COMMENTARY: 'I'M O.K. YOU'RE O.K. ELECT ME.'
Dreading the prospect of four days of televised Democratic Convention hoopla? Wouldn't it be nice to skim the Cliffs Notes and not sit through another political infomercial?
Problem solved. Pick up Bill Clinton's Between Hope and History: Meeting America's Challenges for the 21st Century. Slated for release just as the convention begins on Aug. 26, the book--which can be completely read on your lunch hour--is little more than a distillation of the Democrats' platform and the President's standard stump speech.
ZINGERS. You would expect a Presidential book to be weighty and provocative. Then again, this is a book written by a sitting President up for reelection. Clinton's 1992 book, Putting People First, was a useful blueprint that offered a sense of where Clinton was headed. The new monograph seems simply designed to prove that Clinton is a compassionate centrist. It mixes anecdotes about Clinton's life with boasts about his accomplishments and zingers at Republicans. But mostly, the book's feel-good tone is reminiscent of Ronald Reagan's campaign slogan, ``Morning in America.''
The overriding theme is a vision of government based on opportunity, responsibility, and community. If this sounds familiar, it is. In 1992, and during his 1995 State of the Union address, Clinton talked about a New Covenant. This vision assumes a government that treads a middle ground between traditional Democratic ideology, which doesn't demand enough from its citizens, and a Republicanism that doesn't offer enough help.
In Between Hope and History, Clinton demands responsibility from everyone. Business must help employees deal with the dislocations of the new economy, he writes. Young unwed women must not get pregnant. Neighbors have to help fight crime.
This is all well and good. But there are important issues that the President doesn't address. What about Clinton's own responsibility to give voters a clearer picture of his plans for a second term? Would he finally get serious about balancing the budget? Would he have the courage to reform middle-class entitlements? How would he navigate between the liberals and conservatives on Capitol Hill?
Perhaps novelist Joe Klein will answer these questions in the sequel to Primary Colors. But you won't find them in this thin political tract. Maybe it takes a village to write a good campaign book while you're still juggling the demands of the Oval Office.
By Susan B. Garland
Updated June 14, 1997 by bwwebmaster
Copyright 1996, Bloomberg L.P.