BILL CLINTON has recently resorted to an old tactic used by presidents who find themselves faltering in Washington: Go seek solace in "the real America." Most people outside of blase Washington and New York just can't help but give the commander-in-chief a rousing, friendly welcome.
Beset by a foreign policy challenge in Yugoslavia that would have daunted even a Roosevelt (Theodore or Franklin), and scolded in Washington and the national media for stumbling out of the White House starting blocks in presenting his ambitious legislative initiative, Mr. Clinton sought the solace Monday and Tuesday of more forgiving constituents - not in home state Arkansas, but in Lincolnwood, Ill., and Cleveland. The people at shopping malls and other gathering places were, for the most part, friendly
It was like campaigning, except that instead of targeting Republican adversaries Clinton took on a target few voters would likely defend: Washington lobbyists. Behind the two-day foray out of Washington was an attempt to capitalize on his affinity for crowds and the goodwill they seem to reflect toward the youthful and apparently still-confident new president.
But for Clinton, all paths must lead back to the national capital. His strongest appeals in coming weeks and months will have to be directed to powerful members of Congress from both parties who will, in many cases, have the last words on the president's major legislative initiatives: health care, the deficit, job creation, education, taxes, and more.
To this end, however, Clinton is not being served well by some key members of his administration. This is not for lack of confidence or trying, but from lack of experience on Capitol Hill, which is no playpen. The new administration has early suffered from what may have been overconfidence in the ability to step in and take over.
In several instances this has resulted in at least the appearance of bumbling. Some changes in key personnel are likely by late fall. Clinton and his lieutenants need to recruit a few more experienced "old hands." There still are some, of the right party, available.