Clinton's Appeals on Economic Policy near `Cringe Stage'

Article excerpt

By Mark Lacter

Los Angeles Daily News

Bill Clinton is fast approaching what I like to call the cringe stage. This is the point where somebody in the public eye tries so hard to please so many that whenever he shows up on the screen, there's a temptation to press the mute button or change channels or just get under a blanket. Cringing doesn't so much involve contempt for the person involved as simple embarrassment.

It's not such a big deal when Jerry Lewis or Sally Field gives you a case of the cringies, but the president of the United States is something else again. And, sad to say, Clinton's incessant attempts to be appreciated, especially as they relate to the economy, make him one sorry-looking fella.

By appealing to every side of a very jagged populace, the president impresses no one _ not New Age Democrats, not old-style liberals and not the persuadable Republicans he so desperately needs.

His visit to Southern California encapsulates all that is misguided about the new administration's motives and ambitions. There's nothing wrong with getting out of town every once in a while to press the flesh, but the recent campaign stops are no substitute for sound, coherent leadership. He's losing his punch and he should be wise enough to realize it.

You don't need Lincoln to be reminded about the impossibility of pleasing all the people all the time. Just ask a movie executive. When Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in a blockbuster summer release, don't expect many 75-year-old women to be buying tickets. The studio could try broadening the interest by inserting other footage, but why dilute the film's main selling point?

Bill Clinton won't concede too many audiences; it's not his style. In Los Angeles and San Diego he aimed his sights at two distinct constituencies and delivered two very different messages _ no doubt serving to confuse both sides.

To the mostly middle-income centrists worried about the deficit, higher taxes and what kind of economy their children will inherit, his themes were strictly Ross Perot. Besides explaining the importance of reduced government spending, he implied that the phantom middle-class tax cut may end up happening after all.

"I've got four years," Clinton told a San Diego audience Monday night in hinting about an eventual tax break and once again taking on more than he can deliver.

To the largely ethnic and underserved groups he met with in the San Fernando Valley and South Central L. …