MT. & MRS. PRESIDENT
There was a sense of a special occasion in Washington on Inauguration Day as William Jefferson Clinton took the presidential oath of office outside the Capitol building. Afterward, one of the choice places to be was the Canadian Embassy 10 blocks away, where architect Arthur Erickson’s bold design graces Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue. Canada’s is the
From all indications, Clinton will need all the friendly advice he can get. In the first days of his administration, one of his important cabinet appointments backfired, even as he was being challenged by events in the world. Closer to home, Clinton was forced to admit personal responsibility for botching the nomination of his attorney general, Hartford, Conn., corporate lawyer Zoë Baird. She stepped aside in the face of mounting congressional opposition to her admission that she and her husband, a Yale law professor, knowingly had hired illegal immigrants as their household help—breaking laws that she would be administering if confirmed in the position (page 42).
There was a sense of a special occasion in Washington on Inauguration Day as William Jefferson Clinton took the presidential oath of office outside the Capitol building.
Afterward, one of the choice places to be was the Canadian Embassy 10 blocks away, where architect Arthur Erickson’s bold design graces Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue. Canada’s is the only embassy on the broad thoroughfare that links the Capitol and the White House, and it offered officials of both
countries an unmatched view of the Jan. 20 inaugural parade. Guests at the embassy, including Democratic party doyenne Pamela Harriman, columnist Art Buchwald and Clinton confidant Vernon Jordan, shared a buffet lunch and the excitement of the transition to a new team with different ideas. But amid the clinking of glasses, Canadian officials quietly speculated about how the new Democratic administration would deal with sensitive issues between the two countries. However, Jordan, a co-chairman of the Clinton transition team, predicted that as the new administration took charge of the world’s most powerful nation, “we are going to continue to be good neighbors. I have no doubt about that.”
The relationship that rivetted Washington last week, however, was that between the 42nd President and his mate of 17 years, Hillary Rodham Clinton. In contrast to a mid-campaign image make-over that cast her as a dutiful, adoring spouse, it became clear after the moving van pulled into the White House driveway that she will rearrange the furniture of high office in America. Clinton aides confirmed that she will play an active policy role and be a close adviser to her husband, raising the vision of the nation’s first overt co-presidency. In addition to having two White House offices, including one in the West Wing where policy is decided, Hillary Clinton will be given a prime role in developing health policy. Revealingly, at the cabinet swearing-in ceremony last Friday, an official inadvertently started to announce Hillary Clinton’s arrival by using the word “Vice...” then quickly corrected himself.
The Clinton era began amid ruffles and
ROCK’N’ROLL AND A POLITICAL MISCUE SET THE TONE AS BILL AND HILLARY CLINTON TAKE THEIR PLACES OF POWER
flourishes on a day of inaugural events exhibiting a uniquely American mix of solemnity and unrestrained exuberance. After being sworn in as President on the steps of the Capitol building by William Rehnquist, chief justice of the Supreme Court, the former Arkansas governor delivered a 14-minute address that he wrote himself, calling on Americans to “put aside personal advantage so that we can feel the pain and see the promise of America.” As a U.S. marine helicopter whisked outgoing chief executive George Bush away from the White House on his way to retirement in Houston, Tex., the torch of power passed to a new political generation. Clinton, 46, and Vice-President AÍ Gore, 44, are the first U.S. leadership team to have been bom after the Second World War—and to be ushered into office in a rock ’n’ roll atmosphere. Touring the evening festivities of 11 official inaugural balls, Clinton played his saxophone with a star-studded array of musicians that included singer Kenny Loggins, rock ’n’ roll legend Chuck Berry and Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins, an Arkansas singer and band leader who has lived in Canada since the late 1950s.
Reins: As the new administration took up the reins of office, some of the personalities and positions that will most influence its dealings with Canada became clearer. One of Clinton’s key appointments was Robert Rubin, the head of the President’s newly created National Economic Council, who is expected to play a central role in the search for U.S. economic renewal that could help to boost Canada’s fortunes (page 44). Another is Michael Kantor, the highly regarded California lawyer who, as U.S. trade representative, will help to shape policy on a number of long-simmering trade disputes with Canada (page 43). One of those issues is hogs, a cross-border sore point that has been making its way through the disputes-resolution mechanism of the Free Trade Agreement since 1989 because of American concerns that Canada oversubsidizes its farmers. Last week in a routine procedural step, the commerce department filed a so-called extraordinary challenge to a previous ruling permitting the Canadian exports. The matter, which now goes to a board of three judges, was mundane evidence that the work of government goes on, even as the nation is distracted by the celebration of change.
