Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa said today that media attention on the alleged marital infidelity of Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton is clouding the real issues of the campaign.
"It's not the personal indiscretions of Bill Clinton that should be an issue," Mr. Harkin told reporters before speaking to about 75 people at Heritage United Church of northwest Baltimore.
Critics should be looking at Mr. Clinton's handling of his state's environmental matters, worker safety, civil rights and other matters, Mr. Harkin said.
Mr. Clinton is seen as the front runner among Democrats campaigning in advance of New Hampshire's Feb. 18 primary.
On "60 Minutes" last night, he admitted to unspecified "wrongdoing" in his marriage but denied he had a 12-year affair with a woman who sold her story to a tabloid.
"This personal stuff is getting in the way," Mr. Harkin told reporters.
Mr. Harkin spoke for 35 minutes in a basement hall of the church, which was visited by the Rev. Jesse Jackson during the 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns.
The church's pastor, the Rev. Wendell Phillips, a former state delegate, said he supports Mr. Harkin because of his "rough beginnings" and his consistency.
"The man has integrity and operates on principle," Mr. Phillips said.
Mr. Harkin, on his first campaign visit to Baltimore, came to the church to muster black support.
He spoke of creating "good jobs," not work "flipping burgers."
He touted his authorship of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, which takes effect today. It seeks, in part, to assure that disabled people have access to public places and public transportation.
Mr. Harkin, the son of a poor coal miner, said President Bush's legacy has been one of catering to the rich. "I'm the real Democrat," he said, accusing his fellow Democratic candidates of trying to be "more like Bush."
Mr. Harkin said he would put more than a million Americans back to work rebuilding roads and schools.
He also criticized the president's theory of trickle-down economics.
"His economic program is that the best way to feed the birds is to put a lot of oats in the horse," Mr. Harkin said. "I intend to make George Bush apologize for what he's done."