DESPITE demands for stronger action in Bosnia, Senate majority leader George Mitchell says it is essential that the United States avoid unilateral military action there.
Mr. Mitchell, a Maine Democrat, says if President Clinton moved without support from the allies to lift the arms embargo on Bosnia's Muslims, it could undermine other international efforts, such as the trade embargo on Iraq.
Mitchell told a Monitor breakfast meeting with reporters that he supports Mr. Clinton's call for an expanded military role by NATO in Bosnia but would move ahead militarily only with European backing.
Despite Washington's preoccupation with Bosnia, however, Mitchell says the subject ``never comes up in my town meetings'' back in Maine.
On the health-care reform front, where Mitchell has taken a lead among Senate Democrats, he says there are still ``several areas of disagreement'' that are holding up passage of a bill.
One of those disagreements revolves around mandates. The president's proposal includes employer mandates - a concept fiercely resisted by small business. A Republican bill sponsored by Sen. John Chafee of Rhode Island promotes individual mandates.
Another disputed area revolves around the proposed cap on health-insurance premiums. Mitchell notes that insurance premiums currently include an extra amount to pay for emergency service for people who cannot afford health care.
If health care suddenly became universal, as Clinton proposes, there would be no need for such a cushion. The result would be windfall profits for insurance companies, Mitchell says. That could result in an additional $400 billion to $500 billion in government health-care spending over the next 10 years.
Yet premium caps, denounced as price controls by critics, remain highly controversial in Congress.
Turning to Whitewater, Mitchell says American politics has always been ``open and personal and rough.'' TV has made it even more intense; it ``doesn't just change politics, it's changed everything in our society.''
Prompted by TV's fast-breaking deadlines, the media has become a ``vast news machine,'' which he compared to a furnace that must be fed with a constant supply of coal. News, whether or not available, must be fed into this machine.
Mitchell says reporters show ``remarkably little malice'' toward politicians, but the push of deadlines has led to a ``very high error rate.'' It's a serious problem, he says, and should prompt media soul-searching.