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The Phoenix Gazette
Tuesday, February 23, 1993
Editorial/Opinion Section, p. A13
(Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service)

Dark Moment
Will Plan Work? Who Knows?
Clinton Equipped, Though

By Howard Fast

My heart goes out to the average American householder who opened his or her newspaper or turned on the television to reflect on the meaning of Bill Clinton's program. Almost 100 years ago, British librettist W.S. Gilbert wrote, "I often think it's comical that every boy and every girl that's born into this world alive is either a little liberal or else a little conservative."
Well, you pay your money and you take your choice. The Democrats say that either we raise more money through taxes or we will be not only in terrible trouble but on our way to irreversible doom. The Republicans say that raising taxes simply dooms us.
The venerable New York Times, underlining Gilbert's genetic conclusion, declared editorially that President Clinton is on the right track, and we could do more of it. At the same time, it turned its op-ed page over to William Safire and Ronald Reagan, doom-sayers par excellence. Safire deals with the world of today. Whoever wrote Reagan's epistle takes the old gentleman into history with this:
"I offer you the advice of the 14th century Arab historian, Ibn Khaldun, who said: 'At the beginning of the empire, the tax rates were low and the revenues were low.' And no, I did not personally know Ibn Khaldun, although we may have had some friends in common."
Well, it's a comforting thing to know that Reagan has given up Western novels for a study of Arabian history, but I can hardly imagine that Ibn Khaldun had a deficit comparable to ours. One can only hope that Reagan, possibly through his wife's astrologer, will consult some of the "friends in common" and come up with some figures.
For my part, I hardly think that my readers require or would benefit from my assessment of President Clinton's program. The media have a veritable army of savants and mavens who will inform us, ad nauseam, of the rights and wrongs in his program.
The plain truth of the matter is that Bill Clinton faces an impossible job, that he will do the best he can, and that he will bring to the job compassion, a brilliant intellect, a sense of decency and the advice of the good woman he is married to.
Will he fail or succeed? I certainly do not know, and neither does anyone else. I was very much impressed by Robert Dole, another man of good intellect and probity, and his unwillingness to leap onto the bandwagon of Republican attack and by his attitude of wait and see.
I watched and listened to the Clinton address on public television, and I was intrigued by the camera's singling out Clinton's mother again and again. She is a plain, hard-working woman, and there she sat, listening to her son, who, miracle of all miracles, had been elected president of the United States.
I kept wondering what she was feeling, what was going on inside of her? There was a preachment for all the world, the essence of that wonderful and impossible dream that we were taught in grade school and that we learned to scoff at and deride as the bitter taste of time took over our lives, namely that you or anyone else could grow up and become president of these United States.
I am enough of a cynic and nay-sayer to feel that I can afford sentimentality on occasion. Many years ago, at the onset of World War II, through an odd circumstance, I was given the job of originating and writing the radio messages that we sent, via British Broadcasting, into Nazi-occupied Europe.
Each day, month after month, during the darkest time of modern history, when all of Europe was under the heel of Adolf Hitler, I sat down at my typewriter and wrote: "This is the Voice of America. Here is the news." And each day, writing those words, I felt an overwhelming pride in this brave and wonderful land that I was privileged to live in and fight for. Today, a long lifetime later, my eyes tear up at the memory.
I felt something of the same listening to this wide-eyed young man, with his bristling shock of graying hair, and his ingenuous face, who has been given the hardest job in the world. Make no mistake; this is another terribly difficult and dark moment in our history - and it is such moments that bring out the best in us.