Clinton comes out fighting

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The Independent Online
BILL CLINTON will mount an aggressive effort to relaunch his presidency this week, using the State of the Union speech to propose a new, activist approach to government.

The White House believes that with the impeachment trial in the Senate gradually drawing towards a conclusion, the Republican party still discomfited by last year's election results and the economy still booming, the time is ripe to take the offensive. The President will effectively sound the opening of the next election by playing to themes intended to boost political support across traditional Democratic constituencies. And he will seek to rise above the impeachment hearings, by appealing to grand themes for the next millennium.

The President's speech, on Tuesday at 9pm Washington time, will follow the first day of evidence by his lawyers to the impeachment trial. It will include "an ambitious agenda that can make a difference in people's lives," White House aides were reported to have said. And it will be along the lines of what he might have said "in his first year in office, rather than in his seventh". "Good times are a reason to do more, not coast," said one official.

"I want to talk about the great, long-term, still-unmet challenges of the 21st century," Mr Clinton said on Friday. The topics would include the ageing population, education, defence and the strengthening of areas that have benefited less from economic recovery.

To rise above the partisan fray, he will say that the arguments that have raged for two decades about reducing spending and hacking back bureaucracy are now over, and it is time to redefine government and relaunch government activism. "The president will say we've ended the debate about the size of government and whether the government is our enemy," said Ann Lewis, the White House communications director.

The US budget deficit has turned into a steadily growing surplus, and the President will propose large increases in spending for defence, the first significant boost since the Gulf War. He will also propose a new tax on cigarettes, hard on the heels of a large price increase by manufacturers last year.

The impeachment trial wound into its third day yesterday, as Republican trial managers made a case that the President's crimes constitute "high crimes and misdemeanours". "Our Constitution, and the American people, entrust to the president singular responsibility for enforcing the rule of law," said Steve Buyer, a Republican from Indiana. "Perjury and obstruction of justice strike at its heart."

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