Clinton hosts bash for Hillary

NEW YORK, Reuters

President Bill Clinton gave his wife an early 53rd birthday present on Wednesday, hosting a star-studded bash in the Big Apple that will pump US$2 million into her New York Senate campaign.

A line-up of Hollywood’s elite, including actors Robert De Niro, Whoopi Goldberg, Cameron Diaz, Ben Affleck, and music stars Cher and the Rev. Al Green were billed to entertain more than 150 guests at the “Birthday Celebration for Hillary.”

Each guest paid at least US$10,000 for the privilege to attend the celebrity gig at the Roseland Ballroom, followed by a “wrap party” at Elaine’s restaurant, made famous by director Woody Allen in several of his popular movies.

After the restaurant party, the first lady was set to return to Washington with the president where they will celebrate Mrs. Clinton’s actual birthday on Thursday, her final birthday in the White House.

With less than two weeks until the election, Clinton has crisscrossed New York state three times this week as his wife’s lead campaigner and fund-raiser in-chief for her tightly fought race against Representative Rick Lazio.

All week Clinton has used stump speeches for his wife to also campaign hard for Vice President Al Gore’s presidential race against Republican nominee, Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

Gore, who is in a statistical dead heat against Bush, has been reluctant to pull Clinton out on the campaign trail, wanting to be seen as “my own man” and fearing voter fallout from the impeachment scandal that dogged Clinton’s presidency.

At a fund-raising reception on Wednesday for Representative Gregory Meeks, Clinton appealed to his supporters to try to convince others to vote for the “Gore/Lieberman/Hillary/Meeks” ticket.

“If you want to build on this progress then you have to be for Gore, Lieberman, Hillary and Greg,” Clinton told his supporters at an event expected to raise US$300,000 for Meeks, who is unopposed in his own race.

Clinton, who held Meeks’ 13-month-old daughter Nia-aiyana on his knee while he was being introduced, joked that he had a special interest in New York for this election.

“I have more than a passing interest in the elections in New York, not only because Hillary is running for Senate but because we now have a home here and I want New York to continue to lead the country,” Clinton said.

As he has done all week Clinton outlined the differences between the two presidential contenders and urged his supporters to get out and do the same.

“They (a Bush administration) would reverse the policies that we have had in education, in health care, the environment and crime,” Clinton said.

Clinton said a Gore presidency would keep paying down the debt until America was debt-free in 2012 and keep investing in education, science, technology and solving the energy crisis.

“We will also have a tax cut that we can afford as opposed to one that might be more attractive during elections,” he said, referring to Bush’s US$1.3 trillion, 10-year tax cut plan.

Clinton said it was interesting that New York, the financial capital of America, was one of the strongholds for the Gore-Lieberman ticket.