President Clinton has declared that "the enemy of our time is inaction," pledging to forge bipartisan agreements on a balanced budget and campaign finance reform within months, and to lead a "national crusade" to improve education by the turn of the century. Education, Clinton vowed, would be his "number-one priority for the next four years," and he devoted the longest portion of his address to this. He appealed for "national standards" to improve student performance and pledged to promote such standards with voluntary tests prepared by the federal government.
Most of the ideas Clinton presented last night first appeared as poll- tested proposals in his reelection campaign last fall: expanding the 1993 "Family and Medical Leave Act" to include time off from work for parent-teacher conferences; school curfews; and tax credits and deductions to subsidize college education. But he presented these ideas using more encompassing and urgent language than before.
"We face no imminent threat, but we do have an enemy: The enemy of our time is inaction," Clinton declared at the start of his speech. He finished, as he did in last month's address, by invoking the symbolism that the nation is about to pass into a new millennium. "We don't have a moment to waste," he said. "Tomorrow, there will be just over 1,000 days until the year 2000. . . . One thousand days to work together."
The speech proved shorter than predicted and far more organized and disciplined than some of his previous appearances before Congress. The annual speeches to Congress have served as markers of Clinton's ideological migration. In 1993, he announced that government must do more and unveiled a raft of big- government proposals, including a $30 billion "stimulus package" that was vastly more expensive than any single proposal he offered last night.
Also as part of his pitch for more low-tax empowerment zones in...