RAE CORELLI November 16 1992



RAE CORELLI November 16 1992




In the after-midnight chill from the Arkansas River, the man and the city shared the drama of vindication. For William Jefferson Clinton, the cheers of 30,000 Little Rock citizens gathered on the lawn of the capital’s Old State House were the first popular salute to his victory, in one of the meanest and most bizarre presidential election campaigns in American history. And for many in the shivering, tearful and jubilant throng, the triumph of the man they acclaimed finally laid to rest their city’s ugly 35-year-old memories of school desegregation, of military bayonets protecting frightened black students from hostile whites. On election night last week, Little Rock reached the end of its long road back to pride from international humiliation— and shed its image as some kind of comic-book Dogpatch. But for 46-year-old Bill Clinton, awaiting inauguration on Jan. 20 as America’s 42nd president and the Democratic party’s seventh in the 20th century, the time of trial had just begun. “This election,” he told the exultant crowd, “is a clarion call for our country to face the challenges of the end of the Cold War, and the beginning of the next century.” However, in a country whose citizens are angered by unemployment, crime, derelict inner cities, prohibitive health-care costs and chaotic public schools, Clinton will be under enormous pressure to generate something approaching a miracle during his critical first 100 days in office. Last week, while blameseeking Republicans sifted through the wreckage of President George Bush’s campaign, Clinton named veteran black civil rights leader Vernon Jordan to lead his transition team. And the president-elect began poring over briefs on the daunting tasks ahead. At midweek, exhausted and still hoarse from the campaign’s frenetic final hours, he talked by phone with world leaders, including Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, and told a TV interviewer: “I am going to focus like a laser beam on this economy.”

There will be many people willing to help him pull the trigger: the Democrats retained control of both

houses of Congress—and made history in the process. The Senate got its first black woman, Democrat Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois, and its first American Indian in 64 years, pony-tailed Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a Colorado Democrat and captain of the 1964 U.S. Olympic judo team who beat up a mugger in Washington last year.

Because Clinton made it clear throughout the campaign what he wanted to do if elected, the expectations now confronting him are largely of his own making. He has vowed to slash government spending—chiefly in the area of defence—and to raise the income tax rate on household incomes over $200,000, and on individual incomes over $150,000. Those were among the measures, Clinton said, that would allow him to halve the $5-trillion federal deficit in four years and to give tax breaks to families making less than $80,000. He also has a long list of spending initiatives, having vowed to provide job training, establish broadly based college scholarships, make health care more accessible, revitalize schools and invest heavily in public works—perhaps by as much as $20 billion in bridges and highways. As Harvard University economist Robert Reich, who helped write Clinton’s economic plan, said late last week: “Economic growth is first and foremost.”

In the past few weeks, that central theme has persuaded increasing numbers of U.S. financial analysts to endorse Clinton’s economic plan. But there were ill-concealed concerns among politicians and business leaders in Canada and other countries about the impact of less-publicized Clinton proposals, such as raising taxes on foreign corporations doing business in the United States (page 40). Still, the presidentelect—swept to the threshold of power by the votes of a majority of seniors, blacks, Hispanics, women and those earning less than $50,000 a year—refused last week to be specific about economic initiatives. Speaking to reporters outside the governor’s office in Little Rock, he declined comment on the trade dispute that erupted between the Bush administration and the



European Community last week.

However, he assured both Mulroney and Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari of his support for the main elements of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

During the bitter, 13-month campaign that he won with 43 per cent of the popular vote (compared to 38 per cent for Bush and 19 per cent for Texas billionaire Ross Perot), Clinton was less reticent about other areas:

Defence: Clinton will probably follow Bush's path towards smaller, more mobile and betterequipped ground forces. He has also indicated that he will cut spending on the Strategic Defense Initiative, popularly known as Star Wars; bring home an additional 50,000 troops from Europe, leaving fewer than 100,000 there at the end of four years; reduce the navy’s carrier fleet to 10 from 12; and end the ban on homosexuals in the military.

Most frequently mentioned among possible successors to Defence Secretary Dick Cheney: Democratic Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia, Representatives Les Aspin of Wisconsin,

Dave McCurdy of Oklahoma and Indiana Representative Lee Hamilton, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Foreign policy: Using China as an example, Clinton has promised to take a tougher approach to “tyrants.” He said that he will support the Middle East peace talks, measures for “bolstering Russia’s fledgling democracy,” an end to bloodshed in the Balkans and help for

Somalia’s starving millions. Meanwhile, Washington insiders say that Clinton will move the focus of U.S. Latin American policy away from trade and towards human rights, democratic reform and the environment. The governor spoke briefly last week with Russian President Boris Yeltsin who, according to a senior Rus-


sian official, proposed a summit next year.

Canada: Clinton’s personal experience of Canada is limited to a ski holiday in British Columbia last year and a business luncheon speech in Montreal in 1987 (page 36). But his promise to clamp down on foreign firms not paying what he called “their fair share” of U.S.

taxes made some Canadian businessmen flinch. He also supports a proposal that would allow Washington to bypass the time-consuming negotiation of countervailing duties and penalize imports that undercut U.S. products. And he is cool to Hydro Quebec’s mammoth James Bay project, saying that the United States should explore alternative energy sources before using methods that “damage the environment and displace native communities.”

