There's nothing like an impending summit to get a president to clear his desk. Bombing Iraq's intelligence headquarters last week was the first of a series of rapid-fire decisions on long-simmering issues, from the fate of Northwestern forests to the future of U.S. ties with Vietnam.
Documents signed "William Jefferson Clinton" seemed to be sailing out of the presidential OUT box as he prepared to fly off to Tokyo for his first economic summit. If there was a closing line to the week, it would be: "I'm outta here, folks. Al, you mind handling the complaints?"Journalists are in a quandary. It's hard to know where the most interesting seat will be next week. Will it be in Tokyo, where leaders of the seven major industrialized democracies are gathering, and Japan and the United States are expected to clash over trade issues?
All of them are suffering in the popularity polls and the host, Kiichi Miyazawa, is referred to in his native tongue as "dead body" - Japanese for lame duck. (For the first time ever, the most popular leader at the summit could be Boris N. Yeltsin.)
Or will it be in Washington, where different constituencies will be lining up with torches and pitchforks for their chance to ransack the White House after the decisions Clinton made?
White House officials argued that the last week showed a president who was stepping up to the plate on tough issues. True enough. But isn't that his job?
Never mind. For anyone who might have missed a few pitches, let's go to the videotape:
Clinton approved a plan by an independent commission that would close dozens of military bases.
He managed to alienate both environmentalists and loggers by offering a plan that would protect the northern spotted owl by dramatically reducing Northwest logging, but would also offer $1.2 billion to retrain loggers and help timber towns, and would cut incentives to ship mill jobs overseas.
He told aides he would throw his support behind a recommendation that homosexuals join the armed forces under a policy in which the military would not ask recruits about their sexual orientation but would retain the ability to throw out homosexuals who make ostentatious public statements about their preferences. This one is so explosive, though, that it needs more work before it can be unveiled.
In between, the president decided to drop U.S. opposition to international loans to Vietnam.
By Friday, reporters found so many angry faxes coming in that it was hard to keep the interest groups straight. The joke going around the White House, one official said, was: "Is that gay Vietnam vet logger who wants to keep his base open still out there on the lawn?"