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Jewish World Review Nov. 10, 1999 /1 Kislev, 5760

Chris Matthews

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Backroom Bill -- 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 suspect.

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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11/03/99: Battle of the Bubba clones
11/01/99: Pat Buchanan, kamikaze candidate
10/27/99: The year of the woman... voter
10/25/99: The Curse of the Bubba
10/21/99: GOP gives Clinton his finest hour
10/18/99: Clinton's last hurrah
10/13/99: Rough seas for Capt. Ventura
10/11/99: Gore targets Bradley's strength
10/06/99: Bradley's got the right Rx
10/04/99: Buchanan, Churchill and Hitler
09/30/99: Who'll spin political gold in Golden State Gore or Bradley?
09/27/99: Here's a millennial checklist for candidates
09/22/99: The biography battle
09/20/99: Buchanan's new book is a must-read
09/15/99: Don't rule out Beatty
09/13/99: The man with the sun on his face
09/08/99: W. vs. Jr. on dope and the draft
The FALN: Hillary's Willie Horton
08/26/99: Bill's guilt fuels Hill's race
08/25/99: The seemingly inexhaustible strength of America's free enterprise
08/23/99: GOP candidates are weak also-rans
08/16/99: Bubba on Bubba
08/11/99: Hillary's agonizing attempts to understand
08/09/99: With warm regards, Richard Nixon
08/04/99: Weicker: real third party is on the Left
08/02/99: Dubyah's last hangover
07/27/99: Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh; capitalism is gonna win

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