- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 11, 2000

By day, President Clinton is the picture of diplomacy and statesmanship, magnanimously reaching out to the GOP during televised news conferences and weekly radio addresses in a spirit of bipartisan cooperation.
But by night he often reverts to stridently vitriolic attacks against Republicans, warning partisan Democrats at sparsely covered fund-raisers about the "right-wing venom machine" that is bent on destroying Hillary Rodham Clinton and Vice President Al Gore.
In recent weeks, as Mr. Clinton has criss-crossed the country to raise funds for his wife and vice president, the lame-duck president has taken advantage of the gradually dimming media spotlight by slipping increasingly generous portions of red-meat rhetoric into his speeches to the party faithful. The press, now in full campaign mode, has paid scant attention to the soon-to-be-ex-president.
For example, just weeks after National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre touched off a firestorm by saying Mr. Clinton had "blood on his hands" for failing to aggressively prosecute gun crimes, the president employed similarly superheated rhetoric but barely caused a ripple of protest.
Specifically, Mr. Clinton equated the GOP's gun policy with the murder of children. "I'm not willing to let another child die for their theory," Mr. Clinton thundered during an evening fund-raiser.
The president used equally hyperbolic rhetoric to accuse Republicans of indifference to the slaughter of ethnic Albanians by Serbian forces in Kosovo last year.
"I think we were right to go into Kosovo and save the lives and the livelihoods of a million Muslims," Mr. Clinton said in distinguishing between Democrats and Republicans. "Most of them thought it wasn't worth the trouble."
The remarks triggered no widespread outcry that the president was demagoguing a complex foreign policy decision for political gain. In fact, the remarks were barely covered by the press.
Conservatives blame the liberal media bias for the lack of outrage. But with less than seven months before the next presidential election, many press organizations have simply stopped paying close attention to Mr. Clinton.
As evidence of this trend, the White House press office no longer charters a jet for the press corps on most domestic trips because so few reporters are willing to travel with the president. Eighteen months ago, as Mr. Clinton struggled to survive impeachment, an overflow crowd of journalists traveled with Mr. Clinton on even the most mundane fund-raising jaunts.
Yesterday, White House officials failed to fill even a single bus they had hoped to charter in order to shuttle reporters the relatively short distance from Washington to Annapolis for a gun-control event.
While Mr. Clinton rarely misses an opportunity to prod congressional Republicans toward enacting his agenda, there is a marked difference in tone from one event to the next. During his daytime, high-profile appearances, the president softens his rhetoric and is always careful to extend an olive branch to the GOP.
"I am encouraged that there is growing support from both parties to address the prescription drug cost," Mr. Clinton said in a prepared statement yesterday.
"Let's get back on track," the president urged Republicans during a radio address Saturday. "Let's work together to protect the health, the safety, the welfare of the American people."
Similarly, the president began his March 29 press conference by calling "for the congressional leadership to reach across party lines and to work with us to break the grip of special interests and do the people's business."
But a harder edge often creeps into Mr. Clinton's rhetoric during evening fund-raisers, especially those held after the deadlines of major newspapers and TV news broadcasts. Addressing small gatherings of party faithful in private homes where TV cameras are often banned, the president checks his cautious diplo-speak at the door and slips into fiery, off-the-cuff remarks.
In recent weeks, he has repeatedly denounced New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani for employing a "hard-core, far-right" fund-raiser who portrays Mrs. Clinton as part of "a communist brigade." He also accused the mayor of pandering to "all those right-wingers that helped [Texas Gov. George W.] Bush in the nomination and are represented by the Bob Jones University flap."
Playing the race card, Mr. Clinton also said Mr. Bush initially "refused" to meet with "the weeping daughter" of James Byrd, the black man "who was dragged to death in Texas."
Even as he employs such strident language, the president accuses Republicans of rhetorical overkill.
"The only way they can win is to convince people we're space aliens," the president said recently. "They have no guilt and no shame. I mean, they'll say anything."
Mr. Clinton asserted that Democrats have no need for such dirty tricks.
"We don't have to do that," the president counseled. "We can talk about honest differences."
Mr. Clinton is also using his little-noticed forums to muse on other subjects with a candor that was unheard of during his long impeachment siege.
On Saturday, for example, during a visit to Alexandria, La., the president thanked an old friend for supporting him during impeachment. Although Mr. Clinton has long asserted that leaving office never crossed his mind during the drawn-out trauma, his remarks over the weekend suggested otherwise.
"There for a period of time a day or two at least there was some question about whether I would finish my term," Mr. Clinton acknowledged.

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