Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Doubts about Clinton Could Be Wild Card in Dole's Favor

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Doubts about Clinton Could Be Wild Card in Dole's Favor

Article excerpt

I had a mild shock the other day when an old friend, a thoughtful historian who teaches at a Southern university, wrote to say that he is ready to volunteer his research services to the Bob Dole campaign. He has voted for every Democratic candidate since 1960 and agrees "with most of what Clinton has done."

But, he explains, "Clinton will never have the trust of the moderate Republicans needed to create a moderate compromise on domestic policy, and Dole already has such credibility with moderate Democrats."

The reasons are unusual, but other potential defectors lurk out there. Disillusionment with Bill Clinton among moderate Democrats is epidemic, and poses a tricky counterweight to the poll indications that Clinton is building a big lead for November.

The unease with Clinton ranges in intensity from distress to anger but is rooted in a sense of betrayal. Clinton ran as a "New Democrat," but lost no time in 1993-95 identifying himself with his party's pushy left.

His recent gravitation back toward the center intensifies the impression that Clinton is an "other-directed" personality (to use David Riesman's useful distinction in "The Lonely Crowd"), who takes his coloration from his surroundings and says what he believes will please whomever he is addressing.

When I protest, as I sometimes do, that this assessment is off the mark, I am confronted with countless examples.

What about the great health- care reform, for instance? Clinton invested major political capital in the cause for the first year and a half of his term and got his ears pinned back. What happened to the millions who still lose their insurance by changing jobs or for some other reason? What happened to the threat that - as Clinton rightly said as early as his preinaugural economic conference in Little Rock - medical entitlements present to budgetary stability? Why is he pretending, for transparently political reasons, that Medicare funding isn't in trouble? Why have these issues vanished from the Clinton agenda?

And what about welfare reform? Didn't Clinton promise in 1992 to "end welfare as we know it"? What was presented as a signature issue, defining Clinton as a centrist, has dissolved into a haze of evasion. …

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