ROLL UP YOUR SLEEVES, MR. CLINTON...
With 370 electoral votes under his belt, Governor Bill Clinton has the go-ahead to get to work on the U.S. economy. Tradition gives him a 100-day window of opportunity to put forward a program that Congress cill pass. His challenge is to make every one of those days count.
Here, George Bush's bad luck is Bill Clinton's good luck. It probably cost Bush the election, but four years of tough times have reduced inflation, lowered interest rates, and forced American companies to shed workers and otherwise improve productivity. Thus, Bush has created a set of economic conditions that Clinton can use to great advantage. The new President can start the economy growing again with a greatly reduced risk of rekindling inflation, thereby avoiding the excesses that dogged the fast-growth years of the 1980s.
With the economy in a position to grow again, we urge the President-elect to keep his pledge of a new, centrist Democratic Party. That means resisting pressures for a big dollop of fiscal stimulus, making good on his promise of trimming 100,000 jobs out of the federal civil service, and appointing individuals with high credibility in the world financial markets. In this spirit, Alan Greenspan, whatever his faults, should be urged to stay on at the Federal Reserve.
In his campaign, Clinton called for limited stimulus to growth. Fine. business week has long supported investment stimulus of this kind. He wants a sustained investment in the infrastructure, and we agree the economy needs it. But whatever Clinton does must be consistent with his commitment to cut the federal deficit in half over four years. Ross Perot's startling performance proves that the voters want deficit reduction.
To tackle this 375 billion-pound gorilla, Clinton will need the best backup team available, and his record of picking aides for his first-rate campaign is encouraging. So are the quality names being floated in the early betting for a Clinton economic team. Robert E. Rubin, co-chairman of Goldman, Sachs & Co., could be headed for the Treasury Dept., where he would be a strong proponent of a deficit-reduction plan.
And if House Budget Committee Chairman Leon E. Panetta (D-Calif.) should get the tap as Director of the Office of Management & Budget, he has a little list of outdated programs that would never be missed. It's a cinch that a lot is going to depend on Treasury and the OMB, where the departing Nicholas Brady and Richard Darman proved to be liabilities in George Bush's struggle to revive the economy.
Clinton must also move swiftly onto the world scene, where he lacks the background he has on domestic issues. Here, too, a first-rate appointment to head the State Dept. can make a huge difference. Whether it's Carter Administration State Dept. veteran Warren Christopher, House foreign affairs specialist Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.), or someone else, the nod must go to a person with loads of expertise. But the leader of the Free World sits in the Oval Office, not in Foggy Bottom, and as soon as Clinton takes over the Presidency, he must meet quickly with important world leaders to set about building personal relationships with them. All the backup he will have from the White House staff and State can't substitute for first-hand impressions of foreign leaders and their mettle--or lack of it.
Bill Clinton has the intelligence, instincts, and drive to be a first-rate President. There are many problems to be tackled, and the all-out Clinton campaign leaves no doubt that he will throw himself into his job with boundless energy. In his first 100 days, while the honeymoon still lingers, we'd like to see him apply those formidable skills to improving the economy and--inextricably linked to the economy--the U.S. role and responsibilities as a great world power.