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The Choice
By Bob Woodward

Chapter One: Spiritual Adviser Aided First Lady's Search

President Clinton and his wife, Hillary, invited a group of popular self-help authors to Camp David to help them dissect what had happened in the first two years of the presidency and to search for a way back after the Democrats' devastating loss to the Republicans in the 1994 congressional elections. They met the weekend beginning Friday, Dec. 30, 1994.

Three of the attendees were well-known: Anthony Robbins, author of "Awaken the Giant Within"; Marianne Williamson, author of "A Return to Love"; and Stephen R. Covey, author of "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People." Their names later leaked out publicly and all three declined to discuss the substance of the meeting.

The identities of the two others did not leak, and they were the ones who played a significant role over the weekend and the year that followed.

The first was Jean Houston, co-director of the Foundation for Mind Research, which studies psychic experience and altered and expanded consciousness. Houston, then 55, the author of 14 books, was one of the most high-energy seminar leaders in the country. She was a believer in spirits, mythic and other connections to history and other worlds. Houston believed that her personal archetypal predecessor was Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom. She conducted extensive dialogues with Athena on her computer that she called "docking with one's angel." Houston wore an ancient Hellenistic coin of Athena set in a medallion around her neck all the time.

The second was Mary Catherine Bateson, Houston's colleague, an anthropology professor at George Mason University in nearby Virginia and the daughter of celebrated anthropologist Margaret Mead. Bateson, a respected academic, was the author of "Composing a Life," the story of the struggles and frustrations of five women on nontraditional life paths. Hillary said "Composing a Life" was one of her favorite books.

As the five authors sat with the president and the first lady for hours, they asked Clinton to describe his best qualities.

"I have a good heart," Clinton said. "I really do. I hope I have a decent mind." He said that he wanted to do the best that he could for the American people.

Clinton acknowledged that he was feeling pretty beaten down. As both Clinton and Hillary described their lives and the White House, Jean Houston felt their deep torment. But she saw possibilities in their extraordinary openness about their pain.

The president said he was looking for a way to see the presidency and to speak to the public from another perspective.

There is a "field," Houston told Clinton, that comes with being president. The office brought a whole historical procession of previous presidents, of the country and the struggle. Houston advised that Clinton, as a student of history and biography, take the fact of the unique historical circumstances of his presidency and go back to his predecessors and try to harvest their learning. From that the president could construct a vision of the better society, what she called "the possible society."

Hillary and Houston clicked, especially during a discussion of how to use the office for the betterment of society. Houston said Hillary was carrying the burden of 5,000 years of history when women were subservient. The rising of women to equal partnership with men was the biggest event in history, Houston said. Hillary represented the "new story." She was reversing thousands of years of expectation, and was there upfront, probably more than virtually any woman in human history -- apart from Joan of Arc. Hillary was a stand-in for all women, and as such had a historic opportunity.

Houston saw some bitterness, but more sorrow in Hillary over her failed attempt to reform the nation's health care system and the constant personal attacks she endured, which had forced her to the sidelines of the policy and public issue debates. Houston felt at one point that being Hillary was like being Mozart with his hands cut off, unable to play. Though Houston did not articulate the image to Hillary, she felt that the first lady was going through a female crucifixion.

Houston told Hillary that she would prevail. Hillary was creating a new pattern of possibility for women. She had to hang in there, not give up. Her time would come when she would be in the place and the role that she could really express the fullness of what she was.

The third year of her husband's presidency was a difficult time for Hillary. She was continually being battered in the various Whitewater investigations. And the outright rejection of her health care reform plan was more than an incidental setback. It hit directly at the core of the definition of herself as a competent if not visionary policymaker. The failure also undercut the notion of the partnership she had hoped to have with her husband, and the expected sharing of his presidency.

She did not attend the evening campaign meetings that her husband began holding each week in early 1995 in the White House residence. She and her husband had decided that her participation would feed suspicions about her role as the hidden hand of the administration. Her thoughts and advice, which were plentiful, would be given to him alone in their private time together.

She seemed jerked around by the muddled role of first lady, as she swung between New Age feminist and national housewife. Her sense of high purpose and doing good had been thwarted.

She was reaching out and searching hard.

Jean Houston and Mary Catherine Bateson had followed up their weekend at Camp David with a series of letters, proposals and ideas on defining her role as first lady and rising above the criticism and attacks. Houston had strongly encouraged Hillary to write a book, and Hillary had begun one, on children. Hillary invited Houston and Bateson to the White House; in Hillary's office, Houston noticed a big picture of Eleanor Roosevelt, the first lady 10 presidents back.

Eleanor Roosevelt was a particular favorite of Hillary's. In the first month of the Clinton presidency, Hillary had said, she often turned to Eleanor Roosevelt for inspiration, holding imaginary discussions with Eleanor. "I thought about all the conversations I've had in my head with Mrs. Roosevelt this year, one of the saving graces that I have hung on to for dear life," Hillary said Feb. 21, 1993, at a New York dinner to raise money for an Eleanor Roosevelt statue. Hillary said the questions she put in her head to Eleanor included, "How did you put up with this?" and "How did you go on day to day, with all the attacks and criticisms that would be hurled your way?"

As a teenager, Houston had met Eleanor Roosevelt about six times, and she recounted those encounters to Hillary. Houston and Hillary talked about Eleanor's lifetime struggle on behalf of the poor, and her fight against racism and sexism.

"God," Houston thought, "this is really a serious Eleanor Roosevelt aficionado." Clearly Eleanor was Hillary's archetypal, spiritual partner, much as Athena was for Houston. On her visit to the White House in early April 1995, Houston proposed that Hillary dig deeper for her connections to Mrs. Roosevelt. Houston and her work were controversial because she believed in spirits and other worlds, put people into trances and used hypnosis, and because in the 1960s she had conducted experiments with LSD. But she tried to be careful with Hillary and the president, intentionally avoiding any of those techniques.

Houston and Bateson met with Hillary in the solarium, a sun parlor with three sides of windows perched atop the White House. It was afternoon and they all sat around a circular table with several members of the first lady's staff. One was making a tape recording of the session. The room, which Hillary had redecorated and was her favorite place for important meetings, offered a spectacular view to the south of the Washington Monument. Fresh fruit, popcorn and pretzels had been set out.

Houston asked Hillary to imagine she was having a conversation with Eleanor. In a strong and self-confident voice, Houston asked Hillary to shut her eyes in order to eliminate the room and her surroundings, and to focus her reflection by bringing in as many vivid internal sensory images as she could from her vast knowledge of Eleanor.

We admire you, said Houston. She was trying to create an atmosphere of mutual admiration.

