|CLINTON'S SECOND TERM:|
January 15, 1997
Questions askedNewsHour Backgrounders
in this forum:
Do you believe that President Clinton will have any major stumbling blocks (when it comes to ethics) this go around? President Clinton has become a master at raising smoke screens in public, while major initiatives are underway out of the public eye. What similar actions do you see for this term? 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.
As President Clinton prepares to become the first Democratic President in 60 years to serve a second term, he and his team are readying an agenda to fulfill the promise to "build a bridge to the 21st century."
But if that bridge is to be built, congressional Republicans will have a hand in drafting its blueprint, and, despite words to the contrary from Clinton and top Republicans, the 1996 election provided little consensus on how that bridge should be shaped. Major debates over the federal budget, Medicaid and Social Security, to name a few, are on the horizon.
Other second term challenges include dealing with ethical questions, such as alleged improprieties in campaign contributions, Whitewater and sexual harassment charges by Paula Jones.
So how will Clinton fare in his second term? Veteran White House analysts from newspapers around the country will be our forum guests on Wednesday, January 15th.
Our Forum asks: What will President Clinton's agenda be in 1997 and beyond? Will relations with the 105th Congress be as stormy as his relations with the 104th? Will ethical concerns restrict the President's political power?
Your questions will be answered by Jon Peterson, White House correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, William Neikirk, Chicago Tribune White House correspondent, and Jim Kuhnhenn, Washington bureau chief of the Kansas City Star.
Howard Robinson of Marietta, GA, asks:
Do you believe that President Clinton will have any major stumbling blocks (when it comes to ethics) this go around? He survived all the criticism about land deals, etc., during the last four years and was re-elected anyway.
William Neikirk, Chicago Tribune White House Correspondent responds:
Several ongoing investigations threaten Clinton's presidency. Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr holds the key in Whitewater and related investigations. Mrs. Clinton is more vulnerable than the president, but I think it will be hard to indict either, given the political nature of the situation and the level of evidence required for indicting someone in high office.
Mere circumstantial evidence will not do. It will have to be an ironclad case, else James Carville will have a hissy fit. In the Whitewater case that we've seen so far spread before the public, the Clinton's seem to have enough wiggle room to explain away their actions, so Starr has to have something new in order to indict. I think the Democratic fund-raising scandal is a very serious matter for his presidency, raising questions about whether he actually put up the White House for sale to get re-elected. There may be no violation of law uncovered, but it sure smells and could compromise his efforts to get things done.
As to the FBI files case, it could be damaging, too, but I have the feeling that it does not rise to the level as the other two.
Jonathan Peterson, Los Angeles Times White House Correspondent responds:
Certainly, there are potential stumbling clocks out there, underline "potential," from Paul Jones to Whitewater to travel office firings to FBI files to campaign finance, but I don't think we know yet how damaging any of them will turn out to be. In large part, that's because we don't know what sorts of details might emerge in the future. As you point out, Clinton's history shows talent for survival.
Jim Kuhnhenn, Kansas City Star Washington Bureau Chief responds:
Well, the President certainly could end up under scrutiny on a lot more fronts in his second term. Kenneth Starr, the Whitewater special prosecutor, is due to hand up indictments on the basis of his broad ranging investigation at some point soon. But even the conservative legal scholar Robert Bork makes the case that sitting presidents shouldn't be indicted. So the question, on Whitewater at least, is how close to Clinton's inner circle will Starr come?
Then, of course, there is the matter of illegal contributions to the Democratic Party, the orle the Clinton administration played in soliciting those contributions, and the White House perks, such as Lincoln Bedroom sleep overs, that contributors received as quo for their quid. The Senate's Government Affairs Committee, led by Republican Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee, will be holding hearing on these funding raising issues. You can count on plenty of aggressive and provocative questioning in front of television cameras.
Democrats on the committee will be sure to bring up Republican fundraising transgressions, too, such as the Massachusetts businessman who laundered money through Hong Kong and gave it to his employees to donate to the Dole campaign. In the end, the whole relationship between money and politics should look bipartisanly tawdry.
Paula Corbin Jones presents the potentially most embarrassing (and therefore damaging) case for Clinton. The Supreme Court, though, must first decide whether she can proceed with her lawsuit against him. As most of the country knows, she has accused Clinton of exposing himself to her and asking for oral sex while he was governor of Arkansas. During arguments before the Supreme Court this week, the justices offered very little insight as to what they might do, but they seemed troubled by: 1.) the notion of giving the President complete immunity against the lawsuit until his term is over, and 2.) having a trial judge dictate to a president when he or she should appear in court. Look for some middle ground decision that could keep the issue in the news but no necessarily force the President to make public statements under oath.