Accountability: The Fall of Bill Clinton

He ain’t that bad, right?
This is the best source that’s easy to find in what Kasich’s positions were for 2000 and likely would be for 2004.
Kasich should be in the driver's seat for the general.

I'm curious what Davis would have done OTL if there was no recall. Running for president makes as much sense as anything else.
Davis is viable because of federal intervention in the energy markets and Enron scandal. He was notably ambitious and some would say ruthless in his climb to Governor. The question of running after three Democratic terms is a tricky one though. Being 62 in 2004 versus 66 in 2008 maybe makes a difference. And if a person is genuinely interested, not hard for a convincing consultant or operator to twist a person towards running.
This is the best source that’s easy to find in what Kasich’s positions were for 2000 and likely would be for 2004.

Davis is viable because of federal intervention in the energy markets and Enron scandal. He was notably ambitious and some would say ruthless in his climb to Governor. The question of running after three Democratic terms is a tricky one though. Being 62 in 2004 versus 66 in 2008 maybe makes a difference. And if a person is genuinely interested, not hard for a convincing consultant or operator to twist a person towards running.
Augh in John. I wonder how things will be getting troublesome
Just read this in one sitting! Great TL!

Paul Wellstone got the monkey’s paw here, I see. I’m glad that he’s alive. I’m interested to see what him and JFK Jr. do in the future.
Just read this in one sitting! Great TL!

Paul Wellstone got the monkey’s paw here, I see. I’m glad that he’s alive. I’m interested to see what him and JFK Jr. do in the future.
Mel Carnahan in 2000 also lived ITTL. I guess light airplanes are just safer is a weird butterfly effect.
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Ch. 19: Gore's Early 2004 and the New Candidates
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While the primary season was ramping up then winding down, Gore felt the weight of his lame-duck term. Veteran Affairs Secretary Togo West and Education Secretary Jim Hunt had both stepped down just after the beginning of the new year. They weren’t the first to move on before the end of his Administration and they would not be the last. Minor bills were agreed to and signed, addressing issues like anti-spam email reforms and an Australian free trade agreement. He had given up on the Kyoto Treaty in everything but rhetoric while focusing on passing technocratic but expansive climate friendly changes in spending bills – changing how money was spent on transportation and electrical grids, expanding investment and research. The President took a tour over the winter to tout these new green jobs. Republicans on the Hill regularly gave interviews on how they were upset with Gore using executive actions, like empowering the EPA to punish climate polluters. It was not universal, but expanded some health access to children and those on the edge of poverty. More Americans had health care coverage than ever before, but 34 million still did not. The economy of early 2004 seemed poised for recovery, stopping at an unemployment rate of 5.5% and then slowly dropping. While the budget was no longer balanced with his stimulus and the war in Afghanistan, the tax rates for most Americans had shifted to a more progressive burden. Osama bin-Laden’s whereabouts were still unknown, but Iraq was contained and North Korea was denuclearizing, with intense international pressure. Early proliferation talks were on-going with Iran (who seemed concerned with military action at their doorstep) and Libya. To secure his legacy though, Gore knew he needed to do whatever he could to help another Democrat win the White House after him.

With several potential candidates still in the race by the end of February, the Democratic primary was beginning to look like a war of attrition. The most memorable end came at the debate in Milwaukee two days before the Wisconsin primary. With the War in Afghanistan on-going, former Speaker Dick Gephardt attacked Governor Davis on his lack of foreign policy experience. It had come up before, but this time Gephardt called out Davis on that he had never had to vote on the authorization of force and make a ‘life or death’ decision. Davis reminded Gephardt that he had served in Vietnam and did so with distinction. Gephardt dropped out after Wisconsin.

It had become the most expensive Democratic primary in history. Former Governor Howard Dean and Senator Evan Bayh were low on cash and in the polls, but still in the race. It was really a three way race between Senator John Edwards, Senator Andrew Cuomo, and Governor Gray Davis. Cuomo and Edwards were both younger and slicker than Davis, and their potential similarities led them to be prone to attack one another. The Leap Day debate on February 29 in New York exposed how heated the campaign had become between the two. Edwards attacked Cuomo for his politically privileged upbringing and connections, while Cuomo attacked Edwards for his trial lawyer connections and being all image and no substance. Davis was able to avoid being dragged down in the mud as his competitors wrestled with each other. MSNBC host Chris Matthews said Davis looked like “a responsible Dad trying to break up a fight between his two unruly boys.” Dean and Bayh struggled to be seen on stage.


Super Tuesday set the terms for the rest of the campaign. Dean held out with a win in Vermont but it was the last gasp of his campaign. Edwards had a strong Georgia but struggled to establish himself far out of the south with one major exception. A late endorsement by former Senator Paul Wellstone pushed him just over the edge in Minnesota. Senator Cuomo won Maryland, with an endorsement from Representative Elijah Cummings, and in New York as expected. Cuomo’s endorsement by the Clintons did not have a registered impact though. With a deep war chest and able to afford New York ad prices, Davis placed second with a strong showing outside of the city where Cuomo was less popular . An endorsement by The Boston Globe and a rally with Senator John Kerry right after the debate likely helped Davis who saw firm wins in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. New England’s rivalry with New York probably hurt Cuomo as well. Those northeast wins and a slim one in Minnesota were overshadowed by Davis‘s dominating victory in delegate heavy California, where the other candidates could barely contest. Hollywood support for Edwards did not seem to translate into real votes.

A week later on March 9, Cuomo and Edwards tried to make their last stand. Davis had built-up strong Latino support that took home Florida and Texas. Senator Antonio Villaraigosa, the only Hispanic Senator was an early endorser and visible campaign surrogate. Kind words from Mexican President Vicente Fox certainly did not hurt as well. Edwards won Louisiana and Mississippi, but the expectations game hurt his coverage and the delegate appropriation was starting to stack up. By this point in the campaign, Cuomo and Edwards were feeling the pressure from party officials. As the contests continued, primary after primary showed that Davis was out preforming Cuomo and Edwards among senior citizens. His primary message had been one of fiscal responsibility, and the Davis campaign made massive ad buys about protecting and expanding Social Security and Medicare. But it would take a dominant showing in Illinois that showed that the end was near. Davis secured an outright majority of the vote as Cuomo and Edwards failed to break above 20%. Superdelegates played a pivotal role in ensuring the Democratic primaries were wrapping up as well. Maryland Governor Kathleen Townsend, related by marriage to Cuomo who won the state, endorsed Davis, causing local complaints. Young and ambitious, the two Senators did not want to burn any bridges.

