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Clinton Keeps A Low Profile

In a presidential vacation unlike any he has ever taken, President Clinton pondered his problems, lunched separately from his wife and didn't make a move toward a golf course.

First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton took to the water Monday, sharing lunch with female friends on a yacht in the waters near the island of Martha's Vineyard off the Massachusetts mainland.

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The president headed in another direction, having lunch at the rented island home of pal Vernon Jordan.

According to White House press secretary Mike McCurry, the president and his wife have spent a lot of time talking and walking at their borrowed retreat, far from the public eye.

"They were spending time together as a family and they preferred to be in private rather than in public," McCurry said.

"Everyone can easily imagine what it's like," McCurry said when asked to describe the atmosphere one week after Mr. Clinton confessed to an "inappropriate" relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

The couple's 18-year-old daughter, Chelsea, is with her parents and has been spotted around the island with friends, checking out the hip shops of Oak Bluffs and touring the local agricultural fair.

Back in Washington, White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles told aides to quit griping about the president's political fortunes. "Enough whining. Get back to work," he was quoted as saying in a senior staff meeting.

Amid some calls for the president to amplify his confession to the relationship with Lewinsky, two close Clinton advisers said another designated public address on the matter is "not on the table." But aides did not rule out the possibility that Mr. Clinton might address the issue in some other format.

Back on Martha's Vinyard, along Main Street in Edgartown, only a handful of stores displayed signs welcoming the first family. There were easily as many T-shirts and other merchandise honoring Buddy, the president's chocolate Labrador retriever, as there were for the president himself.

Most references to Mr. Clinton's troubles and to the investigation of his private life by independent counsel Kenneth Starr were indirect.

"Bill, you are our biggest Starr," a sign in one store window read.

A T-shirt, on sale for $18, was emblazoned with: "Vineyard Getaway, Promising the Sun, the Moon, and no Starrs."
Following lunch with Jordan, Mr. Clinton's motorcade of vans rolled to Alley's General Store in the town of Chilmark. Established in 1858, it is the island's oldest continuing business.

President Clinton siped coffee, heard unanimously friendly words, and accepted a canvas gift bag loaded with produce, including a very large dog biscuit molded into the shape of a bone.

Assured by manager Jack MacKay that the biscuit was meant for Buddy, the president had a happy reply.

"You're going to make me a hero," he said.

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