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'Prophet' Clinton Garners Political Endorsement in Unlikely Place


MANILA — President Clinton, a man on a permanent quest for political approval, found it--perhaps even more than he really needed--on this distant East Asian shore.

A one-day stop in the Philippines won Clinton an endorsement from Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos so enthusiastic that it might have raised a blush on the cheek of a political consultant.

At a state luncheon at Malacanang Palace, the 66-year-old Ramos said what Clinton must have been hoping he would hear in the United States before last Tuesday's elections: He ran through a lengthy list of Clinton's foreign policy accomplishments--including Haiti and the Middle East--and then took Clinton's side in the long-running argument with Republicans over his economic program.

Clinton's economic policies have "returned the American economy to the ways of growth," Ramos gushed. "These achievements have apparently not yet received the recognition that they deserve in your country.

"But," he said, "it has also been (thus) for leaders with vision. The Evangelist Luke, Chapter 4, Verse 24, tells us, and I quote, 'No prophet is accepted in his hometown.' "

Ramos promised that in time "recognition must come, because the historic initiatives you have achieved transcend the ups and downs of electoral politics."

Ramos has been intensely interested in getting the United States to sharply increase its trade with and investment in the Philippines. But the general's unexpected admiration for the young President who found a way around the Vietnam War seemed to transcend this intent, and may even exceed the warm feelings found among most Filipinos for Americans.

Over the weekend, Philippine aides distributed glossy brochures showing Ramos and Clinton embracing each other after last year's Asia-Pacific trade summit in Seattle. And Ramos' aides have printed up a hardback copy of his major policy speeches over the past 18 months, with the cover featuring--what else?--a picture of Ramos and Clinton.

Ramos' political slogan, Philippines 2000, bears some resemblance to Goals 2000, the handle Clinton gave his federal education initiative.

Many Manila residents are convinced that Ramos was so eager to put on a good show for Clinton that he ordered a roundup of beggars, squatters and street children to make the downtown more presentable to Americans who presumably know nothing of such things.

One newspaper, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, ran an editorial cartoon showing a sweating Ramos sweeping dirt under a rug, with a caption in the Tagalog language, "We need to clean this up before you come, Bill."

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