Well-rested, Clinton gets back to job Ambitious agenda awaits president after his vacation

August 29, 1993|By Carl M. Cannon | Carl M. Cannon,Staff Writer

MARTHA'S VINEYARD, MASS — MARTHA'S VINEYARD, Mass. -- Like the man on those irreverent T-shirts that surfaced a while back showing Richard Nixon's face and the slogan, "Tan, Rested and Ready," President Clinton did his time re-charging his batteries.

He golfed in Vail with former President Gerald R. Ford and golf legend Jack Nicklaus, taught his daughter to water-ski on a lake in Arkansas, yachted in the Atlantic Ocean with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and partied all over this island with his pal Vernon Jordan.

But now, as his vacation ends, Mr. Clinton returns to Washington no longer a new president in the eyes of the American people and facing a policy agenda as ambitious as that of any president in recent history.

On Friday, as his stay neared an end on this island, Mr. Clinton pronounced himself "spoiled" and said he wished he had another week. But as the week wound down, he also indicated that he was ready to get going again.

First, the president issued a statement to be read at yesterday's 30th anniversary of the March On Washington that commemorated the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the causes he lived and died for.

In addition, the president found time Friday between a round of golf and a sailing trip to tape his weekly Saturday radio address.

"In the quiet of this August day, as we reflect on what's happened over the last several months, we can say that together we've made a good beginning, but the job has just begun," the president said. "As our children go back to school, and, after a great family vacation, I go back to work. . . ."

"He'll definitely hit the ground running," said White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers. "Before we left Washington, we worked very hard to try to put some of the pieces in place for the fall. . . . I mean, September is going to be a very busy month."

On the foreign policy front, officials said that Mr. Clinton plans an address in September to the United Nations, where he will outline for other world leaders his foreign policy vision. In addition, he plans to meet in New York with Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa of Japan.

Sometime in late autumn or early winter, the president plans to attend a NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium, followed, possibly, by a visit to Moscow and a meeting with President Boris N. Yeltsin of Russia.

In the midst of this, officials said, the president hopes to formulate along with Gen. John Shalikashvili, his new hand-picked chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a consistent, firm policy regarding Serbian aggression in Bosnia.

"It's a full plate, no question," said one administration foreign policy official.

A domestic emphasis

The administration's primary emphasis, however, is on domestic issues, including the following:

* The North American Free Trade Agreement. Although his administration has negotiated side agreements on environmental and labor regulations, Mr. Clinton faces opposition from congressional Democrats, including Richard A. Gephardt, the House majority leader.

One administration official said last week that private negotiations will begin this week between the White House and Mr. Gephardt. This official said the president was optimistic that when Mr. Gephardt examines the side agreements carefully, he might be persuaded to drop his opposition. But with Ross Perot out there beating on the treaty daily, White House officials say, the president will be traveling the country, stumping for NAFTA.

"We've always said we want to get NAFTA done by the end of the year," Ms. Myers said.

* Reinventing government. This is the task force headed by Vice President Al Gore that has been interviewing government workers in hopes of attacking government inefficiency. This effort has taken on additional importance because of promises made by Mr. Clinton to Congress during the fight for his budget bill. The promise was to search for additional spending cuts, a difficult chore that has been added to Mr. Gore's mandate.

Health care headache

* Health care reform. This is the big daddy, and it never seems to be far from the minds of the president or his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

At a party Thursday night here, Mrs. Clinton was watching a stunning sunset from the backyard of a private home when members of the band, taking a break, approached her with their own health-care woes.

Mrs. Clinton spoke passionately, rattling off facts and figures for nearly 15 minutes before abruptly remembering herself and cutting off the conversation by laughing and saying, "I'm supposed to be on vacation!"

The president, in his radio address, described the reform of health care as the "biggest challenge" of his administration. He plans to unveil the first wave of details of his plan in an address to a joint session of Congress in late September.

Tomorrow morning, the president and first lady, along with Mr. Gore, will be hosts for an interfaith ecumenical breakfast with 250 religious leaders.

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