CLINTON: How Will Scandal Impact Policy Agenda?
Will the Monica Lewinsky scandal impact President Clinton's ability to push such initiatives as patients' rights and antismoking legislation? NPR's Mara Liasson reported, "One of the things the president did for his party this year was design an agenda the whole party could support and run on, even if it couldn't pass the agenda through Congress. But as long as the scandal continues, [at least one Democrat believes] issues like HMO reform and teen smoking will be overshadowed." Former Democratic National Committee executive director Brian Lunde said the scandal could hurt Democratic candidates this fall. "Instead of the questions in a debate being, 'Do you support the president on the patients' bill of rights?' It's, you know, 'Do you think he lied during a deposition even though he says he didn't lie?' Those crystal clear policy oriented messages just get muddied up with these 'What do you think of the president's troubles?' which Democratic candidates just don't need right now, because they have enough trouble being in the minority; they've got to have these crystal clear wedge issues to get the public to say 'I'm going to vote Democratic,'" Lunde said. U.S. News & World Report's David Gergen, a former Clinton adviser, said the seven-month scandal has had a definite impact on Clinton's agenda. "For example, had the president had the full national microphone ... I think we would have had tobacco legislation by now, that opportunity, of course, has been lost," he said ("All Things Considered," 8/18).
CNN's John King reported, "Sources tell CNN the president's aides are urging him to interrupt his 12-day vacation for a few events focusing on popular domestic issues, like HMO reform. It's an effort to turn the nation's focus to the things they like about the president, and away from things they don't like." According to King, some Clinton aides have "pushed him" to take time off from his vacation this Friday to attend a "health care event." However, the aides "were told the president wasn't ready to do that," King reported ("Inside Politics," 8/18). Former DNC executive director Lunde said Clinton may be unable to set the agenda during the remainder of his term. "I think he'll be an in-box president. He'll respond to initiatives. But in terms of a proactive public policy agenda, that's effectively dead," he said ("All Things Considered," 8/18).