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Clinton: Elian case may have cost Gore

- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 21, 2000

President Clinton accepts some blame for Vice President Al Gore's election defeat, noting that his administration's seizure of Elian Gonzalez might have cost the vice president "a lot of votes" in Florida.

"And if it did, I feel very badly about it, because this wasn't anything that anybody dreamed up," Mr. Clinton told the CBS program "60 Minutes II," referring to the return to Cuba of the 6-year-old refugee.

Mr. Clinton, in an interview broadcast Tuesday night, also noted that some voters in West Virginia blamed his administration for not moving quicker to block imports of cheap steel.

"I don't think they're right about it, but they did blame us for the closing of a steel mill there."

Mr. Clinton said he has mulled those issues since Texas Gov. George W. Bush clinched the Electoral College.

Mr. Clinton said the nation's strong economy and dropping crime rate should have more than made up for those policy complications. But he refused to chime in with Democratic leaders who say Mr. Gore underused him on the campaign trail.

"I don't believe the rest of us should second-guess the leader of the team, including me," he said.

Mr. Clinton said the nation should accept the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision to halt the hand recounts in Florida, and he wished Mr. Bush well.

But he left little doubt that he disagrees with the court's ruling and suggested it was politically motivated. He also said he was not surprised that the high court took the case and stopped the count.

"No, not after eight years in Washington, I wasn't. They had the power to do it, and they did it," he said.

Mr. Clinton said that if he could recommend one book for the president-elect to read, it would be David Herbert Donald's biography of Abraham Lincoln.

The movie he would recommend is "High Noon," because "Gary Cooper does the right thing even when people leave him, and even though he's scared," Mr. Clinton said.

Mr. Clinton said his finest hour as president and one of his darkest hours both came in 1993. He felt a sense of triumph when his economic package prevailed in the House and in the Senate by one vote each. But that same year 18 American soldiers were killed in a firefight in Somalia.

"It was awful," Mr. Clinton said. "It was a dark day."

Mr. Clinton downplayed speculation that first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, senator-elect from New York, is destined to run for president.

"That's, you know, worse than idle speculation," Mr. Clinton said.

"What I've urged her to do is, No. 1, solidify her roots and her ties with the people of New York state; have an agenda for New York; have an agenda for America, because every senator is a senator on American issues, too; stay on the forefront of ideas; keep pushing and getting things done, and, you know, the future will take care of itself."

As for his own future, Mr. Clinton said he will not run for mayor of New York, governor of New York or governor of Arkansas.

"I think it's very important that first of all, I need to take a couple of months and just go down. I need some rest. I've been working like crazy for 27 years," he said.

Mr. Clinton said he then wants to make some money.

"I gotta support my family," Mr. Clinton said. "I want to try to save some so they'll be all right if anything happens to me."