Back in his home state for a weekend of relaxation, President Clinton Saturday happily engaged in some of his favorite pastimes: jogging, playing golf, following the fortunes of the University of Arkansas basketball team and bashing the Republican majority in Congress.
Clinton, who arrived here Friday at the end of a trip that took him to Georgia, Florida and Haiti, devoted his regular Saturday morning radio address to a defense of the administration’s education policies and said GOP proposals to cut education funding are “wrong.”
Speaking in the media center of the Gibbs Magnet School here with about two dozen elementary school children arrayed on the floor in front of him, Clinton said the most important task of government was to “help our people raise their education and skill levels so they can make the most of their own lives.”
“Now, many in Congress think there’s no difference in education and other spending,” he added, citing proposed GOP cuts in the Head Start program, his national service program, AmeriCorps, and, “unbelievably, the college loan programs. These are not wise proposals.”
Clinton said education and training programs enjoyed broad bipartisan support in Congress in the past, but “now in this new Congress, some want to cut education. And that’s wrong.”
“I don’t know what political party these children belong to, but I do know we need them all and they deserve our best efforts to give them a shot at the American dream,” he added.
As with several of his recent speeches, Clinton’s remarks Saturday were laced with the imagery and language of his 1992 campaign, when he portrayed himself as a “new Democrat” who offered a “new covenant” to the voters that avoided the “false choice” between big government and “the new rage of no government.”
In the Republican response, Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., defended GOP budget proposals and described Clinton’s visit to Haiti, where the president took part in a ceremony turning over peacekeeping duties to the United Nations, as “a big bunch of hoopla.”
“All we seem to have done is go to a defenseless little island, replace one bunch of thugs with another group of thugs and spent a billion and a half dollars of our money doing it,” Gregg said.For most of the day, however, such long-distance political sniping seemed far from Clinton’s mind as he made his way through the familiar surroundings of the capital city where he served as Arkansas governor for 12 years. He took an early morning jog on a bike trail near the Arkansas River, strolled through a neighborhood, stopping to point out the spring foliage, and played golf this afternoon with two old friends, Walt Patterson, who headed the state’s Health and Human Services Department when Clinton was governor, and federal Judge Richard Arnold.
Before he left the school, Clinton paused to read two press accounts of the current visit to South Asia by his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and their daughter, Chelsea. One story reported that Hillary Clinton’s decision to confine her public statements to women’s and children’s issues had drawn press criticism in some of the countries she visited. The president said his wife believes that “the issues of women and children are central to the future of these cultures, and I agree with her.”
Saturday night, Clinton joined friends at Doe’s restaurant, a favorite hangout of his campaign staff in 1992, to watch the Arkansas Razorbacks play North Carolina in the semifinals of the NCAA basketball tournament.