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Clinton Favors Active Government

By John F. Harris
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 22, 1996; Page A081

President Clinton's 1996 campaign manifesto offers a vigorous defense of activist government and chides Republicans for passing a budget that he said would have "abandoned responsibility" for the poor and elderly and would have launched a "withering attack" on the environment.

The book, entitled "Between Hope and History: Meeting America's Challenges for the 21st Century," was kept secret until its announcement last week, and presidential aides said it was intended to be not so much a political tract as a statement of Clinton's philosophy about government and the nation. The book's 178 pages, however, make an unabashed and at times bluntly partisan argument about why Clinton thinks his presidency has been a success, and why Republican rule would set the country back.

White House officials said the first draft of the book was compiled by writer and policy consultant William Nothdurft, who worked from previous speeches, while Clinton edited and rewrote the draft in spare moments at night or on long flights aboard Air Force One.

This collaboration produced essentially a recital of favorite Clinton themes and anecdotes. The book's arguments have almost all been articulated by Clinton elsewhere, often in precisely the same language he uses in the book.

A consistent theme is that Clinton's declaration in this year's State of the Union address that "the era of big government is over," does not mean he favors weak government.

"The truth is, Americans don't want our government gutted," Clinton said. "The real issue isn't big government versus small government. I believe America needs a government that is both smaller and more responsive."

While Clinton said he opposes "top-down, command-and-control" government, with "lots of micro-management through rules and regulations," he said the federal government can act as a catalyst and facilitator for all manner of worthy projects. He said it should do more to encourage job training and lifelong education, to cope with the layoffs and dislocations of the modern economy, and he cited his administration's program to encourage private donations from high-tech firms to wire schools for access to the Internet.

Clinton repeats a case he made frequently in speeches last year and earlier this year, that the current era's technological advances are producing the most rapid historical change in a century, when "our nation made the transition from the Agricultural Age to the Industrial Age."

Clinton cites the great Progressive Era presidents, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, who "went beyond the conventional thinking of both their parties," and suggests his own presidency is in that tradition. "The Progressive Movement was about a shared vision of what America could and should be, about mending the fabric of family and community, about harnessing the forces of change to meet both individual dreams and common national goals," Clinton wrote. "That same shared vision guides us today."

After these broad historical strokes, Clinton turns to more immediate issues. Without mentioning Republican presidential nominee Robert J. Dole by name, he sharply criticizes his proposed cut in personal income tax rates.

"If implemented it will either explode the deficit, raise interest rates and slow the economy; or if it is paid for it will require even bigger cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, education and protection of the environment than the budget I vetoed," he said. "Either way it will reduce opportunity, slow the economy, and ultimately hurt hard-working Americans. It is not responsible."

Clinton took the title of his book from a phrase in a poem by Seamus Heaney, a Nobel Prize winner whom he met on a trip to Ireland last fall. Heaney wrote of a moment "when hope and history rhyme," and Clinton said he was so struck by the words that a copy of the poem Heaney wrote in his own hand hangs in Clinton's White House study.

The book was published by Times Books, a division of Random House, which is making an initial printing of 400,000 copies, due in stores this week. The White House has said Clinton is accepting no advances or royalties.

© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company

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