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Clinton says he had 'good week' battling Washington status quo


WASHINGTON -- President Clinton, in the third formal news conference of his administration, pronounced his week a "good" one and continued to position himself as a political outsider fighting for common people against Washington's entrenched political culture.

"I think the American people know one thing: that I'm on their side, that I'm fighting to change things," the president said in the Rose Garden. "And they're finding out it's not so easy."

Mr. Clinton seemed more comfortable with domestic policy than foreign affairs yesterday -- with one notable exception.

Twice, he gave testy and abbreviated answers to questions about his proposal to lift the ban on gays in the military. This week a consensus appeared to be developing on Capitol Hill for Sen. Sam Nunn's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which would allow gays to serve in the armed forces as long as they remain in the closet.

"You know what my position is," the president said. "I have nothing else to say about it."

In response to a second questioner, who asked about his views on what "conduct" would be appropriate for gays under compromises being considered by the Pentagon, the president was even more short-tempered.

"I support the present code of conduct," he said, sidestepping the question. "And I am waiting for the Pentagon to give me its recommendations."

For the most part, the president sought to portray an upbeat mood. As evidence that the White House is meshing well with Congress again, he cited passage of a bill allowing people to register to vote when they get their drivers' licenses and the passage of his tax plan by the House Ways and Means Committee.

"The Congress also moved this week to reinvigorate our democratic process by ending the filibuster and passing the motor-voter bill," Mr. Clinton said. "These are the kinds of changes that the American people expect of us."

Mr. Clinton took to the road again this week, journeying to Cleveland, Chicago and New York.

Mr. Clinton and his staff believe the president does some of his best work on the road. He also clearly likes getting out.

Tonight, the president plans to take his daughter to the ballet in New York, officials said. Monday, he plans to fly to New Mexico for a speech, San Diego, Calif., for a town meeting, and then to Los Angeles on Tuesday.

In a jab at his critics and the press, Mr. Clinton added that he wished that people would quit worrying about his job approval rating, which a Gallup poll shows dropped from 55 to 45 percent in the last month, and on perceived victories and defeats on Capitol Hill. Instead, he said, they should "keep thinking about what's good for the American people."

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