Clinton seeks shoppers' support

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The Independent Online
BESIEGED by bad opinion-poll ratings and negative commentaries, President Bill Clinton returned to the shopping malls and television studios of the Midwest yesterday to defend his economic programme and excoriate his foes back in Washington.

Evidently hoping to rediscover the happier times of last year's campaign and the first flush of his election victory, Mr Clinton, whose popularity rating has slumped disastrously, began a two-day visit to Cleveland, Ohio, and Chicago. He will also visit New York tomorrow.

Among crowds of shoppers in Cleveland, the President sought to dispel fears about his economic programme, the details of which are just now being considered in Congress. According to the latest surveys, support among the American public and business leaders for the package of tax increases and spending reductions has eroded drastically.

'This will work,' the President said, before going on to address Cleveland business leaders. 'It will bring the deficit down. It will be fairer to working families. It will bring interst rates down. It will help us grow the economy.'

Without identifying them directly, the President also sought to divert blame for his frustrations to the Republicans in Congress who recently killed off a dollars 16bn ( pounds 10.2bn) jobs bill, and to the capital's lobbyists.

The President also defended himself against the common allegation that he has tried to do too much since coming into office at the cost of his focus on the economy. 'We are trying to do a lot of things but they all relate to restoring the economic vitality of this country,' he declared.

The tour was conceived in part to overcome a growing impression that Mr Clinton is losing sight of his domestic agenda in preference for international affairs, notably over what to do about Bosnia.

As he toured Cleveland members of Congress in Washington were making increasingly vocal demands for retaliation against Iraq for its alleged involvement in a failed attempt to murder former president George Bush during a recent visit to Kuwait.

A spokeswoman travelling with Mr Clinton said he was awaiting further intelligence reports from the CIA before making any decision on what response might be taken.