Looking ahead to Clinton's second term Politics: It's that time again: GQ assesses the president, and George peeks at the rough and tumble of conventions.


August 11, 1996|By Don Aucoin | Don Aucoin,BOSTON GLOBE

It seems likely that this year's presidential election will be a mere formality. Bob Dull, er, Dole, is doing his darnedest to make it so with the most inept campaign in memory, his current flurry of tax-cut headlines notwithstanding.

Consequently, it may not be too soon to start talking in a matter-of-fact way about Bill Clinton's second term. Certainly, GQ thinks so: The August issue raises the curtain on the Clinton Presidency, Act II, with a pair of prognostications about Clinton's handling of the economy from now to the millennium.

One, by John B. Judis, is from what might be called a populist perspective; the other, by Michael K. Evans, is positively Wall Street. Evans casts a cold eye on Clinton's plans to increase spending on education and expand health and pension coverage, predicts a bigger deficit and higher interest rates in Clinton's second term, and warns that if that happens, "bond market and stock market investors will have to head for the bomb shelter."

Judis, on the other hand, is a disappointed admirer of Clinton who says that while the president is "a brilliant man who has a deeper understanding of his own circumstances than any of his immediate predecessors," he is "destined to fail" in his second term.

The reason? A character flaw (yes, I know, I'm losing count, too). According to Judis, Clinton is so conflict-averse, so fearful of offending corporations and their cheerleaders in the White House, Robert Rubin and Lloyd Bentsen, that he has abandoned his economic goals (creating job opportunity for all Americans in the information age, redressing income inequality, repairing social divisions). So rather than wage an all-out fight for his own proposals -- government- and business-funded worker retraining, a tax cut for the middle class, limits on CEOs' salaries -- Clinton caved. And is likely to keep caving once he coasts past Dole in November.

Convention juice

Dole will occupy the spotlight at the Republican National Convention in San Diego this week, and Clinton will be the star at the Democratic National Convention two weeks later. But it is the supporting players from conventions past who offer the juiciest details in the August George magazine.

A veteran prostitute acknowledges that conventions are good for business ("I end up servicing more journalists than senators, delegates and staffers," she says); a producer of the 1984 Republican convention in Dallas admits to covering a protest site with soft asphalt so demonstrators would wilt in 125-degree temperatures; a veteran politico recalls delegates cheering and Dixiecrats stalking out during Hubert Humphrey's speech on civil rights at the 1948 Democratic convention in Philadelphia.

Also in George, the tabloids' favorite quarry becomes the hunter: John F. Kennedy Jr. interviews Iain Calder, editor emeritus of the National Enquirer. In the face of Calder's pious avowals that the Enquirer seeks truth, not sensation, and never makes up quotes, Kennedy shows a good-humored incredulity and some firsthand knowledge.

"Come on, Iain," he says in a reference to a notorious episode in his own past. "It's a lot more interesting to run a headline like 'John Attacks Live-In Lover' than 'Two People Had an Argument in Battery Park.' "

According to sources

Leon Wieseltier was one of the friends to whom Joe Klein lied about his authorship of "Primary Colors." But Wieseltier makes clear in the Aug. 12 New Republic that he doesn't mind one bit, and that he won't be joining the journalists of America on the high horse on which they are so awkwardly perched.

Noting the huge gray area in which reporters work -- an ever-shifting terrain of "on the record," "off the record," "not for attribution" and "background" -- Wieseltier maintains that "there is something especially ridiculous about journalists preening as the humble servants of simple veracity."

Top 50 athletes

Sport magazine celebrates its 50th anniversary in the September issue by ranking the top 50 athletes of the past half-century. The No. 1 slot goes to the man who has appeared on the cover of Sport 19 times, more than any other athlete: Michael Jordan.

'Cybertots,' beware

In the summer issue of the American Prospect, Kathryn C. Montgomery describes how Madison Avenue is already dreaming up ways to saturate online services for children with advertising messages. Unless safeguards are implemented pronto, Montgomery warns, advertising moguls will turn "cybertots" into consumers and the online media world into a wasteland as vast as children's TV programming, where shows are often just "half-hour commercials for a line of licensed products."

No crackers tonight

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