Indeed, in the last two weeks, members of Mr. Clinton's foreign-policy team have expressed concern that celebrations surrounding Mr. Clinton's inauguration, which will be widely televised, will be marred by news footage of Haitian boat people drowning in stormy waters while trying to make the 600-mile journey to the Florida coast. Mr. Clinton cited a report in recent days, still unconfirmed by the Coast Guard, that nearly 400 Haitian boat people drowned when their boat sank in the Bahamas.The fledgling presidency was darkened by plenty of ironic foreshadowing: Bush I left a deficit that scuttled Clinton's middle-class tax cut. On the very day that Bush sent missiles into Iraq, Clinton remarked that as he was a Baptist, he believed in death-bed conversions, and so he was open to restablishing normal relations with Iraq. On the very day that Bush sent missiles into Iraq, Clinton remarked that as he was a Baptist, he believed in death-bed conversions, and so he was open to restablishing normal relations with Iraq, causing. He then snappishly denied being asked about normalization of relations, a question that appeared twice on the transcript. He also tried to finesse the Haitian problem:
He tried the same on Haiti. There was no joy in reversing a policy that was proving untenable, nor was there dishonor in a forthright acknowledgment of change. Yet Clinton insisted that he was not reversing anything. His earlier statements offering asylum, he maintained, had hinged on a distinction between political refugees, who were entitled to stay in the United States, and economic refugees, who were not. "Sometimes people hear only half the message," he complained. (from "the Survivor", by John F. Harris)
The hedging and nice sidestepping aggrieved reporters, and gave them warning to examine every Clintonian statement with a jeweler's loupe.
Meanwhile, Bill had named Hillary head of the President's Task Force on Health Care Reform, and she embarked on a series of secret meetings, much to the dismay of friends and enemies alike. The Clintons' sunnily optimistic plan called for both a budget bill and a health care bill to be pushed through the Senate, but Senatorial etiquettician Robert Byrd blocked it:
(he was)convinced the strategy amounts to a "prostitution of the process" by
pushing through "a very complex, very expensive, very little understood piece of
The process retained its virtue, and the very expensive, little understood piece of legislation died, only to be mocked in memorium.
President Clinton's other travails included his nominees being torpedoed by nannies and tax troubles, and his ultimate AG selection, Janet Reno, running afoul of the Branch Davidians at Waco. Each of these created a furor. But Clinton's compromise over his promise to lift the ban on gays in the military, the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, has resulted in well over 11,000 service members being expelled from the Armed Forces.
The Clinton Administration's first hundred days are a hard act to follow.
Cross-posted at Rumproast.com, Brooklyn's Meatiest Blog.