Clinton, Schaefer meet cautiously Clinton appeals to ex-colleagues INAUGURATION 1993

January 20, 1993|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- President-elect Bill Clinton hugged every governor and ex-governor in sight yesterday with one predictable exception: William Donald Schaefer of Maryland.

As soon as Mr. Clinton arrived at an inaugural luncheon honoring the nation's governors, he started working the tables that were arranged in the grand rotunda of the Library of Congress.

Everyone got a big Arkansas embrace or a kiss or an energetic shake of the hand.

Not Mr. Schaefer, though, not the turncoat, not the Democrat who took a ride halfway across the country on Air Force One about 10 days before the Nov. 3 election to endorse the Republican incumbent, George Bush.

When Mr. Clinton reached Mr. Schaefer's table, an uncharacteristic formality seemed to overtake him. The two men shook hands. But Mr. Clinton stood virtually at attention while Mr. Schaefer talked.

"Glad you came," said the president-elect.

"Thank you," said the wayward governor, who then added: "You're going to find that over time I'll be one of your strongest supporters."

Mr. Schaefer was doing his best to make up.

"I support him 100 percent," he had said earlier as he stood waiting for Mr. Clinton to arrive. "He's the president now," he said, jumping the gun by about a day. He said he had written Mr. Clinton a letter, promising to "help in any way I possibly can."

The Maryland governor's seat was in the corner of the room at what one political correspondent called "the pariah table." Other outcasts included Gov. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, who, though he did not bolt to the GOP, did not endorse Mr. Clinton, either. Mr. Casey and Mr. Clinton were estranged after Mr. Casey, an opponent of abortion, was not allowed to speak at the Democratic Convention last summer.

The president-elect acknowledged in his speech that some in the audience, primarily Republicans, had "labored against me . . . did your best to deny me your [states'] electoral votes."

But he seemed more interested in recruiting help than in remembering pain.

"It is over," he said.

Now, on the eve of a day when he takes on monumental world and national problems, Mr. Clinton appealed to his former colleagues.

"I face daunting challenges too great for any person's mind to comprehend, or wisdom to judge, or strength to meet alone," he said.

Looking over the speaker's podium he recognized Gov. Ann Richards of Texas. A few days ago, he told his audience, she had said to him: "Bill, you look like the dog that chased the pickup."

"Now I've caught it," he said.

Vice president-elect Al Gore Jr. told the governors that Mr. Clinton would be a governors' president.

"He has been in your shoes and he knows just where they pinch," he said.

Mr. Clinton asked for four favors.

He wants to develop a streamlined way of permitting experimentation in government programs "that gives you a chance either to rise up or fall down." Governor Schaefer said later he found the invitation to innovate very encouraging.

Next, Mr. Clinton said, he wanted to find out how to make the exceptional cases of superior public service become the rule. Often, he said, he found people doing wonderful things in his state, but he always had difficulty getting those things done elsewhere.

And, he said he asked for help in deciding which aspects of a new health care system in America should be handled in Washington and which in the states.

"If we don't do something about health care," he said, "the rest of it [the effort to reduce the budget deficit] is whistling Dixie."

With that, the president-elect bowed toward Dixie Carter, a star of the TV show "Designing Women," who sang yesterday at the luncheon. Ms. Carter sat with her husband, the actor Hal Holbrook, at a table that included Secretary of Commerce-designate Ronald H. Brown; and the former governor Kentucky, John Y. Brown, and his wife, Phyllis George.

Mr. Clinton concluded by saying he would depend on his former colleagues to be honest with him.

"Please, please, now that the door is open, and when you think we're veering wrong, walk through it and say so."

Mr. Clinton did have a warm public word yesterday for a Maryland governor: ex-Gov. Harry Hughes, who attended the luncheon with his wife, Pat.

Then-Governor Hughes had hosted a Democratic Governors Association meeting shortly after the 1980 election, when Ronald Reagan won in a landslide and Mr. Clinton "went into Ripley's 'Believe It or Not' as the youngest former governor in the history of the United States." He was then 33.

"Neither he nor I thought we would be here today in these circumstances," Mr. Clinton said, nodding in Mr. Hughes' direction.

Unlike Mr. Schaefer, the former governor had been a Clinton man for some time -- and did not deviate.

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