- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 15, 2000

LOS ANGELES Hillary Rodham Clinton tried hard to soften her image last night, offering a touchy-feely thank you in a Democratic National Convention speech centered on family, children, education and health care.
The first lady and Senate candidate, looking to soften her image and get a bounce in the polls, especially among women, cast herself as a mother and children's advocate. She used an oft-quoted phrase as she told the nation she was grateful for her time in the White House.
"You know, I still believe it takes a village," Mrs. Clinton said, drawing applause from the delegates gathered in downtown's Staples Center.
"And it certainly takes Al Gore and Joe Lieberman," she said, turning attention on the likely nominees. "They have what it takes. And they'll do what it takes."
Mrs. Clinton, 52, entered the convention hall to cheers and the strains of "New York, New York."
Dressed in a vibrant blue suit, she quickly put the spotlight on the Gore campaign, offering her admiration for Mr. Gore and his wife, Tipper, and Mr. Lieberman and his wife Hadassah.
"In 1992, Bill and Al promised to put people first," she said. "That simply meant that when people live up to their responsibilities, we ought to live up to ours and give them the tools and the opportunities they need to build better lives. That's the basic bargain at the heart of the American dream."
In her 10 minutes of prime time exposure, Mrs. Clinton did not once mention her Senate opponent, Rep. Rick Lazio, New York Republican. She called for the passage of gun safety laws and a patient's bill of rights, and urged equal pay for equal work.
Earlier in the day, she refused to answer a question from CNN's Larry King about how she was faring emotionally after her husband's sexual dalliances with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. But she did acknowledge those who supported her during the humiliating scandal.
"Thank you for your faith and support in good times and in bad," Mrs. Clinton said.
The speech marked Mrs. Clinton's second before the Democratic convention, and came at an opportune time to boost her New York Senate race, which has been stalled of late in a dead heat with Mr. Lazio, a popular Long Island native.
At the 1996 convention in Chicago, when she was introduced by Tipper Gore, Mrs. Clinton touted her husband's work on issues facing children and families, including health care, day care, adoption and youth violence.
In her surprisingly personal remarks, the first lady returned to a similar theme, recalling her work with the Children's Defense Fund and as a young lawyer representing children. She called upon voters to stay the course.
"We've made great progress in the last eight years, but we still have a lot of work to do," she said. "Because when a child can't go to school without fearing guns and violence that's a child left behind. When a child's illness is treated too late or not at all because a hard-working parent can't afford health insurance that's a child left behind. When a child struggles to learn in an overcrowded classroom that's a child left behind."
"Don't let anyone tell you this election doesn't matter," she added. "The stakes in November are the biggest for those who are the littlest among us."
Mrs. Clinton shared the childhood story of her own mother, who was watching the speech from the convention hall.
"I thought of what my own mother went through as a child, born to teen-age parents who couldn't take care of her," Mrs. Clinton said. "When she was eight, she and her little sister were sent alone on a train across the country to stay with relatives. At 14, she went to work caring for a family's children. And fortunately, her employer was a kind woman who saw her true worth and showed her what a loving family was really like."
Mrs. Clinton started her day with brief remarks at a breakfast meeting of the New York caucus at the Westin Century Plaza Hotel. Wearing a mint green suit, the first lady was introduced to the delegates as "Senator Hillary Clinton," a title that drew a standing ovation as she took to the podium shortly after 9 a.m.
In what appeared to be a warm-up for her prime time remarks before the convention, Mrs. Clinton thanked the group on behalf of herself, her husband and her daughter for "the privilege of a lifetime," of serving the nation over the last eight years.
She was quick, however, to make the point early on that the convention was about getting Mr. Gore and running mate Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, elected.
Mrs. Clinton also thanked the New York delegates for "their profound help, support and friendship over the last 13 months," during which time she became a resident of the state she wants to represent in the Senate.
Reiterating remarks repeated over and over by party spin doctors, she extolled the progress the nation has made during her husband's presidency and said she wanted to extend that prosperity to everyone.
"There is only one choice in this election whether we're talking about president, vice president or senator from New York and the right choice is to keep going forward together," Mrs. Clinton said.
"We've made so much progress in the last eight years. We are a stronger and better country than we were in 1992, but we have work to do and we have challenges ahead."
Mrs. Clinton did not mention her opponent, but said she looked forward to serving with New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer in the Senate, where she promised to "stand up against turning back the clock on gun safety."
"I look forward to winning with you in November," Mrs. Clinton told the New York delegation, before quickly exiting the hotel ballroom to head to the Staples Center for an afternoon of interviews and appearances including a surprise visit to the Gay and Lesbian Caucus.
There, Mrs. Clinton warned that Republicans "have a very different vision of America than we do." Her march in New York City's gay-pride parade was "one of the greatest thrills of my life… . I've never seen anything like that."
Mrs. Clinton isn't the clear favorite of women in New York, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released last week. It showed her leading Mr. Lazio 50 percent to 39 percent among women, but trailing 46 percent to 41 percent among white women.
Mrs. Clinton refused to answer CNN's Mr. King when he asked her how she was faring after the turmoil of the Lewinsky affair.
"You know that's my business, and I don't talk about my personal business and I feel strongly that what goes on in a marriage or a family should remain in that marriage and in that family," she said.

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