- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 27, 2000

Dear President Clinton: No doubt, you're very busy today, getting ready for tonight's State of the Union address the last one of the Clinton/Gore administration. And no doubt you, your pollsters and your speechwriters have already decided what you're going to say.

But since there's still time to make some changes, may I offer a few modest suggestions?

President Reagan used to say that there was no limit to what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit.

Over the past seven years, your motto seems to have been the opposite: There's no limit to what you can take credit for if you don't care what you accomplish.

And so you've claimed credit for welfare reform even though you twice vetoed Republican reform bills, and finally put pen to paper only under election eve duress. And so you've claimed credit for budget balancing even though you never offered a plan and never worked with Republicans on the task. (You'll recall you said we might be able to balance the budget in 10 years … well, maybe nine years … no, make it seven … ) And so you've claimed credit for the economic boom and the surplus a claim about as credible as Al Gore saying he invented the Internet.

But crow all you like tonight. The thing is, when you're done, you have a very important choice to make. If you don't want your final year in office to be lame duck season, it needn't be: Just focus on issues that truly concern Americans, issues where there is a possibility of finding common ground with Republicans in the House and Senate and governors' mansions all across this country.

The alternative to that? Propose a long, laundry list of Big Government, big taxing, big spending proposals that would benefit union bosses, trial lawyers and, most of all, raise campaign issues for Al Gore and Hillary to exploit.

Sadly, this second course is the one I predict you'll choose. Why? Because you've always preferred campaigning to governing. And because it's obvious that the elections of Mr. Gore and Hillary represent the legacy (the vindication, really) you most fervently seek. And because I'm afraid you're no more willing now to sit down with Republicans to do the hard work of legislating than you've been in the past.

But if, just this once, you would imagine what could be accomplished. We could give all of America's working families a raise by reducing the amount the government takes from their paychecks. The surplus, as you surely understand, is really a tax overpayment and most of it should be returned to the rightful owners, the working men and women who earned it. What's more, leaving money in local communities to be spent by taxpayers rather than sucking that money into Washington's maw helps those local communities prosper while creating new jobs and new businesses.

In your 1998 State of the Union address (that was two years after the one in which you proclaimed "the era of Big Government is over") you said we should "save Social Security first." But so far, you haven't been willing to join us and put the entire Social Security surplus in a lock box so that no Washington politician or bureaucrat can spend a penny of it. Why not join with Republicans now and get this done? This would be a great legacy for you.

We ask again that you work with us to improve America's schools. Decades of misguided liberal policies have left America's educational system badly damaged. So let's try something innovative like local control and increased school choice to get our schools back on track.

What else? During the Clinton/ Gore administration, our military has been saddled with too many responsibilities and given too few resources. Let's correct that, let's build missile defenses and get serious about fighting terrorism.

It's also important that we find a way to make better health care more accessible to more Americans. We can do that last year a bipartisan panel proposed an excellent plan, but you rejected those recommendations. What won't work is an attempt by you and Mr. Gore to backtrack on little cat's feet to Hillary Care a scheme that would have turned over a 7th of the U.S. economy to federal bureaucrats, while limiting patients' freedom and slowing the development of new lifesaving drugs and medical technologies.

Finally, last week Speaker Denny Hastert proposed we commit to eliminating the national debt by 2015 this week you upped the ante, saying we should do it by 2013. Great. Now let's agree to keep the federal government in the black from here on out and let's make sure future governments refrain from deficit spending by agreeing to enact a Balanced Budget Amendment now.

Mr. President, if we could accomplish together what I've outlined above,you'd end up with a great final year in office and a legacy to make you proud. So please scrap the Gore/Clinton campaign speech you have planned, and get back to the job the American people are paying you to do. If you will, there's no limit to what we can accomplish and we Republicans will happily share the credit with you.

Jim Nicholson is chairman of the Republican National Committee.

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