AT two years of age, the Clinton presidency is starting over
Tonight, the president plans to present on television his new
replotted road map for negotiating the radically reconfigured
He plans to return to one of the earliest vows of his campaign -
one that was lost in the din of deficit alarm as he assumed the
presidency - to cut taxes for middle-class families.
He also plans to revive one of his campaign's plainest signs
that he was not a traditional Democrat seeking ways to shift more
money to programs for the poor: tough-minded welfare reform.
In returning to his campaign roots, Mr. Clinton is obviously
seeking common ground with the new Republican majorities in
Congress so that some work can get done in the next two years.
But the president's task is also to begin restoring public
confidence in his own ability and commitment to doing what he once
said he would do.
After two years in office, Clinton has achieved more than many
administrations ever do. His successes in Congress range from
signing the Family and Medical Leave Act requiring employers to
give new parents and others time off to the GATT agreement
liberalizing world trade.
He has also presided over three consecutive years of declining
federal deficits - a record since the reign of Calvin Coolidge. The
economy is growing about as fast and employing about as many people
as can be sustained without overheating and setting off inflation.
Yet Clinton has won few fast friends and supporters. Many
liberals feel he is an inconstant, unreliable ally. Conservatives
vilify him in harsh, personal terms. And many voters in the middle,
according to polls both recently and for a year now, question his
competence and trustworthiness.
Early on in his term, Clinton made some decisions about what
Americans wanted most from him and what he would work hardest to
achieve. He put deficit cutting ahead of a middle-class tax cut.
And he put health-care reform ahead of welfare reform.
For more than a year, he has made his ambitious overhaul of the
nation's health-insurance system, covering a seventh of the whole
economy, the centerpiece of his presidency. It was a high-risk
project that washed out completely by September without much
remaining popular support.
Now, after a month of absorbing the shock and the lessons of the
Nov. 8 GOP landslide, Clinton is mapping out a new agenda - one
that is a much closer match to the Republican agenda.
In his speech tonight, Clinton is expected to lay out a new plan
to cut taxes for middle-class families. …