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The Clinton Presidency: The Bottom LineAired January 16, 2001 - 1:08 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: It's four days and counting until President Clinton becomes a private citizen, and his impact on history moves out of his control. But CNN and many others aren't waiting to assess that impact, at least in the short term. And today, in part two of our week-long series, CNN's John King looks at the Clinton years by the numbers.
JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There is a reason he knows them by heart, recites them at every opportunity -- by the numbers, it is a remarkable record.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Eight years ago when I came here, 10 million Americans were out of work, the deficit was $290 billion and rising, the debt of the country had quadrupled in the previous 12 years, imposing a crushing burden on our children.
KING: A president's legacy, of course, is shaped by much more than statistics. But there is no ignoring some: a record 115 months of economic growth at an average annual rate of four percent, 22 million new jobs since the beginning of 1993, the lowest unemployment rate in 30 years, the lowest crime rate in 26 years, and the smallest welfare rolls in 32 years.
JOHN PODESTA, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The people who have been left out and not heard too much from over the previous 12 years found a voice and found a leader in this president, and I think that's what he'll be noted for.
KING: And there's more: from a federal budget deficit of $290 billion dollars back in 1993 to a projected surplus of $237 billion now. The Dow Jones industrial average has more than tripled.
It is true, as critics often note, that the economic recovery started before Mr. Clinton took office, also true that Mr. Clinton's first instinct was more spending, not just deficit reduction.
CLINTON: To create jobs and guarantee a strong recovery, I call on Congress to enact an immediate jobs package of jobs investments of over $30 billion.
KING: Congress said no, dealing the new president an embarrassing early defeat. Advice from federal reserve chairman Alan Greenspan began to sink in, and top economic adviser Robert Rubin provided an echo: Focus on the deficit, Wall Street will cheer and main street will benefit.
It is worth remembering that the first Clinton budget passed by the narrowest of margins, the vice president's tiebreaking vote.
AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Senate being equally divided, the vice president votes yes.
KING: Eight years and one remarkable boom later, Mr. Clinton was still reveling in reminding Republicans they had predicted disaster.
CLINTON: Their leaders said our plan would increase the deficit, kill jobs and give us a one-way ticket to a recession. Time has not been kind to their predictions.
KING: It was Ross Perot who put the country's long-term debt in the middle of the political debate, but President Clinton who believes he deserves credit for putting the country on a path to pay it all off.
CLINTON: This health care security card...
KING: Not all the statistics are favorable. He promised health care for all, but nearly 43 million Americans have no health insurance, up from 38.6 million in 1993. A cold winter and a power crisis in California, reminders that the United States relies on international sources for 28 percent of its energy needs, up from 25 percent in 1993.
But any statistical assessment of then and now is striking. There is talk of a slowdown, some say a possible recession, but no longer, as there was at the beginning of the 1990's, any talk of a United States in decline.
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: We're probably the most influential, powerful country since the days of ancient Rome, and I think the 1990s will be remembered as one of the brightest decades of the 20th century. Now, Bill Clinton doesn't deserve all the credit for that, but he was one of the architects, and he was a principal architect.
KING: Mr. Clinton views this as a promise kept. Remember, he first ran for president promising to focus like a laser beam on the economy.
CLINTON: Let's bring this economy back and we can solve a lot of our other problems.
KING: So it is no surprise as he prepares to leave office and the debate over his legacy begins in earnest that Mr. Clinton takes comfort in the numbers.
John King, CNN, the White House. (END VIDEOTAPE)
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