Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Clinton Needs to Woo `Second Washington' the Case of Eleanor Roosevelt and the Cardinal Can Serve as a Useful Example for Clinton

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Clinton Needs to Woo `Second Washington' the Case of Eleanor Roosevelt and the Cardinal Can Serve as a Useful Example for Clinton

Article excerpt

THE recent affair of the two travel agents who were fired from the White House and then had to be rehired provides the useful key to the misfortunes of the early weeks of the Clinton presidency. It shows that Mr. Clinton and his associates came to Washington not realizing that there were two Washingtons and that for a new president to be successful, he must come to amicable terms with the second as well as the first.

The first Washington is the community of elected and appointed officials. This is the official Washington where a president has statutory authority.

The second Washington is made up of people who influence policy without any official or statutory position but who must be won by a new president at least to a neutral, preferably a supportive, role if his presidency is to be relatively smooth and successful.

Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy understood this. Jimmy Carter did not, and the Clintons have yet to show that they have learned how to manage it.

The second Washington is made up of many different types of people who have one thing in common: They all have some ability to influence policy decisions. They include the representatives of the great trade unions, of the associations of business and industry, of the important churches, of individuals like Eleanor Roosevelt who are, or were, widely respected in their own right; and most important of all, the Washington press corps and newspaper columnists and broadcasting commentators whose words are read or heard all over the country.

The White House travel agents are known personally to the White House press corps. The agents arrange travel for reporters traveling with the president. If a president fires a travel agent unfairly (which is admitted in this case) the reporters resent it.

It is a small thing in itself, but it is the kind of thing that builds up an unfavorable feeling about the president among the reporters who cover him daily. It gets passed along to the columnists and commentators. It is the sort of thing a wise president who understands the Washington system would never do.

Travel agents are not part of the public, official Washington. …

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