Associated Press
August 12, 2000

Hillary: Worked Hard At White House

By Marc Humbert

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Hillary Rodham Clinton said Saturday she spent her White House years working hard on issues, and she dismissed critics who insinuate she ''sat around eating bonbons.''

In an interview with The Associated Press, Clinton defended her work on issues ranging from health insurance to education and adoption.

The first lady has been under attack in New York from her Republican opponent, Rep. Rick Lazio, for lacking a public record.

''Just ask her one thing that she's done for New York,'' has become a familiar Lazio refrain in the highly competitive Senate race.

Clinton said she has a record to run on.

''I was deeply involved within the White House,'' she said.

''I want people to know that, because if someone is going to claim I sat around eating bonbons for the last five or six years, I think it's only fair that the truth come out,'' the first lady told the AP.

The remark was reminiscent of Clinton's comment during the 1992 presidential campaign when she defended her work as a lawyer by saying, ''I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas.'' She later apologized for the remark.

The first lady said much of her Monday night speech to the Democratic National Convention will focus on children and that she plans to use the prime-time slot to take on the Republicans.

''We heard a lot about children in the other party's convention, but their record doesn't match their rhetoric,'' she said.

With a hearty laugh, the first lady said that in her speech she ''might make passing reference'' to the GOP convention. ''I'm just going to describe what I heard and saw and contrast it to what the record is,'' she said.

On her record, Clinton said the public perception that she largely withdrew after the defeat in 1994 of the White House health care reforms, which she spearheaded, was not accurate.

''I rolled up my sleeves and got back to work ... I wrote a book,'' she said, adding that she was ''not interested in headlines.''

''None of it was a secret, but it may not have been on the front pages and I want people to know what I did because I think it's important that they understand that I spent my time in the White House working, as I have for 30 years, to try to give every child a chance,'' she said.

The first lady denied reports of tension between her, the president and Vice President Al Gore over the Clintons' high-profile presence in Los Angeles this weekend and on the opening night of the convention.

''We are here to do everything we can to highlight the Clinton-Gore administration and to promote the Gore-Lieberman administration,'' she said, just hours before she and the president were to attend a fund-raising gala expected to raise $1 million for the first lady's campaign. The gala features a star-studded roster of entertainers including Cher, Diana Ross and Michael Bolton.

''We're doing everything we can to help and we're obviously working closely with Al and Tipper (Gore) to try to be as effective as we can,'' she said.

She backed Gore's successful pressuring of Rep. Loretta Sanchez to move a Hispanic fund-raising event out of the Playboy mansion. ''It's his convention,'' she said.

And she rejected criticism from Lazio for accepting a $2,000 contribution from Christie Hefner, the daughter of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and now a top executive with Playboy Enterprises.

''Christie Hefner is someone who contributes to a lot of different people and I don't find that inappropriate or surprising,'' Clinton said.

Asked about the difference between her high-profile role at the Democratic convention and Lazio's one-day visit to the GOP gathering with no speaking role, the first lady broke into a wide smile.

''You know, I'm proud to be a Democrat and I'm a Democrat whether I'm in New York or Washington or Los Angeles ... He seems to be unwilling to be identified with the Republicans in New York and certainly didn't want to be in Philadelphia,'' she said.

She turned aside questions about Gov. George W. Bush's statement Friday that her husband had ''embarrassed the nation'' with the Monica Lewinsky affair.

''The president has expressed his own feelings about that ... All the rest of us are focused on the future,'' she said.

After the convention, the Clintons and their daughter, Chelsea, plan to spend a long weekend at a private home near Lake Placid, N.Y., in the Adirondack Mountains.

''I can't wait,'' she said.

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