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
"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
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
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.''