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B y January 2, we were back to the budget negotiations. Bob Dole wanted to make a deal to reopen the government, and after a couple of days so did Newt Gingrich. In one of our budget meetings, the Speaker admitted that in the beginning he had thought he could keep me from vetoing the GOP budget by threatening to shut the government down. In front of Dole, Armey, Daschle, Gephardt, Panetta, and Al Gore, he said frankly, We made a mistake. We thought you would cave. Finally, on the sixth, with a severe blizzard covering Washington, the impasse was broken, as Congress sent me two more continuing resolutions that put all the federal employees back to work, though they still didnt restore all government services. I signed the CRs and sent the Congress my plan for a balanced budget in seven years..cheap prom dresses.
The next week, I vetoed the Republican welfare reform bill, because it did too little to move people from welfare to work and too much to hurt poor people and their children. The first time I vetoed the Republican welfare reform proposal, it had been a part of their budget. Now a number of their budget cuts were simply put in a bill with the label welfare reform on it. Meanwhile, Donna Shalala and I had already gone far in reforming the welfare system on our own. We had given fifty separate waivers to thirty-seven states to pursue initiatives that were pro-work and pro-family. Seventy-three percent of Americas welfare recipients were covered by these reforms, and the welfare rolls were dropping..cheap wedding dresses.
As we headed into the State of the Union speech on the twenty-third, we seemed to be making some progress on a budget agreement, so I used the address to reach out to the Republicans, rally the Democrats, and explain to the American people my position on both the budget debate, and on the larger question that the budget battle presented: What was the proper role of government in the global information age? The basic theme of the speech was the era of big government is over. But we cannot go back to the time when our citizens were left to fend for themselves. This formulation reflected my philosophy of getting rid of yesterdays bureaucratic government while advocating a creative, future-oriented, empowering government; it also fairly described our economic and social policies and Al Gores Rego initiative. By then my case was bolstered by the success of our economic policy: nearly eight million new jobs had been created since the inauguration and a record number of new businesses had been started for three years in a row. U.S. automakers were even outselling their Japanese competitors in America for the first time since the 1970s..cheap prom dresses.
After offering again to work with the Congress to balance the budget in seven years and pass welfare reform, I outlined a legislative agenda concerning families and children, education and health care, and crime and drugs. It emphasized programs that reflected basic American values and the idea of citizen empowerment: the V-chip, charter schools, public school choice, and school uniforms. I also named General Barry McCaffrey to be Americas new drug czar. At the time, McCaffrey was commander in chief of the Southern Command, where he had worked to stop cocaine from being sent to America from Colombia and elsewhere..Giuseppe Zanotti replica.
The most memorable moment of the evening came near the end of the speech, when, as usual, I introduced the people sitting in the First Ladys box with Hillary. The first person I mentioned was Richard Dean, a forty-nine-year-old Vietnam veteran who had worked for the Social Security Administration for twenty-two years. When I told Congress that he had been in the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City when it was bombed, risked his life to reenter the ruins four times, and saved the lives of three women, Dean got a huge standing ovation from the entire Congress, with the Republicans leading the cheers. Then came the zinger. As the applause died down, I said, But Richard Deans story doesnt end there. This last November, he was forced out of his office when the government shut down. And the second time the government shut down, he continued helping Social Security recipients, but he was working without pay. On behalf of Richard Dean . . . I challenge all of you in this chamber: lets never, ever shut the federal government down again..Replica Christian Louboutin UK.
This time the gleeful Democrats led the applause. The Republicans, knowing that they had been trapped, looked glum. I didnt think I had to worry about a third government shutdown; its consequences now had a human, heroic face...
Defining moments like that dont happen by accident. Every year we used the State of the Union as an organizing tool for the cabinet and staff to come up with new policy ideas, and then we worked hard on how best to present them. On the day of the speech, we held several rehearsals in the movie theater located between the residence and the East Wing. The White House Communications Agency, which also recorded all my public statements, set up a TelePrompTer and a podium, and various staff members moved in and out through the day in an informal process managed by my communications director, Don Baer. We all worked together, listening to each sentence, imagining how it would be received in the Congress and in the country, and improving the language...
We had defeated the philosophy behind the Contract with America by winning the government shutdown debate. Now the speech offered an alternative philosophy of government and, through Richard Dean, showed that federal employees were good people performing valuable services. It wasnt much different from what I had been saying all along, but in the aftermath of the shutdown, millions of Americans heard and understood it for the first time...
