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Clinton, Gore Appear Together in LA

April 16, 2000

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.

Clinton praised the man who seeks to succeed him as ``the most qualified person in my lifetime, I believe, to seek this job.″

Gore too showered his boss with compliments and said he wanted to carry on his legacy. ``As I’m out there running now, the wind at my back is that people think we’re heading in the right direction.″

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 came together later in Beverly Hills for a Democratic National Committee fund-raiser that netted at least $2.8 million.

Music mogul and Democratic superdonor David Geffen was hosting the event with DreamWorks SKG co-founders Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg. Singers Sarah McLachlan and Sheryl Crow attended, as did Jay Leno actors Kevin Spacey, Whoopi Goldberg, Jimmy Smits, Kim Delaney, Rene Russo, Edward James Olmos and Antonio Banderas.

The politicians and the stars mingled on the balcony of Greystone Mansion, a gothic castle overlooking downtown Los Angeles and, for a night, a knot of protesters. It is reputed to be the largest home ever built in Beverly Hills.

Gore used a Hollywood analogy as he urged the donors to stay the political course. Handing the White House to Republicans would be akin to entertainment industry executives choosing the team that made the box office disaster ``Howard the Duck″ over the one that made the multi-Oscar-winning ``American Beauty,″ the vice president said.

Clinton deadpanned that Gore’s comments had highlighted a rift between them.

``I loved ‘American Beauty.’ I love Kevin Spacey. But I actually liked ’Howard the Duck,‴ he said, drawing laughs from the crowd.

The president gave Gore credit for a litany of administration achievements, including a new nuclear arms reduction pact, cleaner-burning vehicles, smaller federal government and a wide-scale wiring of schools to the Internet.

``Things could be a lot better, but only if we build on the platform that we are standing on now,″ Clinton said.

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.

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