Davis and Gore’s strong relationship, forged during the Enron scandal and subsequent energy crisis, had been hovering over the entire primary, even as Gore tamped down rumors that he was playing favorite. An early attack by Dean on Davis was that images of him and the President together featured too prominently in his ads, but it only served to highlight the connection they had. A rumor circled that Bill Daley had convinced his brother, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, to start a whisper campaign in support of Davis in Illinois. Daley had worked with Cuomo in the Clinton/Gore Cabinets and then with Davis as Gore’s “Energy Crisis Czar” during the Enron scandal. He may have made his work preferences clear to his brother. In the latter half of March, the writing was on the wall, and the President made discreet calls to Senators Cuomo and Edwards. They would both suspend their campaigns in the name of party unity. North Carolina would still go to their favorite son Edwards, but it would not change the final result.

Governor Gray Davis’s position as the Democratic candidate was secure, and a week later it was confirmed he would face off against former Vice Presidential candidate John Kasich. The race was on.

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Governor Gray Davis and former Rep. John Kasich had two very different rises to the top of their respective party’s presidential tickets. Davis had joined the ROTC to help pay for university and law school, then saw active combat in Vietnam. Seeing the disparate impact of war and inequity in the country, Davis left the Republican politics he was raised with and got involved with local Democrats. He turned campaign volunteering into a career, becoming executive assistant and Chief of Staff to Governor Jerry Brown. Davis then ran for State Assembly and worked his way up in state politics as Controller, Lieutenant Governor, and then elected Governor in 1998. Davis actually lost in the 1992 Senate race against Dianne Feinstein, which went extremely negative, but the two later reconciled. Pragmatic and detail orientated to a fault, Davis’s first term as Governor was rocky. As a former Chief of Staff himself, he had difficultly letting go of the day-to-day and got bogged down in micromanagement.

The Enron scandal and energy crisis helped break him of that habit. It was during this crisis management that Davis developed a direct working relationship with the President, being in regular communication with Gore throughout 2001, and started to use the crisis as an opportunity. As the extent of Enron’s crimes were revealed, Davis appeared as a champion for his constituents against corporate greed. The dot-com bubble then hit Davis and California hard, forcing massive budget choices and tough decisions on additional taxes to make up the ballooning deficit. By spring of 2003, a consensus had been reached, although he had bothered some liberals in the state. This was somewhat mollified by his moves on gay rights. He had signed some of the most sweeping state laws on domestic partnership and hate crimes in the country. Davis’s connection with Gore had also helped him land the staff for a national campaign, including strategists like Chris Lehane and Michael Whouley. While Gore did nothing publicly to boost any candidates during the primaries, Davis’s image as a Washington outsider who had a good working relationship with the President certainly did not hurt.

John Kasich also showed political inclination from a young age. The son of a mailman, Kasich’s political lineage was founded in the Reagan Revolution. He wrote to and met President Nixon at 18, then at 26 ran for Ohio Senate and won in 1978. But while Davis had stayed in California, by 30 Kasich ran for and won a seat in the House of Representatives and went off to Washington. Kasich established himself early as a fiscal and defense hawk. Kasich’s deal-making and negotiation skills were honed over budget, health care, and gun control debates. Kasich introduced the 1996 welfare reform bill that Clinton signed and was considered a critical part of the balanced budget. It was in part these values and skills that led Elizabeth Dole to select him as her running mate in 2000. After that failed election, he had been out of office but making fundraising connections and prominent appearances on Fox News, now a national name. At 52, Kasich was no longer a young gun, but was a decade younger than Davis and definitely felt different and fresh after 12 years of Democrats in office.

The first actions both campaigns had to take was repair the damage of the intense and occasionally bitter primary campaigns. Davis’s campaign, notably negative towards his opponents, needed to expand and accept outside help, as his town hall style campaign could not be successful alone through the general election. Once it became clear that Kasich was his competitor, the Rust Belt became a critical concern for the general election as well. Kasich, meanwhile, needed to pivot and gain more social conservative support, while also patching up relationships. While he had respected vote records on social issues, he did not naturally share the same evangelical language of Jeb Bush or Rick Santorum. Senator John McCain was particularly sensitive and available for media comment after the loss, having given up his Senate seat in an attempt to win the presidency. In an attempt to heal the division, Kasich and McCain had a widely reported meeting on the Senator’s Arizona ranch, although the content itself was kept private. Speculation about potential running mates, for Kasich and Davis, began almost immediately.
Looks like President Kasich then.

Bayh would've probably had the best shot out of all the Democrats running to become the next president.
Looks like President Kasich then.

Bayh would've probably had the best shot out of all the Democrats running to become the next president.
I don't know if Davis is as much of a longshot as OTL observers might think.

He's had an entirely different and far more successful six years since the POD, and would definitely be seen as a very successful governor.

Governors have typically had the edge over members of congress in presidential elections, too.
Ch. 20: Veepstakes
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Since long before there even voting in party primaries, a critical move of Presidential politics to help heal am internal division or broaden appeal was with the selection of a running mate. It seemed like the lists of potential running mates started earlier with internet commentary and speculation. The 2004 “veepstakes” had started even before the party contests were even concluded. Bloggers and online political commentators floated suggestions about who Senator Andrew Cuomo’s and Governor Jeb Bush’s running mates should be before they failed to clinch the nominations. Once the actual candidates became clear, it was inevitable that reporters would run with the assignment to gain readers, or now “clicks” on the internet. For the sake of party unity, selecting a former competitor as a running mate was an obvious way to go. Neither party had an easy road to their conclusion. 2004 was the first election since 1952 without at least one of the major parties running an incumbent or sitting Vice President. Both Davis and Kasich campaigns would face the pundit guessing game but had to carefully balance messaging and how to communicate their shortlist. Beyond the media game though, both campaigns took the idea seriously that they were picking what could be their closest political ally or biggest liability.