Hillary settled back in her seat and shut her eyes. She had just returned from a 10-day trip with her daughter, Chelsea, through South Asia, India and Nepal -- a trip Houston, an old Asia hand herself, had encouraged her to make.

You're walking down a hall, Houston said, and there's Mrs. Roosevelt. Now let's describe her.

Hillary did. She had a wonderful description of Eleanor smiling, outgoing, slightly frumpy, always engaged, always fighting.

Go there to Mrs. Roosevelt and talk about the possible future of the children, Houston said.

Hillary gave a long answer. Children were her subject, 25 years of legal and policy advocacy on their behalf.

Houston asked the first lady to open up herself to Mrs. Roosevelt as a way of looking at her own capacities and place in history. Houston regarded it as a classic technique, practiced by Machiavelli, who used to talk to ancient men. What might Eleanor say? What is your message to her? she asked Hillary.

Hillary addressed Eleanor, focusing on her predecessor's fierceness and determination, her advocacy on behalf of people in need, the obstacles, the criticism, the loneliness the former first lady felt. Hillary's identification with Mrs. Roosevelt was intense and personal. They were members of an exclusive club of women who could comprehend the complexity, the ambiguity of their position. It's hard, Hillary said. Why was there such a need in people to put other people down?

Houston encouraged Hillary to play the other part, to respond as Mrs. Roosevelt. The discourse with a person not there, particularly a historical figure in an equivalent position, opened up a whole constellation of ideas, Houston felt.

I was misunderstood, Hillary replied, her eyes still shut, speaking as Mrs. Roosevelt. You have to do what you think is right. It was crucial to set a course and hold to it.

Houston thought that in many great people's lives a period of isolation and betrayal was followed by their most productive years. Attacks made their mission clearer. But Hillary was facing much greater toxicity and negativity than Eleanor had.

Hillary reviewed various attitudes and setbacks she had encountered. Each time Houston asked her: How would you explain this to Mrs. Roosevelt? And what would she respond?

The White House had been a shock, Hillary said. She had not been prepared for the kinds of attention she had received for every statement or move she made. Unintentionally, her allies often isolated her as much as her opponents, giving rise to impossible expectations, placing the spotlight on every aspect of her words, action and past.

Houston said Hillary needed to see and understand that Mrs. Roosevelt was not just a historic figure but was someone who also was hurt by all that happened to her. And yet Mrs. Roosevelt went on with her work. Hillary needed to unleash the same potential in herself. In adversity she needed to find the seeds of growth and transformation. It then would become possible to inherit from these mythical or historic figures, and to achieve self-healing.

Bateson, who was watching more than participating in the session, considered the activity a kind of meditation, reflection or even prayer.

Next, Houston asked Hillary to carry on a conversation with Mahatma Gandhi, the Hindu leader, a powerful symbol of stoic self-denial. Talk to him, Houston said. What would you say and what would you ask?

Hillary expressed reverence and respect for Gandhi's life and works, almost drawing his and her own life together with her words, opening herself up wide, acknowledging the level of his exertion, empathizing with his persecution. She said he too was profoundly misunderstood, when all he wanted to do was to help others and make peace. It was a strong personal outpouring -- virtual therapy, and unusual in front of a large group.

Talk with Jesus Christ, Houston proposed next. Jesus was the epitome of the wounded, betrayed and isolated.

That would be too personal, Hillary said, declining to address Jesus.

After about an hour, the session was over. Chelsea had called her mother earlier and had complained of an upset stomach. Hillary wanted to go see her daughter.

Houston and Bateson said they would be available to meet with Hillary at any time in the future. Of course, they would not charge the government or Hillary for their services but they wondered if it was possible for Houston to get a reduced government airfare from her home in New York state. It turned out not to be possible.

Most people in the White House did not know about Hillary's sessions with Houston and Bateson. To some of those who did, the meetings could trigger politically damaging comparisons to Nancy Reagan's use of astrology, which had heavily influenced if not determined the schedule of her husband, President Ronald Reagan. Astrology only changed timing, and it was a kind of pseudoscience that could be fun or worth a laugh. Yet the Reagans had been ridiculed. Hillary's sessions with Houston reflected a serious inner turmoil that she had not resolved.

Hillary continued her meetings and in-depth discussions with Houston and Bateson. Houston was writing her 15th book, a kind of autobiography called "A Mythic Life." She sent one chapter to Hillary that was called "The Road of Trials." Hillary said it really s truck home for her. The chapter was built on Sophocles' notion of "wisdom through suffering." The sufferings, or "woundings," as Houston called them, were necessary for growth and could be converted to opportunity.

Hillary told Houston she was moved by the chapter. The first lady also said that she and the president had read Houston's book, "Manual for the Peacemaker: An Iroquois Legend to Heal Self and Society."

Houston had at least one more deep, reflective meditation session, in which Hillary closed her eyes and carried on an imaginary discussion with Eleanor Roosevelt. Houston's purpose was to move forward so Hillary could put her "wounding" in the middle of her story, ending with the birth of a new grace.

Houston regarded this as intensely difficult. Hillary was not there yet.

In 1995, this articulate woman of great intelligence, talent, stamina and genuine caring seemed not to know what course she was on or where she was heading.

In public she kept up a good front, declaring that she felt no confusion or pain. She laughed, giggled and dismissed most suggestions or questions about her apparent setbacks and difficulties.

Hillary spent a lot of time thinking about Vince Foster, the deputy White House counsel who had committed suicide in 1993. Foster was from Hope, Ark., along with Bill Clinton, and later had been Hillary's law partner. In the Arkansas years she would have ranked Foster as among the three most together people she knew. "From the outside it just looked like he was absolutely rooted, connected," Hillary told an associate. "Suicide is as old as time so there are some things you really can't avoid, but really when you think about it, it's the ultimate example of not being equipped. For whatever combination of reasons, you've got to be able to dig deep down and you've got to be able to hear your mother's voice, your father's voice, your brother's voice, you've got to be able to hear that and you've got to be receptive to that."

Voices were on Hillary's mind. Whether the voices of Eleanor Roosevelt or Gandhi in the sessions with Houston and Bateson, or voices from her immediate family or her own past, the first lady seemed to be straining to hear them.

She continued to her associate, almost as if she were giving herself a pep talk. "Part of being equipped is to know yourself well enough because of the inputs you've gotten from other people, starting with your parents, to be able to make adjustments, to be able to say wait a minute, this is not working, this is not right for me, how do I get myself out of this?"

