Goaded by an unlikely twosome, Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon, President Bush has finally put the prestige of his office behind a $24 billion international aid package for the states of the old Soviet empire. With support from such big-gun Democratic senators as George Mitchell and Sam Nunn, Congress must now get up the gumption to enact a massive foreign aid initiative in the midst of an election-year recession.
The coalition forming behind this effort is reminiscent of the consensus that pushed through the Marshall Plan in 1948, another economically troubled election year. Both Mr. Bush and Mr. Clinton, in back-to-back speeches yesterday, emphasized how big the stakes are in insuring the survival of fledgling democracy in the former Soviet republics.
Both candidates seemed to enjoy a few moments away from campaign-trail bickering to speak out as statesmen. Mr. Bush, always the transparent tactician, scheduled his speech just minutes ahead of a planned Clinton address to prevent the Arkansas governor from stealing a march by listing specific elements of the aid package. Mr. Clinton, in turn, tempered his persuasive endorsement of the White House initiative by scoring the president for keeping the U.S. "largely on the sidelines" instead of providing leadership on this issue. Complaining of "reactive, rudderless and erratic diplomacy," the Democratic frontrunner sardonically said he wished he had as much influence in domestic policy as he apparently had on foreign policy.