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Clinton's long goodbye

President reluctantly faces last week

January 15, 2001
Web posted at: 3:09 PM EST (2009 GMT)

In this story:

'Sort of his last hurrah'

'He never gives up'

Student News Archive

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- His chief of staff called him a "guy who can really take a punch." His health and human services secretary described him as a man who grew into the job. And one Republican senator concluded that President Clinton "just hates leaving this job."

With less than a week remaining before Clinton leaves the White House, supporters -- and a handful of critics -- took to the airwaves Sunday, all weighing in on the nation's 42nd president, whose term expires at noon January 20.

"He obviously enjoys his job," said White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, speaking on CNN's "Late Edition." "He is going to work up until, I suspect, some time in the morning of next Saturday."

Clinton kept a fairly low profile Sunday, spending most of the day at Camp David, the presidential retreat in the Maryland mountains. But he has been on something of a farewell tour this past week, visiting places that held political or personal significance and reminiscing about his eight years in office.

CNN's Garrick Utley says Bill Clinton will be remembered as being simply himself

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Poll: Majority of Americans glad Clinton is leaving office

'Sort of his last hurrah'

"I mean, we're going to have to pry his hands off the door and search him to get the key back to the White House," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, on "Fox News Sunday." "And I think this tour is sort of his last hurrah as he, you know, regretfully counts the minutes that are left between now and noon on January 20."

President-elect George W. Bush complimented Clinton in an interview with NBC. "He played the endgame very well with members of Congress, and I think it's a good lesson for not only this incoming president but future presidents as well," Bush said. "And he has certainly been an active president on the way out of town, too. And I can understand and appreciate that."

Clinton has also angered some Republicans with comments he made last week, saying Bush prevailed in the November elections only by stopping the counting of votes in Florida.

"I hope the president may have concluded that his comments about the legitimacy of the new president were inappropriate," McConnell said. "I hope we don't hear that anymore."

Administration aides and Cabinet secretaries preferred Sunday to focus on Clinton's years in office.

"He went from being a governor to being a president, from being someone who thought that perhaps states could do almost everything to someone that wanted to make sure that, when we did devolve power to the states, that opportunities didn't differ from one state to another," said Donna Shalala, secretary of health and human services.

'He never gives up'

Podesta predicted that most Americans would remember Clinton -- impeached in his second term because of charges that he obstructed an investigation and lied under oath about his relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky -- as a survivor.

"One of the things the American people really respect about this guy is he never gives up," Podesta said. "He comes to work with that sense of optimism. ... He knows he is doing the job for the American people, and I think he will probably go down in history as a guy who can really take a punch."

Clinton, in one appearance last week, reprised a line he had used in his 1992 campaign. "Don't forget, even though I won't be the president, I'll always be with you till the last dog dies," he said in New Hampshire.

Defense Secretary William Cohen, the only Republican in the Clinton Cabinet, said on "Late Edition" that it was "a truly great experience" to work with the outgoing president.

"We never engaged in any discussions at the political level, so I did the job that he asked me to, and it was a wonderful experience," Cohen said.

Video: Clinton says his goodbyes
January 12, 2001
Review by newspaper gives Florida vote gain to Bush
January 15, 2000
Hopes fade for Mideast agreement before Clinton leaves White House
January 14, 2001
Clinton keeps busy in home stretch of presidency
January 5, 2001

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