Next Year's Model

Bill Clinton loves the hotel del Coronado in San Diego. With its Pacific view, it's one of his favorite places to jog. But as the president huffed down the beach last week, a bystander cut into his early-morning down time. "You're a draft-dodging, yellow-bellied liar," shouted a woman just yards from the president. She hurled every talk-radio invective: sexual harasser, liar, phony. With a grin, the president laughed it off.

Voters seem ready to shrug off the charges, too. Trailing by 23 points in the new Newsweek Poll, Bob Dole has one last gambit: attack Clinton's ethics. But most people like those posing the questions at the town hall-style debate in San Diego so far seem uninterested in the president's personal foibles. And unless some scandal (Asian money, Whitewater) takes an unforeseeable bounce, there are few signs that the ethical critique can turn the race around. So voters and Washington are pondering what may come next: a second Clinton term.

Americans may not care much about Clinton's past peccadilloes, but that doesn't mean they aren't worried about his ideology. Though Clinton is running as a centrist, 49 percent of the respondents in the Newsweek Poll say he's likely "to do more than he's saying" to expand government to advance "liberal causes" an impression Bob Dole is trying to exploit by hinting that a second term would be a left-liberal nightmare in which the First Lady dismantles welfare reform while Ira Magaziner runs the Pentagon. The Democrats say that Clinton would maintain the chastened, centrist tenor he and Al Gore have had since the 1994 GOP landslide.

Who's right? Though lots of staffers may be in motion in a second Clinton term, Clinton would have to respond to one basic principle: if he wins, Clinton would get, at best, an anti-mandate a command from the voters to do little more than propose small, popular programs and keep the economy moving. If they recognize this, both the president and the First Lady will avoid any grand schemes in order to assure their place in history and their legacy is a subject that transfixes them both.

Behind the scenes, planning for a second Clinton term has already begun. In the White House, deputy chief of staff Evelyn Lieberman has been tapped to figure out how new assignments would be made after the election. Her first task: quietly take soundings from top staffers to see if they plan on staying. Presidential pals such as Washington powerlawyer Vernon Jordan and North Carolina businessman Erskine Bowles are offering Clinton private advice.

Everyone in the White House is committed to avoiding the pitfalls of the 1992 transition, when Clinton along with Hillary and a handful of confidantes spent weeks at the governor's mansion in Little Rock obsessing over who should be in the cabinet. While they debated the qualities that would make an ideal energy secretary, they left the staffing of the West Wing until the last minute. The results? Clinton made ill-fitting appointments such as the too-nice Mack McLarty to be the tough chief of staff, the blunderbuss Bernard Nussbaum for the sensitive role of counsel, the uncommunicative George Stephanopoulos as communications czar.

The key lesson of the first two years was the protean president needed a strong chief of staff like Leon Panetta to discipline the White House and a political adviser like Dick Morris to help Clinton himself hew to the center. Now Morris is gone, and Panetta is almost certain to resign and go back to California. But in a second term it is hard to imagine that Clinton's chief of staff would be a lefty bomb-thrower. Clinton aides know that appointing an unabashed liberal like deputy chief of staff Harold Ickes to the number-one job would provoke a drubbing in the press and on Capitol Hill. "It would be a big finger to the Republicans," says one Clintonite. Look for any one of several moderate long-time friends of the president to take the top staff job: Bowles, Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor, or former Senate majority leader George Mitchell.

The other factor that would keep Clinton on a moderate track is Gore. Already one of the most influential vice presidents in history, Gore would only grow in influence. When Gore rounded up his allies throughout the administration for a summer meeting in the ornate Indian Treaty Room of the Old Executive Office Building, it was, aides say, a combination thank-you and "priming the pump" political rally. Indeed, their ranks are strong: there are nearly 200 Goreheads in the administration everyone from the widely admired Federal Communications Commission Chairman Reed Hundt to Tennessee cronies like Jim Hall, the National Transportation Safety Board boss.

Given his own ambitions for the year 2000, Gore will do everything he can to promote his own fortunes. Right after the election he'll begin what one aide calls "the thank- you cycle" of appearances with local and state pols who helped the presidential ticket. Gore will help retire their debts. He'll also pay early visits to New Hampshire and Iowa, states he ignored in 1988 when he ran for president and concentrated on the southern Super Tuesday states. Gore would also keep up his wide-ranging policy portfolio, from arms control to the environment to reinventing government. One issue that could test the vice president: his responsibility for managing relations with Russia. His joint commission with Soviet prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has taken on matters as diverse as oil drilling and trade negotiations. But if Russia is thrown into turmoil, Gore could be blamed for a policy that was too pro-Yeltsin.

Of course, a second Clinton term would be largely defined by the Congress. But Clinton aides assume that even if the Democrats were to reclaim both houses, their margins would be narrow forcing them to reach out to Republicans. "He should offer cabinet appointments to [moderate] Republicans such as [former senators] Bill Cohen, Warren Rudman and [former governor] Tom Kean," former presidential adviser Dick Morris told Newsweek. "There's an urgency in dealing with the Republicans. Their morale will be shattered. He'll need to reach down and give them something to live for. And if he reaches out to them, he doesn't need the left of his own party."

That may be a bit strong, but Morris does have a point. Clinton would have to balance the liberal interests in his party versus the wants of so-called New Democrats. Labor, feminists, civil rights groups and others have long wish-lists if Clinton is reelected and the goodies range from expensive employment programs to buttress the recent welfare-reform bill to blocking the expansion of the North American Free Trade Agreement to include Chile, a move which organized labor will resist.

Still, there is reason to doubt that the liberals would prevail completely. On the Hill, Democrats claim they are not in the mood for a hyper-ambitious program. The "Families First" agenda put forward by the congressional leadership last year is in keeping with the president's interest in low-risk items like tax cuts for education. Clinton himself is using the last weeks of the campaign to tout education initiatives such as making two years of college universal, enforcing higher standards in elementary secondary schools and wiring more classrooms to the Internet. "We've really crossed the line," says Al From, head of the moderate Democratic Leadership Council. "There's just no going back to a government-driven approach."

Then there's the Hillary factor. Dole suggests that she would try to push her husband to the left. But White House insiders think she's more likely to continue doing what she's done since her health care plan crashed: speaking out on family and children's issues and raising money for Democrats. In private, she would still be active in hiring and firing staff as well as shaping her husband's image.

But the problems that plagued her during the first term would not go away in a second. The Whitewater investigation continues special prosecutor Kenneth Starr reports "very substantial" progress with the grand jury as do the inquiries into Filegate and the travel office firings, all of which involve allegations that come back, in one way or another, to the First Lady (box).

If Clinton doesn't have a Nixon-style scandal or an LBJ- style litany of social programs, then what might his historical legacy be? Would it be a constellation of smaller executive orders like the V-chip? Or would he find historical validation in international affairs securing lasting peace in Ireland, Bosnia and the Middle East? Some Clintonites believe the president's real capstone could be a betrayal of his defense of Medicare's status quo and that he'll sponsor a dramatic restructuring of entitlements by appointing a bipartisan commission to whack Social Security and Medicare a flip-flop worthy of his turnaround on a middle-class tax cut.

Whatever the legacy is, Clinton needs to recognize that hubris drives politics first, the grandiosity of Clinton's first two-years, then the Gingrichian overreaching. Finally, say Clinton aides, the president claims he knows that he must be humble, cooperative, restrained. Then again, of course, in 1982 Bill Clinton thanked Arkansas for taking him back after dumping him as governor a defeat fueled by his early liberal moves. He moved to the center, and won: he said that he had learned his lesson. He hadn't. Soon, it seems, we'll find out if it's sunk in for good.

Four years ago Bill Clinton left his West Wing staff decisions until the last minute--an oversight that led to early mishaps. Now he knows better and is already mulling a lineup for his second term.

LIKELY TO LEAVE

Leon Panetta, Chief of Staff. The avuncular Californian is out--and soon. He could run for governor or rake in the bucks. Back at the White House, the president is said to want a replacement named before his mid-November swing through Asia.

George Stephanopoulos, Senior Adviser. The boy in the media bubble is leaving, but can he be replaced? Wonk Gene Sperling lacks the Clinton mind meld.

Rahm Emanuel, Director of Special Projects. Big loss. A rare combination of ballet dancer and tough pol, he was the unsung hero of NAFTA, Brady bill and immigration.

Laura Tyson, Director, National Economic Council. Probably back to hubby in Berkeley, but could be waylaid in Washington with a cabinet offer.

Maggie Williams, Chief of Staff to the First Lady. Hillary's pal, but with huge legal bills, a spring wedding and burnout, it's bye-bye East Wing.

LIKELY TO STAY

Carol Rasco, Domestic Policy Adviser. Widely liked and utterly ignored. She'll stay, but will remain largely powerless.

SWITCHING SEATS

Deputy National Security Adviser. No. 2 at the NSC, Clinton's friend from McGovern days could end up trade rep., CIA boss or even chief of staff.

Alexis Herman, Director of Public Liason. Former Ron Brown aide and a long shot for Commerce chief. More likely: a solid undersecretary job.

Erskine Bowles, North Carolina Businessman. From runner for chief of staff. Clinton loves the easy going millionaire, but Bowles may prefer being a presidential golf partner to being a staffer with 16-hour days.

Tom Donilon, State Department Aide. If Christopher bolts, his right-hand man probably will, too. But many in the White House would welcome Donilon.

Alan Blinder, Princeton Economist. Already left two Clinton jobs. A long shot to head the National Economic Council.

Mark Penn, Presidential Pollster. Aides say Clinton has bonded with the rumpled New Yorker who proclaims that suburban marrieds are the key to presidential popularity. Look for him on the N.Y.-D.C. shuttle.

Whether they're personally burned out or have endured a troubled tenure, many of the president's cabinet officers may leave if there is a second act. Their departures would give Clinton the chance to pay off old debts-and bring in fresh blood. A look at some possibilities:

LIKELY TO LEAVE

Warren Christopher, Secretary of State. The pinched diplomat hasn't discussed his future with Clinton. Though he might get a second wind, after four years of Bosnia and the Mideast, he's likely to head home to L.A.

John Deutch, CIA Director. The onetime MIT chemistry professor has had a bad reaction to the spy culture. He may end up at Defense if Perry bolts.

William Perry, Secretary of Defense. The White House loves the mild-mannered Defense worker. But he's tired and wants out. Unlikely Clinton can persuade him to stay.

Federico Pena, Transportation Secretary. Mr. I-trust-ValuJet is a goner. But his absence creates a Hispanic gap. He could get a consolation prize, like an ambassadorship.

Hazel 0'Leafy, Energy Secretary. Besieged for her exorbitant travel budget, she's likely--but not certain--to go. Departure would raise pressure i0r more blacks in the cabinet.

LIKELY TO STAY

Henry Cisneros, HUD Secretary. Despite an ethics investigation, the Housing boss is widely liked and respected in the administration. Probably out within a year, but could end up in the White House as an adviser.

Donna Shalala, HHS Secretary. Friends say that she's staying put de spite offers from a bevy of foundations and universities. Now a Beltway fixture, her picture's on the wall at the Palm restaurant.

Janet Reno, Attorney General. She wants to stay, but Clintonites find her politically tone-deaf on everything from crime to Whitewater and want someone more reliable. Will Clinton replace her with a crony like Mickey Kantor? Slight odds she stays.

SWITCHING SEATS

Mickey Kantor, Commerce Secretary. The other comeback kid. In '92, his bid to head the transition was blocked. Now the champion of NAFTA and the debate negotiations could end up as chief of staff or attorney general.

Madeleine Albright, U.N. Ambassador. Leading candidate for State, but lacks the easy comfort that Clinton feels with George Mitchell or Strobe Talbott. Gender helps.

George Mitchell, Former Senate Majority Leader. Dole's stand-in at debate prep gets along well with Clinton and could end up at State or as chief of staff. But with his young wife and a chance to make money, White House aides doubt he'll come on board.

Jamie Gorelick, Deputy Attorney General. Movin' up. Savvy lawyer once rebuffed CIA offer. May take it this time.

Steven Rattner, Wall Street Financier. Clintonites expect that the journalist turned investor could end up in the White House or at Treasury.

William Daley, Chicago Lawyer. The Second City scion got dissed in the first term when he lost Transportation. After running the '96 convention, he could be in the cabinet this time.