Wisftul Clinton still aiming for place in pantheon

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 December, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 December, 1999, 12:00am

From his marriage to race issues and space exploration, US President Bill Clinton is battling to shore up his legacy and prepare for life outside the White House as he enters the last year of his rule.

Mr Clinton struck an almost wistful tone before the nation on Wednesday during his last press conference of the year, acknowledging the political ambitions of his wife and vice-president and his own turbulent year.

Insisting the past 12 months had been 'very productive' despite impeachment over the Monica Lewinsky scandal, he cryptically said the most painful wounds suffered by individuals and nations were 'self-inflicted'.

Referring to Hillary Clinton's imminent departure to their new home in New York to boost her Senate chances - an act some insist will mark the end of the marriage - Mr Clinton said they would be apart 'more than I wish we were'.

'But I've got a job to do and she now has a campaign to run, and so we'll have to be apart more than I wish we were . . . She'll be here quite a lot and I will go up there when I can and we'll manage it and I think it will come out just fine.' The nation's 42nd president revealed some of his plans for life after eight years in the White House.

'I think that after the Cold War, with the sort of end of the ideological battles you've seen, . . . the biggest problem the world faces today is the conflict people have over their racial and ethnic and related religious differences. And I plan to be heavily involved in it at home and around the world for the rest of my life,' he said.

Mr Clinton said he was still planning to publish a book on America's race troubles but would only do so once he was sure he could 'make a difference'.

A natural politician with prodigious abilities and instincts, most analysts believe he will miss the presidency.

While claiming foreign policy successes such as the historic trade deal with China, the Belfast peace agreement and Kosovo, he said he was disappointed that a host of legislation remained before the Republican-controlled Congress.

Firearms reform, laws punishing hate crimes against minorities and taxation and social security changes remained lost in the bureaucracy.

Unless the US acted now to spread the benefits of its unprecedented boom it would regret it for generations, he warned.