Clinton in an upbeat mood as critical period looms

 

President Bill Clinton began 1999 saying that, despite everything, he retained his sense of optimism.

As the new year dawned, the President and Mrs Hillary Rodham Clinton celebrated with a midnight kiss on the Hilton Head island resort in South Carolina.

Earlier, in two separate New Year's Eve sessions, one with young people and the other with their parents, Mr Clinton did not hear a single question about the House's vote to impeach him or a possible Senate trial to remove him from office.

The President himself came closer than any of his questioners to addressing those issues as midnight approached at the gala dinner ending the 18th annual Renaissance Weekend. Mr Clinton said his idea of partisanship is to debate vigorously issues such as preserving social security for future generations and to "move away from the politics of personal destruction". It is a line he used many times in 1998.

Yesterday the President ended his 48-hour respite on the island and returned to the White House to put finishing touches to his new budget, polish his State of the Union address and await action by the Senate.

Mr Clinton's impending impeachment and reports of a rocky marriage have not stopped Americans voting the Clintons as the man and woman they most admire. They were named by a higher percentage of people than last year when they also came out on top in a Gallup Poll. The percentage naming Ms Clinton this year doubled.

Mr Clinton's sexual adventures with Ms Monica Lewinsky failed to stop him topping the most admired man list for the sixth straight year. The runner-up was Pope John Paul II, with Oprah Winfrey coming second in the most admired woman poll. The former British prime minister, Baroness Thatcher, remains popular in the US and came fourth in the poll, with Queen Elizabeth eighth. And in 10th place: Monica Lewinsky.