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Campaign '96 / WASHINGTON INSIGHT

February 08, 1996|From The Times Washington Bureau

IT TAKES A BUYER: The armed forces may have warmed to President Clinton over the last three years, but whither the military and the first lady? One gauge: A month ago the bookstore at the Pentagon, which does brisk business with 23,000 workers in the cavernous headquarters, received seven copies of Hillary Rodham Clinton's book, "It Takes a Village and Other Lessons Children Teach Us." The book is No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list. So how many remained at the Pentagon bookstore this week? Seven.

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FEAR OF FLATS: On Friday, a federal appeals court threw out an executive order by President Clinton that sought to deter companies from hiring permanent replacement workers during strikes by denying federal contracts to companies engaging in the practice. Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich criticized the court's action, noting that one of the opponents of the president's order was Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., a supplier of tires to the U.S. military. Reich said: "We don't want American servicemen and women in Bosnia trying to keep the peace while driving around on tires made by rookies and replacement workers."

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PRIMARY APPETITE: The president launched his primary-season political travel with two days in New Hampshire last weekend. The omens from the inaugural trip to New Hampshire were mixed. Clinton passed up numerous Dunkin' Donut shops to pay a visit to his favorite Manchester greasy spoon, Chez Vachon. But the omnivorous candidate showed admirable--even presidential--self-restraint, ordering a vegetarian omelet and pan-fried potatoes. The night before, in what aides hope is not a foreshadowing of the campaign to come, a planned balloon drop at Salem High School failed, even after much tugging and poking by school staff members. Instead of a cascade of red, white and blue balloons, only a trickle of white balloons came wafting from the gym rafters as the school band gamely played "Hail to the Chief." The president continues on the campaign trail with a trip to Iowa this weekend and then back to New Hampshire and on to California, Washington, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio and Florida over the next six weeks.

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NEAR COLLAPSE: The governors' fragile compromise plan to reform welfare and Medicaid nearly collapsed hours before it was to be formally ratified and sent to Congress and the White House. It was well after midnight, according to the plan's architect, Republican Gov. Tommy G. Thompson of Wisconsin, when one angry governor telephoned to threaten to block the agreement because he was not happy with a complex Medicaid funding formula. That governor later withdrew his objections. Thompson referred to the call at a press conference to illustrate the difficulty in gaining consensus, but declined to name the governor--simply noting that the caller was among the five governors sharing the dais at that very moment. It didn't take long for the press to notice that only one other governor besides Thompson had red, puffy eyes. And soon the caller sheepishly confessed--Gov. Michael O. Leavitt (R-Utah).

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