- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 9, 1999

President Clinton, who has pledged to stay out of next year’s presidential campaign, got in digs yesterday at Vice President Al Gore’s rivals in both parties.

Mr. Clinton also sounded wistful about first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton’s impending move to New York and the end of his weekly lunches with Mr. Gore.

“I’m not going to get in the middle of the Gore-Bradley campaign,” Mr. Clinton told reporters during a news conference at the State Department.

But Mr. Clinton leveled criticism at both Democrat Bill Bradley’s health care plan and the $483 billion tax cut proposed by Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the Republican front-runner.

“There is no perfect plan. Let’s start with that,” Mr. Clinton said of health-care proposals issued by Mr. Gore and Mr. Bradley.

But Mr. Clinton added: “Whatever the choice is, I think it’s important that we be as honest as possible about what it costs.”

Mr. Gore has hammered at the projected cost of Mr. Bradley’s health care proposal. Mr. Bradley says his plan would cost up to $650 billion over 10 years. Mr. Gore charges that it would cost $1.2 trillion over that span, and would end projected budget surpluses.

Mr. Clinton also took aim at Mr. Bush’s tax-cut proposal.

“As near as I can see, there’s no [health care] debate going on in the other party,” he said.

“And if they pass the size tax-cut plan they’re talking about, they not only won’t have any money to help more people get health care, they’ll either have to get into the Social Security surplus or they won’t have any more money for education or the environment or anything else.”

Mrs. Clinton has said she will move to the Clintons’ new home in Chappaqua, N.Y., after Christmas to focus on her Senate campaign.

“It’s not the best arrangement in the world, but it’s something that we can live with for a year,” Mr. Clinton said.

“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. But it’s not a big problem.

“She’ll be here quite a lot and I’ll go up there when I can, and we’ll manage it and I think it will come out just fine.”

Mr. Clinton said he still consults with Mr. Gore on major decisions and Mr. Gore performs the “critical functions” as vice president, but “we don’t have lunch every week, and I miss that terribly.”

Mr. Clinton also reflected on a tumultuous year that began with his Senate impeachment acquittal and ended with the collapse of World Trade Organization talks in Seattle.

The president said it was “a very productive year.”

Among other successes, he said, Congress had committed to hiring 100,000 teachers and 50,000 police officers, passed a financial-system modernization bill and doubled after-school funding.

He said the administration’s foreign-policy achievements included the war that drove the Serb military from Kosovo, an agreement that could prompt China’s admission to the WTO and the Northern Ireland peace agreement.

But he said he is “terribly disappointed” that Congress did not pass the so-called “patients’ bill of rights,” raise the minimum wage or pass hate-crimes legislation and did not approve what he called “common-sense gun legislation,” which he said “was crying out for action” after the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado.

Mr. Clinton also said he is “profoundly disappointed” that Congress did not approve his plans on Social Security and Medicare.

Mr. Clinton also indicated that the administration’s much-anticipated book on race in America might be shelved indefinitely.

“I don’t want to put it out unless I think, you know, it could make a difference,” he said.

Mr. Clinton also took a terse parting shot at former independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr. A reporter asked how much of his pain from the Monica Lewinsky scandal was self-inflicted.

“The mistake I made was self-inflicted,” Mr. Clinton said. “The misconduct of others was not.”

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