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Sens. Kerry and Clinton Find They’re on the Same Page

Times Staff Writer

The New York senator sat on a chair, and the Massachusetts senator sat on the floor at her feet.

Hillary Rodham Clinton and John F. Kerry were visiting the Bloomingdale Family Program on New York’s Upper West Side on Wednesday to read a story to a gaggle of young children in the Head Start program. And in the process, Kerry picked up some campaigning tips from the former first lady.

As Kerry read the 4- and 5-year-olds a South African folk story, Clinton interrupted him with pointers. “John, make sure he can see that!” she said.

Kerry complied, turning the book around to show the children the illustration.

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“John, turn around, one more time,” Clinton added minutes later.

“Can you see?” she asked the kids.

Wednesday was the first day Clinton joined the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee on the campaign trail, and at times her star power appeared to rival his.

At a town hall meeting at the City College of New York in Harlem, Kerry was asked whom he planned to pick as his running mate.

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The room quickly erupted in chants of “Hillary!” On stage, Clinton smiled demurely as Kerry laughed and offered his usual answer that he was keeping the process private.

Kerry also headlined a trio of fundraisers in New York on Wednesday. He raised $6.5 million for his campaign, along with $1.5 million for the Democratic National Committee.

As Kerry and Clinton campaigned together, they acknowledged that they hadn’t been the closest of friends over the years. During the Democratic primaries, speculation flourished that Clinton and her husband, the former president, had privately urged retired Gen. Wesley K. Clark to enter the race, although both remained publicly neutral.

But on Wednesday, Clinton had gracious words for the man who emerged as the Democratic victor.

She told about 400 people assembled in an ornate campus hall that she got to know Kerry better on a trip to Vietnam in 2000, when he was working to normalize relations between that country and the United States.

She recounted seeing Kerry, who fought in Vietnam, console two young men as a team excavated what they believed was the site where their father, a U.S. fighter pilot, crashed during the war there.

“I watched John as he comforted them and talked with them in a way that was both profound and moving and real,” Clinton said.

“John Kerry has never let his friends down, his crew down, his constituents down or his country down,” she said. “And now he is ready, willing and able to lift our nation up.”

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Kerry gave her a long embrace and thanked her for “that extraordinary introduction.” Then he tried, somewhat awkwardly, to discuss their relationship.

“We knew each other, but we sort of didn’t know each other,” he said. “She and the president visited my wife and me in Massachusetts on vacation. We’ve had times where we’d sort of hang together a little bit, we’d talk and so forth. But there was always this sort of sense ... of distance, a little bit, just because of the presidency, and she was the first lady.”

Kerry then praised Clinton as “one of the best U.S. senators in the entire country.”


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