Clinton Refocuses Push on Economic Package

Article excerpt

By Tom Raum

Associated Press

CLEVELAND _ President Clinton opened a campaign-style push to refocus attention on his economic package Monday, saying he may have tried to tackle too many issues at once but would rather "err on the side of effort."

He delivered a no-apologies defense for moving on so many fronts, including tax increases he acknowledged go beyond those he foresaw during last year's campaign.

Clinton suggested his domestic-policy initiatives on the economy, on health care, on overhauling the college loan system and on campaign finance and welfare reform are interrelated.

"I think most of you want us to do something and I think you want us to be bold," Clinton said after plunging into a crowd at a downtown shopping center. It was the first stop of a trip designed to regain lost momentum.

Later, he told a luncheon with business leaders: "The costs of the status quo are very, very high, even if you don't see them on the ledger sheets. . .I think we can do more than one thing at one time."

Demonstrating a change of strategy from recent speeches, Clinton also declined to blame Republicans for seeking to block his programs, charting a more populist course of blaming lobbyists and other entrenched Washington interests instead.

"The lobbyists are lining the corridors of Washington as never before. There are 80,000 of them there," he told the City Club of Cleveland. "And unless all the American people speak out loud and clear, it's going to be hard for us to hold this program together."

Clinton also sought to turn the spotlight away from his $16.3 billion jobs stimulus package, defeated in the Senate by a GOP filibuster. He said it was only a minor part of an economic program calling for nearly $500 billion in deficitreducing tax increases and spending cuts over five years.

Clinton took advantage of an apparent lull in the crisis in Bosnia _ the White House signaled it would not move closer to military action until after a weekend referendum by Bosnian Serbs _ to promote his economic package in the Midwest. He was headed next to Chicago.

The two-day trip was the first installment of a new administration strategy to get Clinton out of Washington more often to rally support for his programs.

In an event with all the trappings of a campaign swing, Clinton shook hundreds of hands as he pressed through Cleveland's downtown Galleria mall. He bought a T-shirt at a clothing store and chocolate-covered strawberries at a candy store. …