Clinton regains his footing after an early stumble: First 100 hours
Patrick Cockburn is an Irish journalist who has been a Middle East correspondent since 1979 for the Financial Times and, presently, The Independent. He was awarded Foreign Commentator of the Year at the 2013 Editorial Intelligence Comment Awards.
Sunday 24 January 1993
When another guest stumbled over the Persian carpet where Mr Clinton was standing, the President had it fastened down, and stared fixedly at the man taping the edge of it to the floor as reporters shouted questions about Zoe Baird, whose nomination for Attorney General was foundering in the Senate. His deep interest in the position of the rug was taken as a sign that the White House was distancing itself from the Baird nomination.
His action also underlined that the priorities of the new administration are intensely political. When George Bush was elected president in 1988, he abruptly announced that the campaign was over, as if it had been a distasteful episode, then fought a damaging and ultimately losing battle for the nomination of John Tower as Defense Secretary.
President Clinton last week did the exact opposite, accepting Mrs Baird's withdrawal immediately and taking all the blame. This defused any sense that he had lost a battle with Congress and any belief that he saw his nominee's employment of two Peruvian ilegal immigrants as a trivial offence.
The popular outcry against Mrs Baird illustrates a change in the US political mood since the 1980s. The antagonism towards her proves that the resentment against an elite protected by money from the realities of daily life, which helped put Mr Clinton in the White House, is still very strong. If Mr Clinton had tried to force her nomination through, he would have badly dented his populist reputation.
The President has been surprisingly little damaged by the Baird row, his conciliatory words about Saddam Hussein (immediately reversed) or his flip-flop over returning refugees to Haiti. He is still enjoying a honeymoon period with voters, and he has yet to produce his health reform package, which he promised within his first 100 days. Given that polls show that voters worry more about health than jobs, taxes or the economy, his performance here is critical.
The most radical development in Mr Clinton's policies since the election is that Hillary Clinton is supervising the development of a health plan that would include tough government price controls over hospitals and doctors. The President was reportedly worried that his health-care advisers had failed to produce a plan that would give health coverage to all Americans - including the 36 million who have no health insurance - without adding appreciably to the budget deficit.
The medical and pharmaceutical lobbies are certain to fight proposals to put a ceiling on prices, but they are unlikely to win in face of the popular desire for reform and support for Mr Clinton from big insurance companies.
- 2 The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
- 3 This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
- 4 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
Stephen Hawking's wife Jane Wilde on their marriage breakdown: 'The family were left behind'
Boris Nemtsov shot dead: Putin critic may have been murdered by Islamic extremists, says president-led committee
British are sexually uptight, dirty and drink too much – according to Spanish book
PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
White and gold or blue and black – what colour is the dress? An eyewitness gives a definitive answer
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Russia's roadmap for annexing eastern Ukraine 'leaked from Vladimir Putin's office'
£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...
£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...
£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...
£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...