Monday, December 20, 1999
in capital this yearThe issue: The president and Congress have largely canceled each other out this year.IF you haven't been paying attention to what has been going on in Washington since the Clinton impeachment battle, you haven't missed much. The president and the Republican-controlled Congress have been able to agree on very little.
Our view: President Clinton could have avoided this situation by resigning after the Lewinsky scandal broke.
Clinton's success rate in legislation in 1999 fell to near-record lows. Congressional Quarterly figures he achieved a mere 37.8 percent, the second-lowest since the publication began evaluating presidential success 47 years ago.
Although the Senate acquitted Clinton in February, the battle cost the president dearly in credibility and political clout. And he made no great effort to find compromises with the Republicans, many of whom made little effort to conceal their personal dislike of him.
None of the major initiatives outlined in Clinton's State of the Union address became law and few ever came up for a vote. Among the casualties were his proposals to overhaul Social Security and Medicare, raise the minimum wage, tighten regulation of health-maintenance organizations and raise tobacco-related revenue.
In turn, Clinton undercut the bipartisan commission on the future of Medicare.
His allies on the commission prevented its recommendations from achieving the votes needed to be reported to Congress. Republicans then decided against pressing on without administration support.
The White House and Congress canceled each other out on the issue of tax cuts. The Republicans passed a 10-year, $792 billion cut, but Clinton vetoed it. Clinton's alternative plan went nowhere.
In foreign affairs, the president suffered a humiliating defeat when the Senate rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The House embarrassed him by rejecting a resolution to authorize the bombing of Kosovo.
Probably the most significant legislation enacted this year was the overhaul of financial services laws dating back to the Depression. For the most part the White House didn't play an active role on this issue. Clinton signed the measure into law although the final version contained several provisions the administration didn't like.
The stalemate is likely to extend through the rest of Clinton's term. With an eye on the 2000 elections, both parties are likely to spend most of their efforts blaming each other for the lack of action.
This gives the elections a particular appeal, providing the nation with an opportunity to provide a new set of characters who may be able to get something done in Washington.
Clinton could have spared the nation this frustration by resigning after the Lewinsky scandal broke. Instead he fended off the Republicans' bid to oust him -- but at a huge price in lost opportunities to deal with important issues.
Okinawa still needed
for U.S. military basesThe issue: Japan and the United States have agreed on a plan for the relocation of a Marine Corps heliport on Okinawa.MEMBERS of the national cabinet have told the governor of Okinawa, Keiichi Inamine, that the central government plans to set aside about $97 million over 10 years for development of the northern part of Okinawa province's main island. This is part of the plan to prepare for relocation of a U.S. Marine Corps heliport from Futenma in central Okinawa to Nago in the north.
Our view: Economic aid from the national government may mollify opponents of the relocation, which is needed for security reasons.
The plan also includes measures to lower air fares and highway tolls to promote tourism and creation of a zone for the development of information technologies in the region.
The United States agreed in 1996 to return the Futenma base to Japan within five to seven years provided its heliport functions were transferred to another site in Okinawa. The base had became a focus of protests over noise, crimes by U.S. personnel and the danger of crashes.
There is widespread opposition on Okinawa to a continued U.S. military presence, but both Washington and Tokyo maintain that it is needed for the security of Japan and Northeast Asia. About 27,000 U.S. military personnel are stationed on Okinawa.
Adm. Dennis C. Blair, the U.S. Pacific commander-in-chief, said, "Our defense relationship with Japan is the linchpin of our regional security arrangements and our Marines on Okinawa are an integral part of this. Their presence deters aggression."
Nevertheless, many residents of the Nago area are resisting the base relocation. The national government hopes to mollify them with economic aid.
Governor Inamine, who assumed office last year, has disavowed his predecessors' anti-military views. However, he is seeking joint use of the base by civilian aircraft and a 15-year limit on the U.S. military presence -- terms that may well be unacceptable.
Sweetening the pot with development funds from Tokyo could persuade the governor to modify his position. With the security situation still shaky in Northeast Asia, the time has not yet come for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Okinawa.
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