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Sunday Morning News

Clinton Spends First Day in Eight Years as Private Citizen

Aired January 21, 2001 - 7:27 a.m. ET

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

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: It's obviously the first Sunday Bill Clinton has not been president in eight years. Do you suppose he'll spend the day contemplating his future?

CNN's Frank Buckley wondered about that, so he surveyed the retirement records of some ex-presidents.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The pomp of departure day of all outgoing presidents is pretty similar, formal and staged. But the circumstances of their presidencies often contribute to how ex-presidents behave after they're gone.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Most presidents who feel comfortable with the job they did in office go to a more sedate kind of retirement. One thinks of Harry Truman going back and living quietly in Independence, or Dwight Eisenhower retiring at Gettysburg, or Ronald Reagan going back to California making some quick money and then, you know, receding into the sunset.

But it's the presidents that have had a very difficult time in office that try to rehabilitate themselves and become the most depressed.

BUCKLEY: Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley chronicled what he called the unfinished presidency of Jimmy Carter, who returned to his native Georgia to find a home in need of repair and a peanut farming business in debt.

BRINKLEY: And a huge depression comes because from being at the pinnacle of power suddenly he was now simply citizen Carter of a hamlet called Plains.

BUCKLEY: Citizen Eisenhower didn't know how to dial a telephone. George Bush didn't know, as his presidency was ending, that groceries...

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: You just cross this open place?

BUCKLEY: ... were scanned now for prices, not punched into a register.

As ex-presidents they must re-learn the mundane and begin to rehabilitate, in some cases, their reputations.

Carter's presidency was marred by the Iranian hostage crisis. Afterward he went to work helping to build homes for the poor and promoting peace around the world. Nixon resigned after the Watergate scandal.

BRINKLEY: And ended up working very hard to rehabilitate himself as a global statesman.

BUCKLEY: Other presidents re-engage as public servants in other capacities. John Quincy Adams became a congressman; Andrew Johnson, a Senator. Grover Cleveland lost his bid for re-election as president ran again later and won. The only president to have served two non- consecutive terms.

The 22nd Amendment bars Clinton from ever becoming president again, but at 54, he is the second youngest person to ever leave the office behind Teddy Roosevelt who was only 50, who remained active in politics after his presidency. Some see Roosevelt's post-presidency profile as one Clinton may wish to emulate.

BRINKLEY: Theodore Roosevelt has something beyond his face carved on Mount Rushmore, something that Bill Clinton desperately would want, and that's the Nobel Peace Prize.

BUCKLEY (on camera): Mr. Clinton has suggested Jimmy Carter as a role model for his own post-presidency. He has also indicated he will have to earn some money. For the moment, however, he is in transition, no longer a president, now, simply citizen Clinton.

Frank Buckley, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, citizen Clinton awakens this morning without that title, without ruffles and flourishes, without "Hail to the Chief" as he gets out of bed and waiting for him on his doorstep is CNN's Deborah Feyerick, just to prove he's not just any citizen.

Deborah, what do you see in there -- out there in Chappaqua this morning?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Miles, one of the first acts of the former First Family may have to be shoveling out their driveway, they're waking up in snowy Chappaqua. Some six inches fell overnight.

A spokesperson for Senator Hillary Clinton says that they have no plans for this morning and a Secret Service person who we spoke to said it may be difficult for their limousine to even negotiate any of the hills of Westchester.

As the family settles in those reactions to one of President Clinton's last official acts, yesterday he issued some 140 pardons. Among the list, his brother, Roger Clinton, who spent a year in jail on drug charges. Also Clinton's former business partner, Susan McDougal, and she's spent almost two years in prison for not testifying against President Clinton. She says she never formally requested a pardon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUSAN MCDOUGAL: I kept telling myself up until the very last minute that it just didn't matter, you know. I tried to not get too upset if I wasn't going to get it. But when that moment came I could tell how much I'd been carrying around with me. You know, I was innocent when I was convicted and it seemed that today just wiped all of that away for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FEYERICK: Now, yesterday as President Clinton arrived at the airport, at JFK Airport, he had not as yet spelled out any of his future plans. It is likely that he's going to take some breath, he'll write his memoirs, help set up his presidential library in Arkansas, and also hit the lecture circuit. It's rumored that he may get as much as $100,000 per speech. Of course, if he gets bored here in Chappaqua, well, he can always head to Washington where the Clinton's have a second home -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Well, at that rate, Deborah, I suppose he could afford to have a 14-year-old shovel the driveway this morning.

What about immediate plans?

FEYERICK: Right now, nothing. The family is just going to be resting for the day. Again, the Secret Service says that they're really recommending that the family does not leave their home today. It's just - it's pretty treacherous in their area. Usually from Manhattan it takes about an hour to get here, it took about two hours. So that's just how bad the roads are. So they may just stay in, watch a little television, and see if they've got anything in the refrigerator.

O'BRIEN: OK. Of course, the president hasn't done much driving over the past eight years so we do not recommend he try that out.

Deborah Feyerick in Chappaqua, New York, thanks very much.

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