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Western Press Review: In U.S. Politics, The Rule Is `First, Get Elected'

  • Don Hill



Prague, 29 August 1996 (RFE/RL) -- The Democratic Convention in the United States closes tonight in Chicago with a renomination acceptance speech by President Bill Clinton. U.S. Republicans held their convention last week in San Diego. Press commentators in the United States and Europe examine the state of politics in today's America.

NEW YORK TIMES: Democrats are torn between the White House and social compassion

The paper says today in an editorial: "Despite the fluff and the constricted debate, these two conventions remind us that the parties need some forum other than the primaries and Congress to define their beliefs and character and to work through their conflicts. In San Diego, for example, the relentless unity pitch from the speaker's rostrum underscored the fact that the GOP is a deeply divided party that will be roiled for years by struggles between its moral authoritarians and its suburban moderates."

The paper said, "Similarly, no amount of scripting can disguise the fact that the Democrats are a party torn between their hunger to hold the White House and their tradition of social compassion. President Clinton's struggle in Chicago to persuade liberals to support his abolition of basic welfare entitlements is likely a precursor of intramural struggles ahead."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: `Manysidedness' may be an appropriate leadership response to a fast-changing world

Across the country, the paper editorialized yesterday: "There's much angst about how the party is not the 'real' Democratic Party anymore. But what does that mean?" The editorial said: "The very moderation -- less kindly put, downright vacillation -- for which Dole and, especially, Clinton have been so criticized may be appealing to voters. In a report by staff writer Nina J. Easton, experts who have studied human behavior and the nature of leadership say a 'manysidedness' may be an appropriate leadership response in a fast-changing world. No principles, or 'manysidedness?' While it will drive ideological purists up the wall, the answer is somewhere in between."

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: The new welfare reform bill removes the safety net under all poor children

National political columnists Jack Germond and Jules Witcover comment today: "While Clinton and his chief political strategist, Dick Morris, labor diligently to paint Clinton as a man of the middle, it fell (in Chicago) to old liberals like (black leader) Jesse Jackson and (former New York state Governor) Mario Cuomo to light, with old Democratic rhetoric, a few sparks among the delegates." The column went on, "Both openly expressed their disappointment with Clinton's swallowing of the Republican welfare reform bill that effectively removes the safety net under all poor children that was at the core of the New Deal policies of (World War II U.S. president) Franklin D. Roosevelt."

POLITIKEN: It could be the women that secure Clinton's reelection

Jacob Bjerg Moeller comments today in the Danish newspaper: "Clinton's strategists have reevaluated the First Lady's sunken popularity. When she couldn't push through her ideas for health care reform, it became evident that she didn't have controlling influence on her husband. Thus, the voters could see that she was no Lady Macbeth. Her questionable role in a number of other matters could also be played to the President's advantage. If the Clinton family has problems, it proves that the President is the good guy (even if only by) standing up to defend his wife." Politiken adds: "It could be the women that secure Clinton's reelection."

LONDON INDEPENDENT: The Democratic Party has reopened its love affair with Hillary Clinton

The "London Independent" and "The London Times" also focus today on Hillary Clinton. Rupert Cornwell writes in a news analysis from Chicago in The Independent: "A buoyant and harmonizing Democratic Party has reopened its love affair with Hillary Clinton." Cornwell says: "The convention arena stood and cheered her to the rafters on Tuesday as she took the podium." He goes on: "With dignity and conviction, the First Lady often portrayed as resident White House witch transformed herself into a crusader for America's families and children."

LONDON TIMES: The White House is wooing crucial voters with a pro-family agenda

In an analysis, Martin Feltcher writes: "Hillary Clinton received a four-minute standing ovation when she appeared at the podium on Tuesday evening, and she delighted delegates with an unusually personal speech in which she argued that the Democrats, not the Republicans, were the real party of the family." Fletcher continues: "For a decade the Republicans have won majority support among families with children by promising tax cuts and less social permissiveness. Mrs. Clinton's speech was part of a year-long White House attempt to woo those crucial voters with a pro-family agenda emphasizing community and responsibility."

SAN FRANCISO EXAMINER: Does it take a village to raise a child, or a family?

In yesterday's edition, Robert E. Thompson commented: "If the presidential campaign of 1996 is remembered for nothing else, it should be recalled for the remarkable confrontation between the nominee of the Republican Party and the wife of the Democratic president." Thompson went on: "In a speech that was excellent in many of its facets, (Dole) took a verbal swipe at Mrs. Clinton (by paraphrasing her book, saying) 'It does not take a village to raise a child. It takes a family to raise a child.' The Republican delegates went wild. "

Thompson added, "But Hillary's time would come and it was prime time at that." He quoted her line: " 'And we have learned that to raise a happy, healthy and hopeful child, it takes a family, it takes teachers, it takes clergy, it takes business people, it takes community leaders, it takes those who protect our health and safety, it takes all of us. Yes, it takes a village.' The convention erupted with jubilation." Thompson concluded, "For Hillary Rodham Clinton, family and child-rearing is no ordinary issue. It is a pursuit that requires the interest and help of many people. For her, it takes a village."

NEW YORK TIMES: The Democrats lost their party and gained a Clinton cult of personality

Columnist Maureen Down comments today: "The Democrats came to Chicago in 1996 and lost the party." She writes, "(Clinton) is not satisfied with reinventing himself, separating himself from his party and springing up, fully formed, as the Democratic nominee. He has also reinvented the image of the Democrats so completely that, as presented on television this week, there isn't much of a party left. There is only a Clinton cult of personality."

"For his lacquered spectacle here, Bill Clinton has largely erased his party's past, principles and personality. Instead he offers himself, his brainy wife as valedictorian and his charming daughter as family value. He is the perfect leader for an era when celebrity is the most important value, when emotion and self-revelation replace reason and argument." She concludes, "The defense is that Clinton has to win by adopting the Republicans' tricks, but some people worry that he's adopting more than their tactics. The danger is that all that will be left of the Democrats' compassion is the rhetoric."
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