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Dan Balz
Dan Balz
Storming the Gates
ISBN: 0316080381
Storming the Gates
Mr. Balz talked about the book he wrote with Ronald Brownstein, Storming the Gates: Protest Politics and the Republican Revival, published by Little, Brown and Company. It focuses on the relationship between voter discontent and Republican electoral success. It also examines the future of this relationship and the impact of the conservative grassroots movements in America. He also talked about the life of a political reporter and the general impact of voter discontent on U.S. politics.
Storming the Gates
Program Air Date: February 18, 1996

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Dan Balz, co-author of "Storming The Gates: Protest Politics and the Republican Revival," if you had to remember a moment in all of your research behind the scenes for this book that made the biggest impression, what would it be?
Mr. DAN BALZ, AUTHOR, "STORMING THE GATES I guess it would be that the point that we began to understand how long-term forces that had been moving the country, I think, somewhat in a more conservative direction coincided with the anger that was beginning to erupt in 1994 and how 1994 was coming together for the Republicans in that significant way.
LAMB: Where did you see it, though?
Mr. BALZ: Well, we saw it in a variety of places. My co-author, Ron Brownstein, and I had both been out covering the 1994 campaign; we'd been out in the 1992 campaign. Like every political reporter who was out, we were seeing anger in the country about politics, about politicians and about Washington. We realized that something was out there that we wanted to explore in more detail.

What we found was the degree to which the Republicans, in 1994, understood this probably better than the Democrats did and figured out ways to manipulate it, to take advantage of it, to drive it in a way that created their electoral success in 1994.
LAMB: How did they manipulate it?
Mr. BALZ: Well, manipulation may be an overstatement, but what the Republicans understood was that if they could generate power at the grass roots to swell the anger at Washington that they had a much better chance of winning a big election in 1994. I think people like Newt Gingrich and some of his allies understood that earlier than a lot of other people and probably--and certainly understood it much better than the Democrats. And so what we wanted to do was try to explain how this came about and where it might be heading.
LAMB: What came first, Newt Gingrich or the anger?
Mr. BALZ: In many ways, Newt Gingrich came first. Newt Gingrich was out there a long time talking about the kind of thing that happened in 1994. If you go back and look at the history of how Newt Gingrich came to power--and one of the points we make in the book is, to some extent, he changed the party and took it over and helped move the party toward the kind of electoral victory they got in 1994. He was talking about many of the same kinds of issues and political strategies back in the mid- and late 1980s and particularly the early '90s as they were able to put into place in 1994. But other ingredients, obviously, played into that strategy, particularly the breakdown of the Clinton administration during Clinton's first two years in office so that it fit in 1994 in a way that it had not fit before.
LAMB: If we followed you around day to day, what would we see you doing?
Mr. BALZ: In terms of doing this book?
LAMB: This book and just being a political reporter.
Mr. BALZ: Well, to follow around a political reporter day by day might actually be fairly boring. I mean, a lot of what we do is we spend either time on the telephone talking to people both here in Washington who are doing campaigns or out around in the country who are doing campaigns or we go out on the campaign trail. And a lot of what you see on the campaign trail, in some ways, looks pretty ordinary. A politician comes into town; he goes to an event; he speaks before a crowd--she speaks before a crowd; there's some kind of a response; they go on to another place. They do that same kind of thing.

What we try to do as we are out is we try to measure how the message that a particular politician or a particular party is putting out, is resonating with people. And then, while we're out, we're talking to people on the street, people at events, people in coffee shops to try to get a sense from them of: What are the things that register with them? What are the issues that they care about? What are the ideas that motivate them? What are their own frustrations; how their own lives are going? And out of that, you kind of create this quilt of what's going on in the country.

I mean, one of the great things about covering politics is that it's an opportunity every two years to kind of take a measure of where the country is: how it's changed from the last election, what issues are different, what politicians are more interesting to people and how the country's going.
LAMB: Something that got my attention: page 194, `Shirley Blast faxed talking points against the bill to 735 right-of-center talk radio stations.'
Mr. BALZ: Right.
LAMB: How do you know there are 735 right-of-center talk radio stations?
Mr. BALZ: The research has been done by the people who use talk radio as an instrument in what has been an ideological and political war the last four or five years, particularly on the Republican side. Republican press secretaries and Republican operatives and people who work on the conservative side figured out that there was a growing market of talk radio hosts and talk radio shows all over the country that they could use to get a message across that would circumvent what major news organizations do, what the major networks do, what the major newspapers do.

And they began, in part, by using press secretaries all over the Hill to kind of begin to catalog who was out there, what they were saying and who was, perhaps, friendly or not friendly. And out of that, they developed this huge body of talk radio hosts who, if they provided them with the information, might be helpful in spreading the message. And, in fact, they were. And on the--this has to do with the defeat--the initial defeat of the crime bill in 1994. It was an effort to try to drum up opposition to a bill that looked like it was going to sail through Congress.
LAMB: You talk about an `invisible campaign' here that—to the people that live in DC. `The bill was top presidential priority that had drawn praise from most newspapers in the mainstream media. Until the very last days before the vote, the conservative facts and talk radio campaign against it had been almost invisible in Washington.'
Mr. BALZ: Well, this is another great example of how we in the press and the political establishment often miss things that are happening at the grass roots. The crime bill in an election year looks like a gimme for the president. I mean, the president has proposed a crime bill; he's beginning to take the issue away from Republicans. And most Republicans on the Hill, I think, did not believe that they could defeat that bill. But through a coalition of grass-roots organizations, the NRA being a particularly important one, revved up people who were suspicious of government, who were angry at the notion that they were going to put gun controls in and created an anti-crime bill coalition that ultimately blocked the bill in the House, forced the president to scramble and, in some ways, helped to change the whole character of the 1994 elections.

