WASHINGTON -- The White House announced yesterday that President Clinton would deliver remarks at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Monday, despite the risk that the visit could revive the debate over his draft record, which dogged his campaign.
Administration officials said the White House had received postcards from veterans sent as part of what the officials called an organized protest campaign. The veterans charged that Mr. Clinton would "engage in hypocrisy" if he visited the memorial.
But the officials said it was important for the president to go forward with his plans for Memorial Day, which also include a breakfast with veterans and a wreath-laying ceremony at the Arlington National Cemetery.
"He's aware of the protests, of course," said White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers.
White House communications director George Stephanopoulos said, "He is the president of all the people. He believes it's important to show his respect for the veterans who served in all our wars, and that's exactly why he's going to go."
Privately, some White House officials said Mr. Clinton decided to make the visit to silence public doubts about his mettle as commander in chief and to move attention off the controversies that had consumed the White House for several days.
But as Mr. Clinton sought to make an all-out push in the House for his economic program yesterday, the White House faced a fresh round of distractions: a new round of assaults by Ross Perot, questions about Peter Tarnoff, the under secretary of state for political affairs, who suggested that the United States might have to retreat from its past leadership role, and even a news anchor New Hampshire who complained that she had been asked to apply makeup to the president's face before she interviewed him.
The president has been so under siege that before a photograph session yesterday morning, technicians said they overheard him saying he was beginning to feel like "a punching bag."
Mr. Perot, in a television interview taped on Tuesday, attacked Mr. Clinton with relish about the dismissal of the White House travel staff and about the president's $200 haircut aboard Air Force One as it waited for takeoff from Los Angeles.