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AMERICA NEEDS A `SLICK' POLITICIAN LIKE CLINTON IN THE WHITE HOUSE

Fry bread, fry bread, nice and greasy!

"Win team, win team, nice and easy!"You may think it somewhat strange that this unusual basketball cheer created by bright Navajo Indian cheerleaders reminds me of President-elect Clinton.

Fry bread is a lip-smacking staple of Navajo diet, usually cooked in lard in a fry pan over a crackling wood fire. Naturally, it tends to be slick and greasy.

Please understand that this doesn't mean I consider the soon-to-be commander in chief "greasy" by any stretch of the imagination.

I don't.

But he is certainly one slick politician.

Which, by the way, isn't said in criticism, but in approval.

Politicians, after all, must be judged in part by their slickness - their ability to get things done by bringing together opposite sides of issues to produce compromise.

Something that is an art, requiring enormous patience and great skill.

Clinton appears to be keenly aware that he was elected by a 43 percent plurality, precious little to give him real governing strength.

He is walking softly and reaching out to everyone, including the Republicans.

He has already sat down with President Bush in the Oval Office to get a rundown on world affairs. He's also broken bread with the Republican leadership.

Since his election, Clinton has done an impressive job of getting the power transition under way with the least amount of upset.

He certainly got his relationship with congressional leadership off to a flying start over a dinner in Little Rock.

Clinton expressed willingness to accept a substitute for the line-item veto he wants.

The change proposed by House Speaker Tom Foley would permit such vetoes to be overridden by a majority of lawmakers. Clinton said this was the way it is done in Arkansas.

A line-item veto, unsuccessfully sought by Bush, would seem to be an imperative first move to getting the budget deficit under control.

It remains to be seen how successful he'll be with this one.

Already, powerful Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd has declared war on any change in this favorite congressional pork barreling tool.

Clinton's plan to end the longtime rule banning gays and lesbians in the military has already run into strong opposition from the military.

So far, Clinton has approached his new responsibility with wisdom and sensitivity to the views of others. This, it seems to me, is one of the most promising indicators we've seen.

Fortunately, Clinton is a moderate, like most Americans. He is also a pragmatist, able to accept compromise.

Much of America's governmental gridlock over past decades has been caused by zealots of the hard left and hard right.

Such attitudes have brought tragedy and disaster throughout world history. They continue to do so today, as witness the slaughter in the Balkans.

Perhaps what America needs in the White House now is a "slick" politician like President-elect Clinton.

Someone with the wisdom and backbone to prevail over the ideologues and restore moderation to government.

We should find out pretty soon whether he's the right man.

(Ralph Looney, former editor of the Rocky Mountain News at Denver and the Albuquerque Tribune, writes a weekly commentary at Scripps Howard News Service.)