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Hearing His Legacy

With OPEC boosting its oil output, President Clinton wants Americans to feel a break at the gas pump, fast.

In his second news conference of the year, Mr. Clinton urged U.S. oil firms "to do everything they can to bring savings to consumers as quickly as possible."

Speaking at the White House, the President praised OPEC's move to boost oil production by 6.3 percent, asking American oil firms to accelerate price declines in gas and home heating costs that he said will result from the oil cartel's move.

Mr. Clinton also called on Congress to develop a long-term energy plan to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil.

"We can become much more energy efficient," he said, touting more U.S. oil production and alternate fuel sources.

In all, the President called OPEC's decision "good news for our economy and for the American consumer."

On the Elian Gonzalez case, Mr. Clinton said the Miami relatives of the six-year-old boy "should observe the rule of law" if the federal courts rule that the boy should go back to his father in Cuba.

"I would just hope that the law would be followed by everyone," he said, whether the courts uphold or reverse the Immigration and Naturalization Service order that the boy be returned to Cuba.

Earlier on Wednesday, Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas said he would not offer any police help should federal officials try to remove the child from the home of his great-uncle.

Now in the last year of his presidency, Mr. Clinton rolled out his domestic legislative agenda with one eye on the fall campaign - and one eye on his political legacy.

The agenda is familiar and already road-tested: gun control, Medicare reform, a patient's bill of rights, anti-smoking legislation, a minimum wage increase, and money for school construction.

On gun control, the President said National Rifle Association attacks on him are "part of the president's job description, being attacked by people who disagree with him."

"I still think Charlton Heston's a great actor and I enjoy watching his movies," said Mr. Clinton of the NRA leader who criticizes his gun control stands in TV ads.

Knowing he faces a tough fight on Capitol Hill from his fellow Democrats, the President made the case for enacting permanent trade relations with China.

"This is a hundred to nothing deal for America when it comes to the economic consequences," he said, warning Europe and Japan would benefit if Congress failed to act.

Mr. Clinton agreed with Vice President Al Gore that environmental and labor standard requirements should be part of deals on trade terms.

And the President endorsed Gore's proposed "Democracy Endowment" to fund congressional campaigns starting in 2008.

"I kind of wish I'd thought of it myself," he said.

Mr. Clinton disagreed with a federal judge's ruling that he committed "a criminal violation of the privacy act" by releasing letters tcast doubt on the credibility of a woman who accused him of a sexual advance.

He said that the letters from Kathleen Willey were released "reluctantly" after her charges in 1998, because it was "the only way I knew to refute allegations against me that were untrue."

On the Mideast, Mr. Clinton said, both Syria and Israel should "come up with some ideas and start talking" about the peace talks in which he tried - and failed - to prod Syrian President Hafez Assad in Geneva on Sunday.

He said Assad "now knows in great detail what the Israeli proposals were. I don't think its enough to say 'I don't like your position, come back and see me when I like your position.'"

After the news conference, the President planned to take a fund-raising trip to South Carolina and New York.

©2000 CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report

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