Jewish World Review Nov. 10, 1999 /1 Kislev, 5760
UNLIT CIGAR clenched in his jaw, Bill Clinton is working his national political machine for Al Gore.
Labor. Teachers. Environmentalists. Gays. Seniors.
All the usual suspects of Democratic party power are being dragooned into the great, all-out war for 2000.
The man calling these regiments into battle is a commander-in-chief who, like Ronald Reagan before him, won the White House twice in his own name and yearns for a valedictory victory by his hand-picked successor. William Jefferson Clinton does not wish to enter 21st-century history books as a seat-warmer between two presidents named George Bush.
To achieve the victory and avoid the humiliation, the man in the Oval Office is running a quiet, relentless campaign to galvanize the Democratic party's most loyal legions into a rabid fighting force for Vice President Gore.
He's energizing environmentalists with his decision to save 40 million acres of national forest from the developers.
He's leading labor's fight for a higher minimum wage, while taking the edge off NAFTA by talking up a "human face" on economic globalization.
He's pushing Congress for those 100,000 new teachers.
He's reminding gays and lesbians of the frustrated fight for their open service in the American military.
He's pushing for the government to buy free prescription drugs for seniors while offering no painful prescriptions for either reforming Medicare or protecting the solvency of Social Security as the Baby Boom generation heads toward 65.
"We ought to change but we ought to build on what we've done to reach for the stars," Clinton said recently, "not take a U-turn and get us back to the same trouble we were in in 1992."
In each case, he's energizing a unit of the Democratic army, ginning up its fighting spirit, reminding his old ally of the stakes. Rather than bragging about past accomplishments, he's hyping what still needs to be done in the future, and what promises to get done if the White House is kept in activist Democratic hands.
In this new role as old-style political boss, Clinton can maximize his immense popularity among the Democratic and liberal loyalists without alerting those independents and independent-minded Democrats who want a clear break from the Clinton-Gore era. By working the usual suspects he avoids energizing those who still find Clinton himself somewhat
JWR contributor Chris Matthews is the author of Hardball. and hosts a CNBC show of the same name. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
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