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Clinton's Inaugural: a Plea For Racial and Political Unity

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On a chilly day both solemn and upbeat, President Clinton stressed racial unity as he marked the beginning of his second term of office.

Yesterday's swearing in ceremony, the highlight of America's 53rd presidential inaugural, coincided with the official celebration of the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and Clinton sought to elevate his rhetoric above the merely political.

But the theme of harmony applied equally to the political as well as the racial, as he called for a spirit of bipartisanship with the Republican Congress as they face together the challenges of the next century. The projected insolvency of Medicare and Social Security will top the list of issues.

"Today we can declare government is not the problem; government is not the solution," he said, paraphrasing both conservative and liberal lines on the role Washington should play.

The president promised a "new government for a new century," humble enough not to try to solve all Americans' problems, but strong enough to provide tools to let citizens solve them for themselves.

President Clinton begins his second term with the highest approval ratings of his presidency to date. In a Washington Post-ABC News poll, 60 percent of those surveyed approved of the way Clinton is handling his job as president, with 34 percent disapproving. Fifty-six percent said they thought Clinton would do a better job as president in the second term than in the first.

Bounce in the polls

Presidents who win reelection typically begin their second terms with a bounce in the polls. In January 1957, President Eisenhower enjoyed a 73 percent approval rating, according to a Gallup poll. In January 1985, President Reagan's approval rating was at 62 percent, according to Gallup.

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