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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...