In his last State of the Union, the president outlined an ambitious legislative agenda for the year. With just under a year left in his presidency -- and with his vice president embroiled in a hotly contested Democratic primary race to assume his job -- President Clinton delivered his eighth and final State of the Union address last night before a joint session of Congress, as well an assembly of guests and dignitaries representing all walks of American life. Clinton -- whose past two State of the Union addresses have fallen under the shadow created by the Monica Lewinsky scandal and his ensuing impeachment -- used the lengthy 90-minute oration to highlight the successes of his two terms in office and to push for a slew of new government programs in the months ahead. "The state of our union is the strongest it has ever been," Clinton told the audience assembled per custom in the House chamber. Most of Clinton's proposals -- including a massive $350 billion tax cut, stricter gun licensing regulations and greater funding of college tuition assistance and Head Start programs -- received a generally warm reception from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers assembled on Capitol Hill. Many observers noted that Clinton, who has planned an ambitious agenda for his final year in office, sounded more like a president in the middle of his term rather than one whose years at the top are nearing an end, as he insisted on maintaining his viability as a chief executive throughout the next year. In past years, several Penn College Republicans and College Democrats have convened on the night of the State of the Union to watch the speech and engage in casual debate regarding the president's proposals. This year, however, only the Republicans planned a get-together. According to College Democrat Max Cantor, a College freshman, the Democrats did not plan to view Clinton's address together because many of them had gathered the night before to watch the final debate before the New Hampshire primary between Vice President Al Gore and former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, the two Democratic presidential candidates. Five members of the College Republicans did attend a planned 8 p.m. viewing of the speech, though they ended up watching Clinton not from a Williams Hall classroom as planned, but from a Hamilton College House lounge an hour later. They trekked to the new location once they discovered the television in Williams was not working. During Clinton's speech, the Republicans and one self-professed Democrat freely voiced their opinions. "Clinton's promised everything to just about everyone, which seems to be his style," said College Republican Treasurer Adrian Jones, a Wharton junior. "And I'm sure he'll blame the Congress when things don't go right." Jones added, though, that he was glad Clinton vowed to support free trade and continue welfare reform -- issues traditionally considered Republican domain. Republican and College freshman Brett Tompkins agreed with Jones' criticism, referring to Clinton's address as "a legacy speech" and a "wish list." And Wharton sophomore David Burd, a Democrat, said, "Basically, [Clinton] tells America what Congress hasn't done, takes credit for things Congress has done and makes a lot of spending proposals that probably won't take place during his presidency." In spite of the low Democratic turnout, there was plenty of debate. Republicans even argued briefly regarding their differing views on gun control. "One of the things we got out of coming together was to show how much diversity of opinion there is, even within parties," said College Republicans Chairwoman Lisa Marshall, a College senior.Comments powered by Disqus
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