We began the year in foreign policy with Warren Christopher hosting talks between the Israelis and Syrians at Wye River Plantation in Maryland. Then, on January 12, I flew overnight to the U.S. Air Force base in Aviano, Italy, that had been the center of our NATO air operations over Bosnia, where I boarded one of our new C-17 transport planes for the flight to Taszar Air Base in Hungary, from which our troops were deploying into Bosnia. I had fought in 1993 to keep the C-17 from being eliminated in the defense downsizing. It was an amazing plane with remarkable cargo capacity and the ability to operate in difficult conditions. The Bosnian mission was using twelve C-17s, and I had to fly one into Tuzla; the regular Air Force One, a Boeing 747, was too big...
After meeting with Hungarian President Arpad Goncz and seeing our troops in Taszar, I flew on to Tuzla in northeastern Bosnia, the area for which the United States was responsible. In less than a month and despite terrible weather, seven thousand of our troops and more than two thousand armored vehicles had crossed the flooded Sava River to reach their duty stations. They had turned an airfield with no lights or navigational equipment into one that was open for business around the clock. I thanked the troops and personally delivered a birthday present to a colonel whose wife had charged me with the duty when I stopped in Aviano. I met with President Izetbegovic, then flew on to Zagreb, Croatia, to see President Tudjman. Both of them were satisfied with the implementation of the peace agreement so far and very glad U.S. troops were part of it...
By the time I got back to Washington, it had been a long day, but an important one. Our troops were involved in NATOs first deployment beyond its members borders. They were working with the soldiers of their Cold War adversaries Russia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and the Baltic states. Their mission was pivotal to creating a united Europe, yet it was being criticized in Congress and in coffee shops across America. The troops were at least entitled to know why they were in Bosnia and how strongly I supported them...
Two weeks later the Cold War continued to fade into history as the Senate ratified the START II treaty, which President Bush had negotiated and submitted to the Senate three years earlier, just before he left office. Together with the START I treaty, which we had put into force in December 1994, START II would eliminate two-thirds of the nuclear arsenals the United States and the former Soviet Union had maintained at the height of the Cold War, including the most destabilizing nuclear weapons, the multiple-warhead intercontinental ballistic missiles...
Along with START I and II, we had signed an agreement to freeze North Koreas nuclear program, had led the effort to make the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty permanent, and were working to safeguard and ultimately dismantle nuclear weapons and materials under the Nunn-Lugar program. In congratulating the Senate on START II, I asked them to continue making America more secure by passing the Chemical Weapons Convention and my anti-terrorism legislation...
On January 30, Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin of Russia came to the White House for his sixth meeting with Al Gore. After they finished their commission business, Chernomyrdin came to see me to brief me on events in Russia and Yeltsins prospects for reelection. Just before our meeting, I spoke to President Suleyman Demirel and Prime Minister Tansu Ciller of Turkey. They told me that Turkey and Greece were on the brink of military confrontation and implored me to intervene to stop it. They were about to go to war over two tiny Aegean islets called Imia by the Greeks and Kardak by the Turks. Both countries claimed the islets, but Greece apparently had acquired them in a treaty with Italy in 1947. Turkey denied the validity of the Greek claim. There were no people living there, though Turks often sailed to the larger islet for picnics. The crisis was triggered when some Turkish journalists had torn down a Greek flag and put up a Turkish one...
It was unthinkable that two great countries with a real dispute over Cyprus would actually go to war over ten acres of rock islets inhabited by only a couple of dozen sheep, but I could tell that Ciller was genuinely afraid it could happen. I interrupted the Chernomyrdin meeting to get briefed, then placed a series of calls, first to Greek prime minister Konstandinos Simitis, then to Demirel and Ciller again. After all the talk back and forth, the two sides agreed to hold their fire, and Dick Holbrooke, who was already working on Cyprus, stayed up all night to get the parties to agree to resolve the problem through diplomacy. I couldnt help laughing to myself at the thought that whether or not I succeeded in making peace in the Middle East, Bosnia, or Northern Ireland, at least I had saved some Aegean sheep.
