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They both want the White House, but would run it very differently. Bush puts staff in place, then just gets the lay of the land. Gore sifts every grain

Only the hardest decisions make it all the way to the President's desk. That's something both men who are running have had a chance to see from front-row seats. "It's a revelation," says Al Gore, "the way excruciating, world-class problems tend to come in clusters." And George W. Bush knows from seeing his father renege on his "no new taxes" pledge how a single judgment can end up crippling a presidency. So, says Governor Bush, "you just gotta be confident enough in your positions and tough enough in your hide to be able to stand the heat if it comes."

It is impossible to know precisely what problems George W. Bush or Al Gore will face as President, but there surely will be some that nobody will have anticipated. What is also certain is that the two would bring dramatically different approaches to solving them. Bush comes to a decision by putting his faith in the advisers he picks; Gore, in the information they bring him. Bush's goal in mastering a new issue is to learn the lay of the land; Gore isn't convinced he knows the terrain until he runs his fingers through the soil. Bush's experience tells him there are few adversaries he cannot bring around with his irresistible charm; Gore's experience tells him there are few he cannot conquer with an irrefutable argument.

The two men who would like to be the next President are so different in their management styles that it's easy to overlook their similarities. But there are some. Both Gore and Bush have earned reputations as decisive leaders--more decisive, in each case, than the men whose presidencies they've watched up close. Bill Clinton's penchant for agonizing over every decision--and then rethinking it again after it was made--only reinforced the Vice President's natural aversion to second-guessing. A President Gore would be a decided contrast to the candidate who reinvents his campaign as often as he changes his wardrobe. "Once he locks in, he'll lock in and be much tougher to move, whereas Bill Clinton used to continue to cogitate even after he made a decision," says former White House chief of staff Leon Panetta.

Bush's father rarely looked back on decisions, but he often took his time in making them. His son, on the other hand, became famous in Texas for cutting meetings short, demanding a cogent recommendation from his advisers, making a decision and moving on. Bush also has less patience with the status quo than his father did. If Bush the elder's governing philosophy was "first, do no harm," then his son's is "do something." Since his first campaign in Texas in 1994, George W.'s style has been to develop a limited, specific agenda and then focus almost exclusively on it until he could check all the items off the list. "He realizes that if you have too many goals, you don't have any goals," says Bush campaign chairman Don Evans. What's more, some advisers suggest, Bush plans to push the hardest ones first: his gaudy tax cut, they say, will probably take a backseat to the arduous work of transforming Social Security.

Neither Gore nor Bush has much patience for the sort of bull sessions that seem to energize and nourish the current President. Gore invites discussion but listens to it in a different way--more focused than Clinton on finding an answer, but less attuned to understanding what it takes to sell it politically. "Clinton sits there as a judge hearing arguments," says someone who has worked closely with both men, "while Gore wants to absorb data. Gore has a much more scientific approach, is much more likely to believe that there's an analytically correct and incorrect answer, and Clinton's much more likely to see the answer as a choice between competing values and points of view: who it helps, who it doesn't help."

The Vice President is often ahead of his staff on the details, probing and prodding, picking at an argument like a loose thread on a sweater to see if he can make it unravel. He can be a difficult boss, and new staff members find out quickly whether they will make it or not with Gore. Says a former aide: "If you weren't sure of yourself, you gave him wrong or half-baked information or for some reason he questioned your loyalty--if any of those things occurred--it just wouldn't happen." And Gore, once a newspaper reporter, respects deadlines, unlike Clinton, who has been known to finish writing his State of the Union addresses on the limousine ride to the Capitol. "Gore won't be there at 6 a.m. on Christmas Eve trying to choose five Cabinet members and changing the Attorney General pick for the fourth time," says an adviser.

If Gore is methodical, Bush is intuitive. When asked about decision making, the Governor's first response is to talk up the importance of "picking a team of people you can trust." A former CEO, Bush views government through the eyes of a businessman. He delegates authority, empowers his staff member and trusts them to give the advice he needs to make a decision. He prefers short memos and brisk discussions. He doesn't pretend to know the details his experts are supposed to know, and he often makes a decision based on how effectively an aide argues for it. "He wants you to come in with a recommendation," says Clay Johnson, a friend since boarding school who is one of Bush's top aides in Texas. "He doesn't want you to give him a 20-page report and say, 'Read this and think about it.'" Details matter, Bush says, "but I will not get bogged down micromanaging an issue."

