The spotlight may be set to shine on Al Gore, but for now he finds himself in the Clintons’ shadow. Read about the first couple’s star-studded L.A.fundraiser.
Aug. 13 — The first couple has gotten a jump on Al Gore’s Democratic National Convention, attending a $10 million brunch today benefitting President Clinton’s future library following a star-studded Hollywood fund-raiser Saturday night for first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton’s New York Senate campaign. The 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 (butt),” Goldberg said, “and even when they tried to kick yours back you stood up and you never faltered.”
Democratic officials say the event will bring in at least $1 million for his wife’s campaign.
This morning, the president plans to attend a brunch at Barbra Streisand’s residence that is expected to raise millions for his presidential library.
Stealing Gore’s Thunder?
The entertainment industry has given significant support to the Democrats in recent years. But the high-profile events come after a week in which some Democrats expressed concern that the Clintons’s 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.
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 — and instead spent the morning golfing with Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, a Republican, and Democratic National Convention chairman Terry McAuliffe, Clinton’s main fund-raiser for the past several years.
But Mrs. Clinton, in a close battle against Rep. Rick Lazio in New York, appeared on NBC’s Tonight Show on Friday, playfully asking host Jay Leno, “What are you going to talk about when we’re gone?”
Gore Emphasizes ‘Own Agenda’
In an interview published in today’s New York Times, Gore dismisses the notion, raised by some Democrats this week, 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 vice president also shrugged off surprisingly candid comments that Clinton made Thursday about the Lewinsky scandal.
Speaking to a gathering of ministers, Clinton called his affair with a young White House intern “a terrible mistake,” and added that attempts to link Gore to his own actions were misguided, saying, “no fair-minded person would blame him for any mistake that I made.”
“I appreciate what the president said,” Gore adds in the interview. “He repeated what he said in the past and what many others have said: This campaign is about the future.”
Nevertheless, Gore has been forced to contend with frequent subtle allusions to the scandal by Bush.
The Fatigue Factor?
An ABCNEWS/Washington Post poll released Friday shows Gore gaining some ground on his Republican opponent, George W. 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.