I mean, in talking to people who were doing campaigns, that moment in August when that crime bill was defeated on the House floor on a procedural motion-- it didn't ultimately defeat the bill, but it stopped the bill--the world changed for a lot of people. And I know one consultant said to me one of his candidates, a Democratic candidate, just went right down beginning that weekend.

The RNC --we discovered a very interesting thing. The Republican National Committee has a quite elaborate telemarketing operation to raise money. They run it every day of the week and on weekends. Just before that crime bill, they were raising a lot of money because of the opposition to the crime bill. When some Republicans, after the crime bill was stopped, started to make a deal with the Democrats, the contributions dried up. The grass-roots anger over an effort to make a deal on the crime bill told the Republicans that it was better to fight and lose that bill, ultimately, than to win it. It was a crystalizing moment in 1994. And it was, in many ways, one of the best examples of the thing that struck us as we were beginning to work on this book.

I mean, Ron was the one who said it first as we were thinking about what was important about 1994. He said, `You know, underlying all of what's going on out here in the country is this kind of incredible grass-roots anger at Washington on the conservative side.' And part of what we wanted to do was to try to describe that. But in many ways, it was invisible. It was happening at the grass roots; it was not as visible in Washington.
LAMB: How did you and Ron Brownstein divide up the chores?
Mr. BALZ: Almost literally chapter by chapter. We spent a lot of time working on the proposal of this book. We had the idea to do the book before the 1994 election. Our sense was that this was going to be a big Republican year. I don't think either one of us had the sense that it was going to be as big as it turned out to be. But we started to talk about the shape of the book and spent several--really, several months putting the proposal together. And in working that out, we divvied it up by chapter so that each of us--there are eight chapters; we each, basically, wrote four chapters and then traded the work after we had done it to make sure it was consistent.
LAMB: Which four did you write?
Mr. BALZ: I wrote the odd-numbered chapters and Ron wrote the even-numbered chapters...
LAMB: So if we look at the...
Mr. BALZ: ...and then we shared the introduction.
LAMB: If we look at the inner--at the--just a second here. We'll get a closer shot of it. Maybe we can't. You wrote, like, one, three and--have to change the page and go to the next one. The first one: Rise and Fall. You wrote that?
Mr. BALZ: Well...
LAMB: Holding it to--oh, I see what you're saying. No. I'm--OK.
Mr. BALZ: Right.
LAMB: So you wrote The Whirlwind.
Mr. BALZ: I wrote The Whirlwind, which has to do with how the '94 election happened from a Republican perspective. Ron then wrote the chapter about the Clinton administration and the long fight within the Democratic Party, which turned out, in 1994, to be quite unsuccessful. I then did the chapter on the rise of the Gingrich generation within the party and so on and so forth.
LAMB: So when we read that there are a number of interviews with Newt Gingrich, that was you?
Mr. BALZ: Well, most--many of them were with me, dating back a number of years. The Washington Post did a very big series on Gingrich right after he was elected speaker, and I was one of the participants in that. Some of the interviewing took place during that series. I had done some interviewing of Gingrich before the election--the year before and in past times. We really only had one interview--one joint interview with the speaker for this book.
LAMB: I counted in the back that 29 of your books in the bibliography are authors who have sat in that chair right there...
Mr. BALZ: Is that right?
LAMB: ...over the last almost seven years. And then there's a bunch that have been on this network that just haven't been here for a book.
Mr. BALZ: Yeah.
LAMB: How much of what you've got in here is new?
Mr. BALZ: Well, that's a good question. We did a lot of original research. I think most of what's in the bibliography would be what you would call the kind of thing that kind of informs your head as you begin the project. But much of what we have, I think, is from original reporting or the work that we were doing in 1994 and beyond. Some of it--I mean, some of the talk radio background came from some of the books. Some of the descriptions of the historical parallels, obviously, come out of the books we read. But a lot of it is original reporting that we tried to do.
LAMB: You have a note in the back here to someone that I've met in Freeport, Illinois, when we did the re-enactment of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. And it reads, `Dan Balz thanks his mother for her enthusiastic support throughout the project as well as the encouragement of his brother and regrets that his father did not live to see this book produced.'
Mr. BALZ: Yeah.
LAMB: Who's your mother? I mean, what's...
Mr. BALZ: My mother is Phylis Balz, and I think she's had as much fun with this book as Ron and I have had.
LAMB: Why?
Mr. BALZ: Well, she--I think the idea that one of her children grew up and wrote a book is very exciting to her. I mean, it's exciting to us to publish it, but it's a big thrill for her. And she has been just remarkably enthusiastic throughout the project. She talks about it every time that we've had a conversation.
LAMB: Has she read it yet?
Mr. BALZ: She has not read it yet, no. She will get an early copy and she will read it, I think, probably the night she gets it. But she--you know, every time I would talk to her on the phone, it would be, `How's it going?' And if I ever suggested that, you know, I'd had a bad day, I mean, she would get alarmed and--so I tried to be upbeat with her so that it didn't alarm her too much that there were rough patches in trying to do the book.
LAMB: Is she political?
Mr. BALZ: She is--she's moderately political. She's not what you would call a political activist, but she pays a lot of attention to current events. She's a big C-SPAN watcher, as you know. She's a big fan of yours, as you know. But she watches a lot of current events. She pays a lot of attention. I didn't grow up in a household in which we talked politics all the time.
LAMB: What did your dad do?
Mr. BALZ: My dad was a sales manager for a battery company. It was a small family-owned battery company that's been, by now, long eaten up by other corporations--called Burgess Battery--and spent most of his life doing that; eventually became the vice president of this company. And then, in his early 50s, decided he'd had enough with that world and the sort of the corporate merger world and left the company and started a small travel agency in our hometown, which still exists. It's owned by other people now.
LAMB: And did he die in the middle of your book here?
Mr. BALZ: No. No. He died a long time ago.
LAMB: Oh, yeah?
Mr. BALZ: He died in 1977. So...
LAMB: Did you grow up in Freeport, Illinois?
Mr. BALZ: I grew up in Freeport. I was born in Freeport and stayed in Freeport until I went off to college.
LAMB: Did you know growing up that a presidential assassin lived in that town?
Mr. BALZ: There was some talk of it. And we didn't know much about it, but, yes, it was a--there was a--not a lot about it.
LAMB: History mean anything to you when you were growing up?
Mr. BALZ: Some, yes.
LAMB: Where'd you get an interest in journalism?
Mr. BALZ: I got interested in journalism in a couple of different ways. I got interested in journalism--I worked on the high school newspaper and I worked on the high school yearbook. But at that point, I didn't really have the bug. I got interested in journalism when I went to college, and it was through a couple of things. I have an older brother, who I mentioned there in the notes, who is three years older than I am and is a magazine editor at the Chicago Tribune Magazine. He was at the University of Illinois a few years ahead of me, and when I got to campus and was looking around for something to do in addition to studying--or perhaps as opposed to studying--he said, `Join the college newspaper,' which I did. And the University of Illinois newspaper was a five-day-a-week daily. I mean, it was a real newspaper. And at that point, I got hooked on journalism.

