- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 15, 2000

LOS ANGELES President Clinton claimed credit for the nation's prosperity last night in his farewell speech to the Democratic National Convention as chief executive, and echoed first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's defense of his administration as a reason to pass the job on to Vice President Al Gore.
"Just the facts, ma'am," the president said, mocking Sgt. Joe Friday of TV's "Dragnet" in his hometown and quoting President Truman to urge the nation to vote Democratic in a speech that both Democrats and Republicans said largely ignored Mr. Gore.
"If you want to live like a Republican you should vote for the Democrats," Mr. Clinton told more than 5,000 delegates who began cheering even before he got to the podium as they watched on television while he strode through a narrow underground hallway like a prizefighter entering the arena.
"At this moment of unprecedented good fortune, our people face a fundamental choice: are we going to keep this progress and prosperity going?
Mr. Clinton called Mr. Gore "a strong leader [and] a profoundly good man" and said he and running mate Joseph Lieberman would be great leaders.
Even an old Democratic ally joined Republican leaders in pointing out that the president spent much more time discussing his administration's record than Mr. Gore's campaign.
"It took so long to talk about Vice President Gore," said ABC commentator George Stephanopoulos, a former Clinton strategist.
"Tonight, Bill Clinton chose to promote himself, rather than Al Gore," said Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore.
"Bill Clinton did nothing to help Al Gore close his leadership gap," said RNC Chairman Jim Nicholson.
"What an eight years it's been… . We're a stronger, better country than we were in 1992," Mrs. Clinton said after receiving a hero's welcome in a jammed hall on opening night for a convention whose outcome is just as predictable as the Republicans' scenario in Philadelphia two weeks ago.
"I still believe it takes a village, and it certainly takes Al Gore and Joe Lieberman. They have what it takes and they'll do what it takes," Mrs. Clinton said.
Outside the hall protesters clashed with police in a confrontation that officers in riot gear broke up by firing rubber bullets and rancid pepper-spray balls, after a concert by a rock band called Rage Against the Machine.
Although Mr. Clinton spoke for only his allotted time, the convention ran overtime by about 40 minutes but the broadcast networks stayed with the president's speech until the end. GOP officials had asked them to give no more time than was given to their convention which always ended on time.
Two discordant notes an attack on Democrats' abortion policy by a prince of the Roman Catholic church and remnants of the Playboy Mansion flap marred the high spirits of a party that arrived in Los Angeles with nothing to worry about except repeating the success of its last visit here in 1960 when it nominated John F. Kennedy for president.
"Today we have returned to Los Angeles to do it again," said Democratic fund-raiser Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the convention. "Most of all, folks, most of all let's win."
Rep. Loretta Sanchez, the California firebrand who yielded to party threats to cancel her speech in a showdown over staging a Hispanic fund-raiser at the Playboy Mansion, became the speaker who wasn't there by suddenly withdrawing from the program even though she had shifted the event's venue under pressure from Mr. Gore.
"There were some people saying I did this to get my speaking spot back and I wanted to show them that wasn't true," she said.
In the first few words from the sky-blue podium an opening prayer Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Los Angeles Archdiocese made good on a 4-year-old promise to attack the Democrats' policies favoring abortion and to challenge the party "to return to their own earlier pro-life roots."
His invocation at a moment when many delegates hadn't yet arrived prayed for God's help "to protect the life and well-being of all people but especially unborn children, the sick and the elderly, those on skid row and those on death row."
Cardinal Mahony, who was invited by Mr. Gore, said he had no political motives but his brief message was a clear provocation on an issue that separates the platforms of the Democratic and Republican parties on protection of the unborn.
Other cardinals refused to appear at the 1992 and 1996 Democratic conventions, which also barred from the speaker's podium such pro-life advocates as Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Casey. Mr. Casey died earlier this year, but his son, Robert Jr., is scheduled to speak later this week.
Former Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey was much more with the program when he assembled his 359 delegates and released them to vote for Mr. Gore, who trounced him in the toughly fought primary.