Hillary remarked that she was sure that good habits were the key to survival. "I really believe you can change the way you feel and think if you discipline yourself. You know, there's that great phrase, I think it's in Alcoholics Anonymous, that somebody once told me, `Fake it till you make it.' "

"Life throws a lot of crap at you," Hillary said. "When the inevitable crap comes, which it will in anybody's life, and not just once but several times, that there is a cushion of capacity there, and there is a structure that gets you up in the morning."

She added, "The more I see of the world, the more impressed I am that the vast majority of people do that every day. You know, it's amazing to me that people actually stop at stop signs, that they do feed their children."

Houston had encouraged Hillary to write a book about children, but the first draft had not satisfied Hillary. So in October and November 1995, Houston virtually moved into the White House residence for several days at a time to help. One period was about five days, with an interlude, and then approximately another five days. Bateson came to help at the end. They were spirit raisers, encouragers, idea people. H ouston and Bateson did variations of chapters which Hillary then took and rewrote. "It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us" was published in early 1996 and became a No. 1 New York Times bestseller.

On March 21, 1996, Houston visited the White House and thought that Hillary seemed a little down. In her role as spirit lifter, Houston told some jokes and stories.

Maggie Williams, chief of staff to the first lady, said later, "Oh, Hillary's ticking. She's had her `Jean fix.' "

As Williams saw it, Hillary found Houston very smart and colorful, a vivid personality with a great gift for language. In these toughest of times, Hillary had 10 to 11 confidantes, including Houston and Hillary's own mother. But Houston was the most dramatic.

Houston sensed the president's nervousness around her, and she was not sure Clinton liked her. So she asked Hillary whether he did.

"Oh, yes, yeah," Hillary replied.

"Sometimes he's uneasy," Houston said.

"Well, he's basically a very conservative man," Hillary said.

Houston wondered what might happen if her role as adviser and friend to the first couple became public.

"If I ever get caught," Houston asked Hillary, "what should I say?"

"Just tell the truth," Hillary replied, "just tell them you're my friend."

In the Dole 'World of Indecision, Small Steps Became a Run

Early Saturday morning, Dec. 3, 1994, Sen. Bob Dole walked briskly through the glass doors of his office, Room 141, on the first floor of the modern Hart Senate Office Building. Dole, 71, appreciated Saturdays. There was much less pressure, fewer people standing in line to see him, he could wear casual sports clothes. His first appointment was at 9 a.m. with his wife, Elizabeth.

"Okay, Bob," she had said several days before, "let's set aside a few quiet hours and let's just look at some of this in more detail." They had been married 19 years, and she wanted to discuss, systematically and at length, the possibility that he was going to run for president a third time.

Dole's decision-making style was elliptical. His staff often called it "Dole World." Dole rarely made a definitive decision. He never, never, never made a commitment until first taking little steps and dropping hints about where he was heading. The signals would mount: grunts, half-sentences, a growl of displeasure, a thumb-up of approval. He would never come right out and say what he was thinking.

That Saturday, Dole and his wife were beginning the formal process of deciding whether he would run. He had just been elected Senate majority leader after the Republican takeover of Congress. Rather than say to him in his own home, okay, you're on the firing line, 20 questions, Elizabeth had arranged an appointment. She wanted a Saturday morning meeting away from the swirl of people running in and out, phones and staff.

Elizabeth brought to the meeting one of their closest friends, Mari Will, a longtime political and media adviser, and speechwriter for both Doles since his unsuccessful 1980 presidential campaign. Will, 40, a six-foot version of Elizabeth, was married to columnist George Will. It was crucial, Elizabeth told Will, that her husband get a cold, objective view of what would be required if he decided to run.

Will had prepared a memo that she was going to use as an outline for the points she wanted to make directly to Dole. Campaigning in the 1990s was completely different, Will said. The media environment was wild and chaotic. That meant message discipline was absolutely essential. Dole would have to find the themes of his campaign, and repeat them again and again, not drifting or sliding off. No more winging it, as he had when he ran in 1980 and 1988.

Dole said he understood that he had to change his style of communicating, which was undisciplined and marked by a tendency to free-associate, often in a series of cryptic sentences. He was prepared to improve, he said.

A campaign against President Clinton would be very negative. "The only way to emerge from that with your reputation intact is to win," Will said. His entire lifetime of achievement would be on the line in that single contest. Succeed and he would be remembered for that. Fail and he would be remembered for that.

Will said she thought the 1996 election would be about values. A candidate would have to be willing to talk about values.

Dole seemed uncomfortable at the mention of values.

It is hard for you, Will said, because in Kansas (where Dole was raised) people didn't talk openly about personal matters. It's like being asked to read poetry aloud or something that you have written yourself? Will asked.

"Yes," Dole replied.

Talking about values was essential, she said. It was what the country wanted to hear, and he would have to do it.

Dole said he would do it.

Elizabeth was mostly quiet as Will went through her memo. It was now her turn. She had two central points. Did her husband understand the two very different roles -- Senate majority leader and candidate for president? For the first time in 40 years the Republicans now controlled both the House and Senate. That meant big responsibilities and a big agenda just in the day-to-day mechanics of moving things through the Senate as majority leader. His time would be filled, 12 to 14 hours a day, with getting that all done.

Then, Elizabeth said in her gentle but attention-getting southern accent, he would have to shift gears, turn that off, go out and run for president, talk big picture. She knew Bob was not good at turning things off, and his specialty was not the big picture. "Are you certain, are you absolutely clear that those two can be done simultaneously?" she asked. "Because it requires a very different approach."

Yeah, yeah, Dole said.

"You've got an opportunity to serve right where you are, Bob," Elizabeth said. "Okay, you're majority leader. You have an opportunity to serve there. Now let's think about whether you can serve better from the standpoint of being president than you can from where you are right now."

Yeah, Dole had thought about that plenty.

"How do you feel about that, Bob?" Elizabeth asked. "You realize what it's going to take to do this?"

Oh, yeah, Dole said. He understood exactly what they were saying.

"Let's hear you say, Bob," Elizabeth pressed, "how you do it simultaneously."

Dole said he knew what it would entail, he felt very comfortable.

Will and Elizabeth had an additional point: It couldn't be like 1988. There had to be organization, discipline. Dole would have to delegate authority. He had brought old campaign workers to the verge of tears with his seat-of-the-pants decision-making. This campaign couldn't turn out like the rest, couldn't falter because old mistakes were repeated.

"Is this what we really want to do with our lives?" Elizabeth asked her husband at one point. "Why do we want to do this? If we lose," Elizabeth said, as Dole later recalled, "we lose everything."

"I don't think we lose everything," Dole replied. The stakes were high. The highest. But would losing mean that everything would be gone? No, he didn't think so.

