Bill Clinton told the American Bar Assn...

ARKANSAS GOV.

August 21, 1991|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

ARKANSAS GOV. Bill Clinton told the American Bar Assn. that George Bush is no Dwight Eisenhower.

He said that Bush had not acted as forthrightly to uphold a federal court order in Wichita regarding anti-abortion demonstrators as Ike had acted in 1957 to uphold a federal court order regarding school desegregation.

That's not a very fair charge, since, in fact, the Bush administration is grudgingly enforcing a court order in Wichita it doesn't believe in, just as Ike did at Little Rock.

The implication that the Battle of Little Rock was one of Eisenhower's famous victories or shining moments is misleading. had to be dragged into asserting the federal government's responsibility to protect citizens against mobs when state and local officials couldn't (mayor) or wouldn't (governor).

A federal court had ordered Little Rock's Central High to admit black students. Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus ordered the state national guard to prevent that. Ike couldn't get Faubus to use the troops to maintain law and order, so when rioting mobs endangered the school children, he very reluctantly sent in U.S. paratroopers. In the process he made it clear that he himself was opposed to integration.

This story was played out while Ike was on vacation in New England. He set a precedent then that George Bush silently invoked yesterday. Urged to return to Washington to manage the crisis, he wrote a friend he wouldn't, because to do so "would be a confession that a change of scenery is truly a 'vacation' for the president and is not merely a change of his working locale."

Shortly after speaking to the bar association, Governor Clinto announced he has set up an "exploratory committee" to determine if he should run for president.

Whenever I hear the phrase, I always envision a group of brave Democrats in pith helmets and mosquito netting stalking off into an ominous and unknown jungle -- from which they never return. Democratic strategists' presidential maps label most states "terra incognita."

Clinton has his strengths, but he also has his weaknesses. He can make long, dreadful, boring speeches. When he nominated Michael Dukakis at the Democratic National Convention in 1988, he was interrupted by applause only once -- when he said, "In conclusion, . . ."

These are not good days for Democratic orators. When the party's only announced presidential candidate, Paul Tsongas, spoke on Democrat Day at the Illinois state fair last week, he was cheered loudest when he said he wished other candidates would enter the race.

I think what the Democratic National Committee ought to do i form an exploratory committee to go to the Soviet Union and learn how to conduct a coup. That's about the only way it's going to get a Democrat in the White House in the foreseeable future.

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