In Tokyo, Clinton Plays Nice

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TOKYO: At a Japanese town hall meeting on Thursday, President Clinton switched to the carrot. "We regret that you have the present economic challenges that you have, but we don't think you should be too pessimistic about the future," Clinton told his subdued Japanese audience. "Don't be discouraged, but do be determined. That would be the advice of a friend." It was a far cry from Wednesday's nagging; TIME White House correspondent Jay Branegan says that's because Clinton -- unlike, say, Al Gore -- knows the fine art of diplomatic massage.

"The U.S. has always played good cop, bad cop with the Japanese on its economy," he says. Privately, Clinton is disappointed with the latest in a long string of stimulus packages. But he's not about to say that to Japan -- at least not today. "Japan is very proud about being told what to do," says Branegan, "but there are times when U.S. pressure can be an excuse for Tokyo to push through unpopular reforms. It just has to be nuanced in the right way." And as Ken Starr reminded us during his testimony Thursday, if anybody knows nuance, it's Bill Clinton.