Clinton and the Two Jacksons

June 23, 1992

Prospective Democratic presidential nominee Bill Clinton, after feuding for a week with the Rev. Jesse Jackson in the Sister Souljah flap, won praise yesterday from another black politician named Jackson -- this time Mayor Maynard Jackson of Atlanta. What drew Mayor Jackson's commendation was a new Clinton economic strategy paper proposing a $200 billion plan to "Rebuild America" over the next four years, much of it to go to troubled cities with large black populations.

"Dynamic, aggressive and progressive" were Mayor Jackson's adjectives. They stood in vivid contrast to Reverend Jackson's increasing complaints that Governor Clinton had launched a "sneak attack" to embarrass him by decrying rap singer Souljah's reverse racism during a meeting of the Jackson-launched Rainbow Coalition.

We suspect that Mayor Jackson's honey was as welcome as Reverend Jackson's bile to the Clinton campaign. Well behind both independent Ross Perot and Republican George Bush, Mr. Clinton is going all out to get the public's attention before the Democratic National Convention. Thus, he is signaling he will not cater to Jesse Jackson, as Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis did in 1984 and 1988, nor will he hesitate to push centrist policy lines even at the risk of alienating the leftist fringes of his party.

His newly honed economic paper marks a sharp retreat from his call for a $30 billion "middle class tax cut" that won him votes in the early primaries and the contempt of his main opponent, former Sen. Paul E. Tsongas, for trying to "pander" his way to the White House. Instead, he would halve the price tag to the Treasury by giving middle-income citizens the choice of either a tax cut or tax credit if they have children -- but not both.

To pay for the resulting revenue loss and the cost of his "Rebuild America" program, Mr. Clinton vows to hike the taxes of the wealthiest two percent of the nation, impose heavy new levies on U.S. subsidiaries of foreign corporations and increase other taxes on business. At the same time, the Democratic leader has pared back his earlier promise of eliminating the $300-billion-plus budget deficit in four years. Now his target is to cut it in half.

These are bound to be popular proposals at a gathering of Democrats. But Mr. Clinton's appeal for line-item veto power long denied Republican presidents and his vague gloss on financing health care for the uninsured may not go over so well. Senator Tsongas and former California Gov. Jerry Brown are far from mollified. Nor is the candidate's popularity with black office-holders like Mayor Jackson likely to silence Reverend Jackson. Democrats will be Democrats.

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