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POTOMAC OBSERVER What’s Right with This Picture? Washington, D.C. With the economy already safely in the growth column for the year, the Clinton Administration should be resting on its laurels. Some health bill will pass. Whitewater died of inanition. Republican gains in the House and Senate should prove limited. Sound like any world you know of? No? Think about it, though. When was the last administration you can remember that managed: not to shoot hundreds of its own or foreign citizens for two consecutive years; to take on changing a third of the economy without using the guise of reform to squeeze the citizenry for greater corporate comfort; to be under investigation while remaining effectivelynot just presumptivelyinnocent of misusing high office and of blatantly covering up subsequent deceptions? Carter and Eisenhower failed on the middle point while Kennedy and Ford failed the first two. Johnson, Nixon, Reagan and Bush failed on all three, quite spectacularly. Among recent presidents, only Clinton meets the test. Meanwhile, despite all the manifest and disgusting failings of the insurance-reform approach to health care, tinkering at the margins of the system is quintessentially American, and superbly capitalist. Insurance reform seems destined to be the only thing that can pass a Senate infested with such excrescences as Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. Yet the result will be such a slight improvement that insurance reform will assist only a few million families. In which we should all rejoice. For if any ordinary family benefits from the reform, it will have been worth the effort. But don’t let Republican propaganda fool you. With an insurance-tinkering bill passed or not, this fall’s elections are not a referendum on Clinton. As always, the elections are about which sections of the economy are going to control the kind of government interference they desire. It is my duty to vote for control by that portion of the economy that includes wage-earners. For the Democrat, that is to say, even if my choice is only between a business Democrat-in-name-only James McCarty Yeager edits Minority Business Report in Bethesda, Maryland. and a Fortune 500 flack, er, Republican U.S. Senator. A tiny bit of change is not the enemy of more change. A tiny bit of change is all the capitalists will allow without overthrowing the government. So let’s take that bit, move on, and try for another bit. We don’t want to extirpate capitalists, anyway. That would cost too much out of the hides of ordinary citizens; the rich always have a way of making us pay for their mistakes. Some complain the Clintons went at health care as if the specifics mattered; as if designing a plan that covered everybody fairly and completely was such a good goal that it could stand on its own merits. They intone that politics is theatre, not a discipline with a firm and continuous connection to the real world. While doing the job right may not pay off in the short run, it will in the long run. Bill’s trouble is he remembers that. He wants the world to be rational, government functional, legislation useful, and the economy fair. This is not an overdose of romanticism on Bill’s part; it is actually realism of a fairly high degree of difficulty. The romantics are the conservatives whose approach to any change that does not line their pockets is “People need to be protected from change lest it lead to a loss of liberties,” liberties that turn out to accrue not to actively breathing bodies but to corporations. The deceptions of Bill’s recent predecessors were all fundamentally self-deceptions; for that reason, all the more effective; equally for that reason, all the more destructive to the polity. Bill’s deceptions are so harmless they don’t even take him ‘in, much less us. Yes, he’ll do anything to get almostgood bills passed, including abandoning actually-good bills. When Bill complains he isn’t getting any credit, he’s right. Such are the penalties of governing, rather than staging sham conflicts so he can look good solving what are not even problems with what is not even effort. The private dinner conversations of Washington are incapable of recognizing effort unless it is instantly successful, or reducible to who’s-up-who’s-down. Thus the tabloidization of the major media has led to a diminishing focus on policy and an increasing preoccupation with putative peccadilloes instead of actual accomplishments. Bill is brave enough to try for substance. I guess he just isn’t shallow enough. The Justice Department actually had the gall the other day to rule against the plead ings of the Securities and Exchange Commission \(the government agency doing the serve Board, and the Comptroller of the Currency \(the government agencies doing a Maryland bank was liable for redlining with not just a slap on the wrist, but $11 million worth of restitution imposedbecause of its policy of only locating branches in white areas. And no black or Hispanic person had to bring suit to get Justice to enforce this position; no laborious contributions had to be amassed by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or MALDEF and diverted from other causes; yet the Clinton Justice Department enforced the law, on behalf of underserved minorities, all by itself. This is unheard of, especially in the recent history of civil economic rights, where Reagan and Bush specifically went out of their way to prevent the Community Reinvestment Act from being enacted, renewed or enforced. As in health care, so in the crime bill: both almost totally co-opted by their enemies. But enough decent, otherwise unobtainable provisions remain in both that made them worth fighting for. Both are doing the long-term work that needs to be done, however little of it manages to pass, however inefficiently it is performed, however timidly it is abandoned by those in the punditocracy who ought to know better. The cameras won’t broadcast Bill’s achievements unless the tide changes this November, limiting Republican net gains to under a dozen and a half in the House and three in the Senate. Herein Texas is a proving ground. If the Texas Republican party, taken over by the screamers Joe Bob Briggs calls “fetus fans” who themselves harbor no love for their own almost-convicted Senator, can’t be beaten now, when should Texas Republicans fear the consequences of their divisions? They won’t if we’re waiting for a sure thing before putting out the energy. The people have to work against most sure things, or the only remaining sure thing will be how we have to pay the costs of our lethargy: with our diminished earnings, our lessened liberties, our disappearing powers. So we better protect our investment this fall when we vote for Congress. Otherwise we can just let the yuppie scum and corpo rate grafters not only own all the assets, but own the government too. Doesn’t seem like my idea of democracy, somehow. Or Bill’s. JAMES MCCARTY YEAGER THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15 .t .,…0, ‘ _10