Clinton Combines Roles of Godfather and Candidate
SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) _ President Clinton arrived as the Godfather, but he looked more like the Candidate, shaking every hand within reach and nearly kissing a lot of babies.
Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton were in Scranton for the christening Sunday of 3-month-old Zachary Boxer Rodham, son of brother-in-law Tony Rodham and his wife, Nicole. The Clintons served as godparents, and the president scheduled no public or campaign activity during this trip.
Yet Clinton was all over Scranton. He shook hands at the airport, and outside the Rodham family home in Lake Winola, in front of the rustic Lakeview Market and the Court Street United Methodist Church, and along a street near a post-christening family gathering.
He seized a chance to point out, to the star-struck crowd that greeted him, how his administration is doing everything it can ``to try to lift up the values of work and family and freedom and responsibility ... to move the economy forward.″
``I am gratified that, with all of our difficulties, we see the unemployment rate dropping, more jobs being created,″ Clinton said. ``The crime rate, believe it or not, now is going down in all 50 states. We seem to be coming together again as a country, and looking to the future again.″
Of course, as he worked the crowds with pledges of restoring ``economic opportunity where it was taken away in the 1980s,″ Clinton also remained presidential. He congratulated Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization on their latest step toward peace, and telephoned five Middle East leaders to invite them to a formal signing ceremony this week at the White House.
The political undercurrent of Clinton’s visit was not lost on the residents of Scranton. They lined every street of his travel route, and many mothers positioned themselves at the front of the crowds, holding their babies and toddlers up for the president to see.
Outside the church, the crowed chanted, ``We Want Bill!″ to lure him to them _ and he complied, stepping from his limousine at least once to shake hands. Others chanted ``Four More Years!″ as Clinton glided by, and one man clutched a Clinton/Gore campaign poster.
Mrs. Clinton and daughter Chelsea also shook hands and waved to well-wishers while Clinton lingered at the Scranton airport for an hour before departing for a luncheon with 17 relatives and friends.
Scranton holds special significance for the Rodham family. Mrs. Clinton, her father Hugh Rodham Sr. and her two brothers were christened in the same church where Zachary was baptized. The baby wore the same white outfit they all wore, said White House spokeswoman Ginny Terzano.
Also attending the ceremony was Zachary’s grandmother, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
Before leaving town, the Clintons stopped at West Scranton St. Cemetery to place fresh-cut flowers on Hugh Rodham Sr.’s grave.
``If we ever cause an interruption in ordinary flow of life here when the Rodham family comes back to its roots, I apologize for that,″ Clinton said. ``And for every day you have given me to be your president, I thank you.″