Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clinton Hugs Victims' Relatives, Stumps for Crime Bill

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clinton Hugs Victims' Relatives, Stumps for Crime Bill

Article excerpt

President Bill Clinton hugged relatives of murder victims who spoke about their tragedies Monday in the Rose Garden. A day earlier in a church pulpit, Clinton likened his anti-crime efforts to a ministry.

Since the House rejected an anti-crime bill last week, Clinton has increased dramatically his profile as a crime-fighting president. On Monday, he was photographed for the second time since last week flanked by a group of police officers.

The defeat of the crime bill has given the president the means to elevate his anti-crime efforts, a key election-year issue and a matter that had taken a back seat to the health care debate, White House aides said. And in the odd ways of Washington, the setback may have given Clinton the opportunity to boost his sagging presidency.

If an anti-crime bill is passed this month, presidential aides are hoping that what people remember is an angry and focused president fighting for their interests.

Mark Gearan, White House director of communications, said Clinton would continue hammering at Congress on crime until the House votes again, perhaps later this week or early next week.

"I think this gives a clear indication of what the president is fighting for and what he believes is important," Gearan said.

Another White House aide, who requested anonymity, observed that Clinton had the opportunity to attack Congress on an issue that many voters were worried about. "This can show, day after day, that the president is doing what he's supposed to be doing," the aide said.

Monday marked the fourth consecutive day that Clinton had devoted a public appearance to the crime issue. The House rejection of the bill, the president asserted, shows that "there's something wrong with the American system of government."

Clinton was accompanied by three people who lost relatives to gun violence in the last 10 months. Among them was Steven Sposato, whose wife, Jody, was one of eight people killed in San Francisco in April when a gunman began firing with two assault-style pistols. …

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