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Western Press Review: It's Politics Time In The United States

Prague, 26 August 1996 (RFE/RL) -- The Democratic Party in the United States -- the party of President Bill Clinton's administration but the minority party in the U.S. Congress -- holds its presidential nominating convention this week. Clinton is the pre-ordained nominee, just as Bob Dole was the pre-ordained nominee of the Republicans two weeks ago. The U.S. presidential vote comes in November. Here's a sampling of press commentary:

WASHINGTON POST: Clinton has almost made a career of appropriating Republican issues and positions

The paper said yesterday in an editorial: "As they prepare for this week's convention in Chicago, it's hard to remember how thoroughly beaten the Democrats were two years ago. They and their agenda alike appeared to have been repudiated in the returns. . . . Now it is the Republicans who are on the defensive. The president has recovered in the polls, the latest of which show him still well ahead of his rival. Even Democrats who don't like how he achieved the numbers acknowledge the political results. . . . The turnaround also reflects some political transformation on the part of the Democrats, the president particularly. He has made almost a career out of appropriating Republican issues and positions in the past two years -- on civil-liberties issues as well as social and cultural ones."

NEW YORK TIMES: Voters remain anxious about the economy and other signs of decline in American life

Also yesterday, the paper editorialized: "As the Democrats open their convention in Chicago (today), President Clinton is still the front-runner, but his once-easy cruise toward re-election has run into turbulence. The White House seemed surprised by the lift Dole got from selecting Jack Kemp as a running mate, emphasizing tax cuts and erecting a facade of moderation on social issues. . . . There is talk of dissent among Democrats in Chicago over welfare, abortion and perhaps other causes. Clinton has promised not to copy the Republican script from San Diego and says he will let dissidents have a say. . . . Clinton. . . deserves great credit for his political skills and for presiding over strong economic growth and peace abroad. But voters remain anxious about the economy and other signs of decline in American life. They want a clear picture of where he will go in the future and what principles will guide him."

DIE WELT: The American Dream of equal opportunity and success has become a cheap political toy

The German newspaper said in a weekend editorial: "In the turbulent battle for votes being fought between the Republican Party Convention in San Diego and that of the Democrats in Chicago, there is no slogan and no vision being more energetically peddled to the electorate than that evergreen of American yearning: the promise and invocation of the American Dream. . . . The American Dream has always been a phenomenon of independent initiative and self-help. The political parties' current eager offer to hand it to the citizens on a plate, as it were, constitutes a cynical abuse of this Dream. The politicians' only task should be to level the playing field for the Dream. The new controversial welfare legislation which Bill Clinton has now signed in the White House is not necessarily the most convincing move in this direction. It propagates self-help at the expense of those who can't help themselves -- children. . . . To summarize: the American Dream of equal opportunity and success has become a cheap political toy -- and thus more distant than ever before."

SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER: The Republicans have narrowed the gap in California to about 10 points

Carl Irving wrote yesterday in a commentary: "Jack Kemp has amended his American Dream to harmonize with Bob Dole's version, and that could mean that California, after all, may be part of the bloody battlefield during the final weeks of this presidential election campaign. (California, the most populous U.S. state, is an important target in U.S. politics.) Kemp has changed his outlook on two divisive issues in California: this fall's Proposition 209, which calls for an end to using race, ethnicity and gender as factors in hiring and admissions at state agencies and campuses; and 1994's Proposition 187. The 1994 proposition -- still tied up in the courts -- would ban public health, welfare and education support for illegal immigrants and their children. Dole supports both. Now Kemp does, too. President Clinton had seemed to be too far in front in California for a viable Dole challenge, but after Kemp was named, and after the convention, the Republicans have narrowed the gap to about 10 points in the latest polls."

WASHINGTON POST: Clinton is a good bet to become the first Democratic president to win a second term since FDR

Kevin Phillips is a political consultant, author and political magazine publisher. He wrote yesterday: "Probably something will go wrong with the Democratic convention. But Bill Clinton is a good bet to kick the party's 1968 Chicago jinx, make his convention work and become the first Democratic president elected to a second term since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936. . . . What's still unclear, though, is whether the Democrats can recapture Congress and even if they can, whether Clinton really wants them to. With the Republicans having shaped an irresponsible economic plan along precisely the lines needed to provoke and reinvigorate Perot, Clinton has a decent chance to achieve the solid November victory predicted by his favorable spring and early-summer circumstances. To wit: he came through the winter without being challenged in his own party's primaries. . . . Clinton also came into August with solid job-approval ratings in the mid-50-percent range and an economy still managing to avoid either recession or inflation."

KANSAS CITY STAR: Which Bill Clinton will show up for the convention in Chicago?

Columnist Rich Hood wrote Saturday: "Which Bill Clinton will show up for the Democratic National Convention in Chicago? Will it be the self-described centrist candidate who campaigned as his party's nominee four years ago? Or will it be the leftist president who sought to surrender control of 14 percent of the nation's economy to Big Government in the ill-advised health care proposal shaped in secret by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton? Or will it be the Republican wannabe who shifted dramatically back to the right after his administration was repudiated in 1994 with the election of the first Republican-controlled Congress in 40 years? . . .Will we see the commander-in-chief of the disaster in Somalia, the shameful retreat from a ragtag crowd armed with sticks and stones in Haiti, the enabler of genocide in Bosnia? Will we hear from the president who has hidden behind the ineffective skirts of the United Nations in the former Yugoslavia while thousands of innocent men, women and children were systematically slaughtered?"