Letting The Good Times Roll

Bob Schieffer CBS

What do you say about a president who amused, bemused, and sometimes disgusted us as he presided over an economic boom?

Well, "goodbye" won't do. He's not going anywhere. He'll be living right here in Washington, the first president since Woodrow Wilson to do so.

Better to say "see you around." When Bill Clinton leaves the presidency Saturday, he'll be just the age Ronald Reagan was when he ran for governor of California. He'll be around all right.

But what of his legacy? These were good times. Give him credit for that.

Yet it's hard to say he moved the country much in any direction. Great presidents have always challenged us to be better than we were. He didn't - or couldn't. His expertise was along the margins, small changes that required little sacrifice.

So, there were few grand initiatives which would have been difficult, Monica or no Monica. Building consensus for change is always harder in good times. The leaky roof is never a problem until it rains.
But, in a strange way, the gridlock he never really broke became his greatest blessing. When the economy boomed, Republicans had the votes to block Democrats from spending the unexpected revenues - and Democrats had the votes to block Republican tax cuts. So the money piled up, deficits became surpluses, and the country grew fat, happy, and rather pleased with divided government.

The question is, did all this somehow create an impression that the country was so strong it didn't matter who was in the White House?

Let's hope not. If that's the Clinton legacy, we'll come to regret it.

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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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