In later interviews, Elizabeth did not remember putting this question about the stakes to him so starkly. She was sure she hadn't. His memory had to be absolutely wrong. There had to be some huge misunderstanding. They loved each other, and she wanted to be supportive.

That Saturday morning, Dole said he hadn't made a final decision whether to run.

Will felt that he was just going through his version of the motions. The meeting was Dole's way of checking off all the boxes, but he was running.

Elizabeth wasn't sure. There was more to this.

Dole wasn't sure he should run. Maybe it wasn't his time, Dole thought. His discovery that 1988 wasn't his time had been very difficult. He wanted to get away to Florida where he and Elizabeth had a condo, where the phone didn't ring and he could focus on the question, "Is this what I really want to do?"

A week later, on Saturday morning, Dec. 10, Dole met with most of his prospective campaign team in his Hart office. They had six pages of names of those who might be recruited to work in the campaign, and they wanted to contact them.

"No," Dole said, "I want you to wait."

What?

"No," Dole said again, "I want to wait a week or two but then I'll let you know."

What? A week or two, still indecision? One aide worried that the old Dole was emerging. Another was dejected.

Before Christmas, Elizabeth had to undergo surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston to clear a blocked artery in her neck. Bob was very scared and worried. He went to Boston and stayed in the Holiday Inn across from the hospital.

Elizabeth thought it would provide him what she called "quiet, quality think time." She wanted him to really think through whether he was going to run. She felt this interlude in the Boston Holiday Inn would give him several days away from the hurly-burly to think.

But Dole didn't spend a lot of time thinking about running, as Elizabeth had hoped. Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, a popular Republican who was considering a run for the presidency himself, invited Dole for a visit on Dec. 20. They did not know each other well. Weld indicated that, as a governor little known outside his state, if he wanted to run for president he would have to begin now. Dole was in a better position as the well-known Republican leader. "You can afford to wait," Weld said.

Dole didn't wait. He told a Boston reporter: "The next logical step for us is to have an exploratory committee, which doesn't commit you but it gets you in position where you start raising money. . . . We haven't made a final decision, but I think it's pretty close to that." The story made the news wires.

So much for quality think time at the Holiday Inn.

Well, thought Dole's aides, nothing like hearing there's going to be a campaign from the wires. A fax was dispatched to about 600 people, reporting Dole's small step toward running.

In the second week of January 1995, Elizabeth Dole called Sheila Burke, the head of her husband's Senate staff. Elizabeth was very worried. Bob was preparing his forms, the Statement of Organization and Statement of Candidacy, setting up his presidential exploratory committee. This was the formal registration required by the Federal Election Commission before a potential candidate could raise money. But instead of just filling out the one-page forms and signing them, he had drafted a supplemental letter, saying that this official registration did not necessarily mean he would be a candidate.

Such a statement would send entirely the wrong signal, Elizabeth said. It would reinforce the view that Dole couldn't make up his mind. The exploratory committee was just that -- an exploration of the possibility, a legal requirement to prevent someone from raising and spending money under the shadow of a non-candidacy. She had to get through to Bob, Elizabeth said in exasperation, and hadn't been able to reach him.

But Dole was still uncomfortable declaring for president just a month after becoming majority leader. He made it clear it was one last chance for him to protect all flanks -- he was running, but maybe not.

Elizabeth finally reached her husband.

"I'm sort of inching along," Dole told his wife.

Yes, she knew. Don't include that qualification, she said. It will look like you haven't made up your mind, that you haven't decided. People are going to ask: Is he running or not running? People are entitled to an answer. They want to know: Where do I send the money? Things like that, Bob. If the letter is included, the story will be: Is Dole running? Kill the suspense, Bob. It had to be one way or the other.

Dole was really struggling with this decision. He almost got what he referred to as one of those Excedrin headaches -- intense, powerful pain. From doubt. "Should I do this?" he said to himself. "Should I do this?" He also asked of himself, "Am I just doing this because I'm doing it?"

He agreed not to include the supplemental letter with his routine exploratory committee and candidacy papers. He signed his formal name, Robert J. Dole. Both were hand-delivered to the Federal Election Commission, arriving at 11:14 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 12.

In inching along, Dole realized, you sort of get to the point where you're just there, you're running. He had taken many small steps toward the line and suddenly he was upon it. He woke up one morning and he was running.

As the campaign began to take shape in the spring of 1995, Mari Will returned repeatedly to the theme of values in her conversations with Dole. "The country really aches to hear about values," she said. And they needed to hear directly from him, not in cryptic partial sentences or Arrggghhh. For Dole, words were often a way of dancing around, avoiding confrontations or ducking a direct criticism of someone.

Will had spent some time drafting a speech that attacked Hollywood directly on the grounds of sex and violence in movies and popular music. Dole needed to step up in a forceful and direct way if he were going to get and retain attention, particularly with conservative voters, she said. So she injected some high-voltage rhetoric into the speech, accusing Hollywood of the "mainstreaming of deviancy." The plan was to give it in Los Angeles at a fund-raiser on May 31.

Dole read it and said he liked it. He seemed in a good mood about the speech, even its directness.

But the campaign's primary fund-raiser, California oilman John A. Moran, was very concerned. Though most well-known Hollywood figures were Democrats, there were plenty of Republican big givers in the entertainment industry who would be in the audience. Moran said he opposed a confrontation with the money people. The speech was too harsh, too direct, Moran said. The donors wouldn't like to be fingered.

Dole realized it was a very heavy speech. He thought if he took a shot in the dark, whhhhsssttt, he would get chopped off as had happened before, criticized for taking a cheap shot. So during a Chicago stop the day before the speech, he started taking some stuff out, putting in some of his own material. Changes were sent back to Dole's campaign headquarters in Washington where the master draft was being finalized so it could be released to the news media in advance.

Delivering an evening speech in California when it was 10 p.m. on the East Coast was the media equivalent of doing nothing if it was not released ahead of time. The speech draft went back and forth.

Moran, with Dole in Chicago, had an alternative draft that would accomplish virtually the same goal without using what he called "inflammatory language."

But campaign press secretary Nelson Warfield argued, "Senator, trying to split the difference of this is going to result in a yawn. It could even be worse." Warfield wanted to see if they could make national news with the speech.

"You know, inviting these people in," Dole said, "I'm accepting their contributions. I'm going to blast what they may actually do for a living."

The back and forth continued. Dole never banged down the gavel and said the jury was dismissed, but rather just let the conversation wander on. In the end, he wouldn't authorize the Washington headquarters to hand out copies in advance.

