WASHINGTON -- President Clinton has exhorted the new Republican Congress to put aside "partisanship, pettiness and pride" and rekindle a public spirit of community and civic virtue.
"Our civil life is suffering," Mr. Clinton said in a State of the Union address designed to claim the moral high ground and lift his presidency above daily political skirmishes.
"Citizens are working together less, shouting at each other more," he declared. "The common bonds of community which have been the great strength of this country from its beginning are badly frayed,"
Under the sometimes smiling, sometimes impassive gaze of House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., Mr. Clinton told a joint session of Congress and a nationwide television audience he will dedicate the rest of his term in office to a theme revived from his 1992 campaign, a "new covenant" between the citizenry and their government.
Bowing to the November election returns, which delivered both houses of Congress into the hands of the Republicans for the first time in 40 years, Mr. Clinton promised a less intrusive and more effective government, saying: "We cannot ask Americans to be better citizens if we are not better servants."
To meet that pledge, Mr. Clinton promised a thorough review of the entire federal bureaucracy and vowed to eliminate "over 100 programs we do not need" -- including the Interstate Commerce Commission.
And, in contrast with his two previous State of the Union speeches, Mr. Clinton proposed no specific new legislative initiatives to this largely skeptical Congress. Instead, he repeated his long-standing positions on a list of major issues -- sometimes conceding points to the Republican majority and asking for its cooperation but often painting GOP positions as extremist or wrongheaded.
In his speech:
* Mr. Clinton denounced the proposed balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, asked its Republican sponsors to spell out what spending cuts they would make to implement it and warned them not to "endanger Social Security" -- something they have already promised not to do.
* He vowed to stand firm against any repeal of gun control laws passed by last year's Democratic-led Congress, including the so-called Brady law, which requires a waiting period for handgun purchases, and a ban on 19 types of assault rifles.
* Acknowledging that his administration "bit off more than we could chew" with its comprehensive health care proposal last year, the president nonetheless appealed for bipartisan cooperation to enact less-sweeping health insurance reforms.
* Mr. Clinton asked Congress to work with the administration to increase the federal minimum wage, saying: "You can't make a living on $4.25 an hour." But he did not publicly announce the goal of $5 an hour that his aides cited on Monday, saying that he wanted to work with Congress on the issue.
* He revived a proposal, first made as part of his welfare reform plan last year, for a national campaign against teen-age pregnancy, including a multimillion-dollar drive to promote pregnancy prevention programs in the nation's schools.
* He appealed to Congress to approve $40 billion in loan guarantees to stabilize Mexico's economy, saying that the measure is needed "to secure American jobs, preserve American exports [and] safeguard America's borders" against increased illegal immigration.
* He proposed increased funding for the U.S. Border Patrol to stop illegal immigration and outlined a plan to create a national registry to enable employers to verify workers' documents.
Mr. Clinton also assailed Hollywood in the most confrontational language he has ever used for what he called "the damage that comes from the incessant, repetitive, mindless violence and irresponsible conduct" that permeates television and the movies.
From the state Capitol in Trenton, N.J., more than 100 miles away, Governor Whitman replied that voters had launched a "revolution of ideas," and said some of Mr. Clinton's proposals "sounded pretty Republican." In one of the sharpest partisan jabs of the night, she added, "the fact remains that he has been opposed to the balanced budget amendment. He proposed even more government spending, and he imposed the biggest tax increase in American history."
"It's clear that your votes in November sounded a warning to the president," she said to a nationwide television audience. "If he has changed his big government agenda, we say great -- join us as we change America."
Democrats pronounced themselves pleased with Mr. Clinton's speech.
"He made it clear that Democrats are going to fight for America's hard-working, middle-class families -- and that while we cut the size of government, we're not going to make our children, our veterans, or our elderly pay the price," said House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri.
Mr. Clinton said he had listened to the public's voice in the November elections and did not hear America singing, he heard it shouting for change.
"All of us, Republicans and Democrats alike, must say, 'We hear you,' " the president declared.