- The Washington Times - Monday, October 30, 2000

President Clinton yesterday begged blacks to choose the "outstretched hands" of Al Gore over the "clenched fists" of George W. Bush in an 11th-hour bid to rally core Democrats without alienating scandal-weary swing voters.
"I am pleading with you," the president told the congregation at Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington. "Talk to your friends, talk to your neighbors, talk to your family members, talk to your co-workers and make sure nobody takes a pass on November 7th."
Mr. Clinton said it would be a "terrible mistake" to elect the Texas governor, who is leading the vice president in virtually all national polls. The president said the election will have a "huge impact" on racial profiling, affirmative action, the appointment of black judges and America's relationship with Africa.
He even mentioned slavery. Mr. Clinton pointed out that while Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers considered slavery wrong, they still owned slaves.
"Look, these guys weren't stupid they knew God created somebody besides white male property owners," said the president, prompting laughter and applause. "So what did they pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to? To form a more perfect union.
"Not a perfect union we don't get to do that on this Earth," Mr. Clinton added. "But it would always become more perfect. Now, that's what this election season is about."
Mr. Clinton's discussion of slavery came just as Mr. Gore's running mate, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, was defending a controversial NAACP ad that implies Mr. Bush is responsible for a black man being dragged to death behind a pickup truck. The TV ad features the daughter of victim James Bird saying: "When Governor George W. Bush refused to support hate crimes legislation, it was like my father was killed all over again."
"That's a sincere expression of her opinion," Mr. Lieberman said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "The fact is that the Bird family, perhaps herself, went to Governor Bush and appealed to him to sign that hate crimes legislation, and he did not. So she was hurt by that, and that's just a fact."
Mr. Clinton hinted that a Bush administration would be less inclusive than a Gore administration.
"We're going to cross some bridges," the president said. "The questions are: Are we going to be walking in the right direction? Are we all going to walk across, or just a few of us? And if we all walk across, are we going to walk arm in arm, with outstretched hands instead of clenched fists?"
Blacks comprise the president's most fiercely loyal constituency. Mr. Clinton was once flattered when author Toni Morrison dubbed him the nation's "first black president." But only one in eight Americans is black.
Thus, by injecting himself into the presidential campaign to solidify the votes of an important but relatively small constituency 90 percent of whom already vote Democratic Mr. Clinton runs the risk of reminding a larger group of white moderates that he was impeached after a sordid sex scandal that brought dishonor on the White House.
In fact, his re-emergence as a campaign figure comes as his scandals are in the headlines again.
An interview with Esquire magazine, which features the president on its December cover, already has leaked out and caused a stir. In it, Mr. Clinton demanded an apology from Republicans who impeached him.
And Paula Jones, the woman whose sexual harassment lawsuit against the president ultimately led to his impeachment, has posed nude in Penthouse magazine, resurrecting yet another Clinton scandal.
Mr. Clinton paid $850,000 to settle the case involving Mrs. Jones, who said while governor of Arkansas Mr. Clinton lured her to a hotel room and solicited sex.
Mr. Gore is loath to appear publicly with the president. But with polls showing him trailing Mr. Bush, he believes he has little choice but to unleash his boss in an effort to get out the vote. The vice president himself appeared in the pulpits of two black churches in Detroit yesterday to deliver the same message.
"You have the ability to make the difference," Mr. Gore told worshippers at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church. "This state has the ability to decide this close election. This community has the ability to decide what this state decides."
Mr. Gore touted his support for affirmative action and laws against hate crimes and racial profiling. He characterized Mr. Bush as a puppet for wealthy special interests who would bring deficits back to the federal budget.
"We tried that," said Mr. Gore. "Been there, done that, still paying the bills."
Like his boss, the vice president was hailed by shouts of "amen" as he addressed the black congregations.
"This is one day that comes around every four years where the people have a chance to overrule the special interests," said Mr. Gore. "Use this as a window to see the basic contrasts between my opponent and myself."
At Shiloh Baptist Church, Mr. Clinton called himself "a fellow sinner." The Rev. Wallace Charles prayed for the Clintons, whom he said have been under "a fierce onslaught of hostile forces for eight long years." He urged God to "touch the electoral process … and anoint the polling places."
"If he could only run again," Mr. Smith lamented.
After leaving Shiloh, Mr. Clinton took the unusual step of attending a second Sunday service, this one at Alfred Street Baptist Church, in order to continue stumping for Mr. Gore. The appearances were part of an all-out blitz by the president to rally black voters in the final days of the campaign.
"I have done everything I could to turn our country around, to move it forward, to pull it together," the president said. "Now it's your turn."
Although the president mentioned Mr. Gore by name only once in his two speeches, he left no doubt about whom the blacks should support.
"I shouldn't tell you who to vote for you already know who I'm for," Mr. Clinton said, prompting laughter. "This is not rocket science."
The president left no doubt that voter apathy could work against Mr. Gore. He joked that congregants should "drag" people to the polls, even "halfway-interesting-looking strangers you see on the street between now and November 7th."
He added: "I implore you show up."

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