Just when I thought things couldnt get any weirder in Whitewater World, they did. On January 4, Carolyn Huber found copies of Hillarys records for work the Rose firm had done for Madison Guaranty in 1985 and 1986. Carolyn had been our assistant at the Governors Mansion and had come to Washington to help us with our personal papers and correspondence. She had already assisted David Kendall in turning over fifty thousand pages of documents to the independent counsels office, but for some reason this copy of the billing records wasnt among them. Carolyn found it in a box she had moved to her office from the third-floor residence storage area the previous August. Apparently, the copy had been made in the 1992 campaign; it had Vince Fosters notes on it, because he was handling press questions for the Rose firm at the time.
On the surface, it must have looked suspicious. Why were the records turning up after all this time? If you had seen the disordered array of papers we brought up from Arkansas, you wouldnt have been surprised. Im amazed that we found as much material as we did in a timely fashion. At any rate, Hillary was glad the records had been found; they proved her contention that she had done only a modest amount of work for Madison Guaranty. In a few weeks, the RTC would issue a report saying just that.
But thats not how the independent counsel, congressional Republicans, and the Whitewater reporters played it. In his New York Times column, William Safire called Hillary a congenital liar. Carolyn Huber was called up to Congress to testify before Al DAmatos committee on January 18. And on the twenty-sixth, Kenneth Starr hauled Hillary before the grand jury for four hours of questioning.
Starrs summons was a cheap, sleazy publicity stunt. We had turned the records over voluntarily as soon as we found them, and they proved the truth of Hillarys account. If Starr had more questions, he could have come to the White House to ask them, as he had done three times before, rather than make her the first First Lady to appear before a grand jury. In 1992, President Bushs White House counsel, Boyden Gray, had withheld his bosss diary for more than a year, until after the election, in direct violation of a subpoena from the Iran-Contra prosecutor. No one put Gray or Bush before a grand jury, and the press uproar was nowhere near as great.
I was more troubled by the attacks on Hillary than on those directed at me. Because I was helpless to stop them, all I could do was stand by her, telling the press that America would be a better place if everybody in this country had the character my wife has. Hillary and I explained to Chelsea what was going on; she didnt like it but seemed to take it in stride. She knew her mother a lot better than her assailants did.
Still, it was wearing on all of us. I had been struggling for months to keep my anger from interfering with my work, as I dealt with the budget fight, Bosnia, Northern Ireland, and Rabins death. But it had been very hard; now I was anxious for Hillary and Chelsea as well. I was also concerned about all the other people being pulled into the congressional hearings and into Starrs net who were being hurt emotionally and financially.
Five days after the billing records were turned over, Hillary was scheduled to do an interview with Barbara Walters so that she could discuss her new book, It Takes a Village. Instead, the interview turned into a session on the billing records. It Takes a Village became a bestseller anyway, as Hillary bravely set out from Washington on a book tour across the country and found legions of friendly and supportive Americans who cared more about what she had to say about improving childrens lives than about what Ken Starr, Al DAmato, William Safire, and their friends had to say about her.
Those boys certainly seemed to get a big kick out of beating up on Hillary. My only consolation was the sure knowledge, rooted in twenty-five years of close observation, that she was a lot tougher than they would ever be. Some guys dont like that in a woman, but it was one of the reasons I loved her.
In early February, as the presidential campaign kicked into high gear, I returned to New Hampshire to highlight both the positive impact of my policies there and my commitment not to forget about the state after I took office. Although I had no primary opponent, I wanted to carry New Hampshire in November, and I needed to deal with the one issue I thought could keep me from doing it: guns.
One Saturday morning, I went to a diner in Manchester full of men who were deer hunters and NRA members. In impromptu remarks, I told them that I knew they had defeated their Democratic congressman, Dick Swett, in 1994 because he voted for the Brady bill and the assault weapons ban. Several of them nodded in agreement. Those hunters were good men who had been frightened by the NRA; I thought they could be stampeded again in 1996 only if no one presented them with the other side of the argument in language they could understand. So I gave it my best shot: I know the NRA told you to defeat Congressman Swett. Now, if you missed a day, or even an hour, in the deer woods because of the Brady bill or the assault weapons ban, I want you to vote against me, too, because I asked him to support those bills. On the other hand, if you didnt, then they didnt tell you the truth, and you need to get even.
