The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California on August 14, 1988 · 91
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The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California · 91

Los Angeles, California
Issue Date:
Sunday, August 14, 1988
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Coo Anjjelco Slimee Sunday, August 14, IWK lart V 5 I CLOSER SHAVES Low-Skill Jobs Flee the Cities The Urban Economy Is Skipping a Whole Generation of Kids Covert Plan for Panama May Be Wrong Message to Send the Opposition By J. BRIAN ATWOOD and KENNETH WOLLACK The Reagan Administration and Congress are once again pointing fingers at each other over news leaks. The battle this time centers on who disclosed a new presidential "finding" authorizing covert support of the Panamanian opposition to Gen. Manuel A. Noriega. Lost in the cross fire is any meaningful debate about the wisdom of the secret plan. In many ways, the most recent presidential decision is a reflection of a well-intentioned but unilateral approach that has characterized our policy toward Panama over the last 12 months. It is the latest in a series of sudden and erratic policy shifts that collectively have emboldened Noriega, weakened Panama's democratic opposition and undercut efforts by U.S. groups and neighboring countries to facilitate a transition to democracy. The latest political crisis in Panama was triggered June 7, 1987, when Col. Roberto Diaz Herrera, who had been retired only days before as second in command of the Panamanian Defense Forces, accused Noriega of ordering the murder of an opposition activist, rigging the 1984 presidential elections and enriching himself from corruption and narcotics trafficking. Three days later, the National Civic Crusade a coalition of business, civic and labor groups was formed to coordinate the anti-Noriega movement. The crusade actually grew out of a nascent group that was modeled after the National Citizens Movement for Free Elections, or NAM-FREL, the successful Philippine election monitoring organization. A month earlier, the Washington -based National Democratic Institute for International Affairs had invited three Panamanian leaders to learn about the NAMFREL experience as part of an international observer mission to the legislative elections in the Philippines. Responding to the opposition movement in Panama, and with bipartisan support from Capitol Hill, the Reagan Administration quickly entered the fray. Perhaps too quickly. The United States inadvertently appeared to co-opt the democratic opposition, creating the erroneous impression that the anti -Noriega effort was not home grown but rather an American import. Moreover, the opposition itself, while led and supported by courageous Panamanians, was lulled into believing that the United States would, in the words of one analyst, "pull its chestnuts out of the fire" to oust Noriega. As a result, the internal opposition did not develop into a formidable force as did the opposition in the Philippines where a dictator was expelled as the result of popular discontent. The U.S. approach not only smothered the infant opposition movement in its crib, but also stiff-armed other concerned nations in the region. Noriega, for his part, was able to rally nationalistic sentiment behind his fight against the "gringos." When this heavy-handed policy failed, the Administration abruptly reversed course and began negotiating directly with the Panamanian strongman. The opposition justifiably felt betrayed when reports surfaced of a U.S. deal allowing Noriega to eventually remain in Panama along with his hand-picked president, who would get to keep his post until after Panama's 1989 presidential elections. If recent reports are accurate and the Administration has yet to deny them the White House has now come full circle in its campaign to oust Noriega. But the covert operation may only compound the problems for Panama's democratic opposition. As one Noriega opponent put it: "Anything we do will look like it was taken from the Administration's covert action plan." Referring to news of possible U.S. funding of Panamanian military dissidents, this same civic leader noted that "even in the worst moments of repression we have always supported nonviolent democratic change; now it appears as if we are all part of the same effort." Panama's political opposition may not be the only casualty of the new covert plan. Private U.S. organizations such as National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and the National Endowment for Democracy have provided timely support for Panamanian democrats. While using federal funds, these independent organizations have provided assistance openly to promote a transition to democratic rule in Panama. As is the case with Panama's internal opposition, these activities may now be compromised along with any future efforts to apply pressure on Noriega by leaders of the Central American countries. Covert activity can, at times, be a necessary instrument of foreign policy. However, the Administration and Congress should examine the