Don't Be Quick to Doubt `Cool Hand Ron' Brown

`COOL Hand'' Ron Brown hardly raised his voice as he addressed the widespread perception that his good friend, President Clinton, was floundering.

Mostly smiling, never agitated, the secretary of commerce quietly told reporters at the Monitor breakfast the other morning that they were getting it all wrong: The ``Comeback Kid'' would soon be back.

Mr. Brown is expected to leave the Cabinet soon to run Mr. Clinton's reelection campaign.

Near the end of an hour's questioning, a reporter indicated Brown's calm demeanor had reminded him of the character played by Paul Newman in the movie, ``Cool Hand Luke.'' Whereupon the name ``Cool Hand Ron'' was born. Brown said he liked the name.

But whether this ``all's-well-with-the-president'' spin will play with the public remains in doubt.

Moreover, the view of a failing presidency has become the prevailing wisdom in Washington.

Clinton has been so resilient in the past, and I'm reluctant to pile on a president just because everyone else is. Being president isn't easy. Furthermore, he's the only president we're going to have for the next two years.

Ron Brown's presence at that breakfast reminded me of a previous breakfast meeting with him when he was the Democratic Party's national chairman.

He was being given a hard time then, too: ``How in the world do you expect the Democrats to be able to defeat Bush two years from now?'' they asked. ``What Democrat is going to be willing to run against Bush?''

Well, while some of the reporters laughed, Brown, with that same cool way, told us then that the Democrats were in much better shape than their critics thought and that the party would be able to find a candidate who would win. And how right he was!

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