Clinton Begins To Say Goodbye

In just a few weeks, William Jefferson Clinton will leave office after two full terms as the 42nd president of the United States. CBS News Anchor Dan Rather sat down with the president in the Oval Office Monday for a one-on-one interview for 60 Minutes II.

In his first television interview since the election, Mr. Clinton said the Bush administration deserved "a good start."

Mr. Clinton said of the recent Supreme Court case that effectively ended Al Gore's pursuit of the presidency, "I think most lawyers, or a lot of them, (were) surprised they took the case. Even those that were surprised they took it were shocked when the vote count was stopped on Friday."

Clinton Speaks To 60 Minutes II
Click here to read the entire transcript of CBS News Anchor Dan Rather's interview with President Clinton.
When asked by Rather if he was among those who were surprised, Mr. Clinton responded, "No, not after eight years in Washington I wasn't."

He added, "They had the power to do it and they did and it's done and we should accept it because the country has to go on."

During the interview with Rather, Mr. Clinton reflected on the low points of his presidency. He said one of the darkest days, "was when those 18 American soldiers were killed in Somalia. It was awful … It was a dark day."

But the president refused to categorize the impeachment vote as a low point, saying, "by the time they got around to voting, I knew what was going to happen. My darkest day came long before that when I had to come to terms with the fact that, you know, I made a terrible personal mistake which I tried to correct in private then got dragged into public. That was dark for me."

Mr. Clinton gave high marks to Gore for the job he did as vice president, saying he was, "the most effective person that's held that job and had more responsibility than anyone who ever had it."

Mr. Clinton was supportive of Gore's decision to distance himself from the White House during his campaign for president.

"Everybody's got to run their own race and it's a difficult thing, running as vice president … and when a vice president becomes president he tries to figure out some way to establish his own identity and to get the benefit of the goothings that have happened but still to be an independent person. I don't think that anybody else should second-guess that," said the president.

The record-setting economy that has lasted most of his presidency appears to be cooling just as he is leaving office. Mr. Clinton addressed possible finger-pointing by the new administration if the economy turns sour: "Well, they'll have the microphone of course. I personally believe that no one knows how long we can keep this recovery going, but the overwhelming majority of the experts believe that we're going to have a pretty good year next year."

He shied away from calling for a drop in interest rates to boost economic growth saying, "For eight years I have refused to second guess the Fed publicly and I don't think I should change as I'm going out the door."

The president said debt reduction was the key to controlling inflation: "My point is the thing that keeps interest rates really low is the fact we're paying the debt down. That'll keep interest rates low, inflation low."

His outlook for the economic future was optimistic: "I think that we've got quite a bit of life left in the economy and the American people are still working hard and they are very innovative. I expect them to have a good year next year."

In a wide-ranging conversation, the president also talked about Monica Lewinsky, his future and his wife's recent multi-million dollar book deal.

When asked what Hillary Clinton would write about him, Mr. Clinton joked, "I don't know if there's $8 million worth to say. You all know it all already."

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