I later got hooked on politics and journalism, in part, actually, by reading "The Making of the President" in 1960. That was the one book that really sparked my interest. And then I did an internship in Washington in a congressional office when I was a--after my sophomore year in college. And ever after, the two were just, for me, joined that I wanted to be a journalist and I wanted to do Washington and perhaps cover politics.
LAMB: Who did you intern from?
Mr. BALZ: John Anderson, who was from Rockford, Illinois, which was near Freeport, and he was my local congressman.
LAMB: You know, speaking of books, you cite a book in here--actually, I don't remember what chapter it's in. There are a couple of things on one page that I wanted to ask you about; this is incidental stuff--that you referenced a Kevin Phillips book, "The Emerging Republican Majority," which was written back in the early...
Mr. BALZ: Back in the...
LAMB: ...late '60s, early '70s.
Mr. BALZ: 1969.
LAMB: Does that come true?
Mr. BALZ: Remarkably. I mean, to go back and read it now is to see a guy who really had a fix on where the country was going. I mean, it--I had read parts of it a long time ago and went back and reread a lot of it, and particularly the Southern parts of it. And he had not only an understanding of sort of how the South was evolving, but the reasons why the South would eventually break away from the Democratic Party. I mean, it's a wonderful book to go back and look at now.
LAMB: It's one of your chapters, too.
Mr. BALZ: Right. Yeah.
LAMB: ...the odd--also, you--on the same page, it says--you mention Don Fowler, who is today the chairman of the Republican--or the Democratic National Committee.
Mr. BALZ: Right.
LAMB: But you say the author was of a monograph you're talking about was Don Fowler, who, in early '95, after Southern Democrats had suffered one of their worst defeats, was chosen as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. But where was he back in 1968?
Mr. BALZ: Don was in South Carolina. He was a political activist and he was teaching at the college level, I believe at the University of South Carolina, but I'm not for sure of that. But he was studying—he was both a practitioner and a student of politics, and particularly Southern politics. And he began to see and wrote a monograph to this effect, that the Democratic Party was beginning to erode quite seriously in the South, and it was his prediction that unless something dramatic changed that by--in 20 or 30 years, you would have a reversal in the South. You would go from what was then a strong, one-party, solid, Democratic South to a South that would be probably strongly Republican; that a whole series of factors were bringing about the rise of the Republican Party.
LAMB: And you name Carroll Campbell in this chapter as being a significant person to talk a lot about. Why?
Mr. BALZ: Well, we decided to look at Carroll Campbell in this chapter having to do with the South--the South has been written about a lot as a changing environment, and what we wanted to do was talk about how '94 fit in with historical changes. We looked at two states in that chapter in some detail, one being South Carolina and one being Texas. We chose them for a couple of reasons. We wanted one state that was kind of from the outer South, a bigger state, a more urban state; that's Texas. We then wanted a state from the old South, the old Confederacy. And in many ways, South Carolina has led the way in terms of becoming a Republican state.

Carroll Campbell played a very significant role in that. Campbell was elected to Congress in 1978. He was elected governor in 1986; wasn't the first Republican governor in South Carolina, but he was the first Republican governor who really took root. And Carroll Campbell was not only an effective governor as a governor; he was a very shrewd and tough partisan political operator. Carroll Campbell was very close friends with the late Lee Atwater, who also grew up in South Carolina, and together they had a--kind of a sense, both from working together in the state and also participating in national campaigns, of how to try to build a party in the South.

