President Clinton came West on Sunday to rebut Republican criticism of his crimefighting record but encountered turbulence from Democratic allies for his views on gay rights and gambling.
The goal of the campaign and fund-raising trip was to shore up Clinton’s standing in the West, a region important to his big 1992 Electoral College victory.
Clinton carried California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada four years ago, and political advisers said he currently leads Republican Bob Dole in those states.
Stopping first in Nevada, Clinton lamented that while the overall crime rate has fallen during his administration, juvenile crime was on the rise, and growing more violent. “This is a very urgent problem for our country,” Clinton said.
During a discussion about a Las Vegas program that provides tutoring, counseling and other services to juvenile offenders, Clinton noted the stiff opposition when he tried in 1994 to increase federal funding for prevention programs.
“We simply cannot jail our way out of America’s crime problem,” Clinton said. “We are simply going to have to invest more money in prevention.”
Accompanying Clinton was Nevada Democratic Gov. Bob Miller, who was described by administration officials as furious that Clinton had decided to support subpoena power for a federal commission to investigate the gambling industry.
Miller has repeatedly told gaming industry executives - including last week after a golf outing with Clinton - that the White House assured him Clinton opposed subpoena power. Roughly half of those attending a $500,000 Democratic National Committee fund-raising luncheon during Clinton’s visit were gaming industry officials.
Despite Miller’s assertions, the White House said Friday that Clinton believed subpoena power was necessary for a thorough investigation.
Trying to assuage Miller - and limit the negative political fallout in Nevada - Clinton said he backed limited subpoena power so the commission can determine the impact of gambling on society. But he said the panel should not have unlimited power to investigate individual industry officials or “be a witch hunt.”
From Nevada, Clinton flew to San Francisco for a $1 million Democratic dinner at the home of Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Here again, though, he was bracing for protests from a traditional Democratic political ally - the city’s gay community.
Mayor Willie Brown had advised Clinton not to visit at all, because of anger among gay leaders at Clinton’s support of legislation allowing states to deny legal recognition to same-sex marriages.