Clinton says 'our side's doing pretty well'
LIVONIA, Mich. (Reuters) - President Clinton boasted Thursday night that "our side's been doing pretty well" in the run-up to Election Day Nov. 7, but cautioned Democrats not to underestimate the Republican opposition.
With Democratic Vice President Al Gore holding a slight lead over Republican George W. Bush, and Hillary Rodham Clinton leading Rep. Rick Lazio in New York's Senate race, Clinton sounded optimistic about his party's chances after Gore lagged behind Bush most of the year.
In the key Midwestern industrial state of Michigan, a SurveyUSA poll released Tuesday of 600 likely Michigan voters found Gore led Bush in the state by 52 to 41 percent.
Since Gore's post-Democratic convention bounce, "Our side's been doing pretty well," Clinton said with a chuckle. "And their side's had a few problems."
He was speaking at a fund-raising reception for the Michigan Democratic Party that raised $350,000 for the party.
Clinton said Democrats should treat the campaign like a martial arts contest where the participants bow to their opponents before a match.
"Why do they do that? Because they know that the surest sign of defeat is to disrespect your opponent, to underestimate your opponent, to have contempt for your opponent," he said.
Calling himself "Cheerleader in Chief," Clinton said there were 47 days left in Campaign 2000 and there will be "a lot of twists and turns before it's over."
"Respect our opponents," he cautioned his crowd. "Say they're good people. Say we have honest differences, tell people even though times are good, the best is still out there. ... Get people to focus, don't get tired. We'll have a great victory in November."
His appearance at the fund-raiser came shortly after he berated the Republican-led Senate for not confirming more of his nominees for lifetime judgeships, calling it a "denial of justice."
Speaking to the annual gathering of Michigan's State Bar Association in nearby Detroit, Clinton tried to stir anger among African-Americans against Republicans for not filling judgeships in heavily black federal court circuits.
His remarks had two meanings -- that African-Americans are unrepresented in the courts and that they should think about this at election time as Democrats try to regain control of the Senate from Republicans, who hold a 55-45 seat advantage.
Clinton said even during election years past Senates have given presidents some of the nominees they have requested.
The White House said that in 1992, a Democratic Senate confirmed 66 judges nominated by Republican President George Bush. It said that in 1988 a Democratic Senate confirmed 42 judges offered by Republican Ronald Reagan, and in 1984, 44 Reagan judges were confirmed.
Clinton, meantime, has had 35 nominees confirmed as judges this year, with 42 nominees pending -- more than half of whom have been waiting more than six months.
While a slowdown in confirmations is natural during an election year, the process should not come to a screeching halt, Clinton said.
He said that leads to "only one conclusion: The process has been politicized, in the hope of getting appointees ultimately to the bench who will be more political."
"This is wrong. It's a denial of justice, and I hope the Bar will speak out against it strongly," he said.
Despite his outrage, it appeared doubtful Clinton would get his wish, since Congress is attempting to close up business in the coming weeks to prepare for Election Day.
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