The risk to this approach, says Bruce Buchanan, a University of Texas political scientist, is that Bush may be too staff- reliant: "The problem is that he may not always be in a position to discern the credibility of the options his advisers give him. One of the ways a staff can manipulate the boss is to stack options so that their preferred option is obviously better." Bush insists he can sense when a staff member is trying to roll him.

Inevitably and sometimes exasperatingly, the bulk of a President's day is spent in meetings. And while Bush chafes at that prospect, he isn't daunted by it: "I don't like to sit around in meetings for hours and hours and hours. I get to the point. I think the ability to run a good meeting is a sign of good leadership," he says. The typical Bush meeting begins with an adviser making a presentation. But instead of listening patiently, Bush interrupts, peppering the adviser with questions. Sometimes the questions seem startlingly basic. During a briefing last year by defense experts, Bush stunned the room when he asked, "What's an army for?" "At first you had the feeling, 'Uh-oh, this guy's not so bright,'" recalls a participant. What it took advisers a moment to realize was that Bush was being deliberately provocative--forcing them to step back from the immediate issues in order to explain the fundamental assumptions behind America's defense strategy.

Gore, when he's trying to get his hands around something important, goes through two stages. In the first, he gobbles up facts and ideas, holding information against theory and gauging how the two fit. "When working on international economics, Gore will think about everything from business-management theory to chemical thermodynamics to financial-market theory, all in the space of a 20-minute speech-preparation meeting," says Harvard law professor Christopher Edley, an occasional adviser. Gore studies an issue until he can argue all sides with such certainty that aides sometimes have no idea which one he will ultimately take. But then the Vice President reaches what Leon Fuerth, his longtime foreign policy adviser, calls a "firing point." The meetings get smaller, shorter and more focused, a forced march to a conclusion. And sometimes Gore's conclusion is an idea that wasn't on the table in the first place: after spending more than a year studying the arms race as a young Congressman in the 1980s, Gore latched onto a proposal that split the difference between the cold warriors and the nuclear-disarmament camp, a single-warhead missile dubbed the Midgetman. Gore's plan helped produce a compromise that united Ronald Reagan with moderate Democrats on reviving the MX missile.

In many ways, of course, making the decision is the easy part. Even the best idea or policy proposal is worthless if the President can't sell it--to the Congress and the public. This is what Bush's supporters believe is their man's greatest strength, an affable, intimate manner that sent even Democrats in Texas into a swoon. And it's where Gore's allies have their deepest qualms, particularly amid a campaign where he has been unable to close what should have been the easiest of deals, persuading contented voters to stick with the team that presided over eight years of prosperity.

Gore has always been at his best in a policy fight and has often had a keener sense than those around him of which fights to pick. He argued, for instance, that Bill Clinton should engage the Republicans by offering a balanced budget in 1995 (a move that enraged congressional Democrats); in the government shutdowns that ensued, Gore counseled switching course and standing firm against them. Both moves worked, the first giving Clinton the credibility he needed to pull off the second. "Gore basically realized that the Republicans did not want to deal--that they wanted a surrender, but not a deal," says Dick Morris, who was advising Clinton at the time. "Clinton constantly thought there could be a deal, was constantly floating out proposals and ways to cut the knot."

But while he can figure out the inside moves, Gore lacks Clinton's instinctive feel for the larger game. The problem with Gore's presidential campaign is not that he has retooled himself but that voters can practically hear the gears grinding as he does it. "Al sometimes thinks he can study and learn everything--like empathy and sympathy," says a former aide.

Some are worried that the isolation of the Oval Office would reinforce Gore's political weaknesses. "He kind of runs his own show," Panetta says of Gore. "He doesn't have a senior group of elders that he talks to for guidance. If there's one recommendation I would make to the new Administration, it's that he should develop that, because the job is enough of an island."

