Clinton finds a natural touch at last

John Carlin in Washington discovers a more positive President heading for the hills

Even though it was well over a month ago that President Bill Clinton decided to spend this year's summer holidays in Wyoming, he has stuck to his plans.

Yesterday he began a 17-day break - by far the longest holiday he will have had since assuming office - in the picturesque mountain retreat of Jackson Hole. He will not be taking the usual presidential retinue of 300 with him, contenting himself with a mere 75 staffers and security personnel. And as for his plans, he confessed: "I'm going to lie down. I'm tired."

Whisper it, but it could just be that Clinton the over-eager puppy is beginning to grow into his presidential role. Four months ago he plumbed the depths of callow adolescence when he declared at a press conference, pitifully plaintive, "I AM relevant."

But all of a sudden he is looking more confident, more single-minded. The image of dithering confusion he has communicated to the American public during most of his 32-month tenure has resulted largely from his desire to be all things to all people. His liberal instincts have pulled him one way. His election pollsters, anxious not to antagonise America's conservative rump, have pulled him another.

It looks now as if the Hamlet president has thrown off the shackles of indecision and determined to himself be true. First of all, he has taken a position on affirmative action that flies in the face of conventional political wisdom. The Republicans won the last congressional election, and hope to win the next presidential one, to a large degree because of the vigour with which they have peddled the argument that employment policies favouring women and blacks have discriminated against white American males.

Last month, after long prevarication, Mr Clinton discarded the customary fudge and declared that affirmative action was a good and necessary thing.

Then last Thursday he grasped the cigarette nettle, speaking forthrightly as he revealed plans to curb advertising aimed at the susceptible teenage market. Mr Clinton took his stand in the full knowledge that the powerful tobacco lobby could be expected to redouble its campaign contributions to next year's Republican candidate and that, in the view of the Washington chatterers, he has written the redneck South out of his re-election plans.

The following day he announced, to the dismay of America's Cold Warrior constituency and the embarrassment of Britain and France, that the US would henceforth put a stop to all nuclear testing.

On Bosnia Mr Clinton has been warily hesitant, aware that the prevailing view in Middle America is, "what the hell's it got to do with us?" During the last two months of unrelenting crisis he has been happy to take a backseat to his European allies. Suddenly, in the last week, the US has emerged as a more visible player, urging a peace initiative which, however flawed, displays a new American determination to play an active role.

For all this, it would be as premature to conclude that Mr Clinton will sustain his authoritative, properly presidential mien as it would be a mistake to infer that he has thrown caution to the winds and abandoned his quest for re-election. On polling day in November next year Americans will be casting their votes for the candidate who taps most convincingly the myth of president as commanding paterfamilias on a horse. When Mr Clinton does his John Wayne turn in Wyoming's Big Country over the next couple of weeks the media, depend upon it, will be invited for the ride.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Sport
tennisLive: Follow all the updates from Melbourne as Murray faces Czech Tomas Berdych in the semi-final
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Sport
football
News
i100
Life and Style
Virtual reality headset: 'Essentially a cinema screen that you strap to your face'
techHow virtual reality is thrusting viewers into frontline of global events and putting film-goers at the heart of the action
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Front End Web Interface Developer - HTML, CSS, JS

£17000 - £23750 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Liverpool based international...

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness