Now the party's over, it's time to clear up the mess: A personal view

A CHRISTMAS card sent to my London home from Washington shows a winter scene on Capitol Hill. My friend had written inside: 'Our generation rules the world] Come home]'

There was no mistaking the triumph of the rock 'n' roll generation in the US capital last week. The pre-inaugural gala for Bill Clinton kicked off with Chuck Berry and Little Richard. It ended with Mr Clinton, and Al Gore and their families joining Fleetwood Mac to sing choruses of the campaign theme song 'Don't Stop (Thinking about Tomorrow)'. Mr Clinton even reminded the world in his inaugural address that 'we march to the music of our time'.

Some of 'our' music was, admittedly, kept off centre stage. The Grateful Dead, survivors of the sex-and-drugs era, were confined to the 'people's concerts' on the Mall. The music of youth rather than nostalgic middle age played little part. Michael Jackson performed (invited at 12-year- old Chelsea's request). But where was Madonna? None the less, 'inclusiveness' was one of the buzz words of the week. In the sometimes grandiloquent language of his inaugural address, President Clinton spoke of 'the faith that our nation can summon from its myriad diversity the deepest measure of unity'. Even some Republicans wished the President well.

Like everyone else, they are aware of the scale of America's economic and social problems, and they doubt the ability of government to solve them. The script for the week was provided by Mr Clinton's Hollywood friends, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry Thomason. The object was to build momentum for political change. The President of the United States must lead the nation, but he can command comparatively little. Members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, governors and even mayors cannot be dictated to.

George Bush, who lacked the 'vision thing', the ability to mobilise popular support through gesture and language, scored the lowest success rate in congressional votes of any president in the 39 years that the Congressional Quarterly has been tracking this measure. Mr Clinton has been employing his warmth, his friends and the hopes of the people to build a base for his leadership. In his inaugural speech, he excoriated 'powerful people who manoeuvre for position', and called for 'sacrifice' and 'responsibility'. No matter how contrived, most of the week's events in Washington, with their focus on honouring those who have given service to others, were intended to build support for the Clinton administration's still vaguely formulated objectives.

Many of my personal memories of this city are connected with anti-Vietnam war demonstrations. Washington was then alien territory. It is difficult to see the heart of the enemy become the soul of a friend, but Mr Clinton has found the right words this week to encapsulate my unease. He has touched on the themes of renewal, compassion, service and equality that animated the idealism of my generation; but he has done so with some awkwardness, and some hesitancy, in the voice of a man who knows how difficult it is to perform ourselves what we have always demanded of others. After his inauguration, Mr Clinton attended a lunch with the leaders of Congress in the Capitol. Called on to say a few words, he radiated the deliberate, and perhaps calculated, charm we have come to know, and occasionally to suspect. As Senator Wendell Ford, chairman of the congressional committee that managed the inaugural ceremony, droned on, the camera focused on the pensive face of Bill Clinton. He looked very young and very scared. He had been President of the United States for an hour, and it seemed as though he had just been told that Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait again.

Neal Ascherson, page 23

(Photograph omitted)

Arts & Entertainment
tvGrace Dent on TV
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Sport
Emmanuel Adebayor, Tim Sherwood and Hugo Rodellega
sportThe latest news and scores
News
Brand said he
people
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Sport
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain drives in the rain during the qualifying session of the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix in Shanghai
sport
Extras
indybestFake it with 10 best self-tanners
Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sportThe city’s fight for justice after Hillsborough is embodied in Steven Gerrard, who's poised to lead his club to a remarkable triumph
News
peopleOrlando Bloom the pin-up hero is making a fresh start
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Life & Style
The North Korean TV advert for Taedonggang beer, that became a YouTube hit
food + drinkAnd what did it take to set up a taste test back in Wiltshire?
Arts & Entertainment
filmLife for Leslie Mann's can be challenging sometimes
Voices
For music lovers: John Cusack with his vinyl collection in 'High Fidelity'
voices...but don't forget rest of the year
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit