Facebook Twitter

CLINTON TAILORING HIS EMPHASIS ON ISSUES TO FIT THE OCCASION

SHARE CLINTON TAILORING HIS EMPHASIS ON ISSUES TO FIT THE OCCASION

The American president is here in Paris, delivering his long-awaited polemic on U.S.-European relations in the 21st century amid the gilt, crystal, velvet and tapestries of the French National Assembly.

What does he do next? He jogs. In rush-hour traffic as stunned Parisians are making their way home, President Clinton is zigzagging through cars and trucks and wearing shorts, a T-shirt and a baseball cap.Now, admittedly French President Francois Mitterrand is a lot older. But the thought of him running through the streets of Paris brought startled looks of outright pain to French citizens queried about this.

There was also some puzzlement over Clinton's new foreign policy delineation, delivered to the French assembly.

First Clinton said that he is deeply worried that history may repeat itself without uncommon zeal, vision and patience. Like post-World War I, Europe may not unite enough to prevent fascism from expanding.

This was exactly what he refused to say in Rome earlier in the week, trying to downplay the importance of neofascists in the new Italian government.

But a few hours after the important, carefully scripted speech in Paris, Clinton said he is "optimistic" because this time the United States won't hide in an isolationist cocoon and let Europe be destroyed by such a "cancer" as militant nationalism.

It's not a true contradiction but a difference in emphasis that seems to undercut what he said earlier.

During the day, he also changed U.S. policy on Bosnia. For the first time he endorsed a cease-fire plan the Bosnian Muslims despise, convinced it will mean their old land will go permanently to the Serbs.

Did he cave to European demands and sell out Muslims worried about losing their land? He "moved closer" to the European position, conceded a top White House official.

He also said that what happens in North Korea is up to North Korea, even if its people suffer. But what will happen if it becomes too clear to deny that North Koreans have nuclear weapons? Clinton used to say that could not stand; now he says he'll try to get the other U.N. members of the Security Council to go along with sanctions.

Just before leaving on the trip, Clinton traded his insistence on progress in human rights in China for continued trade benefits. While most economists think that was the right thing to do, there is no doubt it does not square with U.S. demands for human rights progress in China.

Having once expressed "loathing" for the military, Clinton now says he really enjoys being commander in chief and that serving in the military is "an honorable thing." In the English Channel aboard the USS George Washington, the newest aircraft carrier, he said he wished he could have had the experiences to be gained in the military.

What is certain is that Clinton will return to Europe - in less than a month, actually - to try to explain his foreign policy once again.

At least the jogging routine stays about the same.