The first options floated for Kasich were the other candidates who stuck it out the longest – Mike Huckabee, Jeb Bush, and John McCain. Helen Cheneworth-Hage were never truly considered, seen as a libertarian gad-fly. McCain and Bush both quickly declined any interest in the Vice Presidency. Bush said he was excited to finish out his term as Governor and McCain said he wouldn’t work well as “number 2” on a ticket, which made sense to everyone. Jeb’s brother, former Governor George Bush, was another name floated. He had been cleared of any real connection to the Enron scandal that hung over his decision to not run again for Governor in 2002, but said he was “flattered, but not interested.” Nor was Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, despite a push from Elizabeth Dole.

Kasich’s team knew their primary concern was managing the religious right. Steve Schmidt, Kasich’s communication director, had already laid out a strategy for the general to win over the center, but Kasich still struggled with the activists. While he was firmly “pro-life" regarding abortion, the culture war up again and Kasich simply did not naturally speak the language. Republicans were openly concerned about the Supreme Court, given the health of Chief Justice Rehnquist and the known desire by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to retire. Kasich had managed to secure the nomination because of name recognition and the insurgent social conservative vote being split, but he would need to ensure their turnout in November. Raised Roman Catholic, Kasich admitted to having drifted away from organized religion, but then as an adult came back to faith and identified as Episcopalian. This was not typical for the majority of the Republican base. While he certainly followed the positions of his party (opposition to abortion and gay marriage, support of school choice) compared to Santorum and Huckabee he was considered a moderate and outside of the movement.

Santorum would be a good choice for social conservatives but did not offer any real regional balance, coming from next door Pennsylvania. The move worked for Clinton/Gore in 1992 but was still a risk. Huckabee offered southern strength, but he and Kasich were not on good personal terms, having clashed on the campaign trail and in particular in the final debate. A different choice still checked those boxes of southern appeal and small government social conservatism.

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Senator George Allen was another politician inspired by the Reagan Revolution. The son of an NFL coach and himself a high school quarterback, like Kasich he won races for state house then Congress. Allen was later elected Governor in 1993 and then Senator in 2000. His record was one of tough-on-crime positions, strict welfare reform, and fiscal restraint. In the Senate, he served on the Foreign Relations Committee, shoring up some of Kasich’s suggested weakness on international issues, and served as the Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 2002 when they took back majority control of that chamber. Allen was considered a party star, had given the 2003 Republican response to the State of the Union, and was already being thought of for the keynote speech for the Republican National Convention that year before Kasich picked him as his running mate. Many questioned why Allen himself had not ran in 2004 for President, who only cited family reasons. The Kasich/Allen ticket was lauded by virtually the entire party and caused the Davis camp concern. Virtually all political commentary on news panels that week considered Allen to be a strong running mate that show a united Republican party ready to take back the White House after so many years out of the office.

Gray Davis’s campaign waited for the Republican Party to announce their pick first, having more time to consider the choice since the Democratic National Convention was two weeks after the Republican event. His initial public short list were his former competitors - Dick Gephardt, Andrew Cuomo, John Edwards, Evan Bayh, and Howard Dean. Dean declined publicly, saying like McCain he would not work well on the bottom of the ticket. Cuomo, while adding youth to the ticket, would make both candidates coastal and from big, liberal states. A California/New York ticket, the concern was, would not appeal to the heartland. Edwards and Bayh were in the mix, but Davis continued to seek out other options. Edwards seemed like the obvious choice to the cable news set.


Being a governor, there were of course concerns about Davis’s foreign policy appeal, although he had handled those question well during the primary debates. Senators Joe Biden and Bob Graham, names regularly floated in these discussions, could shore that up. Graham and his fellow Floridian Bill Nelson could also help in the swing state of Florida. Former Senator John Glenn might bring the fight to Ohio against Kasich or Governor Mark Warner to Virginia against Allen. Governor Tom Vilsack would add that heartland appeal. But there was also a strong urge to make sure the running mate helped with represent a party only growing more diverse. Davis met with leaders like John Lewis, Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson to get their input. With a current female Vice President, there was pressure to keep the 2004 ticket representative. Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas regularly topped the list of potential female running mates, but would likely cost the Democrats a Senate seat and had a voting record that was difficult to square with the national party. Davis, already pigeonholed as more fiscal moderate, needed to keep support on his left flank. Always inclined to make the prudent choice, Davis also wanted to ensure he picked a choice who was ready to take up the job of the presidency on day one if the worst was to happen. To cut into the Republican bounce after their convention, the Davis campaign rolled out their choice right after the Republican convention ended.

If George Allen was a choice that all Republicans were immediately really excited about, when Gray Davis took the stage with Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois there was an initial surprise. After the news coverage started to roll out, the choice began to make more sense. Durbin was from downstate Illinois and had those working-class roots he needed to win over in the Midwest but with liberal appeal. While Illinois voted Democrat at the presidential level, Illinois was still a “purplish” state, having elected Republican Governors for several cycles in a row until a disastrous scandal. Durbin’s appeal in Chicago helped the ticket too. Durbin had robust African American and Hispanic support, for example being a visible ally to Jesse Jacksons (Sr. and Jr.) While not a national name, as Assistant Democratic Whip, he had the working relationships on Capitol Hill that Davis lacked. Of note, for the first time in American history, both candidates of a major party ticket would be Roman Catholic. Both Davis and Durbin would be barred from receiving communion due to their pro-choice policy stances. Early general election polling showed that Davis was behind Kasich and he knew he couldn’t make a safe choice. While Davis nor Durbin were the most magnetic orators, they compensated in different ways. Davis had honed his townhall skills and had the appearance of a thoughtful listener on the campaign trail. Durbin on his part was considered by many colleagues the best debater in the Senate. Durbin also got credit from good government observers for his denouncement and unequivocal calls for the resignation of Representative Rod Blagojevich during Ambassadorgate.