So we look at the role Campbell played once he became governor in trying to convert the state from solidly Democratic to somewhat more two-partied to a state that now is more solidly Republican; it's not absolutely Republican. But after 1994, they gained control of the state House of Representatives. And because they had an early swearing in, swore in the first speaker in the South since Reconstruction.
LAMB: You say that between 1961 and 1991, median family income in the South, adjusted for inflation, increased from $20,228 to $31,940 while the percentage of Southerners holding college degrees rose from 6.9 percent to 12.3 percent. What's the significance of that?
Mr. BALZ: Well, the significance of that is that the--during the period from the early '60s to the 1990s, there was a creation of a significant middle class in the South that had not existed in the early days after World War II. The South, as you know, is--has historically been the most impoverished region in the country. But the rise of the middle class in the South was also very important to the rise of the Republicans in the South. It created a level of middle management; it created suburbs; it created an environment that had not existed and an environment, frankly, that's very attractive for Republicans to organize, to recruit and to build a cadre of supporters that they had never had before. So the economic success of the South was very important in turning the South from a one-party region into a competitive region that's now more controlled by the Republicans.
LAMB: You know, I was reading in the notes on Chapter 3, which is another one of your chapters, The Long March...
Mr. BALZ: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: which you say that--you're talking about the Conservative Opportunity Society.
Mr. BALZ: Right.
LAMB: And you listed who was helpful, and the names were Vin Weber, Bob Walker, Connie Mack, Steve Gunderson, Nancy Johnson, Tom Tauke and Gingrich. This is the way you wrote it.
Mr. BALZ: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: And it struck me, Vin Weber's gone from Congress; Bob Walker's leaving Congress; Connie Mack's in the United States Senate; Steve Gunderson's leaving; Nancy Johnson's left and is chairman of the Ethnics Committee; and Tom Tauke works for Nynex...
Mr. BALZ: Right.
LAMB: ...the telephone company. And you've got Mr. Gingrich left.
Mr. BALZ: Right.
LAMB: What does that mean?
Mr. BALZ: Well, I think it means that a lot of these people who were there at the beginning and helped to create what we, in the book, call the Gingrich generation have, understandably, moved on but have been very--but were very important in the rise of this more conservative, harder-edged, more aggressive partisanship that now characterizes the House and I think, in some ways, the Senate. Some of them have moved on because they've sought higher office. Some of them moved on simply because they had decided they'd spent enough time in the House. Bob Walker is still there but is retiring after this term, which, frankly, was a little bit of a surprise to me. But Walker was one of Gingrich's closest allies throughout that entire early period. But it--I think it marked the evolution of the party as much as anything.
LAMB: Talk about what works. You have this organization called the Conservative Opportunity Society. What was it and when was it formed?
Mr. BALZ: Well, the Conservative Opportunity Society was, in many ways, Newt Gingrich's vehicle to power in the House. It was started after the 1982 elections. Gingrich, who was--Gingrich had this dream of a Republican House from the moment he came to Congress, if not before. In 1978, he'd just been elected to the House. He went in to see Guy Vander Jagt, who was then the chairman of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, and he said--I mean, this was a guy who hadn't served one day in Congress, but he said, `The thing we don't have is we don't have a long-term plan to make

the House a Republican House.' And Vander Jagt, who was blown away by both the audacity and the--sort of the vision of Gingrich at that time, said, `I'll tell you what I'll do. I'm going to make you the chairman of a task force to try to make it happen.'

Well, after 1982, Gingrich was discouraged. The House--the Republicans had made significant gains when Reagan came to power in 1980. In 1982, because of the recession, the Republicans lost 26 seats in the midterm election. Gingrich is discouraged. He goes off to New York to meet with Richard Nixon. And Nixon says, `One of the problems with the House is that you have never, in the House, been able to develop--or the party has never been able to develop a core or a cadre of activists who are interested in issues and who will push a long-term plan.'

So Gingrich came back with the idea of finding people who he thought were young, who were conservative, who were aggressive and who believed that it was possible to try to make the House Republicans into a majority party and he began to recruit them. And one of the first people he recruited was Vin Weber, who was a new congressman from Minnesota at the time. And I remember Weber said to us, `He came up to me one day on the House floor and he said, "What are you doing the next year and maybe the next 10?"' And Gingrich began to recruit this small cadre of people, and they would sit on weekends and have meetings and talk about where the party should go. What were the issues that they could use to attract people? And they devised a whole set of techniques to harass and hector and upset the Democratic majority in the House, and they were very effective at it.

They polarized the House. They alarmed a lot of the elder Republicans in the House who thought they were too brash and too partisan and, in some ways, too far to the right. But they kept on, and it was a steady process. And they found ways to build a larger and larger cadre of support, not simply for all their ideas--I mean, that was part of it--but also to give the Republicans a sense of possibility that they could become a majority. I mean, most of the Republicans in the House who had been there had served almost their entire careers in the minority, and for many of them, Gingrich felt there was a minority mind-set or minority attitude. And part of what he wanted to do through COS was to change that mind-set.
LAMB: In the previous chapter, you also reference a lot of Chuck Robb speeches, a senator from Virginia--the Democrat--when he talks, lays down kind of a set of policies regarding the Democratic Leadership Council. Now when was that formed? And what impact has that had on the system?
Mr. BALZ: The Democratic Leadership Council was formed after the 1984 election. It was formed primarily by a lot of elected officials, mostly from the South. There were some from other parts of the country, but it was mostly Southern-based. Their view was that the national Democratic Party had simply become too liberal, that it had been captured by special interests and that if the Democrats were ever to win back the white middle class particularly in the South, they needed to develop a different sort of agenda, and Robb was one of the early leaders of the DLC.

Part of what was going on then was a debate within the Democratic Party about what their future ought to look like, and it involved sort of three theories: One was kind of the putting together again, reassembling the New Deal coalition, and Mondale, in 1984, represented that. There were also the neo-liberals, the Gary Harts, the--some of the--what they were called in those days, Atari Democrats, who had a different formulation of what the party ought to do. Finally, there was the Democratic Leadership Council, out of which came Bill Clinton.

