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As Clinton exits, 'third way' faces setback

A global power shift may be under way, as center-left coalition of leaders loses its star.

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With President Clinton's tenure at the White House coming to an end, a major power shift is under way in the United States.

The same can be said for the international community, which on Jan. 20 will lose its senior statesman and unofficial leader of the "third way" movement.

During the latter years of his two-term presidency, Mr. Clinton has tried to cultivate a group of world leaders who are bound by the common center-left leanings of their respective political parties. The group includes, among others, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, Italian Prime Minister Massimo d'Alema, and President Fernando Enrique Cardoso of Brazil.

Now, with Clinton being replaced by Republican President-elect George W. Bush, that group will face a major setback - if not an end. The US, the world's only superpower, will no longer be a part of the club, at least not on a political level.

The third way was "very much a personal idea of the Clinton administration," says one European diplomat. "I don't see how it could go on under the new administration."

The breakup of the exclusive leaders' group does not exactly have the makings of a global crisis. But it could shut down a valuable conduit of dialogue between the US and Europe - something that in the past has been useful for long-term strategy in dealing with worldwide issues.

One of the goals of the third way has been to expand trade and globalization while not leaving behind the disadvantaged. Another is to create international mechanisms that can prevent regional economic crises from spreading around the globe.

"For us, it's a very serious attempt to put a human face on the global economy and to direct the process of globalization in a way that benefits all people," Clinton said in a speech last month.

Roots of the movement

The third way rose in the early 1990s on the shoulders of political parties that tried to strike a balance between left and right, or in the case of the US, between Democrat and Republican.

In America, the idea was championed by the Democratic Leadership Council, which was headed by Clinton and helped launch his successful run at the presidency. Clinton and the New Democrats tried to bolster the economy through private-sector economic growth rather than the public-jobs programs that were associated with Jimmy Carter.

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