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The choice of Durbin had surprised some because of his earlier comments. When considered in 2000 by Gore, Durbin had bordered on Shermanesque regarding the Vice Presidency. Early in the Davis search, he had given similar comments about how he was worried about never taking the Chicago L again. When Davis asked Bill Daley to lead his search for a running mate, more eyes probably should have looked back towards Illinois. Both Davis and Kasich engaged in major efforts to hide their choices from the news media until they were ready to name their choices. The candidates met with potential running mates in random cities on the campaign trails, never traveling on the same days. The vice presidential candidates on the short list were typically flown by discreet private jet and in casual, nondescript clothing. The New York Post, on the day before the real announcement, published a front page story with a leaked picture of a “Davis/Gephardt” campaign sign assuming it was the final choice. The Davis/Durbin campaign later said they had made four different mock-ups for various running mate choices.

With both tickets set, the general race was off.

While the election drove into full swing, the Gore Administration was looking to make changes. Afghanistan was still on-going without an end in sight. Defense Secretary Sheila Widnall had been grinding against the bureaucracy and submitted her resignation. Adding to the strain, Widnall had stalled in the effort to change or remove the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, an effort that was supposed to be championed by the Gore Administration.


Seeking to more firmly place the Department on a war footing while also getting the necessary reforms for a modern fighting force, President Gore’s administration was caught courting former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell as Secretary of Defense. Despite the attempt to be clandestine, perhaps election year pressures made the snooping more visible. Powell had been active in Republican circles after his retirement from the military but had supported the White House’s military actions while some other Republican talking heads had been detractors. Powell said he was willing to serve if asked but said he preferred private life. But it might all have been sleight of hand when the White House announced the appointment of Michigan Senator Carl Levin as Defense Secretary. Previously the Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Levin was the Democratic Ranking Member with good working relations on the Hill. His appointment process would be swift. Levin promised in his testimony his goal on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was to set-up a working blue ribbon committee to determine its impact of morale and how it could feasibly be implemented. No change would be made without the support of the Joint Chiefs. Michigan Governor David Boinor appointed former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer to replace Levin. When Vice President Feinstein swore in Archer, he became the only sitting African-American Senator.
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Dick Durbin! Hell of a choice. Always like the guy. I totally get Davis's reasoning though. Kasich should be the favorite (if for no other reason than it is very tough for the same party to win four straight Presidential elections) but the Davis-Durbin ticket could make some noise. Given the polarization of the country the days of 1968 or 1984 style Electoral College Presidential routs are probably over but still, given right now I'd peg Kasich a 4-5% point favorite in the national popular vote. Of course, tons of time between the summer and the election itself and that could change one way or the other.
Both Davis and Allen were definitely early 21st c. politicians that just missed their moment, and it's nice to see that reflected here. Extremely plausible paths for each of them in an open-year of 2004.
Feels like this is setting up to be something of a 'safe' election with no major shocks on the horizon. Certainly some advantages in the Republican position right now, going to be a bit of a struggle for the Democratic Party to get back, but just might squeak out a victory.
Ch. 21: Conventions and August Surprise
The first move of John Kasich’s campaign was to target Governor Gray Davis as an out of touch “California liberal”, despite Davis’s image within California and the primary as a moderate. His record and platform on immigration reform was labeled as “amnesty” by Senator George Allen. Kasich, not going as hardcore as Elizabeth Dole’s 2000 campaign, had in his platform a path to legalization for illegal immigrants but no possibility of citizenship. Kasich criticized California’s budget deficit, which had ballooned as tax revenues dried up during the recession. But one of the most sustained attacks on Davis came on the matter of gay marriage. California’s sweeping domestic partnership laws, which helped shore up his left flank in the primary, were a liability in the general election. Davis was still getting hits from the left on the matter as well. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom was the most visible California Democrat to critique the Governor, saying that Davis’s candidacy was playing it safe. With under a year left, it was clear that Congress and the White House would not pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act as Gore promised in the 2000 election. Gay rights advocates were further frustrated with the Gore Administration’s lack of action on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” despite the reforms being supported by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Eric Shineski.


The picture of Kasich meeting Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office was prominent in advertising before the former President passed on June 5, 2004. Like Clinton for Nixon, President Al Gore declared a national day of mourning. At the state funeral in the Washington National Cathedral, the massive crowd included all the living former Presidents and First Ladies since Ford. Kasich, and thousands of other national and international dignitaries, attend the funeral service. Kasich also attended the burial service in California, but did not speak at either. Reagan’s memory was invoked regularly on the campaign trail, though. The passing highlighted the changing political generation and helped link Kasich, as the Republican nominee, as an heir of Reagan’s Revolution in the party.

During the general, the Davis campaign went negative as well. Kasich was attacked for his actions while out of office – having since worked for Fox News and Lehman Brothers as an investment banker, saying he was “owned” by Republican media and Wall Street. The hardest messaging came on Medicare and Social Security. Davis had established a strong defense of these programs in the primary and said that Kasich wanted to privatize Social Security. Since it became an issue, Davis also spoke on the trail about how his faith informed his work and public service, including stewardship for the environment. Climate activists had grown concern about how partisan the idea of global warming had been framed since 2000. Gore’s continued efforts have brought forward Republican contrarians. While Kasich himself had positions on tackling global warming, other candidates in the primary and the official party platform spoke very little on the matter, calling for “more research.”


The Republican National Convention in Dallas happened under heavy security. Former Governor Bush seemed to enjoy the media spotlight as the convention chairman. Despite a minor revolt by some libertarian leaning delegates backing Helen Chenworth-Hage, the four nights went off without a hitch. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Senator John McCain headlined the first night. For McCain, not on a ballot that fall, the speech acted as a swan song, taking the lead as the default go-to for Republican foreign policy issues. With Kasich leading steadily in the polls, McCain was seen as shoe-in for his Secretary of State. Schwarzenegger talked about a positive vision for the Republican Party and about how Governor Gray Davis was “nice, but no man of action.” There was talk of Schwarzenegger running for Governor in 2006.