Environment: Clinton’s selection of Tennessee Senator AÍ Gore as his running mate jarred American industry leaders. The 44-yearold Gore is widely respected by environmentalists and scientists for his knowledge of such complicated subjects as global warming. The next move: the appointment of a Green Team to slow down America’s accelerating energy consumption and steer the country towards greater efficiency and conservation.

Last Thursday evening, Clinton and his lawyer-wife Hillary, together with Al and Tipper Gore, celebrated the Democratic victory by joining members of the campaign staff at a party in a Little Rock suburb. Clinton, his voice still raspy from the furious pace of the campaign’s final days, squeaked out brief remarks and then walked through the crowd shaking hands. He wore two buttons on his lapel. One read, “Sorry I Can’t Talk” and the other, “You Did a Good Job.” The naming of the 57-year-old Jordan as

head of a transition team that will smooth the road to the White House was the first of thousands of appointments that Clinton will personally make or approve during the next few months. In addition to 16 cabinet posts, more than 8,000 jobs at home and abroad are reserved for political appointees. As well, retirements are expected on the Supreme Court, which will give Clinton an opportunity to put his liberal stamp on a judiciary now more conservative after the succession of appointments by Bush and Ronald Reagan.

But no matter how dramatic the events between now and Inauguration Day—and no

matter what successes and mistakes may shape the Clinton presidency—Americans are not likely to forget the dizzying, often-sleazy televised political spectacle that bemused them for the past year. In the end, it drew them to the polls on Nov. 3 in sharply increased numbers—55 per cent of those eligible voted, the highest turnout in 20 years. And, in the process, they terminated a political era shaped by the Second World War and the Cold War that followed it. Power passed to the baby boomers, the generation whose road to maturity passed through the agony of Vietnam. Clinton and Gore came to symbolize America’s lingering divisions over that conflict—the president-elect avoided Vietnam, but his running mate, while opposing the war, served there.

During the campaign, Bush repeatedly questioned Clinton’s patriotism, suggesting

that the latter’s record made him unfit to be commander-in-chief. In the end, the attacks on his Vietnam avoidance, the allegations of a long affair with Little Rock lounge singer Gennifer Flowers and what Bush called his “waffling” on issues, were not enough to defeat Clinton. But nearly all polls showed that they were major factors in limiting the scale of his victory.

Still, there was no lack of enthusiasm at Little Rock’s Dunbar Community Center on election day when Clinton entered to vote. “I think it’s heavenly divine,” gushed Evelyn Tenpenny, a supervisor at the centre. “It is so

exciting to know someone from Arkansas has made it even this far. People always ask you where you’re from and you say, ‘Little Rock,’ and they ask you, ‘Where is that?’ ” She puffed out her chest: “Well, now I’m gonna say, ‘I’m from Little Rock and we made it to the top.’ ” Passerby Annie Mae Strong could not contain her pride. “I was walking with a walking stick,” she said. “But today I put it down when they told me my president was coming here.”

At the Old State House, volunteer Anne Price said that Clinton “pulled us up into the 20th century by the hair of our head. He’s looking at health care, at your system of socialized medicine. People here can’t afford to go to the doctor.” Price, who teaches gifted children, said that Clinton had pressed for special programs such as hers. Like Clinton, she is from Hope, Ark., and said that she knew his family well. “They are just plain ordinary peo-

ple,” she insisted. “We call him Bill, not Governor Clinton—that sounds foreign. ‘President?’ Well I don’t have a problem with that.”

To make sure that Clinton had no problems either, aides began preparing for the transition two months ago. Calling themselves the Clinton-Gore Planning Foundation, the staff of about 12, anticipating victory, quietly moved into offices in one of Little Rock’s few skyscrapers. The day after the election, the group delivered a report proposing candidates for leadership roles and identifying issues that would have to be confronted early in Clinton’s presidency. Clinton’s campaign chairman, Los Angeles lawyer Mickey Kantor, headed the foundation and may be a candidate for his chief of staff.

Well in advance of Inauguration Day, the focus will shift from Little Rock to Washington where three floors in a federal office building have been set aside for Clinton’s staff. The federal treasury will pay $4.2 million for Clinton’s transition and a further $1.8 million to cover the departure expenses of Bush administration officials.

The losers in the fight for the leadership of the world’s most powerful nation will soon fade from the scene— except, perhaps for Perot— and the winning team will not become household names for some months. In the interval, Americans—and a large part of the world—are bound to reflect on the name-calling and meanness of the 1992 campaign. They may remember President Bush calling his Democratic opponents “bozos”—and then apologizing, although, he said, “I thought it was funny at the time and everybody laughed.” They - will remember Bill Clinton wearing sunglasses and playing the saxophone on a late night TV talk show, and Perot using a large chicken to lampoon the growth of jobs in Clinton’s Arkansas. They will remember the 42-year-old Flowers, who appeared nude in Penthouse magazine the week of the election, and recall Clinton’s confession that he smoked marijuana but did not inhale. And they will probably agree with Bush’s mystified observation that “it’s weird out there.” Last week, George Stephanopoulos, Clinton’s communications director, said: “We’ve all been very focused on winning this election. The business of governing comes now.” The governing may turn out to be far less entertaining than the process of winning.