Like Watching a Divorce

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: "We're not going to go down just to have Al Gore give us a lecture," a testy Bob Dole said today in response to a public invitation from President Clinton to resume budget negotiations. Clinton had told reporters: "I am committed to continue working with them until we get the job done. My door is open . . . It will stay open." Republicans abruptly cancelled talks Wednesday, saying Clinton had to submit a new plan that would draw bipartisan support. Time out! Chief of Staff Leon Panetta said those are new ground rules. Clinton's latest budget, he said, met the Republicans' repeated demands for a seven year timetable using Congressional Budget Office economic projections. "If they don't come here and talk," Panetta said, "it is they who are not taking advantage of the opportunity to give this country a balanced budget." The White House says key policy disputes should be put off to November's election. TIME's Michael Duffy notes, "This is like watching a divorce, rooting for the parties to get reconciled, but seeing with each passing day, there's less sign they'll get it together. The only thing that seems certain now is it won't be settled before the State of the Union Address next Tuesday."