Bush's advisers say the Governor would cope with the isolation of the presidency by reaching out--and not just to fellow Republicans. The essence of Bush's message in the closing days of the campaign is that he is a "different kind of Republican" who will "change the tone in Washington" by working with both Republicans and Democrats. Bush places great faith in his capacity to find common ground with the other party, and he points to his record of bipartisan compromise in Texas as proof that he would be able to do just that in Washington. But Texas Democrats are a conservative bunch, a different breed from their counterparts on Capitol Hill. After he was elected in 1994, Bush forged a close relationship with the late Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock, a crusty Democrat with enormous power in Austin. But even a close Bush ally in Washington conceded last week that Richard Gephardt, the House Democratic leader, "is no Bob Bullock. [Bush] will reach out to Democrats, but they aren't going to reach back just because he's a nice guy."

And if Bush begins to bargain away parts of his agenda in order to compromise with Democrats, he may find himself with a bigger problem in his party. Conservative congressional Republicans have held their tongues through the campaign, rarely complaining about the distance Bush keeps from them. But that won't last if Bush wins and the G.O.P. retains control of Congress. "Tom DeLay gets the joke," says a senior Bush adviser, referring to the House G.O.P.'s enforcer. "He knows that if Bush wins, he'll be sitting with his feet up on the Truman balcony [with the President]. He'll be the second most powerful Republican in Washington. Maybe the first."

The most successful Presidents are the ones who can capitalize on their strengths and grow out of their weaknesses. Certainly, today's Clinton White House bears little resemblance to the chaotic, shapeless operation it was in its first year. Once he is in office and released from the unnatural pose of a candidate, President Gore's question would be whether the smartest guy in the room can also be the canniest. And having assumed the awesome responsibilities of the job, President Bush would have to show that he can be both everybody's friend and nobody's fool. Which is why, for voters, casting a ballot on Nov. 7 is both a choice of one imperfect man over another and a prayer for something better.

--With reporting by Eric Pooley/Nashville

INSIDE THE BUSH SYSTEM
The Governor gets advice from Dad, Texas loyalists and a range of conservatives

THE MONEYMEN

THE SUPPLY-SIDERS

LARRY LINDSEY Former Federal Reserve governor; fervent supply-sider and architect of Bush tax plan

ROBERT GLENN HUBBARD Columbia professor and Bush tax adviser; credits Reagan cuts for the current boom

THE BUDGET HAWKS

JOHN TAYLOR Author of the Dole economic plan; Stanford professor and expert on interest rates

JOHN COGAN Another Stanford professor; helped Bush find a way to give working moms a bigger share of the tax-cut pie

THE FAMILY CIRCLE

BARBARA PIERCE BUSH Mom and beloved Queen Mother figure. Keeps an eye out for W. when he gets smart-alecky. Always first to defend him in a crisis

JOHN ELLIS(JEB)BUSH Florida Governor and straitlaced little bro'. Bush's eyes and ears in the South. May not win him Florida though

GEORGE H.W. BUSH Dad and former President. Calls and e-mails regularly with advice and encouragement. Will skydive again if polls drop

THE COMPASSION CHORUS

MYRON MAGNET Author who blames '60s liberalism for poverty in America

MARVIN OLASKY Controversial professor whose books defined "compassionate conservatism"

MIKE GERSON Rhetorician, former journalist and aide to Senator Dan Coats; composes the words Bush sometimes mangles

DAVID HOROWITZ Author, once a voice of the New Left, now blames counterculture for loss of American values

JOHN DIIULIO Professor and advocate of faith-based social services

THE GOOD-GOVERNMENT CLUB

JOSHUA BOLTEN Policy director; smart, wry former Goldman Sachs lawyer; counsel in Papa Bush's trade office

GAIL WILENSKY Health-care guru; gave Bush the Medicare plan he desperately needed

STEPHEN GOLDSMITH Policy adviser and former mayor of Indianapolis, compassionate conservatism's urban lab

THE TRUE BELIEVERS

KARL ROVE Quirky, egghead strategist; Bush's political brain since first gubernatorial run

KAREN HUGHES Ghostwriter, alter ego, message disciplinarian and chief spokeswoman

MARK MCKINNON Former Democrat and musician, a convert who makes the ads and gives Bush street cred

JOE ALLBAUGH Flat-top tough guy from Oklahoma; loyal, no-nonsense campaign manager

DON EVANS Oilman, old friend, campaign chairman and ultimate "Good Man"

THE GOVERNOR BUDDIES

TOMMY THOMPSON Wisconsin; father of welfare reform, archetype of Bush's "new kind of Republican"

TOM RIDGE Pennsylvania; passed over for Veep, still a close friend

JOHN ENGLER Michigan; ally and friend, still recovering from McCain's victory in the primaries

MARC RACICOT Montana; longtime cheerleader for Bush; could serve in Cabinet

THE FOREIGN POLICY CREW

DAD'S VETERANS

DICK CHENEY A conservative in Dad's crew, a Vice President Cheney will help organize White House and Pentagon

ROBERT ZOELLICK Bush veteran on everything international, Zoellick has 20 I.Q. points on everyone in D.C.