consequences of such an approach in Panama. Will it serve to further discredit the regime or isolate America and its friends in Panama who are struggling for a return to democratic rule? The debate in this country should focus on the message we are sending Panama and the region and not on the messenger who delivered the story to the media. J. Brian Atwood is president and Kenneth Wollack is executive vice president of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. By NEAL R. PEIRCE PHILADELPHIA Check any of the suburban malls and industrial parks encircling this 300-year-old city and you encounter "help wanted" signs by the hundreds. The suburban jobless rate has plummeted to 2; employers are desperate for secretaries, sales clerks, hamburger flippers, waiters, hotel maids. Up and down the East Coast, the development boom of the '80s corporate America's headlong rush to locate offices, malls, motels, warehouses and fast-food outlets distant from the inner cities has exhausted the "pink ghetto" job market of suburban housewives anxious for a second household income. Pick your metropolitan area, from Boston to Hartford to New York to Washington, and now across the South and Midwest and in California, and you run into severe labor shortages. The same alarming mismatch appears: Low-skill, entry -level jobs go begging in the suburbs, while in center cities jobless rates remain alarmingly high up to 30 or worse for black teen-agers. Eighty -seven percent of the 430,200 new jobs created around Washington since 1983 have been in the suburbs. When new city-based jobs appear, they're usually advanced, high -skill slots. The vast majority of new low -skill jobs are opening where inner-city people aren't, can't afford to live, and often fear to go the suburbs. No matter how you look at it, the situation is intolerable. Segregation is being reinforced, poor people aren't getting the jobs they desperately need. The American economic machine is imperiled by the inability of corporations to get the workers where they need them. And everyone ends up paying the bill for high welfare and unemployment levels. Some employers' solution is to carry inner-city workers out to suburban work sites by public or private transportationas work locations crop up farther from mass -transit lines. McDonald's, in suburban Westchester County, New York, and Connecticut, buses in workers from the Bronx. Vans go out 26 miles to Dulles Airport from depressed Washington neighborhoods. Suburban New Jersey hotels pick up workers in Newark. The special vans derisively labeled "slave vans" can serve some workers, some places. But they mask gut problems. Transportation only helps if workers have the skills and attitudes to make them employable in the first place. How many people will be anxious to forsake welfare for $4- or $5-an-hour jobs with long commutes and high bus fares? And there's a big psychological barrier on both sides. "For some minority people," says David Lacey, president of Philadelphia Private Industry Council, "going to a suburban work location is like going to Mars." And on the employer side, there's often deep suspicion, sometimes latent discrimination against inner-city minorities. Witness efforts to hire just about anyone else first senior citizens are the latest craze. What's the answer? Regional approaches, says Marc Bendick, an employment expert. Every metro area needs a business group to interview, screen and test inner-city job -seekers and certify them to skeptical employers as job-ready. For those who first don't pass muster, government should provide remedial education, work-attitude and skills training. Some tough new federal rules would help requiring, for example, that the private -industry councils funded to perform training under the Job Training Partnership Act forgo their splintered ways and combine efforts across each metropolitan region. But inner-city community groups need to move aggressively, too. In Pittsburgh, a coalition of community-development corporations is eyeing the projected 1,000-u-year job boom predicted at and around a $503-million expansion of the Greater Pittsburgh Airport. The Pittsburgh community activists are not only taking a lead in the regional debate about public subsidies for the airport but demanding assurances of major job commitments advance training includedfor residents of troubled city neighborhoods and depressed Monongahe-la Valley steel towns. The new labor pool, now and through the 1990s, won't be the baby boomers, it will be the baby -bust generation. The labor force will be growing more slowly than at any time since the 1930s. And 29 of the first-time job seekers in this ever tighter labor market will be minorities. Now, if ever, our cities have an opportunity to insert their poor and disadvantaged citizens into the mainstream of the economy. Private industry, notes Willard G. Rouse, a Philadelphia developer, already pays a huge bill to educate the ill-prepared workers it's getting. New back-office development, he predicts, will start returning to the fringe of downtown business districts, training