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Western Press Review: Clinton Is In, But Questions Remain

  • Don Hill

Prague, 28 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- With the U.S. presidential elections little more than a week away, commentary in the English-speaking press -- especially in the United States -- concentrates on the campaign and political prospects there.

President Bill Clinton's reelection, predicted overwhelmingly in the polls, now is assumed widely. But questions about the simultaneous campaigns in the individual states for seats in Congress remain. The "New York Times" comes out with an endorsement of Clinton -- questioning his character but praising him in a number of areas, including foreign affairs.

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Dole's slogan is based on his tax cut proposal

In a pair of editorials yesterday, the paper said: "Presidential campaigns increasingly take their themes from sound-bite slogans aimed at fixing in voters' minds one thing that candidates hope will be remembered on election day. For Bob Dole, the talismanic slogan is '15 percent' -- the size of the across-the-board tax cut he promises." The editorial continues: "The Dole plan rests on some economic assumptions that most economists question. It assumes, for one thing, that there will be no recession in the next six years." It says: "And it sets as a target a long-term 3.5 percent annual growth rate, far higher than what the Congressional Budget Office projects."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Presidents have little control over the U.S. economy

The paper's companion editorial says: "Bill Clinton is basing his case for a second term primarily on what he asserts are the accomplishments of his first, especially his claims for an economy that his policies nursed back to health from an enfeebled state of four years ago." The editorial says: "The numbers he cites are accurate enough, but his effort to take credit is implausible. Presidents, as columnist Robert J. Samuelson notes, 'are mainly economic spectators' who have little real control over the United States' massive economy. Sometimes, of course, they get lucky." The editorial contends: "Clinton's economic success also can be attributed to the failure of some of his own policy initiatives to pass Congress."

LONDON OBSERVER: Turnout will be the key to the Democrats' efforts

Writing from the United States, Martin Walker says today in a news analysis: "The Democrats and the Republicans are putting unprecedented effort into a drive to get out the vote in order to resolve what seems to be the (big) unknown in next week's presidential election -- the number of voters who will bother to turn out." Walker writes: "Of (significant) concern to both party machines is the outcome in Congress, where the Republicans narrowly hold both houses. Turnout will be the key to the Democrats' strenuous effort to recapture the House and the Senate."

NEW YORK TIMES: 'We endorse the re-election of President Bill Clinton'

"We endorse the re-election of President Bill Clinton," the paper said yesterday. The Times' 1,800-word editorial spoke of what it called Clinton's 'new sophistication' in foreign policy. The newspaper said: "In 1993, Clinton lacked experience in foreign affairs, and he stumbled early by confusing consultation with leadership when it came to Bosnia. Now he is regarded internationally as a leader with a sophisticated grasp of a superpower's obligation to help the world manage its conflicts and economic contests. The hallmark of this new sophistication is Clinton's timing of those moments when U.S. prestige and resources can be decisive. His decision to throw political and financial support behind the election of President Boris Yeltsin in Russia, then mired at below 10 percent in the polls, was a successful, high-risk intervention."

Under the subtitle "Ethics," the newspaper said: "Obviously, we could not ask our readers to vote for Clinton without addressing his most significant leadership problem. Many Americans do not trust him or believe him to be a person of character," and added: "But he can reclaim the trust of the great majority by demonstrating a zeal for financial integrity and for protecting the machinery of justice from politics."

WASHINGTON POST: Beating up on the press is a way for Republicans to energize their base

This morning, Howard Kurtz comments: "As Robert J. Dole steps up his attacks on the media's 'liberal bias,' assailing television and "The New York Times" and urging voters not to 'let them make up your mind for you,' the objects of his derision are taking it in stride."

Kurtz writes: "But some journalists say the Republican presidential nominee has a point. They point to a recent survey of 139 Washington journalists by the Freedom Forum and Roper Center that found that 89 percent voted for President Clinton."

The commentator says: "Dole's complaint is hardly unique; both President George Bush and Ross Perot criticized the media four years ago. For Republicans in particular, beating up on the press can be a way of energizing their base. At the same time, some of the harshest criticism of the Dole campaign has come from such conservatives as Wisconsin Governor Tommy G. Thompson, former Bush administration official William Kristol and columnist George Will, who has urged GOP congressional candidates to abandon Dole."

BOSTON GLOBE: The Democratic ticket is viable in bastions of conservatism

John Aloysius Farrell, in a news analysis yesterday, published in the U.S. northeast, examined the Clinton campaign through the U.S. South, where racial politics traditionally are active.

Farrell wrote: "As Bill Clinton chased his dream of an Election Day landslide through the heart of Dixie (the U.S. South) last week, competing for states that for decades no Democratic presidential candidate had hoped to win, his most remarkable asset was the moderation of his multihued audience. Watching Clinton barnstorm the Deep South, black and white politicians alike said they saw no contradiction between the president's winning, centrist politics and good-governing policies."

Farrell wrote: "The Democratic ticket is suddenly viable in bastions of conservatism such as Virginia, Florida, Texas and Alabama."

HOUSTON CHRONICLE: Clinton's secret desire is a Democratic Congress

In an analysis Saturday, Nancy Mathis wrote: "It may be near the top of his election-year wish list, just behind his own return to office, but Bill Clinton keeps mum (silent) on his secret desire -- a Democratic Congress. Displaying a front-runner's political luxury, President Clinton campaigns on behalf of individual Democratic candidates at nearly every stop, but he never explicitly calls for voters to elect a Democratic Congress. And it's a Democratic Congress that may be key to his success if he's re-elected to a second term as president, not only to pass his programs, but to halt Republican-led investigations that have dominated Capitol Hill for the past two years."