The second night featured Governors Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee. Jeb gave a shout to his brother George in the audience. The governors focused on the low tax and social conservative platform that was standard for the Party and proved the states were models of freedom. The third night featured Senator George Allen who accepted the nomination to be the Republican candidate for Vice President and then Senator Zell Miller as the Keynote. Miller was a Democrat, former Georgia Governor and sitting Senator going against his own party. He denounced Davis as unable to keep our country safe and called for more vigorous foreign policy than Gore was showing, in particular on Iran, Iraq, and North Korea.

The final night, John Kasich was opened for by Elizabeth Dole. She had done a lot of repair inside the party since 2000. Dole introduced Kasich by speaking about some of the reasons she had chosen him as a running mate – his values, intelligence, and dedication to the American people. Last but not least, up came John Kasich. Most Americans were familiar with his story by then, and Kasich double downed on the message. The son of a mailman, he promised to deliver for the American people. He criticized the growth of government under the Gore years and promised to rebalance the budget. He promised to restore “American values” to Washington, not to cater to special interests. At its end, he whipped up the stadium in a chant of “USA, USA” as he stood on stage.

Kasich and Allen were riding high after the convention and went on a barn burner tour through the Midwest. The campaign had landed on “A Stronger America” for their slogan. Davis, meanwhile, had to still split time back in California as Governor. Those trips back were timed with fundraisers. President Al Gore also threw his weight behind Davis’s campaign, bringing the weight of the bully pulpit. Davis had attempted to cut into the RNC afterglow coverage with the announcement of Senator Dick Durbin as his running mate, but was still behind.


Then America learned the name Jim McGreevey. New Jersey Senator McGreevy was already the target of some negative news coverage because of his connections to Charles Kushner during Ambassadorgate. On August 27, the Friday before the convention, McGreevy held a press conference and came out as a “gay American” and admitted to having an affair while in office. The timing was horrible for the Democrats. The story had been bouncing around Tri-state region and DC inner circles, getting some local notice. Senator McGreevey knew it was going to publicly break and wanted to get ahead of the event. Gay marriage was already a hot button issue. Now a sitting United States Senator admitted the an affair while in office. John Kasich himself said it was a “private matter, but hopes he would be truthful to the voters” but had enough surrogates to make the attacks for him. The Republican ticket had been hitting family values hard before McGreevey’s announcement, so it fit well in the campaign. Davis refused to comment but surrogates were not as disciplined in their messaging as Republicans were on television in advance of the convention. McGreevey’s convention speech slot was quietly scrapped as he said he was “taking time to consider” his future, with most assuming he would resign.

Kasich’s lead was polling around 5 points ahead of Davis by the time of the Democratic National Convention in New York. In a pivot to the general, “For the People” was his message, playing off of his theme of community and individual reform. The DNC also featured extremely strict security, representing the new reality. Questions about heavy-handed New York Police tactics with a small number of anti-war protestors was a blip on the otherwise well-received presentation. The first night was headlined by Senator Andrew Cuomo then Governor Howard Dean, who both showed strong party support for Governor Davis after they suspended thier campaigns. The second night featured Vice President Dianne Feinstein and Senator John Edwards. Feinstein spoke about Davis’s achievements in California and Edwards spoke towards the more progressive parts of the Democratic platform. Edwards’ speech in particular was extremely well received and lead to many commentators wishing he was on the ticket. The third night, Senator Dick Durbin was introduced by Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., who had lost a close primary race for the Senate in Illinois but still seen as a rising star in the party. Durbin accepted his nomination and reiterated inclusive Democratic values. The vice presidential candidate was followed by President Al Gore, who received an uproarious applause.

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Gore’s speech was an ode to his legacy. When he took the stage, the room was full of raucous applause for the outgoing President and a chant of “four more years.” An accidental President, Gore had worked hard to be accepted by the country and by his party. He spoke about the expansion of health care and environmental protections. He spoke about American resolve in the face of terror and standing with our allies abroad. He spoke of the might of American military, but also the strength of American diplomacy, calling out the successes of the State Department in the Balkans and North Korea. Gore said that he trusted Davis to keep the fight moving forward, no matter the challenge. Gore’s speech ended with his deepest thanks to the American people, and he took his time to leave the stage when First Lady Tipper Gore met him as he walked off, basking in the cheers.

The final night was keynoted by Governor John F. Kennedy, Jr. before Davis spoke. Kennedy spoke of his father’s values and call to service, and how he saw that reflected in Davis. Commentators saw a bright future for Kennedy in Democratic politics and there was no doubt that one day he too would run for President. After Kennedy, California First Lady Sharon Davis introduced her husband who then joined her on stage. It was a softer approach than the sharp messaging of his campaign ads. It played to his strengths, avoiding bombastic language but attempted to have an earnest conversation with the stadium and audience at home. While not a thunderous effort, the earnest straight talk worked from Davis. While not universally applauded, it was favorably compared to George Bush’s 1988 acceptance speech with its earnest appeal to a better America.

The show of a unified Democratic Party with a message for change, even after 3 terms in the White House, appealed to the public and provided a bounce after the convention, but only came to just neck-in-neck with Kasich and failing to take any lead. Kasich’s margins recovered in the next two weeks. Political conversation the entire year circled around how the country seemed tired of a Democrat in the White House after 12 years and ready for a change. While the economy had improved since the beginning of the year, the continual growth of the 90s seemed long ago. The first debate was coming up on September 30.
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The third night, Senator Dick Durbin was introduced by Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., who had lost a close primary race for the Senate in Illinois but still seen as a rising star in the party.
Somewhere an Illinois State Senator from the South Side of Chicago is watching a butterfly pass by his window and he has a strange feeling but he can't place it. He shakes his head and goes back to working on his second book.
Somewhere an Illinois State Senator from the South Side of Chicago is watching a butterfly pass by his window and he has a strange feeling but he can't place it. He shakes his head and goes back to working on his second book.