Warfield called campaign manager Scott Reed to report, "This is not a sure thing."

The next day, Reed reached Warfield by phone on Dole's plane as it headed to California. "Is he going to give it?"

"Well, I think he's going to give it," Warfield said. "I think it looks good."

Reed wanted to get on the phone to reporters to alert them, pump up interest, major speech coming. Perhaps even release the text in Washington that morning. "Is it okay to do it?" Reed asked.

"We ought to do it," Warfield said.

Reed decided to gamble and release the text on his own authority.

Maybe it was generational, Dole figured, but he was very uncomfortable with the speech. Maybe the opportunity to talk about values just wasn't worth it. He considered not giving it.

Deputy campaign manager Bill Lacy read the speech carefully when he joined Dole in Los Angeles. He wanted to identify the words that Dole might not like, so they could spend the time redoing portions or simply replacing words. It was a diversionary tactic so that Dole wouldn't toss out the whole speech.

With all the thousands of speeches that Dole had given in his career, he had often felt good before giving them. Other times he felt good after he had delivered them. And sometimes he wondered why he had given them at all. On this speech he had many trepidations.

Soon, however, he was standing before the audience, glancing around and wondering if some would be so offended that they would get up and leave. People had paid money to hear him, and he was going to cut their legs off.

Momentum was often the final decision-maker for Dole, and he was capable of giving a full extemporaneous speech. Neither Dole nor Lacy knew for sure what he would do.

After Dole was introduced, a honking, forcefully cheerful song that sounded like the background to a video game played as he took the stage and stood between the flags of the United States and the state of California at a lectern emblazoned "DOLE for President."

"I accept the nomination," he joked, drawing mild chuckles from the audience. "Why not?" he added. Dole's nervousness was palpable, and he began to ad-lib.

"I know in California there may be other candidates or at least one that I read about, but I would say right upfront all these candidates are friends of mine."

Lacy could hear him stalling.

"I've been in California many, many times," Dole continued, off-message, off-text. "Over the years, campaigning in good times and bad." He paused, his eyes darting back and forth, gauging the audience. "I've met a lot of people here, made a lot of friends over the years and I come out here and I speak a lot and I talk about the party and I talk about what's happening."

Jesus.

There was nothing but the words, on TelePrompTer screens to either side of his face. Dole exhaled deeply.

"But I want to talk about a specific matter tonight," he said, licking his lips, taking one more quick look around the room and then, mercifully, going to the text. "I may not win an Oscar, but I'll talk about it anyway."

"It's good to be back in California," he inserted, drifting, veering sharply. Oh, no. "And John, I do thank you for that introduction," Dole repeated, referring to Moran, whom he had already thanked. "And I do thank everyone for being here tonight." Slipping, slipping.

But there on the TelePrompTer were the words and finally Dole plunged in. "I want to talk to you tonight about the future of America -- about issues of moral importance, matters of social consequence." That was the point of no return. He probably couldn't just make it up now. He was onto "moral importance" and "social consequence." Dole looked worried, nervous but in control. Like the experienced doctor who has bad news for the patient but knows it must be told.

Then the punch in the face.

"A line has been crossed -- not just of taste, but of human dignity and decency. . . . About a culture business that makes money from `music' extolling the pleasures of raping, torturing and mutilating women; from `songs' about killing policemen and rejecting law. The mainstreaming of deviancy must come to an end."

When Dole finished, many in the audience flocked to him. Boy, that was right, someone said. I've got a son at home, said another. Someone else mentioned a little girl.

Afterward Dole attended a private high-dollar fund-raiser in a hotel restaurant. He was pumped up and actually repeated some of the lines from the speech. Later, in a small plane heading down to Orange County, Dole was animated, cracking jokes.

The next day, the advance team plopped the morning papers in front of Dole's door. It was giant news. The impact was way beyond anything in Dole's entire political history. This was entirely new territory. Columns, debates, immense affection from Republicans and the right wing, and even outspoken praise from many Democrats and liberals.

"Ah, went pretty well, didn't it?" Dole said to Reed.

Clinton Called Shots for Party Ad Blitz

In the spring of 1995, Terry McAuliffe, the chief fund-raiser for President Clinton's reelection campaign, was traveling around the country, meeting with top Democrats and local fund-raisers. "Folks," he said once, "we are coming to your city once. Now you're used to primaries where we come five, six, seven times. We're coming in once. It's the only event we're doing." He wanted the checkbooks open. By the end of June, seven months before the first primary, McAuliffe had raised more than

$9 million for the campaign.

Erskine Bowles, a deputy chief of staff in the White House and the person initially assigned to coordinate with the Clinton campaign, was pleased by the big fund-raising push. It made business sense. "The best time to go fishing is when you can," he said. "The only better time is when they're biting."

Now Dick Morris, Clinton's chief political strategist, had money to spend for some early television advertising. Morris was determined to expand Clinton's communications strategy as much as possible. That meant not just focusing and redirecting his statements and actions as president, moving him to the center. Too many other people -- opponents, the news media -- were defining Clinton and his ideas. Clinton had to get out front and define himself in the most controlled and directed environment -- and that meant political advertising on TV.

Going on television with ads, Morris believed, would move up Clinton's poll numbers. Over the strong objections of many in the White House, who thought it was too early for a major ad blitz, Morris persuaded Clinton to spend $2.4 million to run anti-crime ads in more than 20 major television markets in key electoral states for several weeks.

After the ads ran, Morris was claiming progress. "Moved him 10 points!" Morris said, referring to some in-market surveys where the ads had run. He compared these survey results with numbers from areas where the ads were not running.

Many on Clinton's White House staff did not believe a temporary bump in the polls was possible or, if true, had any long-term meaning. This would be an education for them, Morris replied. Better numbers would generate more money from fund-raising which, in turn, would pay for more ads. They would see.

Morris was so anxious for Clinton to have as much money as possible for political advertising on television that he proposed that Clinton forgo federal matching funds of some $15 million so the president would not have to abide by the approximately $30 million limit on fund-raising during the primary season.

The possibilities would be limitless -- potentially tens of millions of dollars more to spend on television advertising, perhaps even $50 million to $60 million or more for an unparalleled media blitz.

Morris pitched the idea of opting out of the matching-fund straitjacket. Clinton decided to go against Morris on this one. As candidate and president, Clinton had been on the side of political reform, trying to reduce the influence of money and special interests in politics. Operating outside of the existing federal election financing system, though legal, would open him to criticism that he felt would be valid and never-ending.

