Demos dent Clinton's flamboyant farewell

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The Independent US

The curtain fell but the encores go on and on.

The curtain fell but the encores go on and on.

President Bill Clinton delivered a last, powerful address to the Democratic National Convention last night, symbolically turning leadership of the party faithful over to Vice President Al Gore in his quest for the White House.

Clinton will make a joint appearance with Gore at a rally in Michigan today to again symbolically turn the helm over to his deputy of the past eight years.

"In the most difficult days of the last years, when we faced the toughest issues - of war and peace, of taking on powerful special interests - he was always there." Clinton said in his speech to the Democratic National Convention. "More than anybody else I've ever known in public life, Al Gore understands the future and how sweeping changes can affect Americans' daily lives."

The president kicked off his emotionally powerful address to the more than 4,300 delegates with dramatic effect, striding purposefully down a narrow backstage corridor, a camera tracking him all the way, like a boxer heading for a championship bout.

"My fellow Americans, are we better off today than we were eight years ago? You bet we are." Clinton declared.

"But we're not just better off, we're also a better country - more decent, more humane, more united. Now, that's the purpose of prosperity." he said.

But as Clinton spoke, violence erupted outside the convention centre.

Police fired rubber bullets and pepper spray at a gathering of thousands of protesters, some of whom hurled bottles and chunks of asphalt at the officers.

It was the first major clash between Los Angeles police and demonstrators during the convention week.

Some protesters, kept from the convention delegates by tall fencing, tried to scale the barricades and get inside the highly secured political event, police said.

Ten people were arrested, bringing the total number of arrests since the convention began to 38, officials said.

Inside, with Gore catching up to Republican nominee George W. Bush in the polls, Clinton showered Gore with lavish praise.

"Everybody knows Al Gore is thoughtful and hard working. I can tell you personally he is one strong leader. Finally, I'd like you to know Al Gore is a profoundly good man, who loves his children more than life." Clinton said.

So too did Hillary Rodham Clinton, who spoke at the podium before her husband.

"I've watched him as Bill's trusted partner in the White House." she said. "Together, they made the hard decisions to renew our economy and our national spirit; to advance democracy and defend freedom around the world."

"And I can't wait to watch Al Gore take the oath of office on January 20th, 2001." she said.

Gore will formally accept the Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday.

Gore, who watched Clinton's address from his hotel suite in St. Louis, said, "I thought it was a great speech, and I really appreciated the generous and kind words that he had about me and about Tipper."

"And I thought he made a very strong case for the policies that have helped produce the progress and prosperity." said Gore, who was joined by his running mate Sen. Joseph Lieberman and their wives.

But Bush campaign spokesman Ari Fleischman said Clinton had tried to rewrite history.

"Instead of passing a baton to Al Gore, Bill Clinton used it to beat his own drum. The vice president remains in Bill Clinton's shadow." he said.

With Gore and Clinton many miles away, delegates at the convention were slated to hear speeches on Tuesday from, among others, cousins Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, and their uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts.

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