Foreign-policy experts in Washington predicted that, at least initially, relations between Ottawa and the Clinton government were likely to seem relatively distant, after the close links that existed between Bush and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. But Canada’s new ambassador, Gen. John de Chastelain, in Washington to host the embassy’s inauguration party and to present his credentials, was upbeat (page 45). “I don’t see anything in what Clinton said for us to be worried about,” de Chastelain told Maclean’s. “I think Clinton means focusing inwards in terms of a North American context. I don’t see it as being America only.”
Insiders said that, apart from his plan to meet Mulroney before any other world leader, the new president would probably devote little time to U.S.-Canadian issues in the coming weeks, or even months. Mulroney spoke to Clinton on the telephone three times between the Nov. 3 election and the inauguration. Said External Affairs Minister
Barbara McDougall: “I think we’re in the process of building up a position of mutual trust again.” And in Ottawa, senior officials expressed confidence that the warm relations that Canada has enjoyed with its superpower neighbor would continue (page 46).
Despite the evidence of politics as usual, many Americans said that their youthful-looking new president filled them with hope. “It means a fresh beginning,” said Carol Townsend, a 51-year-old career consultant from Arlington, Va., who attended the pre-inaugural events in a spirit of celebration. Said Townsend: “The 1960s and the civil rights movement brought different people together, and that may come alive again.”
Hopes for Clinton’s promised political renewal were in many cases pinned as much on the new First Lady as on her husband. Hillary Clinton is expected to attend cabinet meetings and, from her second-floor office in the West Wing, is expected to help draft a plan to reform the U.S. health-care system, a priority that President Clinton has established for his first 100 days in office. Hillary Clinton is prevented by regulation from earning a White House salary. Like the President, she is a Yale law school graduate who became an influential Little Rock attorney. Her $160,000 salary was far higher than her husband’s, and she was a close adviser during his 12 years as the $35,000-a-year Arkansas governor. But in the late stages of the 1992 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton’s handlers, responding to criticism from traditionalists, portrayed her as a cookie-baking mom interested in child-care issues alone. Last week it became clear in Washington that the reality is closer to the pitch that she made in the early days of the campaign when she declared, “Vote for one, get one free.”
Bridges: While the Mulroney government worked to build bridges to the new administration, the traditional cross-border friendship was clearly in evidence during the inauguration festivities. During the inaugural parade, the staff at the Canadian Embassy draped a 15-foot-high banner from the front of the building that said, in English and French: “Canadians Salute President Clinton and VP Gore.” When the limousine carrying the Clintons passed the embassy on its way from the Capitol building to the White House, the new president said over his car’s loud-speaker: “Thanks, Canada.” Later, Canadian singers Bruce Cockbum and K.D. Lang were among the performers at post-inaugural parties.
Inevitably, however, irritants in Canada-U.S. trade will shift Washington’s attention to the north. With bilateral commerce that is worth about $200 billion annually, the two nations are each other’s largest trading partners.
Through the first 11 months of 1992, Canada enjoyed a $ 1.5-billion surplus in trade with the United States. In addition to the recurring hog dispute, the two countries are currently embroiled in long-standing disagreement over the export of Canadian softwood lumber and durum wheat in the United States. In all three cases, Washington contends that Canadian government policies amount to subsidies, which allow Canadian producers to undercut their American competitors. Another contentious issue has grown out of Ontario government pricing policies that have slowed American brewers’ efforts to penetrate the lucrative Ontario market. As well, Washington has threatened to
impose a 75-per-cent surcharge on Canadian steel exports, which they claim are being dumped on the U.S. market.
