Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Clinton Takes Economic Plan to the Public Completion of Cabinet Selections, High-Profile Addresses Promise New Start to Presidency

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Clinton Takes Economic Plan to the Public Completion of Cabinet Selections, High-Profile Addresses Promise New Start to Presidency

Article excerpt

THE prelude is over for the Clinton administration.

After a scheduled prime-time television address last night and a presentation of his economic plan to a joint session of Congress tomorrow night, President Clinton has a good chance of casting the distracted first month of his presidency nearly out of memory.

In his first month, he surprised some observers with the crudeness of his political radar, which was so finely tuned in the campaign. But he also showed some signs of regaining his focus and his populist touch.

Mr. Clinton's Cabinet selection is now complete - probably. After a couple of false starts, his second official nomination for attorney general, Miami prosecutor Janet Reno, awaits confirmation by the Senate with no apparent obstacles to her approval. The agenda Clinton has pursued so far has a more left-leaning character than his campaign had forecast. But then he has not addressed his big concerns yet. His proposals tomorrow could outweigh all that has gone before in defining his ideology for most Americans.

In communicating his message to the public, Clinton has sought what most presidents seek: to end-run the White House press corps and speak directly to the public. His prime-time, televised town meeting last week borrowed from the pages of Jimmy Carter and Ross Perot, among others.

The difference from previous presidents, notes Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution, who has written widely on politicians and the press, is that Clinton has not even made a pretense of opening the White House more to the press.

Clinton ran into a hornet's nest of popular opposition on two issues: the hiring of an illegal immigrant by his first nominee for attorney general, Zoe Baird, and lifting the ban on homosexuals in the military. Both issues prompted a flood of telephone calls that jammed switchboards at the White House and Congress. Polls showed the public opposed to Ms. Baird's nomination and evenly - and fiercely - split on the military gay-ban question.

"It surprised me," says Jeffrey Bell, a political theorist who has supported Bush Cabinet official Jack Kemp. "I was amazed that they lost the balance between the people with the resumes and the people who know how to communicate with the public."

Soon afterward, the White House once again sought the daily advice of the Clinton campaign sage of the common man, political strategist James Carville.

Mr. Bell says that Clinton has so far opted for policy favored by the liberal elite. …

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