Two weeks before Inauguration Day, Clinton trying to set tone
ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands (AP) _ His Caribbean vacation over, President Clinton is wasting no time in setting a tone for his second term, planning a series of public events this week to highlight his policy priorities.
The president and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, wrapped up Sunday a week of rest and relaxation, including four quiet days on this Caribbean island. Embraced by warm sea breezes and afforded privacy they rarely get at home, the first couple pronounced the visit a ``perfect″ vacation.
Returning to work Monday, Clinton starts a schedule for the two weeks before Inauguration Day aiming to underscore a theme central to his re-election campaign: the federal government working more closely with other segments of society to achieve progress on thorny problems such as strengthening education.
During his vacation, Clinton’s aides announced he would lead a Camp David retreat at the weekend for members of his old and new Cabinets. The private session is meant as an opening opportunity to discuss second-term priorities.
On St. Thomas, Clinton stuck mainly to golf and rest.
The first couple had talked of boating to nearby St. John on Sunday and walking the nature trails in heavily wooded Virgin Island National Park. But at the last minute they opted for less-taxing pursuits at the 3,700-square-foot Sand Dollar villa overlooking Magen’s Bay, which served as their vacation retreat.
White House spokeswoman Mary Ellen Glynn said they spent the morning reading and working a jigsaw puzzle. The president and Mrs. Clinton were out past midnight, dining at a local open-air restaurant. The president had the special of the day _ a plate of ``Old Wife″ fish _ washed down with a nonalcoholic drink made from an apple-like local fruit called soursop.
It was the Clintons’ first visit to St. Thomas, the easternmost outpost of the United States. Once they’re back in Washington’s political fray, it may seem a distant memory.
The Republican-controlled Congress is opening Tuesday with its own priorities, including an eagerness to investigate irregularities in Democratic campaign fund-raising.
Clinton is putting a spotlight this week on cooperative ventures outside the capital. On Monday, he’s attending an ecumenical breakfast at the White House, and administration officials said he will stress that a national unity of purpose is necessary to overcome such social ills as racial intolerance.
Later in the week Clinton plans to bring educators to Washington for an event at which he will tout new statistics showing a decline in student loan defaults, a Clinton aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
He intends to use the education event to make a pitch for proposals he put forth during the fall campaign, including tax credits that he said could help make two years of college as universal in American as a high school diploma. He wants public school students and teachers held to measurable standards.
Clinton also is scheduled this week to put a spotlight on his welfare-to-work theme _ providing incentives for businesses to hire people off welfare rolls. Chief executives of major U.S. corporations are being invited to the White House for the event.
The president’s week’s vacation began last Monday at a resort on Hilton Head Island, S.C. On New Year’s Day, the Clintons flew with daughter Chelsea to St. Thomas, where the president swam, snorkeled, read on the beach, watched football on TV. Staff members said he kept abreast of disaster relief in the American West as well as international issues.
Spokeswoman Glynn said the first couple described their visit as ``perfect″ _ especially treasured after an earlier post-election vacation in Hawaii was cut short by pressing business.