In August 1995, Morris had new polling data on Medicare, the federal health insurance program for the elderly. The results showed that voters liked Medicare, trusted it and felt it was the one federal program that worked. Medicare was like Social Security -- almost a third rail of politics that carried the high voltage. Politicians did not dare touch it. And the Republican Congress was proposing reductions in the growth of Medicare of $270 billion over seven years.

Morris wanted more money from the Clinton-Gore campaign to run television advertising emphasizing Clinton's policy of protecting Medicare, not reducing its growth. The crime ads that had run earlier in the summer had been a giant smash hit, Morris was still arguing.

Clinton liked the idea and wondered aloud why they were not on the air talking about his agenda.

Terry McAuliffe argued strenuously against spending more campaign money on ads. "They'll be using our precious money," he said. The money was "precious" because there were legal limits on how much they could raise, and the maximum legal contribution was $1,000 for an individual. By law they could raise only about $30 million, an absolute legal ceiling, in addition to the $15 million in anticipated federal matching funds. After legal and other compliance expenditures, the campaign would have about $37 million to spend during the primary period for operations, salaries and advertising.

Clinton wanted an ad campaign.

There was only one other place to get the money: the Democratic National Committee, which was not subject to the rules and limits that applied to presidential campaigns. The aim of the post-Watergate reforms on presidential campaign financing had been to build a shield of sorts around presidential campaigns, ensuring that what was inside was open to scrutiny. These laws had four purposes: prohibit corporations from contributing in any form; limit individual contributions to $1,000 per person; require full disclosure of the identities of those contributors; and limit the overall expenditure for each campaign to what in 1996 was going to amount to about $37 million.

As the head of the party, Clinton directed the Democratic National Committee's efforts. But the law required that the DNC's advocacy be kept technically separate from the presidential campaign. The DNC could launch an advertising blitz to highlight and advocate certain issues -- "issues advocacy," as it was called -- but Clinton and his campaign were not supposed to direct the ad effort. And issues advocacy ads are not supposed to promote the election or defeat of any specific candidate for federal office.

In 1994, the DNC had raised and spent millions in a special effort to televise pro-Clinton health care reform ads. Opponents of his health plan had spent much, much more and Clinton had lost the health care battle. He said he was not going to be drowned out this time. He ordered a new special fund-raising effort.

McAuliffe knew that if the president was behind such a fund-raising drive by the party, the money would be raised. Clinton did not make the fund-raising calls himself, but Vice President Gore made about 50 personal calls beginning in the summer of 1995, and the party's chairman and entire fund-raising apparatus were turned loose. Since the funds would be raised under the auspices of the party, there would be no legal limit -- the "soft money" loophole in the law allowing contributions for general party operations and issues advocacy. A number of large contributions in the $100,000 range were received from both corporations and individuals.

Of course, the distinction between Clinton-Gore money and Democratic Party money existed only in the minds of the bookkeepers and readers of legal fine print. It was all being raised and spent by the same people -- Clinton, Gore, Morris and the campaign apparatus. In all, some $10 million was raised in the special fund-raising effort, and the Democratic Party went another $5 million to $6 million in debt -- drawing on its bank line of credit -- to finance what eventually became an initial $15 million advertising blitz the last half of 1995.

For several months, Morris and Bob Squier, Clinton's media consultant, had been testing a half-dozen possible 30-second scripts and television ads a week for possible use. At weekly evening meetings in the White House, Clinton went through them, offered suggestions and even edited some of the scripts. He directed the process, trying out what he wanted to say, what might work, how he felt about it, and what it meant.

Morris jumped in most often, completing Clinton's sentences and finishing his thoughts.

Squier could see that the process was imposing a discipline on Clinton as he worked to formulate the precise message he wanted to convey. The concepts and the language they worked over in the scripts were showing up in Clinton's public statements.

Squier, whose experience went back to the 1968 Hubert Humphrey campaign, argued that presidential elections almost inevitably got down to clashing arguments over values. That was where the 1996 campaign was headed. Clinton needed to seize the high ground on a value-related issue. Protecting the elderly at the end of their lives was one of the most cherished American values. Clinton needed to build on that. Protecting the elderly was the popular Medicare program that the Democrats had created. It was their program, the party's child. Its grandfather was Social Security, also created by the Democrats. The Republicans had been stalking both Social Security and Medicare since their creations. Medicare was the Democrats' birthright, and the Republicans now wanted to cut it. Clinton's argument had to be to the voters: If you want something done about Medicare, you want Democrats to do it. Democrats would protect their child.

It was in this context that on Aug. 10, Squier and Morris finally made the first 30-second Medicare television ad that would air. It was called "Protect."

The spot opened with a shot of a hospital heart monitor showing a healthy heartbeat -- with a comfortable, reassuring ping, ping, ping.

Voice: "Medicare. Lifeline for our elderly. There is a way to protect Medicare benefits and balance the budget."

Flash to color footage of President Clinton standing by the American flag in the Oval Office reading some papers.

Voice: "President Clinton. Cut government waste. Reduce excess spending. Slow medical inflation."

Flash to black-and-white still photo of the Capitol with head shots of Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich on either side of the dome.

Voice: "The Republicans disagree. They want to cut Medicare $270 billion. Charging elderly $600 more a year for medical care, $1,700 more for home care. Protect Medicare benefits or cut them?"

Flash to the heart monitor going flat-line and sounding an unnerving, loud, steady heart-stopped danger alarm.

Voice: "A decision that touches us all."

The next day, Aug. 11, they followed with an ad that pulled out all the stops. It was appropriately called "Moral," and designed to intertwine the Medicare message with values.

The 30-second spot opened with a group of children raising an American flag.

A deep, soothing, authoritative male voice said: "As Americans, there are some things we do simply and solely because they're moral. Right. And good."

Flash to an elderly farmer working the fields, an American flag flying from the back of his tractor. Shift to elderly patients.

Voice: "We created Medicare not because it was cheap or easy. But because it was the right thing to do."

Flash to the shot of the Capitol with pictures of Dole and Gingrich.

Voice: "The Republicans are wrong to want to cut Medicare benefits."

Flash to Clinton again in the Oval Office by his American flag.

Voice: "And President Clinton is right to protect Medicare, right to defend our decision as a nation, to do what's moral, good and right by our elderly."

Close with the fourth shot of the American flag, which the children have finally raised to the top of the flagpole.

"We will defeat them in the air war!" Morris declared. He was delighted. The campaign against the Republicans had begun. "Their ground troops will be petrified by the bombing on Medicare," he said.

The first wave of Medicare ads was launched in states with moderate Republican senators -- Vermont, Rhode Island, Maine, Colorado, New Mexico, Washington and Missouri. Morris was intent on smashing the Republican cohesion, breaking off the moderates. The spots were aired in major markets away from Washington and New York and Los Angeles in hopes that national political reporters might not pick up on what was taking place.

