. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Clinton Sounds Charge Toward 21st Century

CHICAGO -- U.S. President Bill Clinton accepted the renomination of his party Thursday with an appeal aimed squarely at the middle of the American electorate and a lengthy recitation of what he hopes to accomplish in a second term.


"We are on the right track to the 21st century," Clinton said, recalling his four-day train journey to the Democratic convention here. "But our work is not finished."


But Clinton's moment of triumph was sullied by the overnight resignation of his closest political adviser, Dick Morris, who abruptly left Chicago following reports he had consorted with a high-priced Washington prostitute as recently as last week and had shared with her sensitive conversations with the president.


Thus began the final campaign of a politician whose career has seen more euphoric heights and dizzying depths than any American public figure since former President Nixon.


In his speech, Clinton reprised the "bridge to the future" theme that Vice President Al Gore had introduced in his address Wednesday night. Clinton used the phrase 26 times. The language was designed in part to remind listeners that Bob Dole, the 73-year-old Republican nominee, had promised to serve as "a bridge" to return America to the values of its past.


"Tonight, let us resolve to build that bridge to the 21st century, to meet our challenges and protect our values," Clinton said near the beginning of a 66-minute address.


And, in a reminder of his veto of the Republican budget plan which marked the beginning of his political resurrection last winter, Clinton vowed to block any effort to radically scale back popular government programs.


Clinton also criticized Dole's $548 billion plan to reduce income tax rates by 15 percent, calling it a replay of what he characterized as the failed economic policies of the Ronald Reagan administration, during which the national debt rose drastically.


"Do we really want to make the same mistake all over again?" Clinton asked, and the United Center crowd roared back, "No!"


Morose White House aides sought Thursday to downplay the damage Clinton would suffer over the Morris flap, insisting that it was Clinton -- and not his widely-resented political guru -- who was running for president.


They were buoyed by polls showing Clinton leaving Chicago with a lead of between 10 percent and 15 percent over Dole.


Clinton promised he would abstain from negative personal attacks on his opponents and called for greater civility in public debate. Following Clinton's dictum, the convention's overall tone, at least in prime time, has been largely non-partisan, with praise for Dole's wartime sacrifice and his long service in Congress.


But as in previous nights, before the network cameras turned on, one of the party's liberal stalwarts warmed up the crowd -- this time Senator Edward Kennedy.


Leading the crowd in chants criticizing "that famous Republican trio of reaction -- Dole, Kemp and Gingrich," Kennedy declared Dole "the compliant partner in the so-called Gingrich revolution ... Newt Gingrich thought it up, but Bob Dole swallowed it -- hook, line and sinker." And responding in kind to a lengthy catalog of Democratic sins that Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas had read out during the GOP convention, Kennedy denounced "the radical wish list of the education-cutting, environment-trashing, Medicare-slashing, choice-denying, tolerance-repudiating, gay-bashing, social-security-threatening, assault-rifle-coddling, government-closing, tax-loophole granting, minimum-wage-opposing" Republicans.


Clinton's speech contained two new proposals, one aimed at middle-class homeowners, the other designed to reward employers who help people move off welfare rolls into the workplace as the new welfare reform law takes effect.


The first would exclude up to $500,000 in gains from the sale of a home from capital gains tax, replacing an exemption that now only applies to homeowners 55 years old and older and is limited to $125,000 in gains.


The second proposal, estimated to cost $3.4 billion over seven years, would provide tax credits to businesses who hire people on welfare.