As President Clinton barnstorms the country these days - ahead in the polls but running like an underdog - his campaign proposals do not so much constitute a platform as a portable, flag-decked front porch planked with row after row of small but worthy ideas.
In the last few months, the president has come out in support of curfews for teenagers, uniforms in schools, a national registry of sex offenders and a crackdown on deadbeat dads.
He has come out against truancy, violence on television, teenage smoking and teenage sex. He hardly ever proposes spending federal money or passing a new law.
Instead, Clinton asks cities, states and the private sector to join him, making it sound like an irresistible crusade, to “go raring into the 21st century united and strong,” as he told students Monday near Los Angeles.
And in doing so, even his opponents concede, this president has refined the time-tested technique of taking credit for the sunrise into a high political art.
Tuesday, Clinton’s topic was domestic violence and he’s against it. But speaking at a women’s crisis center here, he floated a fresh idea to help combat the problem: freeing up the chronically overburdened 911 operators so they can handle more serious calls, like domestic abuse, by establishing a new, nationwide telephone number for non-emergency calls.
The president’s strategy was born of necessity after the Republican congressional sweep in the 1994 elections tied his hands legislatively. But it has borne fruit beyond the fondest imaginings of White House aides.
It has the advantage of letting Clinton seem upbeat and forward-looking, without simply bragging about a record of good economic news that he often acknowledges has yet to hit home with the public.
As Clinton said Monday, “We know big statistics don’t matter in individual lives unless good things are happening in individual lives - in families, on blocks, in communities.”