the only major pool of untapped labor left in the ghettoes and barrios. Rouse's message to the Philadelphia-area business community is: "You better wake up. We have a whole generation of kids you're skipping. And we have an economy in the best shape it's been in the postwar era. If there were ever a time to make hay while the sun shines, it's now." Neal R. Peirce writes for the National Journal. OTHER COMMENTARY EXCERPTS Party Too Rigid to Grasp Reagan's Vision In some ways, Ronald Reagan has bequeathed the Republican Party a sense of institutional self-confidence that its Democratic rivals can only pretend to feel. And in some ways, he has DAVID S. left it so out of touch with BRODER the changing American society that its pretension to national leadership seems almost ludicrous. George Bush, by his words and actions especially his choice of a running mate-can present the GOP as a party capable of shaping a bright future for all Americans or make it seem a relic of the past. What Reagan has given his adopted party is something it had not had for almost half a century before his 1980 campaign: a belief that it can succeed on the basis of its own principles. What gripes the Democrats, and makes their pretensions of political optimism ring a bit hollow, is the almost daily reminder in the news that Reagan's theories about America are proving out. But the GOP hardly seems aware of or capable of reflecting its new status as an agent of long-term change. That's because its composition is so rigid and so much of its leadership out of touch. This is a party where 100 white men and women can sit down with one black and one Asian to write the platform on which to govern a nation where ever-higher percentages of the people have a different skin color and ethnic heritage. Anything that blurs the differences between George Bush and Michael Dukakis helps Dukakis. When Bush promises to balance the budget by 1993, using a GEORGE F. "flexible freeze," he WILL sounds as fuzzy as Du kakis. When Bush promises to put a Latino in his Cabinet, he sounds like a candidate competing with his opponent in a crude bidding war. When Bush proposes a program of tax refunds to subsidize day care, the important differences between his $2.2-billion approach and the Democrats' $2.5-billion plan seem less important than the impression that there is not a dime's worth of difference between the candidates. Bush is in the peculiar position of needing to find a deft way to say: Things are not as good as they seem. Dukakis, of course, says nothing else. Bush's point must be: Prosperity can always be derailed; the wrong choice can have consequences. When Bush complains that Dukakis lacks experience he suggests that Dukakis would be fine if he got some. Bush should say: Dukakis' values are wrong and we don't want him getting experience acting on them. If Bush had his wits about him he would say: "If Dukakis had been President in 1983, Grenada today would be a Cuban -run thugocracy." Instead, Bush talks too abstractly about "experience." We have heard this before, as in: "We cannot take a chance on another President who has absolutely no experience in foreign affairs." That is what Bush said in 1980 when losing the Republican nomination to Reagan. Pols are easily spooked by polls, and for a lot of Republican politicians and pundits this has been hand-wringing time. What spooks the pros most isn't the raw numbers that have been showing RAYMOND Michael Dukakis ahead of PRICE George Bush. Rather, they look at the high Bush "negatives" for example, a recent poll that showed 33 of the voters with an unfavorable view of Bush, as against only 27 favorable. Dukakis' favorable -to -unfavorable ratios are far better. However, two key factors make these figures less than they seem. First, Bush is a familiar national figure and his negatives are well-known; Dukakis is still a stranger to the electorate and his negatives haven't been discovered yet by most voters. But they will be. The second factor is subtler. Most polls don't measure intensity. Bush has been neither a sharply defined nor a polarizing presence. And Dukakis has been no presence at all. This means that in the case of both candidates today's impressions are very shallow and subject to change tomorrow. To win, Bush has to show the voters the real George Bush and show them the real Michael Dukakis. Most important is to drive home the point that Dukakis' political roots are squarely in the unilateral-disarmament, retreat-and-withdrawal wing of the Democratic Party. He approaches international affairs as ward politics on a global scale, as an exercise not in promoting the national interest but in pandering to separate interests of domestic ethnic and ideological constituencies. Here at home, throughout the longest boom in the nation's history, the Dukakis Democrats have continued to treat the Reagan economic policies as a bad joke, sneering at the idea that lower tax rates would spur economic growth and crying out instead for more bureaucracy, more taxes and less of the risk and reward that have produced the American miracle. Paint