Clinton, Dole Hit Stumps for July 4 Holiday

WHEATON, Illinois -- President Bill Clinton and former senator Bob Dole made dueling Independence Day appearances Thursday as America celebrated her 220th birthday and entered the final four months of the election campaign.

The president went to the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in southern Maryland to boast about progress on the environment under his administration. Then he traveled to Youngstown, Ohio -- a state that's a crucial election battleground -- where he talked of the importance of education and joked with the crowd about the movie "Independence Day,'' with its scene of extraterrestrials blowing up the White House.

Dole, returning from a brief swing through California, stopped in heavily Republican suburbs outside Chicago, taking part in July 4 parades and talking of patriotism.

At Patuxent, with a lovely and photogenic backdrop of trees, cleer blue sky and a creek, Clinton witnessed the release back to the wild of a young female bald eagle that had suffered a shoulder wound in April and was nursed back to health at the Baltimore Zoo.

The release served as an opportunity for Clinton to praise the success of the Endangered Species Act in bringing the national symbol back from the edge of extinction.

"We must not do anything that would weaken our health and safety and environmental laws,'' he said. "The freedom to breathe clean air, drink safe water, pass a safe world to our children, to share our environment with God's other creatures, these are liberties we dare not take for granted, and we dare not turn our back on.''

Congressional Republican leaders have made a number of proposals for scaling back the Endangered Species Act, but facing considerable public opposition have now largely backed off.

Later, in Youngstown, where generally friendly crowds greeted him, Clinton boasted of aid his administration has sent to the once-depressed industrial areas of Ohio.

Dole, for his part, was accompanied by an array of Republican state and local officials as he strolled briskly for nearly an hour in a festive parade through Wheaton, Illinois. He frequently zigzagged from one sidewalk to the other, greeting citizens and posing for photographs. Lined three and four deep in many places, most of the parade viewers cheered heartily when Dole passed.

Afterward, Dole went by motorcade to a nearby city park, where he delivered a patriotic address.

In what might be interpreted as a subtle reminder of Clinton's failure to serve in the military, Dole recalled the sacrifices of America's fighting men and women and said, "We've never been afraid to pay that price.''