President Clinton is nothing if not malleable. His speech Thursday night once again demonstrated that.

Faced with a broad voter mandate that swept his party from power in Congress, he is proposing a "middle-class Bill of Rights." It would grant a $500 tax credit for all children under 13 in families earning less than $60,000 per year, with reduced credits for incomes up to $75,000. People making up to $100,000 yearly could deduct up to $10,000 for school tuitions and deduct deposits in individual retirement accounts.Welcome to the club, Mr. President.

Clinton's Bill of Rights will have to get in line behind the Republicans' "Contract with America," and a tax-cut plan proposed by Democrats in Congress.

Like the others, Clinton's plan sounds appealing to many hard-working Americans. But he and the Republican Congress have yet to tackle the truly difficult job of paying for a tax cut.

The president's plan would cost $60 billion over five years. But while he was specific about its benefits, Clinton was far too general in describing how he plans to find the money. He briefly mentioned $24 billion in spending cuts, including the elimination of unspecified housing and energy programs and the privatization of other government services. He would impose a two-year freeze on discretionary spending, amounting to another $52 billion in savings. The remaining $16 billion would be used for deficit reduction.

The president's plan isn't the only one lacking in specifics. Republicans have been equally vague about how they intend to cover a $107 billion tax cut.

No one should be surprised that the president has caught the tax-cut fever. He had little choice. His administration has precious support base left. The latest New York Times/CBS News poll showed his approval rating at 38 percent.

But Clinton's willingness to alter his course again illustrates one of the chief flaws of his presidency. To many Americans, he appears to be swayed more by prevailing winds than by his own convictions. That is why he sounded so disingenuous as he reminded people he has been cutting government all along.

The speech was his first attempt to once again begin rowing with the tax-cutting oars he used to navigate campaign waters in 1992. Unfortunately for him, those oars, which he dropped after assuming office, now are in the hands of Republicans.

And middle-class taxpayers feel betrayed and used by Clinton. The time is long past for him to take the lead on tax cuts. He might not be reviving his campaign promise if Republicans had not won control of Congress.

Republicans have made it clear they intend to take the initiative. In his response to the president's speech, Sen.-elect Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., said the party intends to move ahead with or without the chief executive.

Clinton's speech showed Americans he plans to move along with the bandwagon. Make no mistake. The electorate sent a message last month that the president heard loud and clear.

Clinton asserted that his proposal was not about moving to the right or to the left, but about moving forward. But, clearly, the voters helped point him in that direction.