But another, broader problem could become an issue as the Clinton administration struggles to regenerate the U.S. economy. Carleton University political scientist Paul Rosen noted a statement by Kantor in which the new trade representative said that he would be paying close attention to any countries maintaining surpluses in their trade with the United States. Said Rosen: “When that gets noticed, as it inevitably will, it could pose problems.” But other Canadian specialists in relations with Washington raised no similar alarms. Laurence Bims, for one, director of the Washington-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs, said that in the immediate future “what Canada can expect from this administration is benign neglect. I don’t see that this change in administration will have enormous implications for Canada.”
Positive: On a more positive note, the new vice-president’s background suggests that Ottawa could quickly have better relations with Washington on at least one issue, the environment. As a Tennessee senator, Gore was a strong advocate of environmental causes and sharply criticized the Bush administration for withholding support from several of the key initiatives taken during the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, last June. Maurice Strong, the Canadian environmentalist and businessman who organized that conference and now is chairman of the Toronto-based power utility Ontario Hydro, said that the Clinton administration could prove to be “the most hopeful and promising thing that has happened since Rio.”
But as the Clinton team settled in last week, speculation in Ottawa centred on whether Clinton and Canada’s prime minister could build a strong relationship. In the past, relations between the two nations’ leaders have been uneven. While outright hostility existed during the 1960s between John Diefenbaker and John Kennedy, Mulroney built unusually warm relationships with Ronald Reagan and Bush. The departing president gave Mulroney access to the new administration by inviting him to the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md., during Bush’s last weekend there. Mulroney met some of Clinton’s senior associates who were also Bush’s guests, including secretary of state-designate Warren Christopher.
Throughout inaugural week, Clinton displayed remarkable energy. In the days leading up to his swearing-in, he visited several personal and generational touchstones, including the home of Thomas Jefferson, the country’s third president and author of the Declaration of Independence, and the grave of his fallen hero, John Kennedy. After playing saxophone into the night at the inaugural balls, the new President shook hands the next day with about 3,000 visitors who flocked to the White House to meet him.
Although Clinton used charisma and political skills to win the presidency, some political observers say that he has yet to win the hearts of Americans. “I don’t think that Ameri-
cans are particularly passionate about Clinton,” said Birns. “He hasn’t inspired that in them, at least not yet. What we have here is a go-go guy with lots of energy, who is restless, but is loyal to his roots, who has kept every friend he has made since he was a kid.” Birns added that Clinton has won over some intellectuals who were impressed by his performance on policy matters. Birns noted that just as Ronald Reagan was “seen as the president who knew nothing about the presidency and the country, Clinton is seen as the one who knows everything.’’’
Critical: Some experts predicted that Clinton will have to move strongly in one critical area where he has had little experience in the past: foreign affairs. “I don’t see Clinton being just a domestic-agenda president,” said Kent Weaver, a senior fellow in governmental studies at Washington’s Brookings Institution. “Incoming presidents traditionally start out playing to their weaknesses. Clinton is seen as weak on foreign policy, so he will likely work at overcoming that image.”
Domestically, the challenge facing Clinton will be to make quick headway on a three-pronged front: the budget deficit, job creation and health care. But even before his inauguration he acknowledged that the middle-class tax cut he pledged during the campaign would have to be postponed be-
cause of a projected increase in the budget deficit. Once in office, though, he quickly moved on one other front, making good on a campaign promise to lift restrictions on abortion counselling at federally funded clinics, and on fetal-tissue research. “Our vision should be of an America where abortion is safe and legal, but rare,” Clinton said in signing the orders in the White House Roosevelt Room.
The new President also made his mark quickly on the local scene. A downtown bar renamed itself Slick Willie’s, borrowing the nickname that Clinton earned during his tenure as Arkansas governor. Opponents used the name to suggest that Clinton’s energetic, youthful image was a thin veneer protecting a manipulative politician. But in Washington last
week, the words had begun to sound like a tribute to Clinton’s ability to think on his feet and handle difficult situations. For the time being, many Americans seemed confident that Clinton and his team could bring about the change that he and his supporters have called for throughout his campaign. For now, it seems, Americans have staked their faith in the promises of Bill Clinton, and all that remained was for the new President to make good on them.
JAMES DEACON with HILARY MACKENZIE in Washington