The First Quarter

I have to admit, it's nice to wake up in the morning without half expecting the White House to launch another intervention in a Third World country or proudly announce another cut in a domestic social program that will make people in my neighborhood even poorer. It is indeed a breath of fresh air to have a president who argues against nuclear testing and for universal health care coverage. And it may be that the unprecedented role being played by Hillary Rodham Clinton will make a more lasting contribution to fundamental questions of equality than most of the administration's other accomplishments.

When Angolan thug Jonas Savimbi violated the results of his country's first free elections, he expected the usual help from his friends in the White House, but the new president told him to get lost. Jean-Bertrand Aristide must have been equally surprised when the new resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue seemed genuinely interested in restoring Haitian democracy instead of finding another American reason for supporting the "stability" of his impoverished nation's brutal military leaders. Perhaps most important to me is to have someone in the White House who seems genuinely moved and anguished by the poverty and violence experienced by inner-city children, instead of a president who always seems to talk about such things as if he's speaking only to white suburban voters.

Yet, there is real trouble in the Clinton presidency at the end of its first year. It began in the budget debate, which produced a series of such embarrassing compromises that no one was happy. Fortunately for Clinton, economic indicators are slowly improving, but the economy has hardly been turned around as per campaign promises. Neither the structural nor, I would contend, moral issues of our economic life were ever really confronted.

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Sojourners Magazine January 1994
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