NEW YORK (AP) – Some creative choreography was required at a luncheon Thursday featuring both Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former President Clinton, who is friendly with the mayor but has endorsed his Democratic opponent.

As Clinton accepted an award from the Federal Law Enforcement Foundation at the Waldorf Astoria hotel, the mayor was not on stage. The former president did not mention him in a speech that praised federal and local officials for their law enforcement work, particularly since the 2001 World Trade Center attack.

“In baseball, you get credit for saves,” Clinton said. “In law enforcement, you don’t get any credit for saves.”

He listed several people by name – Henry Kissinger, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau and state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, all of whom were seated on stage. He did not include the mayor or Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who was on stage and has been widely credited with overhauling the city’s counterterrorism efforts in the Bloomberg administration.

Despite the absence of public coziness, Bloomberg was waiting in the wings as Clinton left, and the two stood talking for several minutes, at times laughing like old buddies. When four print reporters approached them to observe the conversation, a Clinton staffer pushed the reporters back, grabbing one by the arm.

Bloomberg’s press secretary, Ed Skyler, intervened and warned the Clinton staffer to back off. The reporters were allowed to stay, but by then the mayor and former president were wrapping it up with a handshake.

“All the best,” Bloomberg said.

Then the mayor took the podium and praised the Democrat for his work in the White House and recent efforts to help tsunami victims overseas and hurricane survivors in the South.

“Bill Clinton really is one of these people that never stops providing public service, and he does deserve a round of applause,” Bloomberg said.

the crowd of several hundred. By then, Clinton was long gone.

Jay Carson, a spokesman for Clinton, said later that there was no effort to avoid a joint public appearance.

“President Clinton and Mayor Bloomberg ran into each other as President Clinton was leaving and Mayor Bloomberg was arriving,” Carson said. “They chatted for a couple of minutes and didn’t want to involve the entire New York press corps in their chat.”

Skyler said later he was “not aware of any” efforts to keep the two apart. His office later released a photo of the pair, chortling as they shook hands.

The race between Bloomberg and Fernando Ferrer has produced a delicate dance for a number of high-profile Democrats, many of whom enjoy warm relationships with the mayor, a moderate who supports gay marriage and abortion rights. He was a lifelong Democrat until he switched parties in 2001 to avoid a crowded primary.

The former president and his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who are popular in New York City, have both endorsed their party’s nominee in the race, but some have said their support appears lukewarm.

Last week, the former president campaigned with Ferrer in the Bronx, but a disagreement between some of his staffers and the Ferrer team led to technical issues that interfered with the event. The problems overshadowed what was predicted to be a big boost for Ferrer, who is trailing the incumbent mayor by a 30-point margin in opinion polls.

AP-ES-10-27-05 1554EDT


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