Citizen Clinton honours his hero in symbolic visit
Known for his commentary on international relations and US politics, Rupert Cornwell also contributes obituaries and occasionally even a column for the sports pages. With The Independent since its launch in 1986, he was the paper's first Moscow correspondent - covering the collapse of the Soviet Union – during which time he won two British Press Awards. Previously a foreign correspondent for the Financial Times and Reuters, he has also been a diplomatic correspondent, leader writer and columnist, and has served as Washington bureau editor. In 1983 he published God's Banker, about Roberto Calvi, the Italian banker found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge.
Wednesday 20 January 1993
The moment was solemn and subdued. Accompanied by 20 members of the Kennedy family, including Senator Edward Kennedy and Robert Kennedy's widow, Ethel, Mr and Mrs Clinton laid white roses on the grave of President Kennedy. Then with head bowed, he knelt beside the eternal flame of the man who was his boyhood idol.
The ceremony was a rare quiet interlude in the president-elect's final day as a private citizen. Mr Clinton then returned to Blair House - where he is staying - across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. As he moved from function to function, including a lunch with state governors and culminating in a celebratory gala last night studded with the cream of Hollywood, his spokesman, George Stephanopoulos, said that more than 110 sub-cabinet officials were 'ready to go'.
Rebutting criticism that the transition had been too slow, Mr Stephanopoulos declared that the incoming administration would be 'ready on Day One to take over the government'. However, such has been Mr Clinton's sloth in finalising appointments that, for the time being, top-level Republicans will stay on, most notably those handling foreign crisis spots such as Iraq and the former Yugoslavia.
Later, in another groundbreaking gesture, the president-elect addressed a lunch of 150 past and present governors in the Library of Congress, seeking their help to press forward with the domestic agenda - notably deficit reduction, health care and educational reform - which is his top priority.
The goal, he said, was 'to re-invent our national government'. Promising unprecedentedly close co-operation with the men who run the daily affairs of America's 50 states, Mr Clinton demanded that Congress pass this year - 'I repeat, this year' - legislation to curb health costs and phase in cover for the 37 million Americans without health insurance.
Once in the White House, the president-elect pledged, he would welcome constructive criticism from all quarters, including Republican governors who had opposed him during the campaign. 'Please know the door is open. When you think we're going very, very wrong - walk through it and say so,' he said.
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