The DLC is important because Clinton began his--and worked through his analysis of the problems of the party as a member of the DLC and eventually as chairman of the DLC, which preceded his 1992 campaign.
LAMB: Let me go back to kind of a question I asked earlier. As you think about this stuff and write about it, again, are the leaders leading or are they following?
Mr. BALZ: Well, I think--I mean, I think it's a combination of both, Brian. Somebody like Gingrich, I think, led the Republican Party toward something that he thought was possible. I mean, if you talk to Gingrich about it, he'll say all of the seeds were there. I mean, there were things happening; there were things changing. His sense was that the country was moving in a Republican direction and that, over time, it would eventually get there.

Similarly in the Democratic Party. I mean, they could see that they were--I mean, if, you know, you put it in the context of--you know, of business, they were losing market share. I mean, the ideas that they had had were no longer selling in the way they had back in the 1960s and even, to some extent, in the 1970s. They had held on for a variety of reasons. They were entrenched in the House, in particular, and also for a long time in the Senate. But they were clearly in trouble. They were having trouble rationalizing the old New Deal coalition in a way that fit for the 1980s and 1990s.
LAMB: You talked about the 726--or whatever it may--that number may not be right--Blast faxed radio stations...
Mr. BALZ: Right. Right.
LAMB: ...on the right--the Democratic Leadership Council, the Conservative Opportunity Society. Then you mention in the book two other things--two Wednesday meetings, one held by Grover Norquist and one held by Paul Weyrich...
Mr. BALZ: Right.
LAMB: ...both conservatives. And tell us how those meetings work.
Mr. BALZ: Well, they're really sets of meetings in which conservative activists, mostly based in Washington, get together to talk about the direction of the party. Paul Weyrich has been at the heart of the conservative movement for many years. He has been here for a couple of decades, actually, and has been influential and was particularly influential in the late 1970s and the early 1980s in developing conservative doctrine and conservative grass-roots activity. Grover Norquist heads Americans For Tax Reform, and Grover is a newer conservative activist who is plugged into the grass roots. And each of them had their series of meetings about how to proceed, what the party ought to be doing.

But there was a time in 1994, and particularly early in 1995, when the Norquist meetings became the place to be. Norquist was much closer to Gingrich than Weyrich was. He was one of the people who was down in Atlanta on the night of the election in 1994. So that the Norquist meetings became the kind of--the place to--conservative activists wanted to be to find out what was going on, to figure out how to push the revolution.
LAMB: You have a quote in the book from Newt Gingrich and it--you say here that it--`Sitting in his office one steamy summer afternoon in 1995, chomping on a sandwich.' Were you there...
Mr. BALZ: Yes.
LAMB: ...with him?
Mr. BALZ: Yeah.
LAMB: `Glowing in the success of his book, "To Renew America." He looked over the horizon with cautious confidence.' Quote, `"I do think there is a potential that literally enough different things finally came together in 1994 that you're really entering a different political era," he said between bites, "but we will find out next year whether it's an aberration."' That's this year, 1996.
Mr. BALZ: Right.
LAMB: What's your guess?
Mr. BALZ: I think what we have seen is that the Republicans had some kind of a mandate after 1994 but that they, in some ways, perhaps overinterpreted the mandate, which is a natural mistake that politicians often make, particularly after they come off a big victory. I think it--we--I think we don't know and may not know even after 1996 whether this is the beginning of a new era or whether we are in a period of instability. Our sense is that we're in the middle of a period of real instability.

No doubt that the country has moved to the right. No doubt that the country has become disillusioned with a lot of ideas about big government, Great Society programs that government can't solve problems. All of that helped the Republicans in 1994 get to where they are, and a lot of that's still out there; there's no question about it. But it took the Democrats from Franklin Roosevelt through Lyndon Johnson, 36 years, to put together what we now think of as the era of liberal government. Twenty-six of those 36 years, the Democrats held both the White House and the Congress.

The Republicans have tried to do an enormous amount of change in one year. They've tried to undo a lot of what happened over 36 years in one year. And the question really is whether they have overstepped in trying to do too much. I mean, they're--for the Republicans to do what they want to do, our sense is that they have to sustain power. You can't do everything in the two-year cycle. You can't undo the kind of government that built up over 36 years in a two-year period or even a four-year period.

So what the Republicans need is public support for their ideas and confidence from the public that that they are on the right track and will continue in a direction they want. To the degree to which they alarm the voters, people could easily swing back, not necessarily embracing a Democratic view more than a Republican view, but uncertain about where the Republicans could go.
LAMB: You also write in here--and this is not one of your chapters, but you say, `Of all the electoral possibilities that can be imagined for the next few years, the least likely is Democrats receiving a mandate to enlarge the scope of federal intervention in American life.'
Mr. BALZ: Well, I think what you've seen in the way President Clinton conducted himself throughout 1995 and seems to be heading into early 1996, that he doesn't believe that there is mandate to enlarge government. Part of his failure in 1993 and 1994 was overestimating the degree to which the 1992 election was a kind of a mandate for government activism. I mean, Clinton needed and was unable first to restore confidence in government at a time when there's deep distrust about whether government can solve problems and a lot of skepticism about politicians.

