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Speeches by Clinton, Gingrich Herald Issues for '96 Campaign

By Carl M. Cannon
The Baltimore Sun

President Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich, in dueling speeches Monday, outlined differing visions of the role of government - and offered a preview of the likely national debate for the 1996 presidential campaign.

In separate speeches to the National League of Cities meeting, the two political leaders - one a self-styled "New Democrat," the other a conservative Republican - employed the kind of "sound bite" rhetoric that stands to become a staple during the next year and a half.

But in the process they continued the ongoing philosophical debate that White House press secretary Mike McCurry characterized as a national discussion of how much government is the right amount.

Clinton, in his address following Gingrich's, agreed that it was important to control federal spending, and he cited trims his administration had already made in the size of the federal bureaucracy.

But he saved his passion for the spending increases he has championed, thumping the lectern as he went through the list: expanding the Head Start pre-school program, earmarking hundreds of millions of dollars for summer jobs for inner city youths, increasing the college loan program, making available free childhood immunization shots.

"What is the purpose of the government?," Clinton asked. "It's to empower people to make the most of their lives, to enhance their security and to help create opportunity as a partner."

Gingrich, in his speech, said it was precisely that kind of thinking - that Washington has the answers - that has led to such problems as skyrocketing out-of-wedlock births, failing public schools and unsafe housing projects.

"We need local folks to solve local problems," said the Georgia congressman.

Gingrich proposed to the municipal leaders that the federal government relieve the states and cities of the burden of complying with Washington's mandates - and return to them the money earmarked to address poverty and other social problems.

Such action is desirable, Gingrich said, for two reasons. First, anti-poverty solutions from Washington tend to make problems worse, not better. Second, Washington's habit of deficit spending is bankrupting the nation's future.