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Clinton Draws Comfort and Cash on Trip

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By Sharon Waxman and Bill McAllister
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, September 28, 1998; Page A2

President Clinton capped a three-day, three-state trip last night in which he left his Washington troubles behind and found solace -- and lots of campaign cash -- outside the Beltway. In all, he raised at least $3.6 million for Democratic candidates and continued to focus on policy and politics, not scandal.

In Illinois, California and yesterday in Texas, Clinton ignored the protesters who appeared near most of his stops and never explicitly mentioned his own troubles. He used his speeches to attack congressional Republicans and expressed a belief that voters outside Washington think the nation has other, more important concerns.

And at a fund-raiser yesterday in San Antonio, he reaffirmed what he has often suggested: "You don't have to worry about me giving up."

On Saturday night, an energized Clinton was embraced by supporters in the heart of Hollywood as Democrats, professing disgust at events in Washington, threw their weight and money behind their embattled leader.

At a sold-out fund-raising dinner in the Beverly Hills home of television programming mogul Haim Saban, the president -- in full campaign mode -- received a standing ovation, then went on to criticize Republicans about Social Security, tax cuts and the International Monetary Fund. There was only a veiled reference to the sex and perjury investigation.

Introducing the president, Saban told Clinton, "Our prayers are with you and our support is absolutely unwavering." Clinton responded by thanking the crowd "for the personal messages you had for me and for Hillary." Then, he added, "You know, even presidents and their families have to be people too, and that means a very great deal to us."

The mood, according to some who attended, was solidly pro-Clinton, even among those who had previously expressed sharp disappointment at the president's admission of having lied about his affair with Monica S. Lewinsky. Now, they said, the president's misbehavior has been overshadowed by the Republicans' perceived determination to go after him at all costs.

"This week has been a turnaround week for me," said Lara Bergthold, a political adviser to television producer Norman Lear. "This is so clearly not about sex or even lying about sex but about finding a way to turn American voters off to the president to win congressional seats in November."

Said Saban, who produced "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" and heads the Fox Kids Network, "Washington has got to come to terms with what the American people are saying to the tune of 69 or 70 percent. They are saying, 'We want the president to stay; we want to move forward.' That a bunch of rightist Republicans under pressure of religious zealots are trying to say, 'We aren't going to listen to what the American people want, we'll do what we want,' this is a scary thought to me."

Among those in attendance at the chateau-style mansion were Madonna, director Rob Reiner, grocery magnate Ron Burkle, retired Hollywood power brokers Lew and Edie Wasserman, producer Bud Yorkin and Motown founder Berry Gordy.

Saban said the 200 guests, who contributed a total of $1.5 million, were turning out for Clinton as much as for the Democrats who were there for their campaigns, including Sen. Barbara Boxer (Calif.); California Lt. Gov. Gray Davis, who is running for governor; and House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (Mo.).

During a fund-raiser in exclusive Rancho Santa Fe south of Los Angeles earlier in the day, Clinton somewhat inelegantly described what he believes voters want in the fall congressional races: "We believe elections should be about the people who live outside Washington, not about who's crawling on whom in Washington, D.C.," he said.

Aides quickly assured reporters the president was referring to Democrats and Republicans fighting with each other.

In San Antonio, Clinton faced a daunting political task: helping longtime friend Garry Mauro, the state land commissioner who is in an uphill fight trying to unseat incumbent Gov. George W. Bush (R).

At the event, former Texas governor Ann Richards gave the crowd a characteristically blunt assessment of the president's current problems.

"Bill Clinton isn't the first man I've had to forgive and he probably won't be the last," she said in her Texas twang. She urged the crowd to reject Republicans "digging around in their trash bins" and stand behind the president, who had delivered on "the job he committed to do."

Clinton complimented Richards "for finding ways to say things no one else can say that make a point no one could misunderstand."

Waxman reported from Los Angeles, McAllister from San Antonio.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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