Passing the Bucks

Fund-Loving President's Fond 'Give Backs'

Just when it seemed that he might be fading away, Clinton was back in action last week— raising money.

"I'm having a great time!" the president exclaimed in Texas on Friday following his return from a mea culpa trip to Central America. "I can go to fundraisers like this, and none of them are for me," he added at a gathering for Congressman Max Sandlin. "I love the idea that, if I can stay healthy, I can spend quite a few years trying to give back to this political system and the candidates and the people that I believe in who have given me so much."

Earlier that day Clinton had visited his boyhood home in Hope, Arkansas, after the state legislature refused to put up the money to make it a museum. In Washington, his authority continued to wane.

On Thursday, Senate Republicans had defeated an attempt to pass the next funding installment on his proposal to hire 100,000 new teachers, and also rejected amendments to expand after-school programs.

This came amid Republican calls for the resignation of national security adviser Sandy Berger in the Los Alamos scandal and demands for hearings on Chinagate. About the only bright prospects for Clinton seemed to be the ominous silence of the Internet scandal machine.


Foreign Uh . . . fairs
White House Beset by World of Troubles

Weakened at home by scandals that won't die, the president finds himself facing a growing list of flash points abroad. Since Clinton's missile attacks on Baghdad on the day the House impeached him, the U.S. has been caught up in a low-level air war with Iraq— in an area that could become even more destabilized with Turkey's harsh repression of the Kurds.

Other trouble spots include Kosovo, China, North Korea, and Haiti.

On Kosovo, after barely surviving a no- confidence vote last week on use of U.S. troops in a NATO ground force, Clinton must support action to separate Slobodan Milosevic's brutal police from Albanian irregulars.

However, even if the NATO action leads to an independent Kosovo, as seems likely, it would be a mixed blessing for the U.S, since ethnic Albanians in Macedonia and elsewhere in the southern Balkans are likely to join the fledgling state and eventually link up with Albania, which could emerge as a troubling force. One plus: an independent Kosovo would put pressure on the reeling Milosevic.

On China, the administration faces the imminent release of what is being characterized as a devastating report by Congressman Chris Cox, dealing with secret diplomacy. Sources say the report will show the U.S. to have been consistently duped by the Chinese, and will allege that recent activities have led to thefts of crucial nuclear technology.

On North Korea, with administration policy under attack as weak and ineffective, Clinton must decide whether to continue to deal with Kim Jong Il's gangster regime. Millions have starved to death as aid has gone to maintain the lavish lifestyles of North Korea's leaders, as they pursue development of chemical and biological warfare and nuclear armaments.

On Haiti, administration policy has been undercut by General Charles Wilhelm, commander of U.S. troops in Latin America and the Caribbean, who last week told Congress in secret testimony that the deployment of a small U.S. ground force there should be "terminated" and replaced by periodic visits. Restoring Aristide to power and establishing the beginnings of democratic government in Haiti had been one of the few foreign policy feathers in the administration's cap. But recently President Rene Preval dissolved parliament, and has been ruling by decree. The country is destitute, and once again rickety boatloads of refugees are setting sail on perilous voyages to Florida.

Under another president, Wilhelm would have been handed his walking papers. But with Clinton swaying in the wind, the military clearly is seeing how far it can go.


Blood and Gore
Possible Transfusions for Pale Pretender

For the lifeless Al Gore, who is increasingly in charge of the lame-duck administration, the first trick is to avoid being tarred with Clinton's policies. So far, at least, he and the president have steered clear of any Justice Department probes into campaign activities relating to Chinese money. On Monday— no surprise— Gore received Richard Gephardt's ringing endorsement.

A big plus for Gore would, of course, be a fresh and independent running mate. So last week, as George W. Bush gallantly welcomed Liddy Dole into the Republican race last week (where she seems likely to end up as his VP candidate), Democrats began sorting through veep prospects for Al.

Although it's possible Gore might pick a woman (Dianne Feinstein is being mentioned), he'll probably go for a macho man who could help win back young males. Best bet looks like Bill Bradley, the ex-NBA star and former senator of substance from the key state of New Jersey.

"Clean. Tall. Celebrity. Youthful," was pollster John Zogby's quick response when asked about Bradley's assets— noting, however, that to defeat a Bush-Dole ticket with strong appeal to Hispanics and women, Gore might have to pick a woman.

Lee Miringoff of the Marist Institute, pointing out that "Bradley has been careful not to run against Gore," sees such a pairing as a possibility. However, he thinks Gore-Feinstein would be a stronger ticket.

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