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Clinton, Kerry discuss running mates

Former president takes Bush to task over budget deficit

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CNN-USA's political team brings you updates and analysis all evening, following Thursday's efforts by the Kerry camp to consolidate support among Democrats on the Hill and President Bush's trip to New York for a September 11 memorial ceremony and fund raising.
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• The Candidates: Bush | Kerry
Bill Clinton
John F. Kerry
George W. Bush

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Former President Bill Clinton said Wednesday he has spoken to John Kerry about choosing a running mate.

Asked after a public appearance in the Bronx if he had any advice for Kerry on the subject, Clinton said, "No, we've talked about it. He'll do a good job with that."

Clinton spokesman Jim Kennedy said later the former president called Kerry on March 3, the day after a string of primary wins effectively secured the senator from Massachusetts the Democratic nomination. Kennedy said he was not privy to the details of the conversation.

A Kerry spokesman would not discuss details of what Kerry and Clinton talked about but said Kerry is interested in what party leaders with experience in searches have to say.

Earlier, before an audience at Hosotos Community College, Clinton said Kerry should make Bush's election record topic No. 1.

"You know, I'm a Democrat, so I'm going to support our nominee for president. But somebody said to me we ought to run against ... President Bush -- where he didn't keep his commitments," Clinton said.

"I said, 'No we shouldn't, we should run where he did keep his commitments, and people weren't paying any attention.'

"Most people in public life do what they said they're going to do when they get elected. It's just that most people don't pay attention to what they're saying when they're running," said Clinton, a two-term president and five-term governor of Arkansas.

During his afternoon appearance, Clinton criticized the Bush administration for running a $500 billion deficit on the federal budget, which had a surplus when he left office three years ago.

"The tax cut that I got has been protected against all cost," said Clinton, referring to the $1 trillion income tax cuts that primarily benefited Americans with high incomes such as the former president, who has earned millions for his forthcoming memoirs and for making speeches.

"It's the most important thing in the world to the administration and the majority party in Congress to protect my tax cut," Clinton said.

"So to protect my tax cut in this budget, they are kicking 300,000 poor children out of after-school programs, 23,000 cops off the street.

"They've already removed 83,000 students from the student loan program, depriving 140,000 unemployed workers from job training and removing child care supports to 100,000 working families," Clinton continued.

"Now that's a choice they made. They actually believe the most important thing in the world is to have less government and low taxes.

"They believe that lower taxes are good even if you have to have adverse human consequences. It's a difference of opinion."

Clinton's remarks concluded a symposium, sponsored by his foundation, to encourage youth activism.

He also taped a public service announcement targeting minority youth to register to vote.

The promotion will be broadcast on Black Entertainment Television, which has committed $1 million in free advertising time on its network between April and November.

Celebrities also appearing separately in the ads include rapper LL Cool J and singer-songwriter Alicia Keys.

Afterward, Clinton was asked about Bush's use of September 11 imagery in his re-election ads.

"I think it's up to President Bush to decide what he's going to run on, and how he's going to present it," Clinton said.

"When you raise an issue, it opens the issue in a way that we've -- all of us in our party have always tried to keep September 11 and the aftermath out of politics. And it's been put back in politics, and we'll just see what happens.

"But he has to decide that. It's not up to me to make judgments about that. I think that in the end all elections are about the future, and this one will be too," Clinton said.

Asked if Kerry spends too much talking about his Vietnam experience and not enough time talking about Republicans who accuse him of flip-flopping, Clinton said, "No, I don't think he spends too much time talking about his Vietnam experience. It's a very important part of who he is."

Clinton also commented on Kerry's nuanced opinion on same-sex marriage.

"I think Kerry's in the right place on it, and we'll just see what happens. I think the country is going through this dramatic reassessment, and we've come a very long way on this issue," said Clinton, who signed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

"Keep in mind -- when I tried to get gays in the military in '93 it was one of the major reasons I lost the Congress in '94. We have come a long way," Clinton said.

"And the culture is different in different communities, different states. We'll work through it, and we'll continue broadening the circle of rights in America."

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