Clinton's Long March Outflanks GOP

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President Clinton met Friday with a key Hong Kong democrat, but it was Washington Republicans who may have made the President's day. GOP leaders, who had begun preparing a deluge of anti-China legislation in the run-up to Clinton's departure, now concede that the President's trip has been a success, and it's failed to produce the election fodder they had anticipated. Newt Gingrich, who had earlier called for the trip's postponement, admitted Clinton's triumph and approved of a closer U.S.-China relationship through gritted teeth. "It's less expensive to be friends than to be enemies," he noted. And with the Wall Street Journal leading a chorus of praise from traditional Clinton critics as the President was preparing to leave China, White House press flak Ann Lewis was muttering a suspicion that it must be April Fool's Day.

The President's trip has been strongly business-oriented, and he spent most of his final day in Hong Kong revisiting the Asian crisis, and praising China's discipline in holding the line against devaluation. Business, of course, is exactly what corporate America wants to do with China, which is part of the reason Republicans are feeling the pressure to sing along.