Tsongas Feels `Vindicated' By Clinton's Fiscal Plans

PAUL TSONGAS, who was President Clinton's top challenger during the Democratic primaries last year, says that a supporter recently sent him an old flier put out by the Clinton campaign. The flier urged voters not to support Mr. Tsongas because of five actions he would take - among them raising middle-class taxes and gasoline taxes.

"Now Clinton's adopted [or is on the verge of adopting] four of the things that he warned I would do," Tsongas said with a laugh. In an interview with the Monitor on Tuesday, Tsongas said, "Sure, I feel a sense of vindication." But he added, "Rather than criticize him [Clinton] for changing his position, I'd like to give him credit for moving toward reality."

While Tsongas said he is happy the Clinton administration is considering raising taxes to cut the deficit, the former Massachusetts senator said he is dismayed that the president earlier this week backed off from a proposal to freeze cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients.

"It lasted just 18 days on the table," Tsongas said, sitting in his law office in downtown Boston. "But that's 18 days longer than George Bush had it on the table." `Nanny problems' proliferate

Washington appears to be gripped by one of its periodic bouts with ethics. A few of the issues that have disqualified or almost disqualified political appointees in recent years: womanizing (John Tower, President Bush's first choice for secretary of defense), smoking marijuana (Douglas Ginsburg, one of President Reagan's Supreme Court nominees), sexual harassment (Justice Clarence Thomas, although he survived the Anita Hill controversy). Now, of course, the top issue is whether political figures obey the

law in hiring household help.

After Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood were forced to withdraw from consideration as attorney general nominees, members of the Clinton administration are being asked if they, too, have "nanny problems." Commerce Secretary Ronald Brown already admitted to not paying Social Security taxes for a household employee. Now Transportation Secretary Federico Pena says he will pay more than $100 in back taxes on wages for a baby sitter hired to care for his two children while the family's regular nanny was on a three-week

vacation in 1991.

While Messrs. Brown and Pena probably will stay in office, at least a dozen potential nominees for top Clinton administration posts reportedly have withdrawn from consideration because of "nanny problems." That may be one reason the president recently interviewed Janet Reno, a Dade County, Fla., prosecutor, for the job of attorney general. She is single and has no children. Clinton talks trade

Clinton is scheduled to meet today with Japanese Foreign Minister Michio Watanabe. The meeting represents the president's highest-level contact with the Japanese government since taking office.

The two men will have a lot to discuss. Just last month, the Japanese Finance Ministry reported that Japan's trade surplus with the United States grew 14.3 percent in 1992 from the year before to $43.67 billion. Clinton has come under pressure from the American auto industry to reduce Japanese imports. Some leave office smiling

Clinton took office at exactly noon on Jan. 20. That fact is important because at 11:55 a.m. on that day, outgoing Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan took his last official action: He handed out $170,000 in cash bonuses to a dozen senior aides.

The Associated Press reported yesterday that five officials received about $20,000 each and another seven got $10,000. The practice is legal, and Bush administration officials say it also has occurred under earlier presidencies. "It's not an unusual thing.... It's a meritorious service award," Mr. Lujan said.

Lujan was certainly right that it was not unusual: Former Attorney General William Barr apparently did the same thing before he left office. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Mr. Barr awarded more than $108,000 in bonuses to 37 Justice Department employees. They included members of his security detail, his secretary, and two of his closest aides.

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