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.
Click on the faces for further commentary . . .
“Fire all the Rhodes and Oxford scholars and everyone from Arkansas.”
“‘No more guts than a pissant.’ It’s too late for him to reverse.”
“All the report cards aren’t as bad as they seem.”
“Clinton’s backing down encourages his enemies to stop anything he initiates.”
“I suspect that his Haiti policy augurs a new day [in foreign policy].”
“He should use his charisma more. Perhaps on a weekly, live program.”
“Encourage more access to telecommunication systems. Citizen-action channels.”
“He has to stop jogging in those stupid shorts and playing instruments.”
“Get [Surgeon General] Elders to work on teen promiscuity.”
“Foster real family connections instead of child case-workers.”
“It’s not easy to take a populist position, but if you don’t, you might as well be a Republican.”
“He may have to be the president who proves the system doesn’t work very well.”
“Require employers to include reproductive health care.”
“He has to address the R word–race. He should read Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.”
“If he does [fail], the cost to the country and its people will be absolutely enormous.”
“The nation’s disenfranchised can be galvanized with a reasonable agenda.”
“Create jobs in mass transit, conservation, alternative energy, and environmental preservation.”
“Act like a second-term president. Trust his humane instincts and ’60s idealism.”
“How can we get that kind of idealism back into the American mind?”
“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).