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

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

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

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


Most Americans saw President Bill Clinton and Speaker Newt Gingrich as staunch foes--"the polar extremes of Pennsylvania Avenue." But as Steven Gillon reveals in The Pact, these powerful adversaries formed a secret alliance in 1997, a pact that would have rocked the political landscape, had it not foundered in the wake of the Lewinsky scandal.

A fascinating look at politics American-style, The Pact offers a riveting account of two of America's most charismatic and influential leaders, detailing both their differences and their striking similarities, and highlighting the profound and lasting impact the tumultuous 1960s had on both their personal and political lives. With the cooperation of both President Clinton and Speaker Gingrich, interviews with key players who have never before spoken about their experiences, along with unprecedented access to Gingrich's private papers, Gillon not only offers a behind-the-scenes look at the budget impasse and the government shutdown in 1995--the famous face-off between Clinton and Gingrich--but he also reveals how the two moved closer together after 1996--closer than anyone knew. In particular, the book illuminates their secret efforts to abandon the liberal and conservative wings of their own parties and strike a bi-partisan deal to reform the "third rail of American politics"--Social Security and Medicare. That potentially groundbreaking effort was swept away by the highly charged reaction to the Lewinsky affair, ending an initiative that might have transformed millions of American lives.

Packed with compelling new revelations about two of the most powerful and intriguing figures of our time, this book will be must reading for everyone interested in politics or current events.


Shortly after 7:00 PM on Monday, October 28, 1997, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, accompanied by his chief of staff, Arne Christenson, made the brief trip from his Capitol Hill office to the White House. The purpose of the visit was to hammer out the final details of the 1998 budget with the president. But as his car moved down Pennsylvania Avenue past the monuments that symbolize the nation’s past, the historian in Gingrich could not help thinking that he too was making history on this warm fall evening. For the past few months, his closest aides had been holding secret meetings with senior White House officials. In private sessions and late-night phone calls they discussed the parameters of a proposed deal between President Clinton and the Speaker that would rock the Washington establishment. Now it was time for the two men to meet face to face to finalize the arrangement. “This wasn’t just another meeting,” reflected White House Chief-of-Staff Erskine Bowles. “We all knew we were making history.”

Both sides went to great lengths to maintain secrecy. The president did not tell his vice president, the Democratic leadership in the House, or even his wife, about the meeting. He knew that many members of his administration and Democrats in Congress would erupt if they learned that he was dealing with Gingrich. After all, Gingrich had climbed to power, becoming Speaker in 1995, by attacking leading Democrats, including a former Speaker of the House, Jim Wright of Texas. Democratic antipathy for Gingrich was surpassed only by conservative hatred of Clinton. Some conservatives had already tried to remove Gingrich as Speaker a few months earlier because they felt he had gone soft on the president. Knowing that he could not survive . . .

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