ROBERT STRAUSS, the former Democratic Party chairman, has just returned from his posting as United States ambassador to Russia, reports Monitor staff writer George D. Moffett III. And he has a message to deliver to President-elect Clinton: providing financial and technical assistance to the ex-Soviet republics is a matter of self-interest for the US.
"The issue is not between a strong Russia and a weak Russia," he said at a Monitor breakfast yesterday. "The question is whether, is it going to be a democratic Russia that belong to the civilized world or is it going to be one that falls into the hands of the first real demagogue who comes along. It's getting made to order for one."
In his first public remarks since returning from Russia, Mr. Strauss said prospects for the former communist stronghold are decidedly mixed. Russia faces an "explosive and dangerous situation but it is survivable," he said. Among the favorable signs he cited is Russian President Boris Yeltsin, whose economic reforms still enjoy the support of most Russians. "There's no organized opposition to Yeltsin," Strauss says. "He's besieged but not threatened." But will he forgo a limousine?
Clinton visited Washington yesterday in a trip that his political advisers tried to inject with plenty of "just folks" symbolism. It didn't always succeed. The Clinton camp ballyhooed the fact that the president-elect refused to travel on a military jet or to stay in Blair House, the official government guest-house across the street from the White House. Clinton's press secretary, Dee Dee Meyers, gave the impression that both the jet and the guest house were extravagances that Bush had offered and the fr ugal Clinton had turned down.
But then, Bush's press secretary, Marlin Fitzwater, said that the Clinton camp originally had asked the Air Force jet and the guest house - only to publicly reject those perks. At any rate, it is not clear how much money Clinton's moves will save. It does cost less to fly a chartered airplane than an Air Force C-137 transport. But putting Clinton, his staff, and Secret Service agents up in the plush Hay-Adams hotel will cost taxpayers more than lodging them in Blair House. Cutting the executive fat
And speaking of austerity.... Clinton has plans to cut the White House staff by 25 percent - which would eliminate about 100 people from a presidential payroll that he says "exploded in the last four years."
The roster for this fiscal year shows there are 408 people employed at the White House, up 11.5 percent from the 366 people working there when President Bush took office in 1988. The payroll grew each year of Bush's term.
But the 408 people working directly for the president are only a fraction of the 1,893 employed under the larger umbrella of the Executive Office of the President. And even that figure doesn't show all the federal employees "detailed" for temporary assignment. It's a long-cherished way of padding the president's staff by using personnel from other agencies, such as the Pentagon. Press corps looks for Socks
No member of the Clinton family is having a tougher time adjusting to the burdens of high office than the First Pet. Socks, a black-and-white cat, has become an irresistible lure for the hordes of photographers encamped in Little Rock.
Last week, an enterprising television cameraman lifted the feline with one hand. The picture of the stoic Socks being held aloft, its limbs drooping way down, ran in a number of newspapers, including the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. This was brought to the attention of the Clintons' 12-year-old daughter, Chelsea, who is seeing in new and startling ways the effect her dad's election is having on her life.
On the Clinton daily schedule for the press corps for last Saturday was this advisory: "Special note to all press from the highest authority - Don't touch the cat again." Perhaps obeying this missive, a bevy of shutterbugs encircled Socks to produce a photo that ran on the front page of Wednesday's New York Times.