To do a lot of the things that he wanted to do, he needed to restore that faith in government and he was unable to do that. If Clinton were to be re-elected in 1996, it's unlikely, given the direction he's charted since the '94 elections, that he's going to suddenly go back and begin to advocate a lot of big government.
LAMB: The book--by the way, what do you think of your cover?
Mr. BALZ: I like the cover a lot.
LAMB: Who did it?
Mr. BALZ: Little, Brown, our publisher, did it. Their art department did it.
LAMB: Did they ask you anything about this?
Mr. BALZ: Well, they did. And we actually made one suggestion. The original of the cover had the White House instead of the Capitol. And we thought that symbolically, "Storming The Gates" --the Capitol worked better than the White House. So...
LAMB: Where did the title come from?
Mr. BALZ: The title was one of several that we came up with. Our first title was "Sowing the Wind," which we thought talked about the Republican effort to kind of stir the grass roots and the anti-government sentiment. And the folks at Little, Brown thought that that was too poetic and they decided they didn't like it. We went through a couple of others, and we finally settled on "Storming The Gates" as symbolic of what the Republicans had done in 1994 and kind of this assault on Washington.
LAMB: When you open the book up, there's a little note inside by Richard Reeves. This is a quote--Richard Reeves, author of "President Kennedy Profile: Power." And I guess I want to ask you what are we to make of this comment? "Suppose they gave a revolution and nobody watched. `Storming The Gates' is the biggest political story of the 1990s, and most of us missed it. This is an amazing chronicle of how open and exciting American politics can be from the bottom up, even if you don't like the results. They worked, we slept and now the country is theirs for a while." What's he mean by that?
Mr. BALZ: Well, I think he means two things. The second half of that, I think he means that he would prefer Democrats in charge rather than Republicans in charge but that the Republicans did the work necessary to bring about the results of '94 and that the country and particularly the Democrats will have to live with them for a while.

I think the first part of it has to do with things that were going on in the country that are somewhat easier to understand after they've happened than before they've happened. One of the points we make in this book--and in some ways, it's a kind of a central thesis of the book--is that the Republican Party--for 40 years, communism was the glue that held the Republican Party together. The end of the Cold War caused that to dissolve so that the kind of--the adhesive that had held the Republican coalition together and, in many ways, had activated it was gone and the party needed to do something different in order to energize itself and rebuild itself.

They discovered Washington could be as much a glue as communism had been. And they tried to create themselves--or re-create themselves as the anti-government, anti-Washington party. This was going on in a lot of different places. The power on the right at the grass roots was much greater than the power on the left, whether it's the National Rifle Association or the anti-tax movement or religious conservatives. There was energy on the right. They brought that together by focusing their anger at Washington. `Government is the problem. Washington is what's standing in your way.'

The Democrats had no counter to that. Grass-roots activity on the left has not been as strong. The labor movement has not been as strong politically as it was 20 years ago. The civil rights movement has not been as strong as it was 20 years ago. So there was no counterbalance. But it took the 1994 election for all of us to really see how significant that was, and I think that's what he's talking about.
LAMB: By the way, where does the name Balz come from?
Mr. BALZ: It's German--German.
LAMB: How long ago was the family there?
Mr. BALZ: Family migrated to the States in the late 1800s.
LAMB: How did you and Ron Brownstein get together?
Mr. BALZ: Ron and I got to know one another covering politics. We both share a former employer; we both worked at National Journal magazine but at different times. I was long gone. Ron's the younger member of this group--this pairing. And we met covering politics, and I have always been a huge admirer of Ron's work.

And the origin of this book we mentioned a little bit in that in the acknowledgments--Dave Broder said to me, I guess it was in August of '94...
LAMB: Washington Post.
Mr. BALZ: Washington Post, dean of political correspondents, longtime friend--Dave said to me, `You know, this is going to be a big year and there's going to be a good book to do on the Republicans.' And he said, `You ought to think about doing it.' And I went off on vacation and we were driving around New England, and the more I thought about it, the more I thought, `He's absolutely right.' It was a book I really wanted to try to do. And I came back and the one question I had was, `Could I produce a book fast enough to look at what happened in 1994, to try to bring a lot of this together and to have it out before the 1996 election?' Our--my sense was that you had to move quickly on a book like this; that it--and I thought, `I need a co-author.'

And I sort of thought about people, and Ron came to mind. I mean, Ron and I often cover the same events. We end up covering them from somewhat different perspectives. He's got a wonderful analytical mind. He's a terrific, bright writer and I thought, `If I could get him in on this project, this book would be a lot better than if I did it alone.' Not only would I get it--would it get done on time, but it would be a lot better book than if I just did it alone.

So I approached Ron. We went to lunch one day in September of '94, and I said, `Here's the deal. I mean, there's a good book to do. I think we ought to do it together,' and he almost instantly said yes.
LAMB: You also say something about your wife, Nancy Balz. You want to--you're `indebted to her for her love and friendship and for encouragement throughout this project...'
Mr. BALZ: That's right.
LAMB: ` spite of the disruption that came with it.' But here's the line. `So she has been through this with so'--`She has been through this with so ma--with other authors, but never quite in'--I'm not reading very well--`but never in quite so intimate a way.' What did you mean?
Mr. BALZ: She is a librarian, and after our son John was born in 1978, she began to do book research. And she was the researcher on a book that was published in the early '80s called "The Nine Nations of North America" by Joel Garreau, which was a wonderfully inventive book about how America was really organized as opposed to the 50 states. She has done other book research for several other different authors over the years, so she had seen the book process, but she'd never had her life disrupted in quite the way from this one, although, in this case, she was not a researcher on the book; she sort of let me alone and said, you know, `You do the book and I'll worry about it later.' So--but she had never had it in her house in quite the same way as this one was.
LAMB: How did you two check and balance each other in this process? I mean...
Mr. BALZ: It's a very interesting question. We had a wonderful collaboration and we divided up the chapters. We did some of the interviewing together, but a lot of the interviewing we did on our own. This book was produced under a very tight deadline, and so we--you know, we were kind of going down separate tracks.
LAMB: What was the time frame?
Mr. BALZ: Well, we didn't get a contract until February of 1995, and we were working at our respective newspapers until June of '95. And then we took off June, July, August and much of September and worked full time on the book and then went back to work when we had finished the manuscript and did the final changes and corrections until November. And then Little, Brown, which was terrific, produced this on a very quick schedule.

