President Clinton may have squandered some policy opportunities during his eight years as President, but he leaves a legacy of smaller, yet more activist government, according to panelists at a Brookings Institution forum Tuesday. One of the Clinton administration's biggest successes was cutting nearly 700,000 federal jobs out of the military and the civil service from 1992 to 1999, said Isabel Sawhill, a senior fellow at Brookings. The "era of big government" may not have ended during the Clinton years, but the size of government was greatly reduced, Sawhill said. Sawhill was joined by Brookings colleagues Richard Haass, vice president and director of foreign policy studies; Robert Litan, vice president and director of economic studies; and Thomas Mann, a senior fellow. In addition to reducing the size of government, Clinton will be remembered for inspiring those who work for the government, said David Maraniss, an associate editor at The Washington Post. Clinton's best legacy is likely to be those people who were inspired by him and who will continue to serve in government for some time to come, Maraniss said. "He's a great emotive speaker who knew how to connect with the people." Other landmarks discussed during the forum, "Assessing Bill Clinton's Legacy: How Will History Remember Him," ran the gamut from the ill-fated drive for health care reform and the Monica Lewinsky scandal to the economic boom and the transformation of the Democratic Party. Mann suggested that Bill Clinton was the most gifted politician since Franklin D. Roosevelt, but said "he leaves office with a widespread sense of squandered opportunity." According to Mann, Clinton took traditionally Republican issues such as paying down the debt and made them a staple of progressive policy, creating the fiscal environment for a more active government. "His presidency was faithful to the values and goals he set out in his 1992 platform," Mann said. "He was competitive, emphatic, optimistic, energetic and remarkably hardy, being able to get up and continue with the job when a lot of us would have given up."
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