President Clinton sailed wind-whipped waters with his wife and daughter near their island vacation quarters Tuesday and plotted a mainland return to combat talk that the Monica Lewinsky controversy has crippled him politically.
As if he had turned a corner, the president who, for days, confined himself to private meals with close friends and let his golf clubs grow dusty put a new, public face on his family vacation.
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All three Clintons grinned, waving to news cameras and a crowd on the wharf.
The president's spokesman announced that Clinton also would venture to Worcester, Mass., on Thursday to address school safety and juvenile crime, two spending issues on which congressional Republicans have given him no ground.
"The president intends to fight very, very vigorously, as he has every year, for his initiatives," deputy press secretary Barry Toiv said.
The Lewinsky investigation and Clinton's recent admission of an inappropriate relationship with the former White House intern have put the president on the defensive about his ability to accomplish anything abroad or with Congress.
"He has the leverage he has always had," Toiv asserted. "First of all, the American people support him on these issues. And secondly, he carries a very big (veto) pen."
Already Tuesday, the White House was tossing out pebbles of news and projecting the personally embattled Clinton as professionally engaged.
He signed an executive order creating a food-safety council and spent 30 minutes on the phone with Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Clinton outlined U.S. priorities for next week's Moscow summit and stressed, Toiv said, that the first priority of Yeltsin's new government must be to stabilize Russia's economic turmoil.
Back in Washington, White House aides discussed organizing a "special team" to manage Clinton's defense in any congressional inquiry into an expected report on the Lewinsky matter by Whitewater Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr.
There was no consensus yet on whether that team should bring in outside experts to augment Clinton's cadre of White House aides, one official said.
The Worcester detour, coming near the close of Clinton's 12-day respite outside Washington, was scheduled after Clinton decided Monday night to accept a long-standing invitation from the city's emocratic congressman, Rep. Jim McGovern.
Many Democrats have been warily watching public-opinion polls, delaying any decision on whether to embrace Clinton in their fall re-election campaigns.
McGovern, whose race has been targeted by the Republican National Committee, described himself as both hopeful and surprised by the hastily scheduled Clinton trip.
"People in this district and in this city are hungry to talk about issues," McGovern said in a telephone interview.
"I, for one, am disappointed in the president's personal behavior," he said. "But I do support the president's policies and I want this country to move forward."
Republican pollster Linda DiVall scoffed that Clinton chose to test his post-confession political appeal in liberal Massachusetts. "I don't know that any trip is safe for him right now, but this is the safest one," she said.
First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton was not expected to be at her husband's side in Worcester, Toiv said. "When she vacations, she vacations."
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