the Feisty Bush as Truman and Look for a Heck of a Race By ROSS K. BAKER The candidate of the party in power was being dismissed by journalists as an uninspiring maladroit campaigner and the Gallup Polls reflected his high negative ratings. As the vice president of a popular, even beloved, President, the candidate suffered constantly from comparisons to his boss. He also had to defend his Administration's record against charges of misrule leveled by the cool and composed liberal Northeast governor who challenged him for the presidency. A scenario of the 1988 presidential election? No, a description of the presidential contest 40 years ago in 1948 when a seemingly doomed Harry Truman turned back a spirited challenge from New York Gov. Thomas E. Dewey and confounded all the experts in the process. Truman had inherited the mantle of the great Franklin D. Roosevelt and tended to be viewed as the wearer of a hand-me-down crown several sizes too big. The man who had put him on the Democratic ticket in 1944 was a President of surpassing eloquence, polished style and aristocratic grace, but Harry Truman enjoyed none of these gifts. With a voice like a rural auctioneer and suits that looked like they came from the defunct haberdashery he had once run, the man from Missouri seemed destined only to serve out the balance of the term of Roosevelt, whose death on April 12, 1945, had catapulted Truman into the White House. Bush, like Truman, stands in the shadow of the man who put him in the nation's second -highest office. Like Truman, his presentation often seems uncertain and uninspiring. But like Truman, Bush is a man who tends to be underrated in terms of his fortitude and his ability to shrug off gloomy predictions. Bush, moreover, has the kind of combative quality that enabled Truman to keep hammering away at a rival who seemed determined to stand above the unpleasantness and negativity of a presidential campaign. Is Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis another Dewey, and is he pursuing a course that has ominous parallels to Dewey's aloof high-road campaign of 1948? There are some remarkable parallels between the two candidates of the party out of power. Both Dewey and Dukakis enjoyed the image of being well-scrubbed reformers. Dewey had been a racket-busting district attorney before coming to the governorship of New York. A reserved some said cold and unfeeling man, Dewey pursued a classic front- runner's strategy. He mouthed platitudes and refused to be nailed down to specifics. His elusiveness stemmed from two sources. The first was his desire to avoid positions that would open old wounds in the Republican Party, particularly between the Eastern internationalist wing he represented and the Midwestern isolationist faction led by Sen. Robert A. Taft of Ohio. The second was a commendable aversion to pledging himself to commitments that would make it difficult for him to govern once he became President. It is a strategy that Dukakis seems to be pursuing for basically the same reasons. The strategic challenge facing Bush in 1988 is one that Truman could appreciate. He needs to maintain the winning coalition assembled by Ronald Reagan in 1980 and strengthened in 1984. Truman needed the New Dealers who had been mobilized by Roosevelt but he also faced the challenge from his party's left wing, led by former Vice President Henry A. Wallace, and a bolt on the right from Southern conservatives, led by South Carolina Gov. J. Strom Thurmond. Truman's approach was to position himself slightly to the left politically where he thought most voters were located in 1948. Bush's strategy appears to be to position himself slightly to the right in 1988 based on the same kind of calculation about the contemporary electorate. But if the defections that beset the Democrats in 1948 are more serious than the faint rumblings of discontent this year among Republican conservatives, Truman enjoyed one advantage that Bush does not possess. As President, he could use his incumbent powers, including the extraordinary stroke of calling the Republican -controlled Congress into special session to present them with a list of items he wanted passed but at which they would surely balk. He could then assail them with devastating effect as a "do-nothing Congress." Dukakis has an even less enviable challenge than that facing Dewey: Convince a prosperous country at peace that change is warranted. Dewey overestimated the public's desire for novelty and its disenchantment with the Democrats. His conservative tactic of muting specifics led Administration mouthpiece Harold Ickes to label him "Elusive Dewey, the candidate in sneakers." It may well be that Bush will prove less appealing a campaigner than Truman, and that Dukakis will spurn the loftiness of Dewey. But, if on election night, the early edition of the newspaper comes out with the premature headline "Dukakis Beats Bush," hold onto it. It could become a valuable collector's item. Ross K. Baker is a professor of political science at Rutgers University.

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