HOUSTON -- Jesse Jackson renewed his biting assault on Bill Clinton here yesterday, accusing the Democratic presidential candidate of attacking him on the Sister Souljah question 10 days ago as part of a "political calculation."
The rebuke was stiff enough to be a warning sign to Mr. Clinton that he may have an extremely tricky political situation to resolve in the less than three weeks before the party's national convention in New York.
Only minutes after praising Mr. Clinton's economic plan before the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Mr. Jackson pointedly avoided endorsing the Arkansas governor and accused him of following a strategy of "distancing" himself from Mr. Jackson's Rainbow Coalition to seek the votes of conservative whites.
The civil rights leader also raised once again the question of Mr. Clinton's having played golf at an all-white country club in Little Rock, Ark. Referring derisively to Mr. Clinton's claim that he had been angered by Sister Souljah's remarks about blacks killing white people, Mr. Jackson told a press conference: "When Bill Clinton left the all-white country club, he didn't say he left because of moral outrage. He just said he'd left."
Mr. Jackson's renewal of the attack came as something of a surprise. In his speech to the conference seeking support for his own "Rebuild America" plan, he called Mr. Clinton's economic blueprint a step "in the right direction" that "shows an authentic concern for the urban crisis and the need to reinvest."
Mr. Jackson had received a late-night telephone call from Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson, one of the nation's most influential black politicians, urging him to respond with a "no comment" when asked about the controversy with Mr. Clinton.
Mayor Jackson had followed that course here Monday, and he told the civil rights leader that it was time to cool down the controversy. Such a course, the mayor reportedly advised his old ally, would be the only way to gain any attention for his urban investment proposal.
But Jesse Jackson was in no mood to be conciliatory, arguing that Mr. Clinton's attacks on him had been part of a "week of activity that was political calculation" and also included appearances to deliver unpopular messages to two union groups.
He suggested that Mr. Clinton could have accomplished his purpose by not attending the Rainbow Coalition meeting at which he criticized Sister Souljah.
"If the issue was distancing, there was distance before he came," he said.
For his own part, Mr. Jackson said, he had "nice things to say about him" when Mr. Clinton appeared at the meeting.
"I have been consistently nice," he said with a small smile. "I have good manners."
Mr. Jackson made it clear that since Mr. Clinton was the one distancing himself, the Arkansas governor would have to close the breach.
The problem is touchy for Mr. Clinton because he and his managers are determined to avoid a situation at the convention in which they would be obliged to convene some kind of "summit meeting" with Mr. Jackson to resolve their dispute.
Both Walter F. Mondale in 1984 and Michael S. Dukakis in 1988 held such sessions with Mr. Jackson -- to their political detriment because of the perception they had caved in to the black leader.