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Clinton finds cheer at Christmas concert

UPI Newswire
Transcribed by

Clinton finds cheer at Christmas concert

WASHINGTON, Dec. 17 (UPI) -- President Clinton took time from his dueling crises to attend a star-studded White House dinner and holiday rock concert, enjoying a treat of holiday spirit with a few pointed barbs at his critics.

Although Clinton himself made no direction mention of his impeachment battle during the benefit to honor the Special Olympics, host Whoopi Goldberg, one the president's most loyal Hollywood friends, began the evening's performances by noting ''the crazy troubles dividing us at home.''

And a participant in the Special Olympics, Loretta Claiborne, won cheers from the invited audience of several hundred by introducing the president and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton with the declaration, ''No matter what happens to them, may they always keep their heads up.''

The event, held in a large heated tent on the South Lawn of the White House, featured a lavish three-course dinner and star-filled entertainment program taped for broadcast Sunday night on the TNT cable television network.

Guests at the event, marking the 30th anniversary of the Special Olympics, included the competition's founder, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and numerous other celebrities and national leaders in entertainment, politics and sports.

The Clintons and their guests feasted on a meal that included pheasant and scallion consomme, smoked pheasant dumplings and seared salmon and toasted cous-cous. They then sang and clapped their way through more than a dozen songs, mostly holiday-oriented, by Eric Clapton, Mary J. Blige, Sheryl Crow, Jon Bon Jovi, Run-DMC, Tracy Chapman and Vanessa Williams.

As U.S. bombs continued to fall on Iraq, Clinton told those attending, ''I am also thinking tonight about the brave American men and women in uniform who are carrying out our mission in Iraq with our British allies.''

He said, ''I know that our thoughts and our prayers, indeed those of all the American people, are with them tonight,'' and added: ''What they are doing is important to make the world a safer, more peaceful place for our children in the 21st century.''

While Clinton avoided references to his other major crisis, the drive by congressional Republicans to impeach him over his handling of an affair with a former White House intern, the first lady gave him a warm introduction as: ''My husband, my partner and our president.''

''His commitment to improving people's lives has been and continues to be his highest priority,'' Mrs. Clinton said.

Back on stage with the president at the conclusion of the 90-minute performance, the first lady thanked Claiborne for ''that very kind introduction.''

Goldberg, often biting on the campaign trail in her criticism of Clinton's political enemies, showed relative restraint in her banter between musical acts, taking only a few glancing shots at the president's Republican critics.

Expressing sympathy for Clinton's predicament, she said, ''Tonight is obviously difficult, both at home and abroad. ---

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