White House Set To Ease Stance On Internet Smut

Robert S. Thau (rst@ai.mit.edu)
Wed, 18 Jun 1997 17:03:19 -0400 (EDT)

I. Find Karma writes:
> Nice quote from Sobel:
> > ``To come in right after the Supreme Court decides the issue and say
> > we didn't really mean what we said up to now - I can't imagine
> > anything that would be seen as more of a waffle than that,'' Sobel
> > said. ``It raises waffling to an art form.''
> Ah, Clinton, the institution of the Presidency of the United States will
> never be the same. That, my brother, is your legacy...

I recall one attempt of Clinton's to be Kennedy-esque; it was a
first-term speech given in Berlin. This speech had gotten quite a
build-up --- it was touted by Clinton's flacks in advance for days as
a defining moment in his foreign policy. Berlin, of course, had been
the site of Kennedy's famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech.

So, I was listening fairly hard in Clinton's speech for some
discussion of the problems of his day. What I got instead was mostly
blather about how great it was that America had won the cold war, and
how neat it was that the countries to the east were shucking off the
Communist yoke without much American assistance (though he said little
that I can recall about how they might be assisted with the very real,
and very nasty problems that remained in those countries). At one
point, he briefly acknowledged that something really unpleasant was
happening several hundred miles away, in Bosnia. However, at the end
of it all, Clinton screeched out, in German, "Alles ist Moeglich!
Berlin ist Vrei!" ("Everything is possible! Berlin is Free!")

Now, what had made Kennedy's speech dramatic, and worthy of emulation,
was of course that in Kennedy's day, Berlin was physically beseiged by
the Communists --- not just a symbol, but a physical bone of
contention between the two powers in the cold war. Kennedy was
literally looking over the wall staring the enemy in the teeth, while
declaring American resolve to meet the particular, nasty problems of
his day.

Had Clinton wanted to recapture the same magic by the same methods, he
wouldn't have been in Berlin at all. He would have been closer to the
action --- closer to Bosnia (if not in it; Zagreb perhaps), maybe even
somewhere in one of the nations of Eastern Europe which are still
(even now) struggling to clean up the Communist mess. But instead,
following Kennedy, he was in Berlin, yelling "everything is possible"
(in German). I was left wondering --- gee, is it *possible* to
develop a workable policy toward the Eastern Europe? Towards the
ashes of Yugoslavia? Is it even possible to give a coherent account
of the policy you have? (I'd never heard one. Still haven't.)

That, at any rate, shows what Clinton had learned from his role model
--- not that it's important to face up to the country's problems, and
the world's, in a public forthright manner, but that you can get props
by going to Berlin and saying something in German.

BTW, the following ran as yesterday's NewsReal column in Salon; it's a
satirical memo "unearthed" by David Corn. At least I think it's
satirical; after last yesterday's speech announcing Clinton's bold new
initiative to heal the country's racial division (he's setting up a
new commission to talk about it), it's hard to be sure.

To: Erskine Bowles, White House Chief of Staff
From: Domestic Policy Council
Re:The Great Things Project

in January, POTUS said: "Great presidents don't
do great things. Great presidents get a lot of
other people to do great things." As you know, we
have adopted that as our working motto. (We still
stand by our suggestion that the phrase "Getting
you to do great things" be added to the
presidential stationery.) The volunteerism
conference in Philadelphia was a success --
despite the almost instant reappearance of
graffiti on inner city walls -- but we believe we
must push forward. Consequently, we have come
up with several "great things" initiatives that we
propose POTUS act on immediately.

Apart from the public approbation we feel sure
POTUS will receive, the strategy minimizes any
potential political downside: The initiatives cost
the Treasury nothing. They require no
legislation. They do not offend any political
constituency. Nor do they threaten any special

Build Your Own School It is estimated that
$500 billion is needed to repair the nation's
schools. POTUS should call on schoolchildren
across the country to rebuild their own schools.
After all, don't they still teach shop? Principals
could even provide class credit for time spent
repairing schools. (Suggested supplementary
reading: "Self Reliance," by Henry Thoreau.)

Clothes Do Make the Man At the volunteer
conference, we noticed that many corporations
that support volunteerism provide employees
with T-shirts that bear such slogans as "AT&T
Cares." That gave us an idea. When corporations
fire workers, they should provide them with a
new suit of clothes. This will help those who are
dismissed go on job interviews. Labor
Department studies show that when someone
wears new clothes, he or she has an enhanced
sense of confidence. So, by providing downsized
employees with a new suit, corporations can help
them find a new job. Mandatory clothing
retrofitting is unlikely to pass Congress. Instead,
the president should use the bully pulpit to
persuade corporate America to provide
job-interview-friendly clothing to the downsized.

Pro Bono Life Saving While it may not have
been apparent during the debates over
health-care reform, many doctors are
civic-minded. POTUS should call on them to
offer one free medical treatment a week to an
individual who could not afford it. A psychiatrist
would provide a free hour of counseling to a
suicidal patient. A kidney transplant specialist
would perform one free operation -- on a child of
course -- who has been waiting for a new organ.
In a related move, POTUS should press drug
companies to donate recently expired drugs to
financially troubled hospitals and
moderate-income citizens. According to FDA
records, when most drugs expire, their potency is
still above 95 percent. Our thinking: Isn't it better
to give someone a drug working at 95 percent
than nothing at all?

We Can All Get Along POTUS wants to "heal
the breech." Part of the racial problem in this
country (according to Vernon Jordan) is that
white people and black people rarely socialize
together. They do not know one another. To
address this, POTUS should propose a tax credit
for inter-racial socializing. If you go out for
dinner, go to the movies or go bowling with
someone of a different race, you can deduct 50
percent of the money spent on the activity. We
see this as a social policy equivalent of High
Occupancy Vehicle "diamond" lanes. OMB
estimates the cost, assuming we exclude
spectator sports like basketball, will be less than
a $1.5 billion over five years.

Sharing the Shelter Roughly 10 million
Americans are on welfare. Another 10 million
Americans have more than one home. The math
is undeniable. POTUS should call on
multiple-home owners to open up their vacation
houses to the less well-off on a sort of
time-share basis. This can be promoted as a
cultural exchange between income-variated
Americans. (One proposed name: the "Movin' On
Up" program.)

End Campaign Contribution Dependency As
We Know It We think we have found a way to
address the widespread impression that big
companies have a "special relationship" with
candidates based purely on dollars. POTUS
should call for a voluntary system in which
funders can only contribute if they also volunteer
to do mundane campaign work. Give a $1,000,
and you have to stuff 1,000 envelopes. Or have
your employees make 5,000 calls for a $5,000
donation. (We are still developing an appropriate
formula of activity-per-dollar.) Imagine, for
example, Dwayne Andreas going door-to-door
with campaign leaflets! That would lessen the
gap between the "little people" who canvas
neighborhoods at all hours of the day and night
and the elite group that achieves influence only
through money. (Suggested slogan: "Donating to
democracy is a privilege. You have to work for
June 17, 1997

David Corn is Washington editor of the Nation and a frequent
contributor to Salon.