Clinton's last dance

Polls split on convention bounce, fur flies in Playboy party fight and Farrakhan holds back on Lieberman.

By Alicia Montgomery
Published August 14, 2000 7:28AM (EDT)

It may be Al Gore's party, but not until President Clinton is done with it. And he will be -- the Gore campaign hopes -- after speaking at the Democratic National Convention Monday night. ABC News reports that Clinton will concentrate on making the case that Gore has done plenty to build the nation's prosperity, and that the popular impression that the economy has been on autopilot is just wrong. White House press secretary Joe Lockhart says that the Republican Party's suggestion that the Clinton administration has failed to capitalize on the economic boom will make George W. Bush an easy target. He "says we haven't done anything the last eight years," Lockhart said. "That's a slow one coming in right over the plate."

The president wants to knock that out of the ballpark, and he skipped television interviews over the weekend to polish his valedictory address. He's also trying to lower his profile to quash rumors that he's hogging the spotlight from Gore, an accusation the president has repeatedly denied. Still, Clinton doesn't deny that he'll miss the job, and waxed wistful about his tenure during his now-infamous absolution speech in Illinois last week. "My biggest problem now is I hate to go to sleep at night," he said. "I go to bed and I sit there and I read for hours; I just keep working. I'm trying to get everything done I can do before I leave ... It's just been a joy. I can't even -- I don't even have the words to describe how much I love the work."

A case of bipollar disorder
President Clinton's ability to make mischief has hurt Gore in the polls ... or maybe not. A USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll taken Aug. 11-12 finds that Bush has 55 percent support from likely voters vs. 39 percent for Gore, but a Reuters/Zogby survey taken at roughly the same time scores the race at Bush 43, Gore 40. Each poll has a three-point margin of error. In addition to providing good news for Gore, the Reuters/Zogby survey bears good tidings for one third-party candidate. It shows the Green Party's Ralph Nader at 7 percent support, with the Reform Party's Pat Buchanan lagging at 2 percent. In the USA Today/CNN/Gallup survey, only 2 percent of voters supported Nader, with Buchanan falling off the radar with less than 1 percent.

Democrats do the Hollywood shuffle
Gore's candidacy has gotten decidedly mixed reviews from his Hollywood hosts, who particularly object to veep hopeful and clean-culture crusader Joe Lieberman. The San Francisco Examiner reports that the Democrats' newfound fervor over entertainment industry sins hasn't cooled the party's lust for the big bucks of Tinseltown. Though the party platform calls for entertainers to "accept more responsibility and exercise more self-restraint," scolding creative types for violent and sexually explicit content, the Gore campaign has already taken $900,000 from the entertainment industry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. "They're trying to walk on something of a razor blade," says Larry Makinson, executive director of the political watchdog group. "They want the money from Hollywood, but they don't want the bad side effects from voters who might be offended by the morality of Hollywood."

More fallout from the Playboy flap
The first victim of the Democrats' scrambled signals on morality could be California Rep. Loretta Sanchez. Roll Call reports that the ugly fight between Sanchez and Gore over a Playboy Mansion fundraiser has Democrats wondering who dropped the ball. Though she's searching for a new venue after a storm of bad press, many fault Sanchez herself for picking the Playboy locale in the first place. "I don't know who came up with this brilliant idea or who would think that this would not cause undue tension, but they apparently didn't think it through," said an aide to one Hispanic member of Congress. "C'mon, it's not Disneyland ... The Playboy Mansion is as neutral as a Buddhist monastery somewhere in California." While conceding that she behaved badly, others in the party believe that removing Sanchez as a convention speaker and threatening her position on the Democratic National Committee crossed the line. "I sort of feel like she has done so much for the party, I think it's unfortunate," said another Democratic aide. The reaction "seems out of proportion to me."

Farrakhan frets over Lieberman
As an organization, the Nation of Islam has rarely concerned itself with political propriety or decency. Its leader, Louis Farrakhan, is apparently trying to change that with his rather tepid criticism of Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew. The Associated Press reports that Farrakhan refrained from his past blatant anti-Semitism when he questioned the wisdom of a Gore-Lieberman ticket. "It would be wrong to judge someone on their faith, but it's right to judge them on the issues," he said. "If we question Mr. Lieberman on the issues, don't use cries of anti-Semitism to stifle the debate." (Those who would accuse Farrakhan of such bigotry must have taken his statements calling Judaism "a gutter religion" out of context.)

Big tension, no trouble at protest
Though a rally supporting convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal sparked mayhem in Philadelphia several days ago, the Chicago Tribune reports that Los Angeles' Mumia protest went off almost without a hitch. Only one arrest occurred among the 4,000 demonstrators, and no vandalism or destruction of property was reported. While many merchants along the protest route hid behind steel curtains and combat-ready police, merchant Said Saidian remained unafraid and surprisingly friendly toward the protests. "It just shows how great America is," said Saidian, who emigrated from Iran nine years ago. "You can say what you wish, and no one sends you to jail."

Poll positions
Presidential race:

  • Bush 43 to Gore 40 (Reuters/Zogby Aug. 11-13).
  • Bush 55 to Gore 39 (USA Today/CNN/Gallup Aug. 11-12).
  • Bush 54 to Gore 40 (Washington Post/ABC News Aug. 4-6).
  • Bush 49 to Gore 38 (Newsweek Aug. 3-4).
  • Bush 47 to Gore 34 ( Aug. 1-2).
  • Bush 44 to Gore 39 (Los Angeles Times July 27-29).
  • Bush 48 to Gore 45 (ABC News/Washington Post July 20-23).
  • Bush 43 to Gore 41 (CBS News July 13-16).
  • Bush 46 to Gore 40 (Fox News July 12-13).
  • Bush 40 to Gore 39 (Associated Press June 21-25).

    Third-party candidates:

  • Nader 7 to Buchanan 2 (Reuters/Zogby Aug. 11-13).
  • Nader 2 to Buchanan 1 (USA Today/CNN/Gallup Aug. 11-12).
  • Nader 5 to Buchanan 4 (Washington Post/ABC News Aug. 4-6).
  • Nader 5 to Buchanan 1 (Newsweek Aug. 3-4).
  • Nader 6 to Buchanan 2 ( Aug. 1-2).
  • Nader 5 to Buchanan 2 (Los Angeles Times July 27-29).
  • Nader 7 to Buchanan 6 (ABC News/Washington Post July 20-23).
  • Nader 4 to Buchanan 4 (CBS News July 14-16).

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  • Alicia Montgomery

    Alicia Montgomery is an associate editor in Salon's Washington bureau.

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