Campaign enters final days The Clinton campaign

President is big draw in 3 states

'84 Reagan campaign seems to be his model

Campaign 1996

November 03, 1996|By Carl M. Cannon | Carl M. Cannon,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

SAN ANTONIO -- President Clinton, circling the country for his bell lap, was greeted in three states yesterday by large and friendly crowds, whom he told to follow their "hearts" when they vote Tuesday.

Under a blue Texas sky at the Alamo, Clinton invoked the battle between Texas rebels and the Mexican army as a symbol, but not in the way Texans normally do. The Alamo, Clinton explained, signifies not just defiance and bravery, but racial healing as well.

He accused Republicans of practicing the "politics of division," which, in the president's metaphor, is the deadly fight between Davy Crockett's men and Santa Ana's regulars, while Clinton and the Democrats adhere to "the new politics of common ground," signified by NAFTA.

In phrases he had not used before, the president told voters here that their decision in Tuesday's election "is not so much about the mind as it is about the heart."

But Clinton's standard stump speech still remains faithful to the model he has followed for months -- Ronald Reagan's 1984 "Morning Again in America" campaign.

As a kind of talisman, Clinton this week visited Reagan's old stomping grounds of Santa Barbara, Calif. Yesterday, in Texas, Clinton even appropriated the 1984 slogan.

Reciting what he sees as his accomplishments, Clinton said: "What do you think the Republicans would be saying if they had a record like that? They'd be saying, 'It's Morning in America.' "

"This is a time full of promise and hope, a time full of challenge," he said in El Paso. "We are not just ending a century and beginning a new one. We are changing the way we work and live, the way we relate to others and to the rest of the world."

Clinton's standard speech follows the three-step program spelled out so winningly by Reagan 12 years ago in a seamless pitch that became known simply as "The Speech." The first step: to explain how horrible things were four years ago under Jimmy Carter/George Bush.

"Inflation, the quiet thief, was stealing our future," Reagan said. "Our national defense had been weakened. We got out from under the thrall of a government which had hoped to make our lives better, but which wound up trying to live our lives for us."

In his radio address yesterday, Clinton summoned dark images of the pre-Clinton era: "It was a time of deep and widespread frustration in America. Unemployment was high. The deficit was out of control. New jobs were scarce. Our values seemed under assault and to many it seemed our problems were unsolvable."

The second step in the Reagan-Clinton speech is the salvation wrought by Reagan-Clinton.

The Reagan's litany was bringing "inflation down from 12.4 percent to 4 percent creating 6 million new jobs in 21 months 900,000 new businesses in 18 months lowering tax rates the best expansion in 30 years."

For Clinton, the points are the same: "We have 10.7 million new jobs in America. Home ownership is at a 15-year high. Unemployment, inflation and home mortgages together at a 27-year low the crime rate has come down four years in a row welfare rolls reduced by nearly 2 million best economy in 30 years."

Finally, "The Speech," as delivered by Reagan-Clinton, peers into a future so bright it strains the eyes, a future in which all Americans hold hands and walk together into you-know-what century.

"Throughout my life, I have seen America do the impossible," Reagan said in the last speech before election day 1984.

"And America's best days are yet to come. I say to all of you, you are not alone. Come walk with us down the path of hope and opportunity. We can make it possible for every American -- young or old, black or white -- who wants a job to find a job in this country and keep America growing right into the 21st century."

"We are moving into a very different future," Clinton has been saying this week. "I want you all to be there because you know the fundamental truth of America. Our best days are still ahead. I want to build a bridge big enough and wide enough for every single one of us to walk across together to the 21st century."

These are not coincidences. Six months ago, Clinton campaign aides asked the Reagan library to provide them with tapes of the Republican's 1984 speeches.

While Clinton's version of "The Speech" is sufficiently original that he can't be accused of plagiarism, some sections of it might cause Republicans to suggest he should at least pay royalties.

Clinton used House Speaker Newt Gingrich as a foil, just as Reagan made Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill Jr. his foil.

Clinton hitched himself to the spirit of the Atlanta Olympics precisely as Reagan exploited the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

Clinton goes off on flights of futuristic fancy in which he muses about computers, space travel and medical research that will cure cancer, paralysis and AIDS.

Reagan spoke dreamily about computers, space travel and medical research.

The only apparent difference: Reagan also gushed about curing diabetes and heart disease.

Like Reagan, Clinton is not always a stickler for literal truth.

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