Mr. Bradley did not win a single state.
Sandwiched between speeches by the president and his wife was an 8 1/2-minute video tribute produced by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and her husband Harry Thomason, that melded images of his presidency from unpublished photos with sound bites of world leaders praising him.
"I wanted to make a film that sort of answers the president's detractors who insist on measuring the full breadth of his character by the worst deed of his life," said Mrs. Bloodworth-Thomason, an allusion to Mr. Clinton's dalliance with intern Monica Lewinsky and the following sex-and-lies scandal that led to his becoming the first elected president to be impeached.
Mr. Thomason portrayed the quickie show put together over the last week as something of a sequel to "The Man from Hope," shown at the 1992 Democratic National Convention, and "A Place Called America," featured at the convention in Chicago four years ago.
"At the last minute the president said, 'It's a trilogy and you have to finish it,' " said Mrs. Bloodworth-Thomason.
A briefer tribute was presented to former President Jimmy Carter, who quarreled with fellow Georgia delegate Buddy Darden's assertion that Mr. Carter was "treated like a pariah at earlier conventions" for losing the White House in 1980 to Ronald Reagan.
"I never have felt excluded and I never have been treated poorly," said the only living Democratic ex-president, whose legacy was marred by an administration that included long lines at gas stations, skyrocketing inflation that saw mortgage rates hit 20 percent and the Iran hostage crisis.
Mr. Carter's name has gone unmentioned at several past conventions and he didn't plan to attend this one even though he was automatically a delegate.
When Mr. Gore asked him to speak, Mr. Carter countered with the idea of a video reminiscence showcasing his accomplishments as a Middle East peacemaker, wrapped in a five-minute love note.
"Now I can enjoy the convention with my children and grandchildren," Mr. Carter said yesterday.
Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy of Rhode Island, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told delegates at a lightly attended afternoon session that the party is "just six seats and three months away from taking back the House."
He jabbed at Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush's self-label as a "compassionate conservative."
"People don't just want compassion, they want justice. People don't just want compassion, they want fairness," said Mr. Kennedy. "We need to carry on the fight of John Kennedy. We need to carry on the fight of Robert Kennedy. We need to carry on the fight of Martin Luther King."
Other speakers including the president repeatedly invoked the Kennedy name, recalling that Democrats nominated John F. Kennedy here in 1960 for his brief presidency. Other family members, scheduled to speak today include JFK's daughter, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who is the eldest child of Robert F. Kennedy.
Many of yesterday's earlier speakers were unknown nationally, including former Republican Judith Dutcher, the Minnesota state auditor who told the delegates she switched parties in January because the GOP claims a "big tent [that] is nothing more than a pup tent."
Mr. Clinton, who took office in January 1993, said the economic turnaround he counted as starting in 1992 was no accident and that the country is "not just better off, we're also a better country more decent, more humane, more united."
"We built our bridge to the 21st century. We crossed it together. And we're not going back," Mr. Clinton told the delegates.
It is exactly that era of prosperity for which Mr. Gore's Republican opponent, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, criticized the Clinton-Gore administration for squandering the opportunity to make the most of it.
"To those who say the progress of the last eight years was an accident, that we just coasted along, let's be clear America's success was not a matter of chance, it was a matter of choice," the president said last night.
Then, in words that sounded eerily like those that Mr. Bush delivered in Philadelphia, the president said, "What a nation does with good fortune is just as stern a test of its character, values and vision as how it deals with adversity."
In Philadelphia on Aug. 3, Mr. Bush said, "Times of plenty, like times of crisis, are tests of American character."
Mrs. Clinton spent much of her speech defending the Clinton-Gore record.
"We're a stronger, better country than we were in 1992," she said.
The first lady soft-pedaled her own campaign for election to the U.S. Senate from New York "For me, it will be up to the people of New York to decide whether I'll have the privilege of serving them in the United States Senate.

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