By using the Democratic National Committee money for advertising, Clinton's managers were able to continue to save much of the Clinton-Gore campaign money. And the Morris-Squier advertising blitz was in full force. In the fall, the ads attacking the Republican budget had covered some 30 percent of all media markets in the nation. The December 30-second commercials followed the pattern, showing Clinton as champion crime-fighter and as the leader seeking tax cuts, welfare reform and a balanced budget that would protect Medicare, education and the environment.

By Christmas, the pro-Clinton ads had been on the air in 42 percent of the national media markets. The advertising pattern was designed to project one theme as spot after spot showed Clinton as a figure of national reconciliation, a healer bringing the various sides together, who rounded the sharp edges of the Republicans. Clinton was shown as a man comfortable and above the fray, the president-in-office, not as a candidate.

The Democrats' meticulous and nuanced polling showed gains, often 10 to 15 points in favorability for Clinton, in the crucial markets in primary states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida, Illinois and Ohio, though not Iowa and New Hampshire, the first caucus and primary states where the Republican candidates were on the air fighting it out among themselves. The Clinton advertising was more potent because there was no candidate on the other side and little or no advertising directed against Clinton. "Unopposed storytelling," Squier called it.

By the end of the year, $18 million had been spent on this extraordinary media campaign. Morris, Squier and the pollsters attributed a significant portion of Clinton's rise in the national polls to this effort. Others in the White House disagreed strongly. Clinton and Gore, however, thought the advertising was a big plus.

Of course, the required Federal Election Commission forms would be filed and the large expenditures would be disclosed. But that would likely be a one-day story. It was uncertain if anyone would figure it out. And then it would be history. People would likely remember Clinton's stunning rise in the polls, not one of the contributing reasons for it.

Clinton continued to spend time most weeks reviewing the spots, honing down what he wanted said in 30 seconds. The focused advertising spots continued to impose more and more discipline on the president. Ideas, language and attitudes had converged with the protracted budget negotiations. So in the course of his working day as president, he generally stuck to the same lines and themes. The result was more consistency. Instead of projecting his ambivalence as he often had in the past, Clinton was staying on message.

By spring 1996, Clinton personally had been controlling tens of millions of dollars' worth of DNC advertising. This enabled him to exceed the spending limits and effectively rendered the DNC an adjunct to his own reelection effort. He was circumventing the rigorous post-Watergate reforms that were designed to limit and control the raising and spending of money for presidential campaigns. His direct, hands-on involvement was risky, certainly in violation of the spirit of the law, and possibly illegal. FEC violations, if proven, normally result in civil penalties, primarily fines assessed against campaigns.

For practical purposes, Clinton's control of the party advertising -- and his aggressive use of it going back to the first Medicare ads the previous August -- gave him at least $25 million more money for the primary period. That was in addition to the $37 million the Clinton-Gore campaign was authorized to spend under the law.

And Clinton did not have a primary challenger. In contrast, Dole, who had to fight his way through the expensive primaries and had no similar control over the Republican National Committee until the primaries were over, was limited to the $37 million expenditure. The playing field was not level.

In the late spring of 1996, after Dole had enough delegates to ensure winning the Republican nomination, his party also began advertising that would benefit him in the same way, and with the same circumvention of the limits on his spending.

But Clinton's circumvention of the limits, especially in 1995, no doubt had a significant impact. The vast television advertising certainly helped him in the public opinion polls, and helped him win popular support for his stance in the highly contentious budget negotiations and government shutdowns in 1995.

Lawrence M. Noble, the general counsel of the bipartisan Federal Election Commission, said that no presidential candidate should be deeply involved in his party's advertising. "We have forgotten the lessons of Watergate," Noble said.

The FEC consists of six commissioners, three Democrats and three Republicans. Scott E. Thomas, one of the three Democrats and a commissioner for the last 10 years, said the law has been seriously undermined, and new reform is needed. "The limits and prohibitions are basically out the window," he said.

A Onetime Running Mate Starts Early for His Own

When you look back on 1976, Bob Dole was asked one day as he sat on a campaign airplane, were you ready to run for vice president?

"Probably not quite," he said, reflecting on President Gerald Ford's decision to choose him for a running mate.

Did you realize that at the time?

"I don't think so," Dole said. "I feel differently about it now." He said he probably should have had more experience and he could have handled running better. "On a scale of 1 to 10, I wasn't a 10."

What were you?

"I don't know, maybe a 7. But I was important from the standpoint of agriculture and veterans." He was then 53 and in his second term as a Kansas senator.

It was late December 1995, and he was returning from a campaign trip to Iowa, where the first major contest for the Republican nomination was less than two months away. As I flew back with him to Washington, we had a two-hour uninterrupted interview. We spent much of the time talking about how he would pick a vice president if he became the nominee.

What would be his criteria for a running mate?

"I'd want somebody I know pretty well," Dole said. "I wouldn't want to pick, you know, go back to the Nixon days and pick somebody that you didn't really know," he said, specifically referring to Spiro Agnew, who had been the Maryland governor when he was picked by Richard Nixon in 1968.

"I want somebody I can work with," he said. "Somebody I can totally trust, and they trust me, and they know me, and there are a lot of people I think fit that description. We've got a crop of great governors out there."

Would you want somebody who's more than a 7 on a scale of 10?

"Sure," Dole said. "I'd want a 10." He volunteered that in 1988, George Bush probably didn't want a 10 because he picked Dan Quayle. "I might have been a 10 in 1988," Dole said, recalling that Bush did not pick him though Dole probably by then had the experience.

What would be the process of selecting a vice president and who would work on this decision?

"Mostly me," he said. "I think I'll have some people around to check things out but it seems to me that it's got to be the nominee's decision and not some board of directors out there sitting down [weighing everything] geographically and electorally and da-da da-da da-da. There may be something to that but it's got to be -- a partnership."

He added, "Very frankly, I think Vice President Gore was pretty well picked. In fact, I'm surprised at how the vice president interrupts, takes over, even in the budget discussions . . . which I think wouldn't bother me. I'm used to staff people interrupting me."

Having witnessed all that history, Dole said he was set on picking a 10. No Agnew, no Quayle, not even a 1976 Dole.

On Friday, April 19, Dole asked his closest friend, Bob Ellsworth, to come to his office. Ellsworth, only three years younger than Dole, was first elected to Congress from a Kansas district in 1960, the same year Dole won a House seat. A tall, congenial, people-smart political operator, Ellsworth had served three terms in Congress. In Nixon's 1968 campaign, he was a strategist, and later served as deputy secretary of defense in the Ford administration. He also had been among a handful of men involved in Nixon's selection of Agnew.

