Clintons wind up vacation


Merrill Hartson

EDGARTOWN, Mass. (AP)—President Clinton wrapped up his summer vacation Sunday declaring himself ‘‘refreshed, renewed and ready to go back to work,’‘ trading resort-island serenity for a return to the political wars of Washington.

‘‘My family never needed a vacation more and it’s hard to imagine how this one could have been better,’‘ a sunburned Clinton told hundreds of well-wishers who turned out for his airport send-off from Martha’s Vineyard.

Fights over the North American Free Trade Agreement and an overhaul of the health care system loom ahead for Clinton, who spent much of his first seven months in office laboring for passage of his economic program.

Clinton, who hadn’t taken a lengthy vacation in years, succumbed to the lure of the sea, the golf-course greens and the trendy restaurants during his 11-day stay here.

‘‘We are going home … very much refreshed, renewed and ready to go back to work for the American people,’‘ Clinton said. ‘‘We have a lot of work to do.’‘

Clinton will need plenty of stamina as he approaches a hectic post-Labor Day schedule.

He wants Congress to approve the treaty creating the world’s largest free trade zone among the United States, Canada and Mexico. But a number of fellow Democrats, including Majority Whip David Bonior of Michigan, oppose it.

Bonior called the treaty ‘‘fundamentally flawed’‘ Sunday and said it’s opposed by up to two-thirds to 75 percent of House Democrats.

‘‘They fear it is making American jobs our number one export,’‘ Bonior said on NBC’s ‘‘Meet the Press.’‘ ‘‘This treaty is premature. It is negotiated in a way which will hurt American workers, it will not help Mexican workers … It’s a lousy treaty.’‘

Senate Republican leader Bob Dole of Kansas, who supports the treaty, predicted the bill would be approved in the Senate where he said 34 to 35 Republicans probably would endorse it.

‘‘There won’t be any Republican gridlock to talk about,’‘ Dole said on CNN’s ‘‘Newsmaker Sunday,’‘ adding that the president must ‘‘make the case with the Democrats.’‘ He said the treaty will produce new exports and new jobs.

On the foreign policy front, there was encouragement in reports that Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization are weighing mutual recognition as part of a package to establish limited Palestinian self-rule in the occupied territories.

‘’I’m hopeful, but there’s been a lot of these things before,‘’ Clinton told reporters outside an art gallery here. ‘’We’re working it. We’ve been working at it steadily for some time now. I’m obviously glad the meeting (between Secretary of State Warren Christopher and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres) occurred, but we’ve still got a long way to go.‘’

Peace talks resume in Washington on Tuesday.

On the final day of their vacation, Clinton, his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and daughter Chelsea went to church in nearby Oak Bluffs.

Later, they visited Granary Gallery to have their pictures taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt, 94, who gave the first family a tour of some of his best-known photographs.

‘’That’s an awesome picture, isn’t it,‘’ said Clinton, as he walked past a photograph of a mother and child standing in a devastated landscape of Hiroshima four months after the atomic bombing in World War II.

Some of the legislative battles to come could make winning enactment of the deficit-reduction program look like ‘’a walk in the park,‘’ Myers said.

Clinton hasn’t seemed anxious to do long-distance battle with critics of the free trade pact.

‘’That’s up to Congress,‘’ he muttered under his breath when a reporter asked him to comment on Bonior’s plan to use his leadership position to stir up opposition to NAFTA.

‘’He’s on vacation. NAFTA’s for Monday,‘’ Ricki Seidman, a White House counselor, said in a statement that typified the president’s desire to stay at arms-length from politics while staying on Martha’s Vineyard.

The pact would phase out import tariffs and other barriers to trade among the United States, Canada and Mexico. Clinton has argued that it would have substantial job-creation benefits. But the union movement is fighting NAFTA, maintaining that it would result in an erosion of U.S. labor standards.

The president has a modest schedule for his first week after vacation. He will attend the swearing-in Wednesday for FBI Director Louis Freeh and possibly make an out-of-town speaking trip over the holiday weekend, Seidman said.