Clinton, Gore Appear Together in LA
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Al Gore touted Internet access as an antidote to inner-city woes Saturday before collecting millions of dollars for Democrats at a star-studded Beverly Hills dinner with President Clinton _ their first joint appearance in more than four months.
The vice president attended the opening of the first ``cyber cafe″ in the South-Central Los Angeles area, praising it as a step in closing the so-called digital divide.
``It will help connect the citizens of central Los Angeles with the worlds of knowledge and discovery and commerce that too often seem worlds away,″ Gore told hundreds of listeners at a brainstorming session on revitalizing poor neighborhoods. He was introduced as ``an honorary black man″ to the crowd, made up mostly of minorities.
``If you don’t as a child gain access to this technology and a familiarity with working with it, you’re going to be less able to excel at the endeavors that rely on that technology later on,″ he said. Poor young people are far less likely to have that technology at home than other children, he said.
It was primarily young people surfing the World Wide Web when Gore visited the Inner-City Cyber Cafe, and he looked over their shoulders while they did so.
``It’s kind of fun, isn’t it?″ Gore asked 9-year-old Cameron Gardine, who surfed apparently oblivious to the news microphones dangling over his head.
``If you’re not on the Net, if you’re not computer-literate, you’re almost non-existent in this society,″ said Lester Gardiner, manager of the cafe.
While Gore focused on the plight of urban areas Saturday morning, Clinton was in California’s Sequoia National Forest setting aside 328,000 acres of federal forests containing majestic giant sequoia trees.
The two men were coming together later in Beverly Hills for a Democratic National Committee fund-raiser expected to net $2.5 million.
Music mogul and Democratic superdonor David Geffen was hosting the event, and singer Sarah McLachlan and actors Kevin Spacey, Whoopi Goldberg and Antonio Banderas were also to attend.
Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson said, ``Once again, tonight Bill Clinton and Al Gore will stage a reprise of their Hollywood dinner act, putting their hands into the pockets of those who manufacture the movies, music videos and compact discs that twist our children’s minds, coarsen their conversation, and darken their thoughts.″
The last time Clinton and Gore appeared together in public was Dec. 9, when they attended a firefighters’ memorial in Massachusetts and then a DNC fund-raiser in Washington, D.C.
One night earlier, the DNC fund-raiser Gore headlined near San Jose raised $2.6 million, shattering the DNC’s previous Silicon Valley record of $1.5 million. At the same event, Gore renewed his call for a ban on unlimited ``soft money″ _ the very kind of money he was raising Friday and Saturday.
Gore said he was untroubled by the stock market’s plunge on Friday. Many political analysts believe a downturn in the economy could damage his White House campaign.
``Markets go up and markets go down,″ Gore said. ``You’ve got to keep focus on the fundamentals, and the fundamentals of our economy are sound; we will continue to do well over time as long as we keep our eyes on the ball.″
Gore made his remarks as he was touring the Internet cafe, when a reporter shouted a question to him.
For a moment, it appeared the event might become a full-blown news conference, which Gore has not conducted in nearly two months. Republicans dispatched a man in a duck suit to the Saturday morning event to highlight that point.
But as soon as the vice president concluded his remarks on the stock market, a Gore aide hastily ushered the news media out of the cafe.
Gore spent much of Saturday taping TV commercials and reviewing reports on the Democratic National Convention, to be held here this August.