by Peter Gauvin and Vanessa Arrington
Paul and Rita Pease left their Embarcadero Road home for an evening stroll Wednesday and on their way ran into the president of the United States. "We were just out on a walk and asked a policeman what was going on," said Paul Pease. Moments later, he and his wife were shaking the hand of President Clinton who unexpectedly walked over and greeted a crowd of about a 100 people before attending a dinner at the home of Steve Jobs at Waverley Street and Santa Rita Avenue.
Forest Avenue resident Beatrice Leonard was buzzing from her brush with the president. "It was wonderful. He kept putting his hand on my shoulder," Leonard said. "I thought he had much more sincerity than on the tube. He looks kind of slick on TV. But I thought he was very charming with the children. He took time to shake their hands and talk to them."
Clinton's visit with the neighborhood cheering section was completely unscheduled. The president was on hand for a dinner with 14 high-tech CEOs and upper-management types at Apple Computer founder Steve Jobs' house at 2101 Waverley St, a rambling medieval revival house that was built in 1934 and looks like it's straight out of a fairy tale.
Before his arrival around 7:30 p.m., Secret Secret Service agents said Clinto would go directly into the residence. But as his 20-vehicle motorcade drove north on Waverley from Oregon Expressway and turned right on Santa Rita, the crowd roared like fans at a rock concert.
As Clinton stepped from his limo, the crowd started chanting, "Down here, down here." And a minute later, to everyone's delight, Clinton--who was jacketless--walked down the middle of the street toward the crowd.
He started shaking hands as the crowd switched to cheers of "Four more years, four more years."
The crowd, void of any protesters, appeared to be 100 percent Clinton supporters. One resident on Emerson Street, Tim Smith, does not consider himself a Democrat but thinks Clinton has done a good job.
"I'm impressed with the economy. It's the best it's been in years," said Smith, who works at a software company in San Jose.
White House Chief of Staff Leon Pinetta, anonymous to the crowd, stood smiling in the middle of the street and watched as Clinton made his rounds. The president then disappeared into the house, where he was treated to a meal catered by Greens, the celebrated San Francisco vegetarian restaurant.
The dinner was by invitation only. And although little was known about the topic of conversation and who was at the dinner, some of the guests reportedly included Intel CEO Andy Grove, Hewlett Packard CEO Lew Platt, and Sun Microsystems Chairman, President and CEO Scott McNealy.
Therefore, it was probably not a coincidence that yesterday Clinton announced his opposition to Proposition 211, a measure on November's state ballot that would make it easier for plaintiffs to prevail in shareholder lawsuits. High-tech executives fear the measure, which is supported by trial lawyers and consumer advocates, would hurt investments in new companies and technologies.
Meanwhile, outside the home, the president left a favorable impression on Palo Altans.
"I like Clinton, his heart is in the right place," said Helene Scott, who lives on Santa Rita Avenue. "It is a tough job, and you can't please everyone. He's been trying though."
"He's more friendly than the vice president," said Debbie Nichols, who saw Al Gore when he was in the same neighborhood two years ago at the house of Harry Saal, president and chief executive of Smart Valley, Inc. Nichols, who lives on Bryant Street, said Gore stayed in his limo and talked to the crowds on a megaphone.
For many onlookers, the only indication they had of the president's visit was the appearance of barricades on the streets near the residence. "No parking" signs were everywhere. "Of course, at first I just thought they were doing more road work," said Sharon Smith, who lives on Emerson Street.
Palo Alto police arrived in the area around 4 p.m. to set up and conduct a bomb sweep. From that point on, more than 40 officers were on hand to regulate the traffic and to let only escorted local residents in the barricaded area. Still the scene continued to resemble any other evening in Old Palo Alto, with local residents nonchalantly jogging or walking by the scene, sometimes with dogs in tow.
Meanwhile, across the street in the back yard of Nancy Mueller's home, the Washington press corps sat down with their portable computers to a boxed dinner from The Good Earth.
But neighborhood residents weren't the first from Palo Alto to greet Clinton on his swing through the South Bay Wednesday. City Council member Joe Simitian got to shake Clinton's hand several hours earlier. Simitian was one of the four official greeters--including Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, Lieutenant Gov. Gray Davis and San Jose Mayor Susan Hammer--as Clinton stepped out of the helicopter at John Muir Middle School in San Jose where he spoke on education.
"I was the fourth person to welcome him," said Simitian, who is a longtime friend of White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry. "He (Clinton) said, 'Your pal McCurry has been bragging on you.' I said, 'That's good to hear. He's been bragging on you, too.'"
After the speech, Simitian drove McCurry, who he said "had the night off," back up to Palo Alto to join him at a fundraising dinner for his supervisorial campaign. McCurry grew up in Redwood City and graduated from Ravenswood High School in East Palo Alto.
Simitian's fundraising event started with a dinner at Council member Micki Schneider's house in Crescent Park and then moved to Council member Liz Kniss' house on Cowper Street for dessert. That turned out to be very convenient for McCurry. Kniss' house is just a block and a half away from Jobs' house.
"I was going to drive him back to the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose," Simitian said. "But Mike was able to walk down the street and hitch a ride with the presidential motorcade."
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