"He's asking people to resist the temptation of big tax cuts," says TIME White House correspondent Karen Tumulty, "by trying to make credible what he's been saying for years: that the budget can actually get balanced." The lesson -- live within your means -- is not particularly sexy politically. But Clinton feels that Americans asked him to clean up the deficits of the Reagan and Bush years, tax-cut-fueled deficits which Monday he called "the failed policies of the past." Now he's offering to finish the job.
"He's just made the tax issue a lot more difficult for Republicans," Tumulty says. Not to mention lining up a nice legacy-builder for his last years in office. But all this political jockeying depends on one thing remaining constant: revenue. If the economy slows down this year, the best-laid plans of fiscal 1999 will go right out the window.