WEDNESDAY: Tobacco Issue Is Clinton Country

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WASHINGTON: For politicians, there are hot seat issues and there are comfortable armchair issues. But in the tobacco settlement, President Clinton has found a real La-Z-Boy where he can take an extremely popular position without lifting a finger. "Put simply, he wants to renegotiate," says TIME's White House correspondent Jef McAllister. "And he can, because he took this issue on a year ago and it's clearly got his stamp on it. Now he's come down on the side of C. Everett Koop and David Kessler, who say the settlement doesn't do enough for children. That's very hard to argue with."

Even better for Clinton is that any fight over the issue is a long way off. Congestion in Congress will push the haggling off until 1998 an election year, where tobacco lobbies will find their favorite congressmen are suddenly more image-wary than ever. Clinton's list of demands contains a lot that Michael Moore and Co. decided they could live without. But with a can't-miss issue and a year to make it sing, this president can drive a very hard bargain.