President Offers Musings of His 'Inner Candidate'SANDRA SOBIERAJ , Associated Press
May. 5, 1996 12:14 AM ET
WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton, who has yet to formally announce that he is running for re-election, playfully gave Washington reporters an insider's peek at his ``stealth campaign'' Saturday night.
Kicking off a list of goals, from a balanced budget to improved wages, the president said, ``Bill Clinton would like to face all these challenges with another term.''
He joked to the 82nd annual dinner of the White House Correspondents Association that such were among the musings of his ``inner candidate'' _ and that the reporters could attribute the quote to ``a source inside the president's suit.''
Clinton's after-dinner remarks were a spoof on a free-wheeling, not-for attribution news conference on Air Force One during a recent trip back from Moscow. In it, he spoke with reporters for nearly three hours on what his press secretary called ``psych-background.''
Saturday's occasion was a black tie dinner of the correspondents dinner where some 2,800 Washington media stars, political hotshots and Hollywood celebrity guests _ including actors Kevin Costner and Richard Dreyfus and singer Anita Baker _ packed the ballroom of a downtown hotel.
The tuxedo-clad president and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who wore a red-and-gold Pakistani Shalwar Kameez, pushed fashionably late to extremes, arriving well after the filet of salmon had been served.
They had come from a benefit auction at daughter Chelsea's private high school where Clinton offered to play golf with the highest bidder.
He wouldn't say how much the golf date for four brought, but quipped that ``it was not bought by the ambassador of Iran'' and that ``I was hoping Ralph Reed (of the Christian Coalition) would buy it, but he didn't even bid.''
He did say he was disappointed the golf outing was not viewed as worth more and said he probably would have done better to have offered to auction the shoes he wore when he shook hands with President Kennedy at the White House as a teen-ager.
And in another self-depreciating reference to the huge amounts of money paid recently for JFK memorabilia at a New York action, Clinton said: ``If there is anyone where would pay $500,000 for a presidential humidor, I would be happy to go out and buy one.''
Comedian and author Al Franken was the evening's official entertainment. The last time Clinton subjected himself to the barbs of a professional comedian _ at a March dinner of radio and television reporters _ he and Mrs. Clinton were the butt of a strong of controversial off-color jokes by radio shock jock Don Imus.
But Franken, an avowed Democratic sympathizer, was much gentler _ at least on the Clintons.
His sharpest jab at the president was that ``he eats too much,'' and instead he aimed a series of shots at Republicans with mocking impressions of Sens. Strom Thurmond, Alfonse D'Amato and Phil Gramm.
He was hardest on House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who sat just 25 yards from the head table. ``Even through Gingrich's poll numbers are at a historic low, the speaker's writing a new book and taking a $1 advance _ because that's this time that's all he could get.''
Gingrich took exception afterward to some remarks about his family, but otherwise pronounced the Franken performance ``all in good fun'' and said, ``It was not as grotesquely obscene as Imus.''
During the dinner, Terence Hunt, chief White House correspondent for The Associated Press, took over as president of the association for the coming year.