Magazine article The Spectator

Clinton Away, Newt Home

Magazine article The Spectator

Clinton Away, Newt Home

Article excerpt

New York

THE TELEVISION ads no longer show snarling faces, jabbing fingers and mendacious quotes from Clinton/Gore, Dole/Kemp. Yes, the presidential election is well and truly over and the ads during the television news have reverted to what really concerns Americans -- their health: nappies for the incontinent and lotions for vaginal itch. It is good to see the cowboy back again, leaping onto his horse and yelling in pain - haemorrhoids? No problem. The campaign ads have been put away for Madison Avenue analysis; the blizzard is over. At least, until the midterm Congressional elections.

Although President Clinton occupies the White House, we can see more clearly how satisfactory the results of the most expensive elections in US history are. The two most important men in the United States are Republicans - Newt Gingrich, the House Speaker, and Trent Lott, the majority leader in the Senate. With both chambers firmly under the control of Republicans, the United States can look forward to a period of competent governance.

Now, for Clinton, comes the hardest part - the second term. His brilliance as a campaigner is not matched by his occupancy of the Oval office. If he can survive the looming nemesis of the various scandals attached to his first term, and it is by no means impossible, he could emerge as a successful president, though not a great one, as the challenges don't seem to be there on the horizon to test him.

Two experiences have shaped Clinton's sureness of touch - his defeat as governor of Arkansas after a first term, and the idiocies of his first year as President when he began by allowing homosexuals into the armed forces and Hillary started throwing her weight around. It was pure Haight Ashbury comes to Washington. This baptism of fire and the election in 1992 of a Republican Congress moved him to the centre, where I expect him to stay. When he finishes choosing his Cabinet it will be more conservative, and he isn't repeating the mistake of appointing inexperienced, chronically left-wing White House staff. Hillary is no longer his personnel officer. Paradoxically, Clinton will need Congressional opposition to achieve something as President, just as much as the Republicans on Capitol Hill will need Clinton to keep them there mid-term and in the year 2000. There will not be any more closing down of the government over budget deadlock. The losers of that particular struggle were the Republicans and Bob Dole - they were blamed.

With Dole no longer in the Senate, Republican leadership falls to Trent Lott, less controversial but just as ideologically committed as Gingrich. While Clinton might be tormented by the numerous investigations into White House sleaze, the Republicans are facing enough potential splits and internal rancour to keep them fully occupied for months if not years ahead. They will have to reposition themselves and decide, if only in the short term, between pragmatism and ideology. The right-wing fundamentalism of Pat Buchanan - against welfare, anti-abortion, anti-immigration, international isolationism and so on - does not strike a sufficient chord to be universally popular. Nor do the policies of the religious Right. The 1960s have put paid to that: the babyboomers aren't keen, neither are their offspring, as in Britain. America has changed.

It is not homogeneous enough to be united. It should be called the DSA, the Divided States of America. The Republicans are just as split as the British Conservative Party, but over a wider range of issues. Although there are subdivisions and degrees of dissent among Tories over Europe and the relationship between taxation and public spending, with the Republicans it is a host of differences: big government, public spending, taxation, federal interference, welfare and abortion, gun control, etc.

Gingrich was personally targeted in an astonishing 75,000 Democrat campaign advertisements across the country. He was presented as the Mother of all Demons, the Great Satan of the Republican Party, the man who would take away Medicare and all the other goodies of welfarism. …

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