Dole trusted Ellsworth more than anyone. Ellsworth had acted as a personal political adviser to Dole for 36 years. He had been the best man at Bob and Elizabeth's wedding.

Dole told Ellsworth that he was about to begin the search for his own running mate, and he wanted Ellsworth to act as his overall coordinator. "I don't want anybody else to know," Dole said. It was an advantage to have four months before the August convention, when he expected to announce his decision. He wanted Ellsworth to come up with a list of possible vice presidents, and then to sit down privately with Scott Reed, Dole's campaign manager. They would have to find some lawyers to do exhaustive background checks, obtain permission from the prospective candidates to look at their FBI files, and make an evaluation and recommendation.

Dole said that he did not want a public spectacle in the process. He did not want possible candidates dragged in for public tryouts. "I'm looking for somebody that I really know," Dole said, carefully adding, "or that I would know by convention time." He wanted a running-mate relationship that would be marked by total candor, someone he could sit with and both could let their hair down.

As Ellsworth got up to leave, Dole said, "What I want is that when this is announced, most everyone who thinks about these things is going to know that we've really thought about it and it's somebody who can do it. Won't be any doubt."

Afterward, Dole spoke with Reed. "This is going to be my decision," Dole said. "This is the most important decision I'll make in this campaign. It should be mine, and I don't want a big committee flopping around with a different story in the paper every week about candidate A, B or C."

First, Ellsworth planned to hire a senior New York lawyer, bound by a permanent attorney-client privilege, to conduct the background checks on those seriously under consideration. That would get it out of Washington, and he hoped to protect the names and information from surfacing in the news media. Second, Ellsworth asked Ann McLaughlin, the labor secretary in the Reagan administration and the 54-year-old ex-wife of television political talk show host John McLaughlin, to help him review the prospective candidates for what Ellsworth called "political suitability." McLaughlin agreed, and Ellsworth swore her to secrecy.

Dole had told Ellsworth that there were many Republicans who had helped him through the primaries. "I do owe a lot to some of these guys," Dole said, adding that the political debt would be a factor in his decision if all else was equal. Dole also said that he did not want to alienate conservatives. "Don't give me someone who would send up the conservatives," Dole said.

By the end of June, Ellsworth hoped to have the list reduced to five or six, and then Dole would approach them to see if they would agree to be considered. Ellsworth and Reed agreed to conduct polling in late July and early August before the Republican convention to determine the possible impact of the various candidates.

"To see who would help the most," Reed said.

No, Ellsworth said. "We've got to get someone that would harm the least." Vice presidential candidates normally did not help. It was a matter of inflicting the smallest damage, he said. Ellsworth believed that occasionally a brilliant pick could be found, such as John Kennedy's decision in 1960 to select Sen. Lyndon Johnson. Johnson had helped carry some key southern states, including his home state of Texas. But such an opportunity for a politically adroit move was rare.

The goal would be to give Dole one or two or even three candidates that he could consider 10 days before the San Diego convention, the week of Aug. 11. Then Dole would have time to make his decision unless circumstance, opportunity or necessity forced him to choose earlier.

Secrecy was the key, Ellsworth felt, to give Dole the maximum maneuvering room. "As far as we are concerned, the structure doesn't even exist," he told Reed and McLaughlin. They worked quietly for a month before Dole publicly announced May 28 that he had asked Ellsworth to head the selection process.

Ellsworth and Reed initially worked up a list of 15 possible running mates. Ellsworth realized it was too long, and contained some clunkers and too many Republican governors as well.

At the top of the list of 15 was Colin Powell. Much would hinge on Powell's actions and attitude before the selection process got underway. Would he make campaign appearances with Dole in late spring? Would he go out on his own for Dole? Would he help develop campaign positions on national security and defense issues? Dole planned to set up a private meeting with the retired general soon.

On paper the most qualified governor on this list was perhaps Pete Wilson of California, but he was damaged goods in his own state, and his fumbled try for the presidential nomination made his selection almost impossible. No one could argue that most of the other governors would be manifestly ready to step into the presidency, which was Dole's first requirement. None ranked an obvious "10" on Dole's scale. But there was one remote, sleeper possibility -- Tom Ridge, 50, the Republican governor of Pennsylvania. Ridge had graduated from Harvard and served as an Army sergeant in Vietnam. He had Washington experience, as a member of the House of Representatives for 12 years, and was a Roman Catholic who supported abortion rights and had a tough-on-crime reputation.

The Senate offered two possibles. One was Richard Lugar, 64, the Indiana Republican who had been mayor of Indianapolis and had extensive foreign policy experience. Though Lugar had done poorly in his own bid for the presidential nomination, attracting little attention or support, he had not embarrassed himself. The other was Sen. Connie Mack III, 55, who had won reelection in Florida with 71 percent of the vote in 1994.

Three other possibles -- men who could credibly be presented as ready for the presidency -- had made their names in the Republican foreign policy establishment. Dick Cheney, the former Wyoming congressman and Bush secretary of defense, had decided not to seek the Republican nomination in 1996. He had strong conservative credentials, and had served as President Ford's White House chief of staff at the age of 34. Cheney had had three heart attacks but in 1988 had undergone a successful quadruple coronary bypass operation.

Another was Donald H. Rumsfeld, 63, who had one of the strongest resumes: former Illinois congressman, NATO ambassador, Ford's White House chief of staff, later secretary of defense, and then eight years as chief executive officer of the drug company G.D. Searle.

The third was James A. Baker III, the former treasury secretary and secretary of state. Baker, 66, had been Ronald Reagan's White House chief of staff. He had managed Reagan's 1984 reelection, Bush's successful 1988 presidential campaign and Bush's unsuccessful 1992 reelection effort. Though Baker was often suspected in Republican conservative circles of being a moderate, his identification with Reagan was probably sufficient to immunize him. No one was Baker's match in terms of combined heavyweight government and presidential campaign experience. His tenure at the center of the Reagan and Bush administrations had convinced him he would know what to do as president, and he had told associates he would love to be president someday. Baker had written Dole a note saying he was ready to do anything to help him win.

Dole would have to consider all the factors, give them appropriate weight in his own mind, and then decide. The big decisions were solitary work, he had come to realize more and more.

Excerpted from "The Choice," by Bob Woodward, (C)1996 by Simon & Schuster.

Karen Alexander contributed to this report.

© 1996 Bob Woodward

Simon & Schuster

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