Magazine article Insight on the News

Time to Bag the Qualifiers and Back Yeltsin Whole-Hog

Magazine article Insight on the News

Time to Bag the Qualifiers and Back Yeltsin Whole-Hog

Article excerpt

Bill Clinton is learning what every president before him learned. We don't elect laser beams to the nation's highest office. Clinton promised to focus on the economy "like a laser beam," because that was what nearly everyone wanted to hear in October and George Bush was stuck like a needle on an old long-playing record about the mean stuff going on elsewhere in the world.

But the mean stuff now going on in Moscow transcends our domestic politics and underscores anew how the president of the United States, even a president from the land of wondrous beasties, wild hogs and magic huckleberries, can't be a sunbeam no matter how hard he wishes on a star.

Clinton, like the president before him, wants Boris Yeltsin to succeed. So should we all. But he has to about saying so, much in the way that a friendly Yankee pol would have to be careful about rooting in public for a politician in Arkansas.

Right now, says George Stephanopoulos, Clinton's communications director, the White House backs Yeltsin because he leads the reform process. "That is not to say that there are not other reformers in Russia as well, but he is the leader of the reform process, he personifies the reform process."

Other Democrats support Yeltsin, too, sort of. Says Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee: "We want to lend our support to Yeltsin and do what we can to be helpful. But the ultimate objective for the United States is not that one leader prevail, but rather that the movement toward reform prevail. …

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