COLIN POWELL Probably Secretary of State, but most popular man in America can have any job he wants

RICHARD HAASS Dad's Middle East expert during Gulf War helps Bush between working at Brookings and NBC

STEPHEN HADLEY A former Cheney aide at Defense, he's a soon-to-be-discovered star if Bush wins

BRENT SCOWCROFT Yoda of Dad's foreign policy team, will consult unseen in son's White House

CONDOLEEZZA RICE Bush's top foreign policy tutor and a shoo-in to be National Security Adviser

REAGAN VETERANS

PAUL WOLFOWITZ Hard-line Reaganaut could be Pentagon chief. A favorite of Cheney's

GEORGE SHULTZ Reagan's Secretary of State is not expected to play big role, but his presence calms conservatives

RICHARD ARMITAGE Reagan-Bush Defense whiz could be No. 2 at Pentagon. Close to Powell too

RICHARD PERLE "Prince of Darkness" on Reagan arms-control team, he's kept his head down since urging Israelis to postpone peace deal until next year

THE CHURCH CHOIR

INSIDE GUYS

RALPH REED A Former Christian Coalition director, now a consultant; rallied the base for Bush in South Carolina

DOUG WEAD Dallas writer worked for Dad; close to evangelicals. Coined the phrase compassionate conservative in 1982

OUTER CIRCLE

PAT ROBERTSON Christian Coalition founder, forgave Bush for skipping its convention

JERRY FALWELL Has told social conservatives not to question Bush's loyalty

CHUCK COLSON Founder of Prison Fellowship, W.'s favorite faith-based program, which seeks to redeem inmates through religion

THE CAPITAL GANG

BILL FRIST Tennessee Senator, low-key doctor and Bush liaison in Senate

FRED THOMPSON Tennessee Senator, former actor and McCain supporter

BILL PAXON Former N.Y. Congressman, lobbyist, top G.O.P. operative

ROY BLOUNT Missouri Congressman, deputy whip, Bush point man in the House

ROB PORTMAN Ohio Congressman and Bush ally; served in Poppy's White House; will push private accounts for Social Security


INSIDE THE GORE SYSTEM The Vice President draws ideas from family, loyal aides and both ends of his party

THE NEW DEMS

AL FROM The centrist guru and Democratic Leadership Council president

ELAINE KAMARCK A key domestic-policy adviser, she knows how to make an issue cut

BILL GALSTON Education adviser to Clinton and Gore. Often the valued centrist voice in the room. A Big Idea guy

JOE LIEBERMAN Veep nominee, moral voice, combatant who attacks with a scalpel and a smile

WILL MARSHALL The Fountain of Policy. President of the D.L.C.'s think tank

BRUCE REED Clinton domestic policy adviser and a longtime Gore staff member. Coined "End welfare as we know it"

THE OLD DEMS

STAN GREENBERG Pollster and populist, worked for Clinton until '94, G.O.P. blowout cost him his job. Gore rehabbed him--and he helped shape the candidate's fiery message

DONNA BRAZILE Campaign manager and shepherd of the Democratic base. The race may turn on her ability to get the party faithful to the polls

THE GREEN PARTY

KATIE MCGINTY Former lead White House adviser on the environment; Gore's likely pick to head the EPA

ROGER REVELLE Late oceanographer; first scientist to monitor global warming, taught Gore at Harvard

CAROL BROWNER Gore's eco-staff member in the Senate and his pick for EPA boss under Clinton. May go home to Florida to run for office

THE CAPITAL GANG

JOHN KERRY Massachusetts Senator, fellow Vietnam vet, a Veep runner-up

JOHN EDWARDS Young North Carolina Senator, a Veep runner-up

ED MARKEY Loyal Massachusetts Congressman

DICK GEPHARDT Old Dem (and Gore adversary), but understands compromise--and power. The next House Speaker?

