President Bush closed out his presidency with one last...

HELEN THOMAS UPI White House Reporter

WASHINGTON -- President Bush closed out his presidency with one last summit trip to Russia to sign the START II treaty providing the deepest cuts yet in the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals.

It was a fitting tribute to Bush for whom foreign policy was pre- eminent throughout most of his Washington career.


Clearly the international scene was his forte, but it was the domestic picture that robbed him of a chance to serve another four years in the White House.

The economy and the voters' perception that he would continue the unacceptable status quo with no vision of the future defeated him in the end.

His presidency has been haunted by the Iran-Contra scandal, which was revealed as former President Ronald Reagan was winding up his second term. And his controversial pardon of former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger mitigated somewhat some of Bush's achievements in office.

In what may have been his last news conference, Bush was irate recently over suggestions that the pardons indicated that he believed some officials were above the law.

'Nobody is above the law,' he said. 'And I believe when people break the law, that's a bad thing.'NEWLN: ------


Security and apprehension has rarely been stronger for a traveling president than for President Bush for his journey to Somalia to visit the American troops sent to the chaotic country where starvation and anarchy plague the people.

After describing the security arrangements to the press, one military officer told reporters: 'I'm glad you're going, not me.'

The members of the media also were warned not to drink the water, not to eat, and some wondered whether they should breathe the air of the country where diseases of many kinds are rampant.

But Bush told reporters, 'It's perfectly safe. I'm not in the least bit concerned of the security. And I have great confidence in our military and in certainly, as always, in the Secret Service. So, no, there's not a worry in the world on that.'NEWLN: ------

White House chief of staff James Baker appears to be a saddened figure as he prepares to leave the Washington stage after 12 years on the fast track, and as high profile as a man can get in the top echelons of government.

He had many foreign policy irons in the fire as secretary of state that had the possibility of success when he was summoned to strategize President Bush's losing re-election campaign and went along reluctantly.


As a result, Baker, who was supposed to be the political magician, failed to deliver a second term for Bush. Rumor persists in Washington and Mrs. Bush partly blames Baker for the defeat, feeling that he was too much of a reluctant dragon.

The State Department passport fiasco in which Bush aides searched Bill Clinton's travel records during the campaign when he was the Demcoratic presidential candidate, also has rubbed off somewhat on Baker since he acknowledges he was aware of the search.

So Baker's legacy of starting the wheels rolling on peace in the Middle East and his role in bringing about arms agreements and the end of the Cold War have been diminished recently.NEWLN: ------

Washington dinner party conversation is dominated these days about the future role of Hillary Clinton in the White House. There is great curiosity about the future first lady and her influence on the presidency as a powerful wife.

As a consequence, publishers are rushing to print biographies of Hillary Clinton whose main interest outside of her professional work as a lawyer is the Children's Defense Fund.

Among those writing a book about Hillary Clinton is Donie Radcliffe, a reporter for The Washingtn Post who also wrote a biography of Barbara Bush.


Hillary, incidentally, has not tipped her hand on her future plans in the White House. But one thing is certain, she will have plenty of help to support her projects once she spotlights her interests.NEWLN: ------

Where the Clinton's 12-year-old daughter Chelsea will go to school also is a major topic on the gossip circuit. The public schools are vying to have the president-elect's eighth grader attend their school.

The several private schools in the Washington area which many of the VIP children attend also would like to have the president's daughter attend their classes.

The last child to be of school age in the first family was Amy Carter who attended a public school near the White House in 1977. Later she switched to a private school.NEWLN:

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