Clinton's 2nd term likely to be tougher than his first History is against him, along with Congress, special prosecutors

Experienced staff leaving

Hard issues remain, from Bosnia troops to more welfare reform

November 08, 1996|By Carl M. Cannon | Carl M. Cannon,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- In winning re-election, President Clinton achieved what few of his Democratic predecessors have ever done. But if history is a guide, the challenge of building a record of success in a second term will be even tougher.

"There's a long pattern of second terms not being as good as the first," said Bruce Buchanan, a presidential scholar at the University of Texas. "I can't think of any exceptions in this century."

Awaiting Clinton in the new term are not only wholesale staff changes, which can prove chaotic, but also a special prosecutor who appears to have been holding his fire until after the election.

Also looming is a conservative Republican Congress that is smarting over year-long attacks from Clinton and the Democrats on Medicare.

In addition, the president faces a host of unresolved policy issues -- some foreign, some domestic -- that were essentially deferred until after the election.

The first task facing the president is to assemble a new team of top advisers. A White House staff that was the scene of rapid turnover in the past four years is expected to have new faces in most top jobs by the end of January.

Clinton's Cabinet will also be different. Yesterday, at an emotional ceremony, Secretary of State Warren Christopher said goodbye, thanking the president for the opportunity to serve.

"Being secretary of state is to take part in history's relay race," said the 71-year-old Christopher, who choked up at one point. "It's been a great privilege for me to have an opportunity to run this challenging leg over the last four years."

As Christopher was saluted at the White House, another Cabinet member, Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich, announced his departure.

Not all the staff changes are expected to be as graceful as the Christopher farewell. Some senior White House officials have been saying privately, for instance, that they would like to see Attorney General Janet Reno replaced by the department's No. 2 lawyer, Jamie Gorelick.

Reno has displeased the White House by being quick to seek special prosecutors to investigate allegations of administration wrongdoing.

But Reno told reporters yesterday that she had no intention of resigning and wants to stay.

Asked whether she was out of line, Mike McCurry, Clinton's press secretary, said "there was no problem" with her saying that. He did not, however, extend Reno any kind of endorsement.

Today, the president is schedule to meet with his Cabinet and then hold his first formal news conference in months.

McCurry hinted that a new chief of staff might be named to replace the departing Leon E. Panetta. Besides Christopher and Reich, Defense Secretary William J. Perry, Energy Secretary Hazel R. O'Leary, Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor and Transportation Secretary Federico F. Pena have told their staffs they are leaving.

In addition, Walter F. Mondale announced yesterday that he would resign as the U.S. ambassador to Japan. Mondale, the former vice president and Democratic presidential nominee, is considered a long-shot candidate to replace Christopher as secretary of state.

But many of the staff decisions were up in the air yesterday.

Housing Secretary Henry G. Cisneros, who still faces the results of an independent counsel's ethics investigation, is being pushed out, according to some published accounts. But one White House aide said last night that Cisneros is a Clinton favorite and has even been considered for chief of staff.

If Cisneros does leave, those under consideration to replace him including Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke of Baltimore; two other mayors, Dennis Archer of Detroit and Norm Rice of Seattle; Andrew Cuomo, now the deputy housing secretary; and Richard Ravitch, a New York businessman.

The biggest headaches are not staffing decisions, however, but the myriad scandals, inquiries and legal actions facing the president.

They include:

The Whitewater investigation of Kenneth W. Starr, the independent counsel. Among the issues Starr is looking at are the veracity of Clinton's testimony in an earlier Whitewater trial and whether first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton testified truthfully about her legal work for a defunct Arkansas savings and loan.

The Paula Corbin Jones lawsuit. Jones has alleged that as governor of Arkansas, Clinton exposed himself to her while soliciting sex in 1991. So far, his lawyers have stalled the litigation by arguing that a sitting president has constitutional immunity from being sued until he is out of office. The Supreme Court is expected to hold a hearing on the matter in January just before Clinton's inauguration.

The Cisneros inquiry, which centers on a charge that the Housing and Urban Development secretary lied during his FBI background check about how much money he paid his former mistress after he returned to his wife.

The congressional inquiry into why Clinton White House officials obtained 900 confidential FBI files of former White House employees, most of them Republicans. The White House has said it was an innocent mistake.

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