GOP sounds a sour note

Clinton's attack: President loses test-ban treaty vote but gains by attacking Republicans' negativism.

October 22, 1999

Bill Clinton may not be winnng many votes in Congress, but he's picking up political points with his sharp attack on the naysaying nature of the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill. He clearly wants to make this a focal point of the 2000 elections.

What prompted the president's ire was last week's rejection by the Republican-controlled Senate of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. He denounced the "reckless partisanship" and "new isolationism" of the GOP.

Republicans have repeatedly put themselves on the negative side of issues in recent months, including preserving Medicare, reforming campaign financing, expanding federal aid for teachers and computers in the classroom, making it easier for working women to obtain child care, controlling guns and taxing tobacco products.

Time and again, the GOP leadership has opted for a strategy that is at odds with majority public opinion. Take the debate over how to spend the nation's growing ey spent on safeguarding Medicare and on education -- not on tax cuts that benefit primarily the rich.

Yet Republicans in Congress made tax cuts their No. 1 priority.

On the test-ban treaty, Republicans followed the lead of hard-liners like Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina. Bipartisanship in foreign policy is essential for the United States, yet the GOP refused to seek compromise with a Democratic president.

There's been plenty of partisanship and posturing on both sides, but Republican leaders seem obsessed with obstructing anything Mr. Clinton proposes. To those outside the beltway, this comes across as mean-spirited and negative.

Even with all his personal tribulations this year, Mr. Clinton has continued to set the agenda in Washington. Congressional Republicans haven't presented a positive, forward-looking set of priorities that are in sync with the public's ideas for what needs to be done. That could put them on the defensive as they try to hang on to control of the House, and possibly even the Senate, in next year's elections.

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