| CLINTON'S SECOND TERM:|
January 15, 1997
Other Questions asked
in this forum:
Do you believe that President Clinton will have any major stumbling blocks (when it comes to ethics) this go around? How will Clinton's second term governing agenda reflect the Democrat's desire to retain the White House in the year 2000? Many Australians regard Clinton as moderate on social issues, but highly conservative on issues like crime and welfare reform. Can it ever be possible for substantial social reforms to take place in the US? How would you describe the news coverage during the Clinton presidency and the President's relationship with the press?
December 23, 1996: A NewsHour panel of historians looks at historical second terms.
December 20, 1996: President Clinton announces the new cabinet members who will join him for his second term.
December 6, 1996: Perspective on foreign policy and second term presidents comes from a panel of historians.
David Swain of Brownstown, Indiana, asks:
President Clinton and his Administration have become masters at raising smokescreen issues in public while major initiatives are underway out of the public eye. What similar actions do you see for this term?
William Neikirk, Chicago Tribune White House correspondent responds:
I am tempted to say I haven't the foggiest notion. I think we may see some surprises in foreign policy, especially as they affect China. I have a sense the administration will do all it can to achieve a thaw in relations. Domestically, it may have something precise under its sleeve on Social Security overhaul, but won't reveal it until the Republicans are on board in a compromise. I would not be surprised to see new initiatives to deal with crime and drugs.
Jonathan Peterson, Los Angeles Times White House correspondent responds:
I'm not sure I know what you mean by "smokescreen issues." In any case, I'd expect him to try to balance the budget, tinker with welfare reform, offer tax breaks for higher education and seek a larger role for himself on the international stage. He'll also try to use the presidential bully pulpit to highlight things like educational standards at the state level and call on private business to hire former welfare recipients.
Jim Kuhnhenn, Kansas City Star Washington Bureau Chief responds:
Depends on the definition of major initiative. And if it's major enough, I doubt it will stay out of the public eye for long. In fact, I'm hard pressed to think of any "major" policy thrust concocted secretly in a White House basement while we (i.e. the press and the public) weren't looking. The only exception, maybe, is Clinton's decision to specifically ignore Iran's supply of weapons to Bosnian Muslims in violation of the U.N. arms embargo.
Yes, there was a closed door aspect to the manner in which the administration devised its health care legislative package. But I don't think anyone would suggest that it wasn't the subject of vigorous debate.
Having said that, the White House and Democrats in general were certainly responsible for creating a smokescreen on Medicare. Republicans had tried to slow down the rate of growth of Medicare costs dramatically. Spending on Medicare would have still gone up, but at a much reduced rate. Democrats called it a cut, then ignored the fact that Medicare spending in the final budget proposal was quite similar to what Clinton had proposed during the health care reform debate. The only major initiative under way at that point, however, was the 1996 presidential campaign. And that was very much in the public eye.
It's much easier for an administration to work out legislative deals behind the scenes with members of its own party. But Republicans control Congress. There's a natural tension between the White House and Congress anyway, but it's nothing like the tension between parties. Secret policy initiatives? Other than foreign policy, I don't see it.