Is It Still the Economy, Stupid?

Bill Clinton sure hopes so

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WASHINGTON: His Secret Service has been ordered to testify. His Middle East peace initiative was a diplomatic disaster. And a medium-sized cold war is breaking out in South Asia. No wonder President Clinton wants to talk about money.

Clinton held a Rose Garden ceremony Tuesday to announce the good news: The nation's budget surplus is expected to hit a whopping $39 billion this year. "America can now turn off the deficit clock and turn on the surplus clock," he said, adding: "This is, of course, very good news for the American people."

The President had better hope the rosy numbers bear out. His once sky-high approval ratings are starting to slip, and the tobacco legislation, which Clinton is counting on to pay for a host of goodies in his 1999 budget, is still getting picked apart in the Senate. With Monica to the left of him and Chinese missiles to the right, the economy -- and its power to "save Social Security first" -- may be all that Clinton has left.