Hofstra Panels on Clinton Attempt to Outguess History

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Hundreds of political scientists and former members of the Clinton administration met at Hofstra University yesterday to debate the legacy of President Bill Clinton, part of a three-day gathering that was part college reunion, part policy powwow and part dogfight.

They parried and thrust on panels that considered everything from the Middle East peace process to the White House office of correspondence, trade agreements to global warming, old Democrats and new, offering a rough draft of how history books and political science journals might someday treat Mr. Clinton's two terms.

At a panel titled "Redefining Liberalism," two men who were among Mr. Clinton's close advisers, David Gergen and Al From, the chief executive of the Democratic Leadership Council, did their best yesterday to add definition to Mr. Clinton's brand of politics. Mr. From emphasized the president's use of market solutions to advance liberal ends, while Mr. Gergen said that Mr. Clinton's strength was "not as an innovator" but as "a synthesizer."

"Clinton was trying to challenge the regnant orthodoxy of his day, which was conservativism," Mr. Gergen said. "He made a valiant effort to redefine the Democratic Party, which did not last."

But David Green, a Hofstra political science professor and the lone Clinton critic on the panel, , took a much dimmer view of Mr. Clinton's legacy. Mr. Green, who described himself as more liberal than Mr. Clinton, said, "The ideology of Bill Clinton was Bill Clinton," and added that Mr. Clinton's presidency was "a fifth-column move to undermine the ideas that I hold dear."

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