A few days later, at the Library of Congress, I signed the Telecommunications Act, a sweeping overhaul of the laws affecting an industry that was already one-sixth of our economy. The act increased competition, innovation, and access to what Al Gore had dubbed the information superhighway. There had been months of sparring over complex economic issues, with the Republicans favoring greater concentration of ownership in media and telecommunications markets, and the White House and the Democrats supporting greater competition, especially in local and long-distance telephone service. With Al Gore taking the lead for the White House and Speaker Gingrich in his positive entrepreneurial mode, we reached what I thought was a fair compromise, and in the end the bill passed almost unanimously. It also contained a requirement that new television sets include the V-chip, which I had first endorsed at the Gores annual family conference, to allow parents to control their childrens access to programs; by the end of the month, executives from most of the television networks would agree to have a rating system for their programs in place by 1997. Even more important, the act mandated discounted Internet access rates for schools, libraries, and hospitals; the so-called E-rate would eventually save public entities about $2 billion a year.
The next day, the bloom came off the Irish rose, as Gerry Adams called to tell me the IRA had ended its cease-fire, allegedly because of foot-dragging by John Major and the Unionists, including their insistence on IRA arms decommissioning in return for Sinn Feins participation in the political life of Northern Ireland. Later that day a bomb exploded at Canary Wharf in London.
The IRA would keep it up for more than a year, at great cost to themselves. While they killed two soldiers and two civilians and injured many others, they suffered the deaths of two IRA operatives, the breakup of their bombing team in Britain, and the arrest of numerous IRA operatives in Northern Ireland. By the end of the month, peace vigils were being held all over Northern Ireland to demonstrate the continuing support of ordinary citizens for peace. John Major and John Bruton said they would resume talks with Sinn Fein if the IRA reinstated its cease-fire. With John Humes support, the White House decided to maintain contact with Adams, waiting for the moment when the march toward peace could resume.
The peace process in the Middle East was also threatened in late February, as two Hamas bombs killed twenty-six people. With elections coming up in Israel, I assumed Hamas was trying to defeat Prime Minister Peres and provoke the Israelis to elect a hard-line government that would not make peace with the PLO. We pushed Arafat to do more to prevent terrorist acts. As I had told him when we signed the original agreement back in 1993, he could never be the most militant Palestinian again, and if he tried to keep one foot in the peace camp and the other on the terrorist side he would eventually be undone.
We also had trouble closer to home when Cuba shot down two civilian planes flown by the anti-Castro group Brothers to the Rescue, killing four men. Castro hated the group and the leaflets critical of him that it had dropped over Havana in the past. Cuba claimed the planes were shot in its airspace. They werent, but even if they had been, the downings still would have violated international law.
I suspended charter flights to Cuba, restricted travel by Cuban officials in the United States, expanded the reach of Radio Mart, which beamed pro-democracy messages into Cuba, and asked Congress to authorize compensation out of Cubas blocked assets in the United States to the families of the men who were killed. Madeleine Albright asked the United Nations to impose sanctions and went to Miami to deliver a fiery speech to the Cuban-American community, telling them that the shootdown reflected cowardice, not cojones. Her macho remarks made her a heroine among South Floridas Cubans.
I also committed to signing a version of the Helms-Burton bill, which stiffened the embargo against Cuba and restricted the Presidents authority to lift it without congressional approval. Supporting the bill was good election-year politics in Florida, but it undermined whatever chance I might have if I won a second term to lift the embargo in return for positive changes within Cuba. It almost appeared that Castro was trying to force us to maintain the embargo as an excuse for the economic failures of his regime. If that wasnt the objective, then Cuba had made a colossal error. I later received word from Castro, indirectly of course, that the shootdown was a mistake. Apparently he had issued earlier orders to fire on any aircraft that violated Cuban airspace and had failed to withdraw them when the Cubans knew the Brothers to the Rescue planes were coming.
In the last week of the month, after visiting areas devastated by recent flooding in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Pennsylvania, I met with the new Japanese prime minister in Santa Monica, California. Ryutaro Hashimoto had been Mickey Kantors counterpart before becoming the head of the Japanese government. An avid practitioner of kendo, a Japanese martial art, Hashimoto was a tough, intelligent man who enjoyed combat of all kinds. But he was also a leader with whom we could work; he and Kantor had concluded twenty trade agreements, our exports to Japan were up 80 percent, and our bilateral trade deficit had declined for three years in a row.
