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THE WORLD FROM...Washington

After inauguration, Bill Clinton may inherit more world problems than any president since Truman

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ON Inauguration Day, United States residents pause and reflect on the solemnity of our ritual transfer of power and the awesome responsibility that now rests on the shoulders of one man, alone in thought as he paces the Rose Garden while the world watches.

It is a time of quadrennial renewal. When President Bush leaves the White House, Texas pork rinds will disappear from delis, replaced by Arkansan snack food that may enjoy a brief vogue and then languish unbought behind crab-flavored potato chips.

It is also a day when the view of those who live here narrows to basic questions: Who are those tourists spilling out of the subway? Why are they wearing those bootlegged inauguration buttons on their hats? When will they leave so we can get some work done?

Of course, the new Clinton team in the White House may not want all the inaugural-goers to go home. When the party is over, the governing has to begin. The sudden reality of responsibility has a way of making a president hedge on campaign pledges.

President-elect Clinton may or may not have known during the campaign that his promise of a middle-class tax cut was unrealistic, given deficit projections. But his statement that right now such a tax cut is inadvisable has become a media mini-flap, the first of hundreds that will likely bedevil him before he is a private citizen again.

Few people remember that the same thing happened at the start of the Reagan revolution. Incoming Treasury Secretary Donald Regan said at his confirmation hearing that, well, maybe the budget could not be balanced until 1984. This comment was slammed by reporters as a major reversal of Reagan's earlier position.

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