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You’re President . . . and They’re Not : Get up, dust yourself off, keep on going

You’re William Jefferson Clinton, and you’re the President of the United States--heck, the leader of the Western World--and you’ve been clobbered.

Yes, with last week’s defeat of the crime bill you were handed a thumping by Congress. And, yes, you and your staff seem to have made many mistakes in your first 20 months. Including losing this one.

But you’re still the President, and you were elected because more people thought you were better than anyone else running. So you’ve got to get up, dust yourself off and hold your head high.

Take comfort in the ups and downs of your predecessors--hey, how would Lincoln have done in the polls if there had been polls? For you’ve still got more than half of your term left, and you can do a lot better than you have done so far. Because, among other things, you’re basically more intelligent than many people in Washington.

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Try thinking more presidentially. Consider Republicans Bob Dole, the minority leader in the Senate, and Robert H. Michel, the minority leader in the House. Yes, they are wily fellows, but they are not the President. Better for you to always deal with them as the President than as a Democrat. For you are President of all the people; they are leaders of the Republicans only.

You still can be a great President, and many patriotic people hope you will prove to be just that. (How many Americans really want to watch another presidency unravel?) You have tremendous energy, an enormous appetite for the big issues (no one can call a man who tackles a complex issue like health care reform a policy wimp) and an obvious desire to make this country better. You’ve got a foreign-policy success in North Korea, putting some luster on your Western-leader credential (see editorial at right). It might even lend a domestic boost.

But all along the way you’ll need Republicans, for as you’ve figured out by now, too many Democrats are Democrats mainly in name. Some are downright provincial, some are oh-so-easily intimidated by monied interest groups like the National Rifle Assn. and some on the left are willing to vote against a mostly useful measure like the crime bill and deprive constituents of needed programs in order to make a political point.

Therefore, every triumph, like the NAFTA victory, will be because of Republicans as well as Democrats. As a 43%-of-the-voters President, you will continually need to harvest consensus. This takes time, this takes patience, this takes some Republicans.

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It’s bipartisan government or no government. Maybe you will get some kind of crime bill repackaged this week, maybe you won’t. A whole lot of people are still rooting for you, whatever the latest poll shows or doesn’t show. For you are the President and no one else is. Don’t lose heart.


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