A Tale of Two Spins

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Republicans, at least, must have heard some discord between the President Clinton who Monday asked Americans to "live within our means" and forgo tax cuts for a balanced 1999 budget and the Clinton who Wednesday afternoon unveiled the "single largest national commitment to child care in the history of the United States." Is it health care all over again, just in time for the 1998 mudslinging season?

"He's going to make the case soon that this can be phased in and funded with existing resources," says TIME White House correspondent Jay Branegan. "He fully intends to pay for this without spoiling the budget." The important thing, says Branegan, is that Clinton's unveiling something, anything, every day. "This week has been a planned drumbeat of initiatives -- while Congress is still in recess and the news is slow, Clinton wants to set up the State of the Union speech (on Jan. 27) with his own agenda," he says.

The President's tactics were not lost on Phil Gramm, on watch for Republicans, who was quick to note that the White House had come up with a "big-government program every single day" this week. That will be the GOP refrain when Congress reconvenes: Give America a tax cut so that parents get the money, not politicians. Indeed, there's an excellent chance that a "comprehensive" and "sweeping" child care program will die in Congress, even if $21.7 billion over five years is cheap by federal standards. But hey -- it sounded good.