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Election 2000
Democratic National Convention
President Clinton
President Clinton
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William Jefferson Clinton

Cheering Democrats took one more opportunity to wrap President Bill Clinton in a blanket of affection and approval Monday. The president's remarks to the Democratic National Convention were greeted with frequent roars of approval as he took fellow party members on a tour of his administration's achievements and offered a ringing endorsement for Vice President Al Gore.

After a dramatic solitary walk through a maze-like hallway to the Staples Center podium, the man from Hope got the sort of reception due the first Democratic president to serve back-to-back terms since FDR.

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Clinton reminded the party faithful that before he and Gore took office in 1992, the deficit was high and the unemployment and welfare rolls were crowded, tying his remarks into the theme of "progress and prosperity" that the Gore campaign has been emphasizing.

Returning to one of his most familiar campaign themes, Clinton said: "We built our bridge to the 21st century. We crossed it together. And we're not going back."

Then he turned to the merits of the man he hopes will succeed him in the Oval Office.

"More than anybody else I've ever known in public life, Al Gore understands the future and how sweeping changes can affect Americans' daily lives," Clinton said.

As for the past eight years, Clinton said of Gore: "When we faced the toughest issues -- of war and peace, of taking on powerful special interests -- he was always there."

But it remains to be seen whether voters who view Clinton with a mixture of awe and angst will believe the president's pledge that "Al Gore and Joe Lieberman will keep our prosperity going."

Shortly after winning a second term in 1996, Clinton vowed to do everything in his power to see that Gore succeeded him in 2000. Then came the Monica Lewinsky affair, the pumped-up Starr investigation and the Republican's yearlong, unsuccessful attempt to drive Clinton from office through impeachment proceedings.

Many observers believed that Gore's best chance at winning in November required that the vice president keep a distance between himself and the president. And many were hopeful going into the convention that Clinton, the more accomplished orator of the two, would not deliver a speech that would overshadow Gore's own acceptance speech Thursday night.

In some respects, the president became an odd footnote to party history just by taking the podium in Los Angeles.

No Democratic president since Harry Truman in 1952 had addressed the convention with the certain knowledge that he was leaving office. And Truman had not planned to address the convention at all. He rushed to Chicago to endorse Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson, the man Democrats had drafted to run against Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Clinton trotted out a favorite Truman line Monday, telling the appreciative crowd: "If you want to live like a Republican, you'd better vote for the Democrats."

Additional stories on this speaker:

Reflections of the President ( 14.4 | 28.8) -- NPR's David Welna reports that yesterday President Clinton reflected on how the Monica Lewinsky scandal affected him. Clinton told a gathering of religious leaders in Illinois, that he made a "terrible mistake" and Al Gore should not be blamed for it. (4:32)

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