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Keeping Hope alive amid scandal

With the heightened possibility of impeachment, President Clinton's hometowns quietly back away from him.

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It seems just yesterday economically burdened and politically proud Arkansas towns did everything they could to get the message out: President Clinton was here. He was born here, dined here, built his political career here.

He was a chamber of commerce's dream - throwing worldwide attention on an area of the country that, until now, has been known mostly for razorbacks and ribs.

Now, while the name Lewinsky is spoken only under one's breath, many of these same sleepy towns are quietly backing away from Mr. Clinton, their one-time national trophy who is currently in the midst of an impeachment battle.

For example, officials in Clinton's birthplace of Hope - a quaint town resembling Mayberry, USA, complete with an annual watermelon festival - recently recommended putting distance between the town and its favorite son.

"I just feel like maybe we need to soft-pedal it a little bit," said Dot Naumann, vice chairwoman of Hope's Advertising and Tourism Promotions Commission.

Ms. Naumann's announcement brought cries of protest from businesses still heavily relying on Clinton's homespun hospitality. Many still recall the economic woes of the 1980s and believe Hope's current prosperity is due, in large part, to the president.

"Our downtown is bustling," says Mark Keith, executive director for the Hope Chamber of Commerce. "You can't deny that a large part of the tourists who come here want to see where the president was born. Hope, Ark., will always be on the map because of Bill Clinton and his birthplace."

The president moved to Hot Springs, the nation's only city within a national park, when his mother remarried. Traditionally, its economy relied on tourists visiting the surrounding lakes, mountains, and thermal waters.


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