The White House: Just Call Me the Anniversary President
(TIME, June 30) -- Bill Clinton is anniversary crazy. He built major public spectacles around the 50th anniversary of D-day and V-J day. This spring he went to Europe to celebrate the 50th birthday of the Marshall Plan and to New York City to commemorate Jackie Robinson's 1947 debut with the Dodgers. He gave a radio address to honor the one-year anniversary of the Telecommunications Act, and is talking about bringing new countries into NATO by 1999, "the 50th anniversary of NATO's founding." Last week he celebrated the 25th anniversary of Title IX, which mandates equal opportunities for women in college sports.
So what's with the birthday obsession? Presidential aides note that boomers are into nostalgia and that editors are suckers for anniversaries. "We're always looking for the tiny little shoehorn to get ourselves in the public eye," says a White House official. Besides, it's easier to celebrate a past achievement than to construct one of your own. By invoking the greatness of others, Clinton can look presidential without the heavy lifting.
But a number of aides want an agenda that's not someone else's golden oldies. "We have a culture of anniversaries because we have an ingrained doubt about whether we can do anything worthwhile ourselves," says one. Many senior officials are depleted, thinking about leaving, and Clinton has put forward no real crusade of his own. "Maybe he should act out of conviction, not out of the calendar," says one who scorns the commemoration mania. But there's more to come: in September, Clinton is planning to attend the 40th anniversary of the integration by federal troops of public schools in Little Rock, Ark.
-- By J.F.O. McAllister
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