THE HUMANIZERS

ERIK ERIKSON Late prolific author, Harvard psychologist; coined term identity crisis

ALICE MILLER Wrote The Drama of the Gifted Child, inspiring Gore's New Agey self-examination in 1989

NAOMI WOLF Feminist author behind earth tones and alpha maleness. Her friend Karenna back-channels her advice--and defends her--to Gore

JANE HOPKINS Corporate consultant, once gave tips on workplace bonding

TOMMY LEE JONES Actor, convention speaker, Harvard roommate and alpha friend

THE ENGINEERS

ANDREW CUOMO HUD Secretary, electoral shark and hotly rumored New York gubernatorial candidate

BILL DALEY With instincts inherited from his father, the legendary Chicago mayor, he's the best politician in GoreWorld, the chairman who got the campaign back on track

THE KITCHEN CABINET

TOM DOWNEY Former N.Y. Representative, basketball buddy and debate coach--until that Bush video showed up in the mail

PETER KNIGHT Gore 2000 fund raiser, former chief of staff, old-school Washington fixer

JACK QUINN Former White House counsel, campaign adviser and all-around troubleshooter

ROY NEEL Former Senate aide and chief of staff, he'd direct the Gore transition

GREG SIMON Former policy adviser, took leave from telecom consulting to serenade the press on Air Force Two

THE MORALISTS ABROAD

LEON FUERTH The brain's brain. Gore's foreign policy guy since 1980, he called for intervention in the Balkans

RICHARD HOLBROOKE Bosnia peace broker, U.N. Ambassador and favorite for Secretary of State

THE FAMILY CIRCLE

FRANK HUNGER Brother-in-law, best friend, bulls____ detector. The death of his wife Nancy--Gore's sister--binds them

TIPPER Al's different drummer, she keeps him calm, grounded and in touch with his emotions

KARENNA Daughter, adviser and link to younger voters. Daddy's girl mindmelds on politics, vets everything from speeches to balloon drops

THE IVORY TOWER

RICHARD NEUSTADT Harvard presidential scholar and Prince Albert's thesis adviser, he helped put Gore on a path to power

MARTIN PERETZ Harvard teacher, friend, New Republic owner and tireless booster

STEPHEN HAWKING Astrophysicist, genius and Gore's Futurama co-star

THE PORTFOLIO PACK

LARRY SUMMERS Clinton Treasury Secretary, probable Gore Treasury Secretary

ROBERT RUBIN Former Treasury Secretary, championed debt reduction with Gore. A Master of the Universe with heart

GENE SPERLING National Economic Council chairman, the staff nerd made good

ALAN BLINDER Former Federal Reserve vice chairman, but left early for academia; Gore corralled him back in to advise on the surplus

LAURA D'ANDREA TYSON Former chief Clinton economic adviser, now dean of Berkeley Business School. Primarily a guru on international trade


P.F. BENTLEY FOR TIME DELEGATOR IN CHIEF Bush leads a 1999 staff meeting at the Governor's mansion in Austin. He puts faith in the people he chooses to advise him

DIANA WALKER FOR TIME FOCUSED In July, Gore met with key staff members at campaign headquarters in Nashville. His style is analytical, probing, prodding for details

BROOKS KRAFT FOR TIME

STEVE LISS FOR TIME

AUSTIN-AMERICAN STATESMAN

MARY ANN CARTER

KRAFT FOR TIME

LARRY DOWNING--REUTERS

KARIN COOPER--NEWSMAKERS

PAUL SAKUMA--AP

LISS FOR TIME

CHRIS KLEPONIS/FOX NEWS SUNDAY--AP

DIANA WALKER FOR TIME

M.J. MASOTTI--REUTERS

MICHAEL DIBARI JR.--AP

CHRIS USHER FOR TIME

JOE MARQUETTE--AP

CHRIS PIZZELLO--AP

EARL NEIKIRK--AP

DAVID BURNETT--CONTACT FOR TIME

ILLUSTRATION FOR TIME BY TIM O'BRIEN

-ENCH- DE


MORE TIME STORIES:

Cover Date: November 6, 2000

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