informed Clinton that he planned to step down as chief of staff and return to his highly profitable, and more enjoyable, private-sector position. The president had different ideas. Over the next few months, the president aggressively courted Bowles, trying to convince him to stay on for at least another year. In December, the president and First Lady asked Bowles to join them on Air Force One for a Christmas trip to visit American troops stationed in Bosnia. On the return flight, they surrounded him and made a joint pitch for him to stay. They assured him that the congressional investigations into Whitewater were dying out and they had a unique window of opportunity to make history. “We are going to do great things,” he promised.1

With the exception of the giddy first few days of his presidency, Clinton had never been more confident than he was in the fall and winter of 1997. “There was a real sense of excitement,” recalled John Hilley.2 For most of his presidency, Clinton had been on the defensive. He started out resisting pressure from congressional Democrats trying to impose their priorities on him. After 1994, he was fighting to preserve his presidency from the Republican onslaught. Now all that had changed. His personal popularity remained high. Most of all, he and the people around him finally felt they had figured out how to make it all work: how to maneuver legislation through a Republican Congress, how to use the media to shape public opinion, and how to make the most effective use of their greatest asset—the president’s remarkable political

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