So we both had our hands full. I mean, we had a lot of writing to do; we had a lot of research that we had to do. There were--I mean, each of these chapters tells a couple of different stories, and what we found was that there was--we knew, in general, starting out on each chapter kind of the story we wanted to tell, but there was lots that we didn't know and we just had to do a lot of work. So each of us went about producing our chapters. And then we traded the chapters. And, particularly, once the book was finally done, we spent a lot of time reworking one another's work.

We write in somewhat different voices, and our editor, Freddie Friedman at Little, Brown, wanted to make sure that this book did not sound too much like it was written by two different people. So we traded the chapters and he would rework my prose and I would rework his until we finally got everything we wanted. Now in some cases, we traded information; we traded stuff from the interviews and that sort of thing, but that was pretty much how we did it.

Now he worked at his house; I worked at mine. And we talked every day numerous times about how things were going, working through ideas, sort of, `What are the points we want to make in this chapter? What are the ways we make those?' He was particularly helpful to me in a couple of chapters. I think I was helpful to him in a couple of chapters, just in kind of shaping and framing and--you know, it's great to have a co-author on something like this because you're working through a lot of different things at once. And to have somebody else to bounce the ideas off of and, really, to sharpen the ideas was very--very useful.
LAMB: In the introduction, you say, `The best source of public attitudes toward government over time is the national election study conducted by the University of Michigan's Center for Political Studies. It is the source of all the poll data in this section.' Fred Steeprie you mention--his intriguing analysis about the two forms of public discontent with government appear and who will reconnect with the people.
Mr. BALZ: Right.
LAMB: What's so special about the national election study at the University of Michigan?
Mr. BALZ: It has the best historical data on public attitudes about politics and government, and lots of work that has been done, particularly on issues about trust in government, come from the University of Michigan's historical data. It is much easier to understand where we are today by having available to us the data which shows how the country has changed over time, and particularly on the trust in government numbers. I mean, if you look at those, back in the 1960s, trust in government was very high, and it has--as we say in the book, it's like a rock falling from ledge to ledge because of particular events, whether it's the war in Vietnam or Watergate or stagflation or whatever. The University of Michigan data is indispensable in trying to kind of see the forest through the trees.
LAMB: You also talk--when it comes to data, you also talk about Stan Greenberg's analysis of the Perot voter. What did you learn from that?
Mr. BALZ: Well...
LAMB: And who is Stan Greenberg?
Mr. BALZ: Stan Greenberg was President Clinton's pollster during the 1992 campaign and, actually, has been pollster for the Democrats and the Democratic Party during the Clinton administration. Stan has been one of the people who had did--who did a lot of the good work on trying to figure out how the Democrats, if they were to expand the Clinton majority of 1992--how and why they needed to attract the Perot voters. And he did a big poll for the Democratic Leadership Council back in 1993, I believe it was, looking at the Perot voter, what their attitudes were, what their historical political roots were and what were the ways in which Democrats, and particularly Clinton, might be able to bring them into his coalition.

I mean, to some extent, one of the things that's happened is--that parallel we look at is Nixon in 1968 won the presidency with 43 percent of the vote. Clinton in 1992 won the presidency with 43 percent of the vote. Each one had a third-party candidate: George Wallace in 1968; Perot in 1992. Nixon was able to consolidate the Wallace voter in a way that Clinton, particularly through 1994, was unable to consolidate the Perot voter, and a lot of that was the reason that the 1994 election went so far in the other direction. The Perot voters voted overwhelmingly for Republicans in the 1994 House elections.
LAMB: Will he be on the ballot in 1996, Mr. Perot? And if he is, what impact will he have?
Mr. BALZ: Well, if he is on the ballot, he helps Clinton.
LAMB: Will he?
Mr. BALZ: I tend to think yes, but it's questionable.
LAMB: And why does he help Bill Clinton?
Mr. BALZ: Well, because a three-party race is better for Clinton. He's likely to do more to damage the Republican nominee. A lot of his voters would be more inclined to support a Republican nominee, although things have changed in the Perot movement since 1992. The composition of people who now are supporters of Perot or Perot's ideas is somewhat different than it was in 1992. I think to some extent, it's a little more economically downscaled. Perot's opposition to NAFTA and GATT have created more support among probably blue-collar workers than he had in 1992, so that we really won't know until we get into the campaign and--if Perot is a candidate, exactly how it will cut. But the Clinton White House would certainly much rather have him as a candidate than the Republican Party would.
LAMB: You talk about a scenario where Newt Gingrich asked for an unprecedented commitment from members back in the '94 election, where each member was expected to come up with $148,000?
Mr. BALZ: This was part of the Gingrich master plan for winning the '94 election, and it came in two parts. Joe Gaylord, who is Gingrich's top political adviser, had been asked by Gingrich to devise a plan to win the House in 1994. This was after two special election victories in the spring of 1994. Gaylord set out what was a very elaborate or a--I would--I guess ambitious would be a better word. If you see the document, it's pretty--there's not a lot of verbiage in it. But it outlines an enormous number of tasks for the Republicans to try to undertake. One of them is to create the resources--financial resources to make available to candidates so that their candidates have enough money in the last three or four weeks of the campaign to put up the television advertising, to get out the vote, to do the things that they have to do to turn them from a candidate who falls a few points short of winning to someone who wins.

Part of this was the Gingrich letter, which went out in July of 1994 to every Republican in the House, asking them for this unprecedented commitment. Gingrich basically said, `If we're going to win this election, you have to take responsibility for helping to raise the kind of money that we need.' Now they came up with the idea of $148,000 because, at the time, there were about 150 competitive House races. And the shorthand was, if you know, if you can get $1,000 to each of those House candidates, that will be a big help. So they asked members to try to do that.

