Clinton keeps busy in home stretch of presidency
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With two weeks left in office, President Clinton is keeping busy, with a packed Friday schedule focusing on diverse topics such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Middle East peacemaking, and protections for national forest land.
Clinton started his day with an early morning departure for the presidential retreat at Camp David to take care of some "purely housekeeping" tasks, according to the president. But less than an hour later, he returned, telling reporters the "cloud cover was too low" to allow Marine One to land.
The president had a mid-morning meeting scheduled with John Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was asked by Clinton to review the nuclear test ban treaty last March after the U.S. Senate failed to ratify it in October 1999.
Shalikahsvili will present the president with a copy of his report, said Jake Siewert, White House press secretary. A senior administration official, familiar with the report, said that Shalikashvili has concluded that the treaty "remains in our national interest" and that it should be ratified.
The official said Shalikashvili met with congressional leaders, opposed to the treaty, to understand their concerns, and discussed steps that could be taken to ensure stronger verification of what other countries are doing.
"This is a matter for the next administration," said the official, adding that Shalikashvili has concluded "we are better off with this treaty than without it."
In the afternoon, Clinton planned an announcement at the National Arboretum in Washington of one of his last major environmental initiatives -- new federal regulations protecting nearly a third of the national forest system from road building and commercial logging.
The incoming George W. Bush administration is declining to comment on the president's new rule, saying it will review the president's "executive orders and rule-making history after January 20th" and then decide if it wants to try to undo any orders or regulations.
Also on tape for the president Friday -- a visit to Fort Myer, Va., to receive an award from the Joint Chiefs for his support of the military.
He rounds out his day back at the White House focused on the Middle East.
Siewert said the president was scheduled to meet with Israeli negotiator Gilead Sher in the early evening, following Sher's meetings earlier in the day with Middle East peace envoy Dennis Ross and members of the National Security Council team.
Thursday night, Clinton stopped by a "I Survived the Clinton White House" party hosted by White House Chief of Staff John Podesta at a Washington nightclub, to pay tribute to all the staffers who worked in his administration over the past eight years.
The president joked with the crowd at the party, as some chanted "four more years." He said that if he stays awake in his remaining 15 days, it will feel like another four years.