President Clinton had more legislation passed by Congress in his first year in office than any US president in recent history. Among the Bills signed into law are tough new controls on the sale of assault weapons and handguns; a crime bill that puts 400,000 more police on the streets and three-time felony losers behind bars for life; the first deficit-reducing budget in 12 years; the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta); and stricter air and water quality standards.
US press pundits predicted that all of these would be defeated in Congress, but Clinton used his considerable political savvy to get the votes needed to win. Still on his agenda are plans to transform our welfare system into a mechanism for re- employment in lieu of chronic unemployment, and a health care programme that covers all Americans - 40 million have no health insurance - and cannot be cancelled or precluded by pre-existing medical conditions or illness.
Virtually all of the above are unknown to the people I've spoken to here. They tell me that most of the reporting on Clinton has had to do with sex scandals and political setbacks. Last week, for example, President Clinton signed into law the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, making it a federal crime punishable by jail and fines for anti-abortion protesters to block the doors of women's clinics or to harass patients and staff. Clinton has championed the right of women to choose through signing this Act. Yet this story was totally ignored by British broadcasters and relegated to the inside pages of the few newspapers that carried it, while the unproven allegations of Paula Jones continued to receive front-page placement.
No president in US history underwent more press scrutiny and abuse during a campaign than Bill Clinton in 1992, and none has had his past delved into more than him. But Bill Clinton is the first President with the political courage to stand up to the so-called pro-life movement and to the National Rifle Association, gay bashers and American insurance companies. So what is the purpose of journalism: accurately to inform citizens of events that shape their world or to attract the most readers to maximise profits?
W J Howell
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