Well, yes, Obama isn’t the Senate candidate in this TL. It didn’t fit in the narrative to share in the paragraph but it is Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes, who got second IOTL.
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Ch. 22: Consequences and the 2004 Election
The debates always play an oversized part in the narrative of Presidential campaigns. Since Nixon’s sweaty 1960 performance, the primary directive of every campaign’s debate strategy was “do no harm.” If a critical eye was to observe their actual impact, one would have to conclude that debates do not inform the voters much or demonstrate the skills that might make an effective President. Partisans, the majority of those watching, come in with their minds made up. Nobody really remembers the 2004 debates. John Kasich and Gray Davis gave perfunctory performances. They did no harm. Senator Dick Durbin was declared the clear winner of the Vice Presidential debate, putting his sharp debating skills to good use. But that too is not regularly remembered much, highlighting the perhaps overblown circus around running mate coverage.


What is remembered is Mark Foley and Dennis Hastert. Nobody knew it at the time, but the race changed in two days. On September 28, ABC News published explicit messages and emails that Florida Representative Foley had exchanged with an teenaged male Congressional page. Additional messages were quickly uncovered and made public of more blatantly inappropriate. By September 30, he was out of office, resigning is disgrace. At the first Presidential debate, Kasich dismissed it as the bad acts of one Congressman who should be held accountable. If the matter was just with regards to one Congressman’s behavior, it might have quickly disappeared. But this was a different era in Washington, post-Clinton resignation. The digging continued. Who else knew about it on the Hill? Republicans who had loudly condemned Senator McGreevy’s gay affair were hard to pin down on the record.

Within weeks a larger picture was established. Pages were warning each other about Foley’s behavior for almost a decade. Other Congressmembers and Hill staff were swept in what was appearing to be a cover-up – Representative Jim Kolbe of Arizona had been notified as early as 2000. Foley had once showed up at the pages’ dormitory after hours before, likely drunk. It was all out in the open and waws not really a secret to Republicans on the Hill. This was quickly tied to Speaker Dennis Hastert’s office and staff. With confirmations of this behavior being reported to Hastert, did anything happen?

In a press conference on October 2, Hastert denounced Foley’s actions and said he would have moved to expel Foley if he had not resigned. Hastert himself began to be the target of calls for resignation as well, with this behavior seemingly tolerated under his watch. Hastert refused, calling for a full investigation. A separate investigation was opened into Kolbe for his reported behavior with other pages. Majority Leader Tom DeLay struggled to provide any explanation for what was happening in his caucus and many Republicans struggled to give answers at the peak of election season The Speaker’s office was adamant that he had just informed of the allegations. It did not take long for it to be uncovered that his senior staff had certainly been informed of Foley’s behavior by 2003, if not earlier.

Since it was a Presidential year, the candidates had to weigh in now. Davis and Kasich both called for investigations. Kasich, a former member of the House, tried to distance himself, saying he had been out of that office for a while and did not interact much with Foley. With the pressure mounting, he flipped from the stance he took in the first debate that it was an isolated event. For Davis, it was a tricky calculus. Trying to get involved might seem crass. The Democratic candidate message was that he would continue the Gore Administration’s record on accountability and visibility. Both candidates tried to keep their messages focus on the issues and ignore the circus. Davis figured they got a boost from the vice presidential debate. Kasich did well in the first debate against Davis, who seemed stiff. Republicans were bruised but weathering the storm. A single Congressman’s indiscretion wasn’t enough of a story to really move the needle in an election. Neither of them expected the real October surprise.


Dennis Hastert used to be a high school wrestling coach. On October 11, two days before the final Presidential debate, ABC News broke the news of his own alleged crimes and subsequent cover-up during that time. The new allegations went well beyond anything Foley had been accused of. The first reactions were one of shock. Hastert was seen as affable and was respected as a competent Speaker, even Democrats would say so. He had championed several child protection acts in Congress, which was being made a messaging priority by the Republican Congress. Republicans up and down the ballot had been going into this election as the champions of family values. RNC Chairman Karl Rove regularly touted the multiple state efforts to define marriage as between a man and a woman. Kasich had effectively called out Davis as secretly wanting gay marriage to be legal in the first debate (he was running on a pro-civil union platform). The severity of the recently exposed claims against Hastert could not be ignored. On October 20, Hastert presided over the vote to replace him as Speaker, with the Republicans scrambling around Tom Delay as an interim Speaker, then resigned.

Al Gore owed his Presidency to the infidelities and subsequent cover-up of another man. He knew it, but was able to win the 2000 election to earn the office outright as well. With the 2004 election, it would be hard to argue that Democrats would have won if it were not for the scandals of that cycle. Kasich had been maintaining slim majorities in most polls. Polling had been incredibly steady in the weeks prior to October. But there had been a steady number of undecided voters in the polling. When the final Electoral College win is 274 to 264, there was not much room for error.

Gray Davis’s 2004 win was not as complete as Al Gore’s in 2000. He did not reach 50%, only beating Kasich by .5% nationally. Early in the night, wins in Florida and New Hampshire had given the Republicans hope. But a loss in Colorado allowed doubt to creep up. Florida would have to go to a recount in a few counties with close margins but was not the tipping state. While the final Florida results took several days to confirm, Kasich ended up being declared the winner in the Sunshine State. It was Iowa, the first state to participate in the election, that put Davis over the top that night. Although the candidacy had not gained major mainstream traction, Constitution Party candidate Alan Keyes did end up with more votes than Davis’s lead in several states, including Iowa, and was called a “spoiler.” Repeat Green candidate Ralph Nader received fewer votes than he did in 2000.