Some members raised a huge amount of money: $400,000, $500,000, $600,000. Others raised less than that. But the Republicans had much more money available for House candidates than they'd ever had before through that process. And it was ingenious, in part, because what it did was it allowed incumbents to raise money--incumbents always have an easier time raising money--and moving that into races by challengers, who have a harder time raising money.
LAMB: You also--in the introduction, you lump a whole bunch of groups together: the National Rifle Association, the National Federation of Independent Business, the Christian Coalition, Charles Murray, Bill Bennett and Rush Limbaugh. And you say also in here that `No medium had a greater effect on establishing the climate of the 1994 elections than talk radio, and no one played a more prominent role in stirring up conservatives in the cherubic but devastating Rush Limbaugh, the irreverent and indomitable conservative who fused the sensibilities of Ed Meese and John Belushi into three hours of relentless Clinton bashing every day.' Do you listen?
Mr. BALZ: I listen sometimes. Unfortunately, I'm usually not near a radio at the time Limbaugh's on, which is over the noon hour and into the afternoon. When I'm out on the campaign trail, I do try to tune him in. And particularly, in that period, he was both entertaining and he was devastating for Clinton. I mean, he delivered, every day, a strong attack on Bill Clinton and the Clinton administration. Now...
LAMB: How is it working now?
Mr. BALZ: Well, I think it works differently now. I mean, it's much more difficult once you come into power to continue that kind of drumbeat as when you're out of power. I mean, Limbaugh and talk radio, but particularly Limbaugh, were important, one, in telling like-minded conservatives that they had a voice and sort of bringing them together and giving them a sense of a larger sense of possibility. The other was, he gave people arguments. I mean, he gave people ammunition. He provided people at the grass roots, whether it's ordinary voters who had a sense of why they didn't like Clinton or wanted to do something about it, to candidates for state legislative offices or candidates for Congress or whatever, with ideas and arguments to use to make their case with other people. But also, it was this huge sort of energizing force. It was a way for the conservative movement to kind of stir the grass roots, to stoke the anger.
LAMB: This is a--I don't know if I can articulate this question right, but we'll get it. The Balz Award for Most Effective Political Operative--now that can either be an elected politician or a non-elected politician. You look back over the last couple years, in all your research--and we mentioned Joe Gaylord and Grover Norquist and Paul Weyrich and Kevin Phillips and Newt Gingrich and on and on and on. Who would you give the award to if you wanted to give somebody who's been the most effective person in getting what they wanted out of the system over the last two years?
Mr. BALZ: I think, hands down, it would have to be Gingrich. Gingrich was--within the party, the visionary who saw where this thing might go. But more important, Gingrich created a cadre of people who began to believe in the ideas and he gave them a lot of the information. I mean, even before talk radio, Gingrich had an organization called GOPAC. He inherited GOPAC from Pete du Pont, who was the governor of Delaware. When he founded it, it was originally developed as a way to create a farm team in state legislatures for the Republican Party so they would have better candidates.

One of the problems the party had always had was they never had a lot of bench strength, and du Pont had this notion that you could develop that if you tried to put money into campaigns in state legislatures. At any rate, when he ran for president in 1988, he decided he didn't want the organization to get entangled in his political campaign, so he looked around for somebody to give it off to. He didn't know Gingrich at the time; never really gotten to know him. But the more he heard about Gingrich, the more he thought, `Here's a guy who wants to build the party.' Goes to Gingrich one day and says, `I'd like to give you GOPAC,' and took Gingrich probably 10 seconds to say, `Yes, I'll take it.'

Gingrich converted GOPAC into --from just what was an organization that mostly dispensed money to an educational organization, a political machine, a recruiting tool in which he gave candidates the wherewithal to run for office. And over time, that brought in a larger and larger number of people who believed in kind of the Gingrich view of government, the Gingrich view of the welfare state, but also believed that Republicans could become the majority. So that--Gingrich saw this clear from an earlier point of view than anybody else. And I think if you talk to anybody in the House, they will say they would not be there today in the majority were it not for Gingrich. Now as we saw in 1995, once Gingrich was speaker, he has his own flaws and his own problems, and he's created problems for the party.
LAMB: University of Illinois?
Mr. BALZ: University of Illinois.
LAMB: What year?
Mr. BALZ: 1968 and then a master's in 1972.
LAMB: How long with the Post?
Mr. BALZ: Since 1978.
LAMB: How did you get that job?
Mr. BALZ: I was at National Journal, and I was anxious at that point to go back to daily journalism, although I hadn't spent a lot of time in daily journalism at that point. But I wanted to work for a newspaper. It was--it's actually a funny story. I covered, among other things, economic policy and agriculture at the National Journal. Somebody I knew, knew an editor at the Post who was looking for an editor on the national desk, and a year after the initial contact, I got the job.
LAMB: Of all your accomplishments in life, where do you put this book?
Mr. BALZ: In terms of professional accomplishments, very high on the list. I'm very proud of the book. I've wanted to write a book for a long time. I had a couple of false starts. So to finally get this done is, for me, very, very satisfying. And to have had Ron as a partner is equally...
LAMB: And what do you want to last in this book? In other words, what's new and what--you know, 10 years from now, what do you want this book to be?
Mr. BALZ: I think what we hope is that people will read this book to get a better understanding of why we are at where we are in American politics. What are the forces that brought about the Republican victory in 1994? But more importantly, what are the destabilizing forces through the middle of the 1990s and why both parties are under--kind of under assault?
LAMB: This is the cover of the book. The author--co-author, Dan Balz, of Freeport, Illinois; Washington, DC; Washington Post; and his co-author there, Ronald Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times. Thank you very much for joining us.
Mr. BALZ: Brian, thank you very much.
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