Clinton's show still on the road

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The Independent Online
IT HAS been dubbed the never- ending campaign. Since his election, president-elect Bill Clinton has never quite left the road. He has roamed black neighbourhood streets in Washington DC, shopping malls in Atlanta and California and yesterday he visited a training college in Chicago.

At the Wilbur Wright Community College in Chicago's north- western suburbs, the routine, for veterans of the presidential race, was familiar. The handshaking, and autograph signing, the adolescent sort of smile, and, of course, the hour-long delay.

But this is not quite campaigning any more. It could be called 'visiting the people', designed to reinforce the desired impression of a leader staying in touch with, and even taking advice from, ordinary citizens.

This is the theme of the plans for the Clinton inaugural celebrations in Washington on 20 January. On top of the well-known plan for Mr Clinton to arrive by bus, we now learn that he will attend a celebration in an indoor stadium on the eve of the inauguration, featuring, among other things, a truck-pulling contest.

Yesterday's event was a more controlled affair than recent mall and street wanderings which have given his secret service agents apoplexy. A hundred vocational students, mostly in their 30s, gathered in the bandroom for an 'intimate chat' with their new leader. Never mind the 200-odd media people ranged behind.

For all his intentions to be accessible, Mr Clinton gives virtually no actual press conferences, and journalists covering the slow machinations of the interregnum in Little Rock were told by a senior Clinton aide that they were 'behaving like asses' by crowding the president-elect.

He used the college appearance to rehearse a long explanation of why, in spite of recent good economic news, the long-term outlook remains shaky and requires political action.

As next week's 'economic summit' in Little Rock approaches, the issue is important. Economic indicators do not invalidate his promise to put economic policy first, he argues. He offers a revised list of priorities, including tackling health-care costs, reducing the national debt and - to get back to the subject of this appearance - improving education.