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Western Press Review: Clinton Reelected; Opposition Controls Congress

  • Don Hill

Prague, 6 November 1996 (RFE/RL) -- President Bill Clinton's overwhelming reelection victory occupies commentators in the U.S. and British press today. With a six-hour time difference, the results came too late to attract comment from news outlets elsewhere in Europe.

LONDON TIMES: Clinton is one the greatest campaigners

Today in an editorial, the paper says: "Bill Clinton has secured re-election. His victory represents the triumph of persistence." The Times says: "Four years ago Mr. Clinton won the presidency promising to reinvent government. In 1996, he won again largely by reinventing himself." Referring to Clinton's "cunning and resilience," The Times says that "he can be guaranteed recogniton as one of the greatest campaigners his country has ever produced."

NEW YORK TIMES: Clinton's career has yet to reach its final definition

In its own editorial today, the paper says: "The morning-after reality is that the man voters are returning to office should be -- indeed, must be -- a very different politician from the one elected four years ago. Clinton, a gifted and joyful campaigner, is well aware that he has won his last election."

The editorial concludes: "Clinton's career has yet to reach its final definition. That is the central fact of this first morning after. As he zoomed around the country in the last two weeks, Clinton made it clear he wants to make a bid for history. His original vision -- blending fiscal discipline with traditional Democratic social concern -- can earn him a big page. But to get it, he must reassure the nation about his character and Congress about the need for a new era of concern on the enduring problems of poverty, education and health."

WASHINGTON POST: Both parties were placed on probation

Writing in today's edition, political columnist David Broder comments: "American voters appeared to hedge their bets (yesterday), reelecting President Clinton while giving Republicans a dominant -- perhaps controlling -- voice on Capitol Hill (in the Congress). Incumbents were not punished the way they had been in the earlier elections of the 1990s. But both parties were placed on probation by an electorate that found plenty to dislike about the choices they were given."

NEWSDAY: Clinton won support from women and in the suburbs

In an analysis in today's edition of the U.S. newspaper, Glenn Kessler writes: "The results vindicated Clinton's strategy of moving into the political center after Republicans, midway through his first term, won control of both houses of Congress for the first time in four decades. Riding a wave of optimism about the economy, Clinton won strong support among women and in the suburbs."

LONDON INDEPENDENT: Clinton showed a gift for articulating the mood of discontent

Columnist Godfrey Hodgson comments today: "Two years ago, a second victory for Bill Clinton seemed inconceivable. Yet long before yesterday, it already had become inevitable." Hodgson writes: "(Americans) are at once wrapped in ideas of their own exceptionalism and full of self-doubt, largely indifferent to the outside world, suspicious of government, yet determined not to lose its benefits. In his campaign, Bill Clinton has shown a rare gift for articulating this mood of discontent. In a second term, he may surprise everyone by taking radical action to assuage it."

HOUSTON CHRONICLE: Voters backed their choice with reservations

Cragg Hines writes in an analysis: "President Clinton, riding a modest wave of voter enthusiasm about the state of the nation and its economy, won re-election (yesterday) with an electoral vote landslide." Hines says: "Voting places across the country were hardly scenes of exultation, according to exit polls. More than half the voters said they backed their presidential choice with reservations."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Clinton exploited the incumbent's advantages

In a news analysis, Paul Richter contends: "President Clinton built his comeback victory around a coolly efficient, richly-funded campaign operation that exploited all the incumbent's advantages and largely reached its top goal of recapturing the political center a full year before election day."

KANSAS CITY STAR: Voters ensured at least two more years of divided government

Writer James Kuhnhenn writes in an analysis: "Unwilling to give President Clinton a friendly Democratic Congress, voters (yesterday) kept the House and Senate in Republican hands, assuring at least two more years of divided government."

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Campaign fundraising has become a scandalous enterprise

Writing in the Tribune and other major newspapers, nationally syndicated political columnists Jack W. Germond and Jules Witcover comment on special interest donations in campaign finances in the United States. They write: "A major handicap the Republicans had in trying to exploit Democratic fund-raising excesses in the campaign that mercifully ended (yesterday) was that they did not come to the argument with clean hands themselves. Campaign fund-raising has been a scandalous enterprise shamelessly pursued by both parties for years."

Germond and Witcover say: "Perhaps the most practical impact of the 11th-hour furor over campaign contributions will be to pressure Clinton finally to work for real campaign finance reform. Last week, while insisting that he and the Democratic National Committee had "played by the rules" of fund-raising, he joined Dole in proposing that only American citizens be allowed to contribute to American campaigns, along with other reforms. But candidates once elected tend to slack off."

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE: Clinton patterns himself after JFK

Susan Yoachum writes today: "Clinton always has patterned himself much more after former President John F. Kennedy than (Franklin Delano) Roosevelt. In a seemingly direct repudiation of the programs Roosevelt created, Clinton declared in his State of the Union address earlier this year that 'the era of big government is over,'" She says: "After Congressional Republicans, led by House Speaker Newt Gingrich and freshman GOP representatives, shut down the government and threatened to cut the increase in Medicare spending, Clinton regained the upper hand politically. It was an advantage he never lost, despite a series of White House scandals."

LONDON GUARDIAN: Christopher will step down

From Little Rock, in President Clinton's home state of Arkansas, Johnathan Freedland takes a look ahead in an analysis in today's edition : "Secretary of State Warren Christopher became the first victim of Bill Clinton's reelection yesterday, as White House officials signalled he would step down imminently."

Freedland writes: "The favorite to replace him is the current ambassador to the United Nations, Madeleine Albright. She is strong precisely where Mr. Christopher has been weak -- as a television performer skilled in presenting Administration policy. She enjoys a large following among her fellow Czech-Americans, and has one obvious appeal. Mr. Clinton would dearly love to appoint the first woman to be America's chief diplomat."