The first couple has gotten a jump on Al Gore’s Democratic National Convention, attending an opulent fund-raising brunch in Malibu today for President Clinton, and a star-studded Saturday-night Hollywood fund-raiser for first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton’s New York Senate campaign.
Earlier today, at a Democratic National Committee brunch in Los Angeles, the president took a shot at the Republican Party’s recent convention in Philadelphia.
“They had to put their leaders in a closet, and go scare people up off the street,” Clinton said, implying the image of diversity projected by the GOP was misleading. “They had to use the people they had on stage to hide their policies.”
Clinton also expressed optimism that Gore, trailing Republican rival George W. Bush in the polls, can mount a comeback — although he warned it would not be easy.
“We can turn around these polls, but it’s not the work of a day. It’s going to take every day between now and November,” Clinton said.
The Clintons then attended a lavish brunch at the Malibu estate of singer Barbra Streisand, which was expected to raise $10 million for Clinton’s future presidential library in Little Rock, Ark.
Saturday Night Fever
The Saturday night event, hosted by comic book publisher Stan Lee at the Los Angeles estate of businessman Kenneth Roberts, featured a chart-topping line-up of singing stars including Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Michael Bolton, Cher, Toni Braxton, and Melissa Etheridge.
About 1,000 guests sat on specially made directors chairs labeled “Hollywood Tribute to William Jefferson Clinton” on a hillside lawn overlooking the city. Guests paid $1,000 each to attend the concert; about 300 couples paid $25,000 to attend a dinner afterward with Clinton.
In between the tribute speakers and performers, guests were shown snippets of a re-edited Man From Hope video on Clinton that was featured at the 1992 Democratic nominating convention. The updated version intercut new interviews with Clinton in which the president reflected on his early childhood and his start in politics.
“I was looking at those movies up there … and I was thinking how quickly it all passed and what an absolute joy it was,” Clinton said after viewing the video. “Every day, even the bad ones, were good ones.”
A host of speakers included Red Buttons, Shirley MacLaine, Jimmy Smits, Whoopi Goldberg and Rosa Parks. For good measure, the president’s speech came with warm-up remarks from actor John Travolta.
“You ignite in others things that we have not resolved in ourselves,” MacLaine said. “I thank you for that. You are a mirror for all of us.”
“You kicked ass,” Goldberg said, “and even when they tried to kick yours back you stood up and you never faltered.”
“It’s bittersweet,” said Travolta later, “because I think we are sad to see him go.”
Democratic officials say the event will bring in at least $1 million for his wife’s campaign, although the total could wind up much higher.
Stealing Gore’s Thunder?
The entertainment industry is the Democrats’s fourth-largest contributor. But the high-profile events come after a week in which some Democrats expressed concern that the Clintons’ high profile was in Los Angeles could steal attention away from Vice President Al Gore, who is looking to use the convention to reintroduce himself to the nation.
As a result of the Clintons’ vigorous fund-raising this weekend, some Democrats have complained that the first couple is hogging available donor dollars — and the political spotlight. In an attempt to keep a lower media profile this week, Clinton has canceled all the interviews he had scheduled this week — even an online Web cast.
In an interview published in today’s New York Times, Gore dismisses the notion that the presence of the Clintons is preventing him from establishing a distinct identity for his own campaign.
“I’m running on my own agenda, on my own voice and through my own experiences,” Gore tells the Times. “This election is about the future,” he added. “It is about the choice that has to be made between Gov. Bush and myself.”
The Fatigue Factor?
An ABCNEWS/Washington Post poll released Friday shows Gore gaining some ground on Bush, but indicates that so-called “Clinton fatigue” may be a significant factor in the campaign.
In the poll, Bush leads Gore 52 percent to 43 percent, down from a 14-point margin on Monday, but with 47 percent of those surveyed agreeing with the statement that Gore “is too close to Clinton to provide the fresh start the country needs.”
White House sources have indicated to ABCNEWS that, having attempted on Thursday to distance Gore from his own misdeeds, there is little chance that Clinton will make reference to the scandal on Monday night when he addresses the convention.
One aide said the “overwhelming opinion” at the White House is that it would be unwise for Clinton to say anything about the matter in his prime-time address.
The following day, Clinton and Gore are scheduled to meet at a campaign event in Michigan for a symbolic passing of the Democratic torch. Gore will then go to Los Angeles and accept his party’s nomination on Thursday.
ABCNEWS’ Dana Hill, Josh Gerstein, Eileen A. Murphy and The Associated Press contributed to this report.