Outreach plan put into action Clinton seeking an 'involved' public

November 19, 1992|By John Fairhall | John Fairhall,Staff Writer

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- President-elect Bill Clinton's visit to a neighborhood in Washington yesterday was a preview of what his aides say will be a broad public outreach program by his transition team in the two months leading up to his inauguration.

Aides hope to conduct radio call-in shows, arrange a toll-free number for people to call in ideas and organize "constituent meetings to connect people and policy-makers."

Public officials familiar with Mr. Clinton's plans may act as surrogates for him and field calls to the radio shows. It is unclear how much Mr. Clinton himself will participate, given his hectic schedule before the Jan. 20 inauguration.

One purpose of the outreach effort is to give people a chance to express their thoughts and to feel they are a part of the incoming administration, transition officials say. Another is to educate Americans about what Mr. Clinton plans to do and to to build support for his programs.

Mr. Clinton also does not want to lose contact with the public, not when there's such "great hope" in the country following the election, said Betsey Wright, who is in charge of public outreach during the transition. "People want to get involved."

"One of the things that Gov. Clinton believes must happen is to reconnect people to the government, and that doesn't happen just by waiting until he is president and decides what his priorities are going to be," said Ms. Wright, a top campaign aide to Mr. Clinton and for several years his chief of staff.

As part of the outreach, the transition staff will maintain "close communication with the people who were involved in the campaign," including state and local officials, major campaign contributors and "constituency groups" such as retirees, disabled persons and members of ethnic groups, she said yesterday.

Once Mr. Clinton takes office, she said, the outreach program will continue in the White House.

The effort grows out of Mr. Clinton's campaign, which relied heavily on bus tours, televised meetings with voters and appearances on a variety of radio and television programs, including "Larry King Live" and Arsenio Hall's talk show.

Mr. Clinton and his aides have said that the news media that traveled with him filtered his message and that he had to find other means of reaching the public. He promised frequently to maintain close contact with voters after the election.

Asked last week whether he would be able to break out of the "bubble" of life in the White House, he said he hoped "to maintain some greater level of ongoing personal contact than is typically the case."

Mr. Clinton's ability to convince voters that he was more in touch with them than Mr. Bush was played a large role in his victory.

But since his election, Mr. Clinton has found the increase in media scrutiny and Secret Service protection a daunting barrier, not only to public contact but to his own privacy. In Little Rock, though, he still jogs almost every day and still sometimes stops at a McDonald's where he was a regular patron in earlier years as governor.

Whether he is able to jog to the McDonald's near the White House, as he has indicated interest in doing, remains to be seen.

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