Ask most people what they think President Clinton ought to do in his last two years and they provide you with an instant assessment of the man and how he has either failed their hopes and expectations or fulfilled them. I spoke with 20 luminaries from a variety of fields in order to hear their answers to these questions. I went to conservatives as well as progressives, as I wanted differing points of view and not just those from the choir. Although I probed for specific suggestions as to how Clinton might help either the republic or himself, most of those I spoke with wanted to take his current measure and talk about how he has performed to date.

Back to Eric Alterman’s commentary . . .

Click on the faces for further commentary . . .

[Image]Eugene McCarthy

Former U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential candidate

“Fire all the Rhodes and Oxford scholars and everyone from Arkansas.”

[Image]Jessica Mitford

Author and journalist

“‘No more guts than a pissant.’ It’s too late for him to reverse.”

[Image]David Halberstam

Author and journalist

“All the report cards aren’t as bad as they seem.”

[Image]Robert Jay Lifton

Psychiatrist

“Clinton’s backing down encourages his enemies to stop anything he initiates.”

[Image]Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Professor of Humanities

“I suspect that his Haiti policy augurs a new day [in foreign policy].”

[Image]Isabel Allende

Novelist

“He should use his charisma more. Perhaps on a weekly, live program.”

[Image]Ralph Nader

Consumer activist

“Encourage more access to telecommunication systems. Citizen-action channels.”

[Image]John Leo

Neoconservative columnist for U.S. News & World Report

“He has to stop jogging in those stupid shorts and playing instruments.”

[Image]Christina Hoff Sommers

Professor of Philosophy and author of “Who Stole Feminism?”

“Get [Surgeon General] Elders to work on teen promiscuity.”

[Image]Nancy J. Chodorow

Psychoanalyst, sociologist, and author

“Foster real family connections instead of child case-workers.”

[Image]Jerry Brown

Former Governor of California, national radio talk-show host

“It’s not easy to take a populist position, but if you don’t, you might as well be a Republican.”

[Image]Kevin Phillips

Conservative theorist

“He may have to be the president who proves the system doesn’t work very well.”

[Image]Naomi Wolf

Feminist author

“Require employers to include reproductive health care.”

[Image]Ronald Takaki

Professor of Ethnic Studies

“He has to address the R word–race. He should read Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.”

[Image]Ramsey Clark

Former U.S. Attorney General

“If he does [fail], the cost to the country and its people will be absolutely enormous.”

[Image]Tony Kushner

Playwright

“The nation’s disenfranchised can be galvanized with a reasonable agenda.”

[Image]Michael Parenti

Author, political analyst, and lecturer

“Create jobs in mass transit, conservation, alternative energy, and environmental preservation.”

[Image]Michael Dorris

Author and journalist

“Act like a second-term president. Trust his humane instincts and ’60s idealism.”

[Image]Juan Williams

Author and journalist

“How can we get that kind of idealism back into the American mind?”

[Image]Anne Taylor Fleming

Writer and commentator

“It’s almost as if he doesn’t know he’s a leader.”

Michael Krasny hosts “Forum,” a West Coast public affairs radio show recognized for its discussion of serious issues. He is a regular contributor to Mother Jones. Research assistance by Holly Kernan.

Photo-Illustrations by Peter Nies, based on images by Bret Littlehales (McCarthy), Novelle Saarinen (Mitford), Bruce Plotkin (Halberstam), Thomas Victor (Lifton), Sarah Putnam (Gates), Marcia Lieberman (Allende), Chick Harrity (Leo), Joyce Ravid (Sommers), Akiko Nishimura (Chodorow), Julie Brown (Brown), Katherine Lambert (Phillips), Kate Connell (Wolf), Carol Takaki (Takaki), Jay Thompson (Kushner), Anita Newby (Parenti), Louise Erdrich (Dorris), Louis Myrie (Williams), David Strick (Fleming).

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