With the House scandals, the reactions of individual members impacted the results more so than the national vote margin, but the vote had turned away from Republicans. Democrats ended up with a 13 seat majority, Nancy Pelosi was in line to be the first woman Speaker. Republicans kept the Senate with 52 total seats. Democratic wins in Alaska, Illinois, and Colorado were balanced by losses in South Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia, and Florida. The closest Senate race was in Illinois, where incumbent Senator Peter Fitzgerald was unseated by Comptroller Dan Hynes, which was determined only after a recount. Democrats also lost one gubernatorial race, with Republican David McIntosh winning in Indiana. About a month after Election Night, Illinois Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr., who lost the early primary to Dan Hynes, was announced as the replacement to fill Durbin’s seat when he took the Vice Presidency.

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It was a late election night. On the West Coast Gray Davis took the stage at his rally in Los Angeles around midnight local time. Somewhere in the middle of his victory speech, he thanked President Al Gore for his years of service and for restoring dignity to the Oval Office. The month after the election, the Nobel Committee announced their choice of President Al Gore for the Peace Prize, to recognize his efforts towards nuclear deproliferation and action on climate change. President Gore’s final executive efforts were in coordinating the American response to a massive tsunami in Indonesia. President-elect Gray and his transition time were closely briefed on operations as they prepared to exchange power.
Ch. 23: 2005 and Damage Control
President – Gray Davis
Vice President – Dick Durbin

Secretary of State – Joe Biden
Secretary of the Treasury – Tom Steyer
Secretary of Defense – Carl Levin* (continuing role)
Attorney General – Deval Patrick
Secretary of the Interior – John Berry
Secretary of Agriculture – Jim Doyle
Secretary of Commerce – Norm Mineta
Secretary of Labor – Linda Chavez-Thompson
Secretary of Health and Human Services – David Satcher
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development – Saul N. Ramirez Jr.
Secretary of Transportation – Jeff Morales
Secretary of Energy – Mike Castle
Secretary of Education – Gary Locke
Secretary of Veterans Affairs – Charles Cragin*

White House Chief of Staff – Susan Kennedy
White House Press Secretary – Roger Salazar

Trade Representative – Stuart Eizenstat
Director of the Office of Management and Budget – Jack Lew*
Ambassador to the United Nations – Susan Rice
Director of National Intelligence – Claudia Kennedy
Director of National Drug Control Policy – Tom Umberg
National Security Advisor – Gary Hart
Solicitor General – Eliot Spitzer
Director of Environmental Protection Agency – Mary Nichols
Director of Homeland Security – Tim Roemer
Director of Central Intelligence Agency– Jami Miscik*
Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation – Jim Johnson*

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs - James L. Jones

Chairman of the Federal Reserve – Roger Ferguson*

President: Dick Durbin (D)
President pro tempore: Ted Stevens (R)

Majority (Republican) leadership
Majority Leader: Mitch McConnell
Majority Whip: Rick Santorum

Minority (Democratic) leadership
Minority Leader: Tom Daschle
Minority Whip: Harry Reid

House of Representatives
Speaker: Nancy Pelosi

Majority (Democratic) leadership
Majority Leader: Bob Menendez
Majority Whip: Jim Clyburn

Minority (Republican) leadership
Minority Leader: Tom DeLay
Minority Whip: John Boehner

It was grey but relatively warm day in Washington. Newly sworn-in President Gray Davis gave an acceptable speech to moderately sized crowd. Former Presidents Gore and Clinton were in attendance. While he maintained a mostly private lifestyle and was working on a book, his wife Hillary was more involved in activism, rumored to be the next President of Planned Parenthood. Former President George HW Bush was there as well. The most recent Republican President had left office 12 years ago. Although the margins had been slim, the Republican Party still seemed dazed after being shut out of the White House for 4 elections straight. How long ago the days of Reagan felt. Pundits, as they do, asked if there was a “permanent Democratic majority”, despite Republicans still controlling the Senate. This split in government became painful obvious in short order.


On February 16, the Kyoto Protocol came into effect. The United States had not ratified the treaty, but was compliant and still a signatory. President Gray’s appointee for EPA Administrator had been one of the more grueling processes. His selection, Mary Nichols, was pilloried by Environment and Public Works Chair Jim Inhofe. She only passed the committee by one vote, with Lincoln Chafee defecting. Nichols was a prime example of the early struggles the Davis Administration faced. Most of them were appearance or messaging related. Despite her previous federal service, was also a member of what some media coverage had dubbed the “Cali Club”, of high ranking appointments going to Golden State figures. Most visible was Tom Steyer, hedge fund millionaire turned political activist/donor, who Davis appointed to be Treasury Secretary. Other members of the Cali Club included Norm Mineta at Commerce, Jeff Morales at Transportation, Susan Kennedy for Chief of Staff, and various deputy and lower positions. Susan Kennedy as Chief of Staff was the most concerning pick in Democratic circles. Early rumors were that Davis would pick Leon Panetta, former Congressman and Clinton Chief of Staff, who was well respected in Washington, but it did not come to be. With Kennedy as Chief of Staff and Garry South as Senior Advisor, the people closest to the President were new to Washington. Even with the White House remaining in Democratic hands, it felt like a massive transition of power to some people who suddenly found themselves on the outside.

Women’s groups were frustrated by Davis’s initial process as well. As Vice President Feinstein left office, it felt like a step back in representation. 2004 saw a record number of women elected to Congress and then Pelosi became the first woman speaker, but the Davis Administration was found lacking. In particular, there was frustration that all of the “Big Four” Cabinet positions were filled by men – Joe Biden at State, Tom Steyer at Treasury, Deval Patrick as Attorney General, and Carl Levin was staying on as Defense Secretary. Patrick as Chief of Staff, arguably the second most powerful position in Washington, was little consolidation. Other prominent women appointments were also less visible compared to the Vice Presidency - Linda Chavez-Thompson as Labor Secretary, Nichols at EPA, Susan Rice as UN Ambassador, and Claudia Kennedy as Director of National Intelligence. Davis did gain support from LGBT groups, however. Chief of Staff Kennedy was openly lesbian, which certainly was part of her frosty acceptance on Capitol Hill. Elizabeth Birch, former executive director of the Human Rights Campaign, was made Domestic Affairs Advisor. At the Cabinet level, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Director John Berry, who was openly gay, was appointed to be Interior Secretary and Davis basically dared Republicans to block the very qualified appointee. For those who hoped for more bipartisan representation from Davis than Gore, there was some disappointment when the only notable Republican appointed was Delaware Representative Mike Castle, a notable GOP voice on climate change, as Energy Secretary.

