After the ball is over . . .


BILL AND HILLARY Clinton will be 54 and 53, respectively, when the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution drives him from office in 2001. The imagination quails at what a former president and first lady that young, energetic and capable may do as elder statespersons.

John Quincy Adams provided his best service to the nation as a member of the House of Representatives after his presidency.

William Howard Taft affected the nation more as chief justice of ++ the United States than previously as president.

Jimmy Carter serves humanity by house-building, resolving disputes and observing elections.

Or, they could decide to make money.

The talk-show litany about the liberal media dictating Democratic outcomes missed what happened. The Los Angeles Times enterprised the scandals of foreign-interest financing of Mr. Clinton's campaign, which the rest of the media picked up, just when the Dole campaign was collapsing. That reversed the momentum.

Thanks to the lift those stories provided, Bob Dole re-energized and saved the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, which Speaker Newt Gingrich had earlier contrived to lose.

There were two reasons to send a Republican to the House. One was to endorse the 1994 Contract with America. Not likely. The second was to put the opposition in charge of investigating the newest scandals. The voter could not have one without the other.

And even if confrontation and paralyzed government is not what they intend, voters certainly did mean to drape the president in checks and balances.

Cooperation bruited

In fact, the chastened Republican leaders were talking the lTC mornings after about neither their own agenda nor investigation, but cooperation with the president. He, in turn, was threatening to name one to his cabinet.

The idea is that if the people keep returning divided government, perhaps what they really want is for it to work. None of them had thought of that before.

In the pre-election furor, it was hard to notice that Republicans raise more soft money from special interests than Democrats do. A fair investigation, if there can be such a thing, would be even-handed, if that is possible.

Some people will say that extremism was repudiated and the tyranny of the center vindicated, since President Clinton won on Dick Morris' strategy of sounding like a Republican.

But the extremes came through intact. Sens. Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond of the Carolinas triumphed. So did Helen Chenoweth, the representative of the Idaho militia.

And so did the most liberal Democrats, such as Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota.

The splits in the Republican Party were not resolved. A struggle for its soul looms once more before 2000. Jack Kemp, a disappointing scrambler this time, is no front-runner.

Vice President Al Gore, however, will be hard to stop for the Democratic nomination. Only if the nation becomes so sick of President Clinton that association with him would be fatal could someone else pull ahead.

If one new national figure was created Tuesday among #i Democrats, it was Rep. Robert Torricelli of New Jersey, elevated to the Senate. He is a veteran liberal, a high-voltage celebrity and 45.

When all the money that special interests poured into campaign coffers is counted -- $650 million by one estimate -- someone will notice that voter turnout was the lowest since 1924. More people voted with their immobile rumps than with their feet.

So whatever the sum, it was the most misspent in history.

If automobile advertising was that effective, half the people who need cars would never buy one.

Daniel Berger writes editorials for The Sun.

Pub Date: 11/09/96

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