Clinton says speaking Spanish is not enough for Hispanics Clinton says speaking Spanish is not enough for Hispanics
11.12 p.m. ET (323 GMT) June 13, 2000

By Calvin Woodward, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Clinton took note Tuesday of the lively — and sometimes bilingual — contest by both parties for the Hispanic vote. Then he took aim at Republicans, claiming they are falling short in issues important to those voters.

"I hope very much that I'm the last president in American history who can't speak Spanish,'' Clinton said in a nod to presidential candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush, both of whom are comfortable throwing Spanish phrases into their speeches.

But Clinton, sticking to English in remarks to a Democratic congressional fund-raising event starring the party's Hispanic caucus, said a willingness to speak another language will not suffice.

"While it is now fashionable for both parties to court the Hispanic vote,'' he said, "there is a difference. There is a difference in the Congress and there is a difference in the race for the White House.''

He said Democrats are with many Hispanics in wanting a strong patients' bill of rights, a higher minimum wage, expanded access to health care and tax breaks modest enough not to endanger the effort to pay down the debt. The Republicans, he said, are not.

He also criticized Texas Sens. Phil Gramm and Kay Bailey Hutchison for trying to block his nomination of Hispanic lawyer Enrique Moreno of El Paso, Texas, to the U.S. Circuit Court. In the process, he took an oblique swipe at Gov. Bush, the Republican candidate, saying "I haven't heard a peep, I might add, out of any of the other elected Republicans in Texas about this.''

The senators say Moreno lacks the necessary experience for the appointment.

Clinton helped raise an estimated $500,000 for congressional Democrats at the event and went on to a $50,000 fund-raiser for Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia's delegate to Congress, held at the home of his friend Vernon Jordan.

There, too, he hit on his "there is a difference'' theme and appeared to be referring to Bush's easygoing ways when he asked Americans to be mindful of the stakes in the election.

"Now the danger is that people will think this economy's been good so long nobody can mess it up,'' he said. "Or that everybody's so nice that nobody can do anything too bad.

"There is a difference.''

Clinton also made a surprise appearance at an awards ceremony held by the Arab American Institute Foundation, and took the opportunity to thank the community for its contributions to the United States.

Regarding Syrians, whose president, Hafez Assad, was laid to rest Tuesday, Clinton said: "We wish them well and we hope we can resume our relationship and the work for peace.''


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