Clinton to Labor: Have Mercy

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PITTSBURGH: Unfortunately for Bill Clinton, fast track is not an issue for compromisers. It's a presidential privilege that makes trade agreements easier to negotiate and simpler to get through Congress who either like it or strike it, but can't make changes and Big Labor absolutely hates it. So when Clinton took the stage in Pittsburgh after a terse introduction by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, he started with the sugar: Campaign finance reform. Youth smoking. The 21st century (with no bridges).

At the first mention of "global economy", however, a sporadic chant rose in the back: "No fast track. No fast track," until Clinton drew applause with this line: "I think I've earned the right to be heard." Then he asked for mercy. Not so much for him, but for November's Democratic hopefuls. The Labor-Democratic "partnership," Clinton said, must continue for the sake of the rest of Labor's agenda. Courtesy prevailed, and the speech closed to more applause. Al Gore can only hope that spirit of tolerance prevails if his name ends up on the year 2000 primary ballot next to Dick Gephardt's.