WASHINGTON - Richard Nixon has a new admirer - Bill Clinton.
Like a cat with nine lives, former President Nixon's political resuscitation has undergone yet another twist: as bipartisan dispenser of advice.
After calling Nixon late last Wednesday and talking with him for more than half an hour, President Clinton invited him to the White House last night for cocktails and conversation.
The two men had not met before, but during the 1992 campaign Nixon said privately that he didn't think George Bush could win re-election and praised Clinton's political instincts.
The 46-year-old Democratic president, six weeks in office, wanted to pick the brain of the 80-year-old Republican ex-president, out of office since Aug. 9, 1974, after the coverup of the June 1972 burglary of the Democratic National Committee headquarters. Nixon was pardoned by his successor, Gerald Ford.
Nixon, who recently returned from Russia, has been publicly urging Clinton to substantially increase aid to Russia, calling it the single most important foreign policy issue of the age.
Since polls show little interest in the United States in foreign aid and given Clinton's determination to make the domestic economy his No. 1 priority, Nixon would seem to have an uphill battle.
But Clinton praised Nixon's position in a meeting with mayors last week, saying, "I agree, frankly, with the general thrust" of Nixon's arguments.
White House spokeswoman Dee Dee Myers likened Clinton's remarks to "praise." She said Clinton wanted Nixon's advice on how to handle Russia and "perhaps" on other issues as well.
Clinton has his first summit with Russian President Boris Yeltsin in Vancouver, B.C., April 3-4.
He has promised "innovative" ideas to help Russia. One such idea under consideration is a special fund to give cash directly to Russians who have lost their jobs or face financial calamity because of the chaotic move to democracy, according to Secretary of State Warren Christopher.
How Clinton, who has proposed doing away with welfare "as we know it" in the United States, would sell such an idea and how he would pay for such aid presumably are among the issues he discussed with Nixon.
Nixon has indicated that he thinks Clinton and he have something in common, referring to Clinton's comeback a year ago after most political pundits had written him off. Clinton did not permit news coverage of his meeting with Nixon.
Nixon has been invited back to the White House by every president since Ford.