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In April, Pope John Paul II passed and it was poignant for American Catholics to see their Catholic President attend his funeral. While the 9/11 crash and War in Afghanistan had been the largest story of the past 5 years in the States, worldwide (and second at home) was the on-going revelations into the extent of the Catholic abuse scandal and cover-up. Davis was clear that he was only paying his respects to a world leader, not a subservient worshiper. It probably helped Davis and Durbin that they were refused communion, separating them from the institution. The imagery of a Catholic President at the Vatican spread rapidly in fringe, conspiratorial communities, mostly online.

Davis quickly found legislative success - the first bill to pass was a bipartisan intelligence community strengthening and reform act. He lost some liberal votes but found support among Republicans. A bipartisan Senate and House group called the “Gang of 8” was working on immigration reform. But these easy days were not here to stay. Supreme Court Justice David Souter announced his retirement in the spring of 2005 for the summer recess. To replace Souter, President Davis nominated Second Circuit Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Sotomayor's appointment cause a great debate among Senate Republicans but her appointment was not blocked outright, mostly because it did not upset the ideological balance of the court. Sotomayor had originally been appointed a federal judge by President Bush and was considered a moderate on the bench. President Gray Davis deserved his nominees, despite the Republican Senate majority, the standard consensus stated. The center held firm and Sotomayor became the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice. This consensus would soon shatter. While President Davis was handling the fallout from Hurrican Karen, Chief Justice William Rehnquist died on September 3, 2005, and all of Washington came to a halt.


Rehnquist’s passing was not surprising but still shocking; the Chief Justice had been battling cancer for months but his decline happened swiftly. Unlike the comparatively painless Souter replacement, the moderately conservative majority on the Supreme Court that existed since Nixon was seemingly doomed if Davis appointed an outright liberal justice. But a candidate would still need to pass Senate approval. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell knew that he had a powerful hand. Thankfully for Democrats, the hardliners were not in total domination. The Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee was the collegial centrist Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. A Senate veteran, himself undergoing chemotherapy for Hodgkin's lymphoma, he could not be bullied into the party’s new hardline. He still believed in the old school style of Senate comradery, with friends of both sides of the aisle.

Davis knew he was in a tough situation. White House staffers searched for independent and even liberal Republican nominees who could be acceptable justices. Despite speaking a hard line, McConnell knew there were enough Republican swing votes for cloture. Senate Republicans knew they had to fill the seat, ignoring some of the more radical suggestions coming from right-wing media voices to deny Davis any appointment. The current situation, with Sotomayor recently confirmed and without a Chief Justice, was untenable. Liberal bloggers meanwhile were suggesting that President Davis could theoretically make a recess appointment for Chief Justice. A new liberal majority would be potentially more transformational than any presidency. Outflanking McConnell, Specter negotiated a compromise. The Chief Justice role had considerable sway over the business of the highest court. It would be extremely concerning for Republicans if a young, liberal justice were to become Chief Justice and dominate for decades. Behind closed doors, Davis and Specter came to an agreement. Davis nominated current Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for Chief Justice, the first woman to be in that role. Although liberal, at 71 years old, her tenure would not be expansive. To replace her as an associate justice, Davis would need to nominate a moderate choice. Democrats had reshaped the Judiciary after 12 years of owning the White House, and the Republican Party wanted to retain some influence over the Supreme Court.


The idea of appointing a Republican Senator, either currently sitting or recently retired in an attempt to placate the institution gained some traction but the choices were limited. There were very few pro-choice, a pre-requisite for a Democratic nominee, Republicans in the Senate with the correct legal background. Tom Ridge, former Governor of Pennsylvania, did not have the right credentials for a Supreme Court seat. Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld did, but was considered too liberal for Senate Republicans, especially on gay marriage. It took some effort, but eventually President Davis nominated Pamela Rymer. Originally appointed to the federal bench by Reagan, then escalated to the 9th Circuit to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy by Bush, Rymer had a personable disposition and level-headed approach that was praised by her fellow justices. Her recent decision in Planned Parenthood vs. American Coalition of Life Activists, that death threats against abortion doctors were not protected by the First Amendment, gave Davis cover from the left. A Stanford graduate, Rymer had California connections which softened her to Davis. McConnell played hardball the entire process but Rymer’s confirmation continued slowly. Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison was an example of the cooperative Republican wing - saying she did not think she would vote for the candidates directly but criticized those who wanted to “stifle debate”. After months of posturing and hearings, both Ginsburg and Rymer were approved with under 60 votes. President Gray Davis seemed like the master bipartisan figure he ran as in 2004. It would slip away.

As the drama in Washington occurred, President Davis was dealing with the most active hurricane season on record. Even though it was not the most powerful of the season, Hurricane Karen had the largest impact on American soil. In coordination with Louisiana Governor David Vitter, a massive mandatory evacuation was ordered across the state, including New Orleans. Similar actions were taken across the Gulf Coast. Multiple breaks in the levees around the city led to massive flooding and damage. Swift recovery efforts only mitigated the damage. The sheer scale of the damage shocked the nation. Later, an independent commission established by President Davis and Congress put the official death count at just shy of 400 and the total damage caused at over $90 billion. In quick secession, Hurricane Karen was outpowered by storms Rina and Wendy. Both also struck the United States but with lesser consequences. In advance of Rina, Texas Governor Rick Perry ordered the largest evacuation in American history. The damage at home overshadowed the deadliest storm - Hurricane Seth had hit Central America, where over 1500 had died in Guatemala alone. Traditional pillars in the face of rapid tragedies like the Red Cross were overwhelmed. The warmer-than-average Gulf water temperatures were seen as an early effect of climate change by advocates.
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