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 urban
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