Clinton pledges 'continuity' and 'stability'

November 05, 1992|By John Fairhall | John Fairhall,Staff Writer

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- On his first full day as president-elect, Bill Clinton sent a message of stability and orderliness to financial markets and world leaders while learning that his own life was going to change radically.

"Today I want to reaffirm the essential continuity of American foreign policy and my desire to seek bipartisan support for our role in the world," he said yesterday at the Governor's Mansion.

On economic matters, he said: "Today I say to our financial and business leaders that, although change is on the horizon, we understand the need for stability as we pursue new growth."

Mr. Clinton announced no appointments, although there is speculation among Democratic advisers that he will soon name as White House chief of staff his campaign chairman, Los Angeles lawyer Mickey Kantor, and put Vernon Jordan, former head of the National Urban League, in charge of the transition team.

Mr. Clinton's brief statement went more smoothly than his effort to take a walk with his wife, Hillary, from the Governor's Mansion to a friend's house, something he once did without a second thought.

Besieged by journalists eager to cover every move of the next president, an irritated Mr. Clinton snapped, "Come on, let's get out of here." The couple jumped into a car and were driven to the home of lifelong friend Carolyn Staley, where they had breakfast with a group of old friends.

The episode was a cautionary lesson for the gregarious Arkansas governor, who as president-elect is finding that the Secret Service and the news media are taking an increased interest in all his activities.

Presidents-elect commonly emphasize the need for a smooth transition and attempt to calm anxieties. Some business and financial leaders are leery of Mr. Clinton, partly because he is new to national politics and partly because he is determined to stimulate the economy in the short run, even if it drives up the deficit.

Interest rates, the stock market and the strength of the dollar will be affected in one way or another by his policies.

To foreign leaders, a number of whom have called Mr. Clinton, the president-elect made it clear yesterday that he would not usurp President Bush's foreign policy role during the transition before his inauguration Jan. 20.

"America's foreign policy remains solely in his hands," he said. "And even as America's administrations change, America's fundamental interests do not.

"I look forward to working closely with President Bush to ensure continuity in global affairs of interest to all Americans, from continued progress in the Mideast peace talks to completing negotiations on the details of the START II arms-control agreement, to making progress on a good agreement on our world trade talks to bolstering Russia's fledgling democracy, to working toward peaceful resolution of the conflict in the republics of the former Yugoslavia, to assisting the victims of famine in Somalia."

Clinton aide Betsey Wright said the governor is "very sensitive to the world's perception of this transition as orderly."

But what Mr. Clinton's policies will be and who will put them into effect remain mysteries. It also remains unclear when he will step down as governor, a job he has held for 12 years.

"I think he's going to decide a date in consultation with the lieutenant governor," Ms. Wright said.

The transition work will be done in the Worthen Bank building in Little Rock and in a Washington office supplied by the U.S. General Services Administration. Thanks to legislation signed Oct. 6 by Mr. Bush, the government will provide $5 million to help Mr. Clinton take over.

As many as 20 Clinton aides have been planning the transition for six weeks. The effort has been formally organized into a foundation with a five-member board headed by Mr. Kantor. Other board members are Warren Christopher, a top State Department official under President Jimmy Carter; former Vermont Gov. Madeleine Kunin; former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros; and Mr. Jordan. The executive director is Gerald Stern, senior general counsel of Occidental Petroleum Corp. in Los Angeles.

A team to handle the actual transition, which will be named soon, will have the mission of completing briefing books on policy, on issues and decisions facing Mr. Clinton, and on candidates for jobs.

Mark Siegel, who helped guide Mr. Carter during his pre-inauguration transition, said the transition team's job is to mesh policy and personnel.

"There have to be policy guidelines established by the president or the president's transition director, and within those policy guidelines there have to be good personnel decisions," he said. "You can't have a secretary of HHS [Health and Human Services] who does not believe in activist government."

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