Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

President Becomes Candidate Clinton Eager for a Battle, President Is `Happy Warrior,' Aide Says -

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

President Becomes Candidate Clinton Eager for a Battle, President Is `Happy Warrior,' Aide Says -

Article excerpt

HE'S BEEN in harness for months, compelled by political circumstance to be uncomfortably temperate, judicious, in a word: presidential.

But the atmosphere changed for Bill Clinton with a heckler's bellow: "Liar!"

Stopped in midsentence, Clinton's shoulders stiffened and his hands gripped both edges of the podium. "No!" he fired back. "I'm not lying to the American people."

Five minutes later, Clinton was still angry - still listing promises kept, still damning Republicans, still daring Bob Dole's troops to "seed . . . our rallies" with more hecklers.

New Strategy

The outburst, a highlight of Clinton's last day at work before retreating to a mountain vacation, ended a months-long White House strategy to keep the president above the political fray. From this day forward, President Clinton is Candidate Clinton.

"He's a happy warrior," clearly welcoming the transition, said Leon Panetta, the White House chief of staff.

It was Panetta who more than any other aide kept the reins on Clinton this last year. The goal: Quietly construct a re-election team and lay the groundwork to defeat the Republican nominee without appearing overly partisan.

While Dole and his Republican rivals wrestled for the nomination, Clinton avoided direct attacks on them. He would pick his fights - harsh condemnation of the GOP budget, for example - but above all try to look presidential.

To this day, the president of the United States has not formally announced his intention to seek a second term. He has yet to attack Dole by name.

With Republicans taking aim at him at their convention in San Diego and his own convention approaching in Chicago, Clinton has begun to dispense with those airs.

"I'll give you an answer if you stop screaming!" he scolded the heckler in California, who demanded to know what had happened to Clinton's pro mised middle-class tax cut.

`We're In Better Shape'

Answering the man, Clinton ticked off his list of explanations. …

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