Scuttling HillaryCare with Faxed Memos

  • Public-Policy Reform
  • 1993

Shortly after Bill Clinton’s election, Republican operative Bill Kristol raised $1.3 million from conservative foundations and New York donors to fund a nonprofit activist organization to resist nationalized health care. Clinton had promised a health-care overhaul as a signature effort, and tasked First Lady Hillary Clinton and top aides to come up with a proposal. Their solution, critics noted, would have had the government take direction of one seventh of the American economy.

Kristol and a few donor-financed assistants were among the chief organizers of opposition to the plan. They drafted strategy memos and broadcast them to politicians and journalists via fax machines (then a cutting-edge technology). At a time when polls indicated wide support for a new health-care law, the organization insisted that “there is no health-care crisis.” Eventually, rising public opposition forced the White House to abandon its massive reform, and set the stage for Republican domination of the 1994 elections—which broke the Democrats’ grip on Congress for the first time in decades.

From this success sprouted the Project for the New American Century, which continued the strategy of faxed memos but in the service of a hawkish foreign policy, and then creation of the Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine launched in 1995 with Kristol as editor.

  • Nina Easton, Gang of Five: Leaders at the Center of the Conservative Crusade ( Simon & Schuster, 2000)
  • Haynes Johnson and David Broder, The System: The American Way of Politics at the Breaking Point (Little, Brown, 1996)