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WHITE HOUSE NOTEBOOK: Clinton Masters the Politics Of Art

September 11, 1996

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE (AP) _ Character is always an issue. But if President Clinton has his way, the 1996 campaign also will focus on caricature.

His, that is.

Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist Mike Luckovich, travelling aboard the presidential plane to get a taste of the campaign, urged Clinton to draw a caricature of himself. The president complied.

The result, scrawled in black ink on Air Force One stationary, was a chest-up self-portrait with two dialogue boxes. In one, Clinton quoted himself as saying, ``Hey, Mike. Now I feel my pain. I’m not good at this.″

In the other, the Clinton caricature was thinking to himself: ``How did I ever get talked into this? Maybe Luckovich should be president.″ Then he had the initials GDP _ Gross Domestic Product _ with a downward arrow.

``Typical politician,″ Clinton observed of his drawing. ``Say one thing and think another.″

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Clinton, a master in the art of politics, seemed to enjoy the politics of art.

He proudly showed reporters his drawing, and laughed out loud at the cover of Luckovich’s book, ``Lotsa Luckovich.″ The cover depicts chief of staff Leon Panetta walking into the Oval Office and declaring, ``More bad news. The bloody glove fits Hillary.″

Luckovich works for the Atlanta Constitution.

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It could have been an awkward moment. Clinton was making his opening ``thank yous″ during a speech before the Southern Governors Association in Kansas City, Mo. A few feet away sat Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, the Republican who replaced Clinton’s disgraced predecessor, former Gov. Jim Guy Tucker.

With a disarming smile, Clinton turned to Huckabee and said, ``Nice pin, Governor Huckabee.″ Huckabee was wearing a red Arkansas pin.

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Clinton’s concentration was interrupted during the governors speech by a steady hum from the back of the room. The president realized it was coming from a television reporter broadcasting live from a media platform.

``Does that guy want to give a speech, because we’d be glad to listen to you,″ Clinton said, dropping a hint with a smile. ``But we can’t both speak at the same time.″

The reporter shut up.

``I feel awful that it happened,″ KMBC-TV reporter Kris Ketz said as he later apologized to Clinton and to viewers during the station’s evening newscast. He said in an interview that he also planned to write Clinton a letter of apology.

Ketz said he was unaware that he was talking so loudly. And because he was listening to station personnel in his earphone, he didn’t realize at the time that Clinton had singled him out.

``It’s part of the hazards of live television,″ he said.

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