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Clinton Does California

Proclaiming himself pleased to escape Washington for the "real world," President Clinton came to Silicon Valley on Friday to spotlight the role of technology in the nation's economic boom.

"Computer technology has revolutionized every aspect of American labor," Clinton told sheet metal workers at Therma Inc., a maker of air conditioning and heating equipment whose biggest customers are in California's computer industry.

Clinton was mixing policy, politics and personal business in a California weekend packed with fund-raising events for the Democratic Party. After his visit to the sheet metal plant, he was attending a dinner for the Democratic National Committee at the home of California developer Walter Shorenstein. At $25,000 per couple, the dinner was expected to raise $500,000.

Hillary Rodham Clinton was flying here to join the president for a private visit Saturday with their daughter, Chelsea. Before the first lady arrived, Clinton zipped off to a nearby golf course for a game under damp skies.

Donning red-rimmed protective glasses, the president toured Therma's sheet metal shop and watched patterns being cut out for duct work by a computerized metal-cutter. For the occasion, the machine was programmed to make a cutout of the United States with the words "Made In America" in the center.

In remarks to workers and their families gathered in the sheet metal shop, and later in a roundtable discussion, Clinton said he wanted his visit to highlight that technological innovations are boosting the fortunes not only of high-tech computer companies but also more traditional industries.

"You are a very important part of this wonderful economic renaissance that is going on in America now," Clinton said.

A convenient backdrop to Clinton's visit was the Commerce Department's report Thursday that brisk consumer spending and business investment helped the economy expand at a robust 4.2 percent annual rate in the first three months of 1998 the fastest pace in a year. Another report said inflation remained in check, a sign of underlying strength for what Clinton on Thursday hailed as an "American economic renaissance in which opportunity is abundant."

One of the Therma workers Clinton met, welder Paul Lienbenberg, 46, told reporters that while his company is not an exporter, some of its key customers are.

"When Intel does well, we do well," he said, referring to the computer chip maker.

Aides would give no preview of the Clintons' weekend with Chelsea, a freshman at Stanford. It will be their first visit to the Palo Alto campus since they dropped her off at the start of the school year last September. The three were together most recently in Washington in March during Chelsea's spring break.

The president was scheduled to hit the fund-raising trail again on Sunday evening with a reception and later a dinner in Los Angeles to raise money fothe Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, followed by a political fund-raising breakfast on Monday and a dinner that evening in Chicago.

Aides to the president said in advance of his trip that he intended to speak out against a California ballot measure that would dismantle the state's bilingual education programs. White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry has said Clinton believes the measure could affect support for bilingual programs nationwide.

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