Clinton Talks His Guests Into Chairs

<i> From a Times Staff Writer</i>

How long can Bill Clinton talk?

Too long for George Bush. Too long for Jimmy Carter. Too long for Gerald R. Ford.

With the three former Presidents standing at his side to demonstrate high-powered bipartisan support, Clinton launched into his campaign Tuesday to gain congressional approval of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

At a lectern in the East Room of the White House, he talked about the political fight ahead, about the collapse of the Berlin Wall, about Mexican purchases of Louisiana oil, about wages in Haiti and Bangladesh. On and on he went.


Finally, more than 20 minutes into the speech, there was a stir to his right. Carter motioned silently to a Marine standing nearby in dress uniform, and within seconds three chairs appeared.

The three former Presidents gratefully accepted the offered seats--a quiet recognition of Clinton’s tendency to loquaciousness.

“Are you guys resting?” Clinton asked, prompting applause from his audience of politicians and business executives.