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'USA Today': President Clinton Will 'Continue to Make Headlines' After Leaving Office

Aired January 17, 2001 - 1:40 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Mimi Hall has been covering the White House for "USA Today" since the beginning of 1997. She wrote today's cover story assessing the Clinton legacy. She joins us from the "USA Today" newsroom in Arlington, Virginia.

Hi, Mimi.

MIMI HALL, "USA TODAY": Hi, how are you?

PHILLIPS: Very good. Thanks for being with us. So what do you think? Will Clinton carry sort of a low profile, or will he continue to make headlines?

HALL: Oh, I think he'll continue to make headlines. He's told people repeatedly in public that he'll try to keep a low profile for the first few months, but I think those who know him say there's no question this is a guy who's going to continue to make headlines. He's going to fight for what he believes in. His friends say that if the Republicans try to dismantle his domestic programs, he is going to fight that every step of the way in the news media with op-ed pieces, you know, however he can make news. I think he'll be out there.

PHILLIPS: What do you think he'll be fighting for? It seems Northern Ireland and the Middle East have been two of his biggest accomplishments. He's definitely made strides in those areas. What do you think?

HALL: Well, his friends say that, on foreign policy in particular, unless he's asked to get involved by the new president, that he probably will leave that to the new administration, but that he's most concerned about some of his domestic achievements, on everything from health care, family and medical leave to education to cops on the street. Those kinds of programs I think he's very concerned that the Republicans in Congress will come in and dismantle them one by one. And he's going to fight that however he can.

PHILLIPS: Mimi, do you think he could have made a bigger impact on Americans if the Lewinsky scandal would have never happened?

HALL: Oh, absolutely. I mean, as your pieces have shown, this is a very mixed legacy. He came in with tremendous promise. At certain points throughout his tenure he had a lot of political capital. But when Lewinsky hit, he lost all that capital in Congress and he was never able to push through, you know, Social Security reform, Medicare reform, some of the bigger issues -- and after the failure of health care reform, of course, was a defeat. So he went on and had to do things, sort of smaller things, bit by bit and try to build up his legacy that way. But he never did get the big reforms through.

PHILLIPS: Well, when we think of Monica Lewinsky, Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, Whitewater, yet his approval ratings are still so high. As a journalist, I mean, the stories that you've written, what kind of reflection do you think this has? What does it say about our society? What does it say about Americans?

HALL: Well, I mean, that's difficult to say. That'll be for the history books in some respect. But it's a paradox. I mean, it's very interesting. I would say there's a big portion of the country very happy to see him leave the national stage and very disappointed with some of what went on in the White House under his tenure.

On the other hand, you know, the polls have shown that the public approves of a lot of his policies on, you know, everything from education to health care. And also, you know, he led through blooming economic times. So I think his approval ratings are reflected in that, too. He presided over good times for this country and people care about their pocketbook and what's going on in their own lives as much as anything else.

PHILLIPS: Well, I understand he has a lot of official offers flooding in. What do you know? What can you tell us?

HALL: Well, he does. He has an agent and he's got a lot of offers coming in. I know that he's going to do a lot of public speaking engagements for $100,000, $150,000 a pop and try to build up a nice savings account and pay off his legal debts. It's unclear whether he'll serve on corporate boards. He's certainly getting a lot of offers on that front. We'll have to wait and see. He'll sign a book deal, undoubtedly, to do his memoirs, and probably a couple of other books over the next few years. And he'll work on his library. And that's what he'll do for now. And we'll have to see what else he'll come up with.

PHILLIPS: Mimi Hall with today's cover story in "USA Today," thanks for joining us with your insight.

HALL: Thank you.

PHILLIPS: All right. President Clinton will say farewell to the nation tomorrow night at 8:00 Eastern, 5:00 Pacific. CNN will provide live coverage of his address.

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