Cover Story

Politics

Ups and downs of 1999

Issue: "Year in Review 1999," Jan. 8, 2000

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Sure, the principle comes from physics, but it holds pretty true in politics as well. Here's a look at the year's Washington see-saw. UP: Reform Party
The creation of Ross "Read My Charts" Perot is suddenly the party that everyone wants to crash. Pat Buchanan donned his Party hat on the same day as billionaire real-estate tycoon Donald Trump; both were long-time Republicans. Both are eyeing the big party favor: $12 million in federal matching funds that will go to the winner of the Reform Party nomination. Down: Bob Smith Party
In July, the senator from New Hampshire had denounced the GOP as a fraud and proclaimed his intention to run for president as an independent. Just 100 days later, he came crawling back, his presidential campaign in a shambles, but his ambition intact: The death of Sen. John Chafee (R-R.I.) had opened up an important committee chairmanship, but only for a senator with an "R" after his name. UP: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
The election committee for House Democrats, for the first time ever, has more cash on hand than its Republican counterpart. With GOP control of the House hanging in the balance, soft-money contributions to congressional Democrats are up 373 percent over 1997-money that the national committee will pour into tight races next year. Down: House managers
Democrats have vowed to punish the 13 Republican House members who led the prosecution of President Clinton in the Senate. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will spend lots of its cash in that pursuit. UP: Education Department
A decade ago, conservatives were going to shut down this bureaucratic vestige of the Carter administration. This year, the Republican-controlled Congress approved a $36 billion budget for the department-an increase of nearly 50 percent in the four years since the GOP won control of the House. Down: Justice Department
In the first investigation since the demise of the independent counsel law, Attorney General Janet Reno handpicked former Missouri Sen. John Danforth to look into allegations of abuse and cover-up by her own department. The Danforth investigation is seeking answers in the FBI's deadly Branch Davidian siege in Waco, Texas. Despite his appointment by the attorney general, Mr. Danforth is taking his independence seriously: Background checks for investigators-normally carried out by the FBI-were entrusted to the Office of Personnel Management. Up: Big Media's Favorite Republican
Of 11 challengers hoping to topple Republican frontrunner George W. Bush, the only one to show any real movement was Sen. John McCain. The Vietnam War hero is hawkish on foreign policy, AWOL on abortion, and liberal on issues like campaign-finance reform. Barely an asterisk in the polls at the beginning of the year, by early December Mr. McCain was getting great press and had taken the lead in New Hampshire. Down: Religious Right
Some pundits expected religious voters to coalesce behind a conservative standard-bearer who could then offer a stiff challenge to the more centrist frontrunner. But the three Republicans most likely to offer that challenge-Steve Forbes, Gary Bauer, or (possibly) Alan Keyes-had a combined total of roughly 15 percent in most polls by year's end. UP: Warren Beatty
The aging leftist poster boy sent Hollywood hearts aflutter when he let it be known he might seek the Democratic nomination for president. Given his ever-dimming star power, he might have a better shot at the White House than he does at a blockbuster movie. On the other side, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hollywood's Republican and last action hero, was contemplating his costly End of Days flop and thinking of a Senate run. Down: Rosie O'Donnell
She ambushed the popular Tom Selleck on her TV talkfest. The issue was guns, and the unflappable Magnum, P. I., stuck by his. Gun-control Rosie soon found herself defending her role as spokesperson for Kmart, the largest retailer of firearms in the country. But not for long-Kmart canned her. Up: Faith in government
House Republicans passed an $800 billion tax cut, only to find that the American people weren't that interested in keeping more of their money. Polls showed that most voters trusted the government to keep the budget surplus in Washington and apply it to the national debt rather than spending it on frivolous new programs. Down: Faithfulness in government
In 1997, Congress vowed to keep the budget balanced by adhering to strict "caps" on federal spending. This year's budget blew those caps by some $30 billion. UP: Foreign affairs
After years of navel-gazing dictated by the mantra, "It's the economy, stupid," harsh reminders of the wider world left many Americans dumbfounded in 1999. The war in Kosovo, the Russian offensive in Chechnya, Chinese spying at Los Alamos, and Russian spying in Washington reminded Americans of the world beyond our pocketbooks. Down: Domestic affairs
When she's mentioned at all, Monica Lewinsky is usually the punch line to some tasteless joke. Other names from the president's recently checkered past-Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, Dolly Kyle Browning, Gennifer Flowers-are already fading into obscurity. UP: Public-interest lawsuits
Not enough tax revenue? Government has found an easy solution: Pick an unpopular industry and sue it. The ongoing war against cigarette companies proved so lucrative that the Justice Department this year announced similar lawsuits against gunmakers. Now if they could just figure out whom to sue for fat thighs or bad comb-overs. Down: Personal-injury lawsuits
The once-invincible trial-lawyers lobby was dealt its first major blow this year when Congress voted to limit corporate liability for Y2K glitches. In the wake of that defeat, further efforts at tort reform are expected next year. Not to worry though: Private-practice ambulance-chasers may be able to find work at the newly litigious Justice Department.

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