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Washington Insight

October 27, 1994|From The Times Washington Bureau

YOU OK, SADDAM? In a Time magazine interview this week, President Clinton recalled a day in the eighth grade when he decked a bully after warning him to stop pushing him around. Clinton drew a parallel between that incident and his decision to deploy U.S. military forces against Iraqi and Haitian military strongmen who didn't heed his warnings. But according to Clinton friends, there is a bit more to the story of that old schoolboy punch. After Clinton got home that day, they say, he felt so bad that he had his mother call the other kid's mother to make sure the boy was OK. Maybe Saddam Hussein should expect a call?

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NAME DROPPER: Despite fighting for his political life in a tougher-than-expected reelection bid, Sen. Jim Sasser (D-Tenn.) still aspires to succeed retiring Sen. George J. Mitchell (D-Me.) as the Democratic leader next year. Sasser has nearly enough votes to put him over the top, say Senate insiders close to his campaign. Among his strongest backers is Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). But Sasser is not counting on the vote of California's other first-term Democratic senator, Dianne Feinstein--if she, in turn, survives a bitter reelection battle. "She's gone" as a supporter, Sasser has explained to associates. "I keep calling her Barbara."

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IMMIGRATION LAWS: Regardless of the outcome of the November elections, Administration officials see immigration as perhaps the hottest issue for the next Congress and want to get a jump on Republicans with a bill of their own. Voter passion in California for restraining illegal immigration and curtailing benefits has convinced the Administration that the topic will be "the crime bill of '95," a reference to the sweeping public demand for tougher laws that drove the crime legislation debate in Congress this year. Administration officials also now believe immigration will be a leading issue in the 1996 presidential election, and not just in border states. Pushing for greater controls in the heartland is a "no-lose" issue because there's no one there to alienate, one official says, noting that clusters of new arrivals can be found throughout the country.

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LURCHING RIGHT: If the voters are out of sorts this year, maybe it is partly because they are confused about who stands where on the political spectrum. A prime example is the Connecticut gubernatorial race, where a Democrat, a Republican and an independent are in a furious fight to occupy the political center. Democrat Bill Curry, who entered politics as an anti-nuclear activist and derives most of his support from the left wing of his party, has made the most remarkable conversion. He says that three critical items are on his agenda: a 25% reduction in property taxes, increased crime-fighting and streamlining government. Maybe not surprisingly, he deplores any description of himself as a "liberal."

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