The month ended on a high note as Hillary and I celebrated Chelseas sixteenth birthday by taking her to see Les Misrables at the National Theatre, then hosting a busload of her friends for a weekend at Camp David. We liked all Chelseas friends, and we loved seeing them shooting at one another with paintball guns in the woods, bowling and playing other games, and generally being kids as their high school years were drawing to a close. The best part of the weekend for me was giving Chelsea a driving lesson around the Camp David compound. I missed driving and wanted Chelsea to enjoy it, and to do it safely and well.
The Middle East peace process was shaken again in the first weeks of March when, on successive days, a new round of Hamas bombs in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv killed more than thirty people and wounded many more. Among the dead were children, a Palestinian nurse who lived and worked among her Jewish friends, and two young American women. I met with their families in New Jersey and was deeply moved by their steadfast commitment to peace as the only way to prevent more children from being killed in the future. In a televised address to the people of Israel, I stated the obvious, that the terrorist acts were aimed not just at killing innocent people but at killing the growing hope for peace in the Middle East.
On March 12, Jordans King Hussein flew on Air Force One with me to a Summit of Peacemakers hosted by President Mubarak in Sharm el-Sheikh, a beautiful resort on the Red Sea favored by European scuba-diving enthusiasts. Hussein had come to see me at the White House a few days earlier to condemn the Hamas bombings and was determined to rally the Arab world to the cause of peace. I really enjoyed the long flight with him. We had always gotten along well, but we had become closer friends and allies in the aftermath of Rabins assassination.
Leaders of twenty-nine nations from the Arab world, Europe, Asia, and North America, including Boris Yeltsin and UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, joined Peres and Arafat at Sharm el-Sheikh. President Mubarak and I co-chaired the meeting. We and our staffs had worked day and night to ensure that we would come out of the conference with a clear and concrete commitment to fighting terror and preserving the peace process.
For the first time, the Arab world stood with Israel in condemning terror and promising to work against it. The united front was essential to give Peres the support necessary to keep the peace process going and to reopen Gaza, so that the thousands of Palestinians who lived there but had jobs in Israel could go back to work; it was also necessary to give Arafat the backing to make an all-out effort against the terrorists, without which Israeli support for peace would collapse.
On the thirteenth, I flew to Tel Aviv to discuss specific steps the United States could take to help the Israeli military and police. In a meeting with Prime Minister Peres and his cabinet, I pledged $100 million in support and asked Warren Christopher and CIA director John Deutch to stay in Israel to accelerate the implementation of our joint efforts. In the press conference with Peres after our meeting, I acknowledged the difficulty of providing complete protection from young men who have bought some apocalyptic version of Islam and politics that causes them to strap their bodies with bombs in order to commit suicide and kill innocent children. But I said we could improve our capacity to prevent such events and to break up the networks of money and national support that made them possible. I also used the occasion to urge congressional action on the anti-terrorism legislation that had been held up for more than a year.
After the press conference and a question-and-answer session with young Israeli students in Tel Aviv, I met with the Likud Party leader, Benjamin Netanyahu. The Hamas bombings had made a Likud victory in the election more likely. I wanted Netanyahu to know that if he won, I would be his partner in the fight against terror, but I also wanted him to stick with the peace process.
I couldnt go home without making the trip up Mount Herzl to visit Rabins grave. I knelt, said a prayer, and, following Jewish custom, placed a small stone on Yitzhaks marble marker. I also took another small rock from the ground around the grave home with me as a reminder of my friend and the job he had left for me to do.
While I was preoccupied with trouble in the Middle East, China roiled the waters of the Taiwan Strait by test-firing three missiles close to Taiwan in an apparent attempt to discourage the Taiwanese politicians from pushing for independence in the election campaign then under way. Ever since President Carter normalized relations with mainland China, the United States had followed a consistent policy of recognizing one China while continuing to have good relations with Taiwan, and saying that the two sides should resolve their differences peacefully. We had never said whether we would or wouldnt come to the defense of Taiwan if it were attacked.
It seemed to me that the Middle East and Taiwan were polar opposite foreign policy problems. If nothing was done by political leaders in the Middle East, things would get worse. By contrast, I thought that if the politicians in China and Taiwan didnt do anything foolish, the problem would resolve itself over time. Taiwan was an economic powerhouse that had moved from dictatorship to democracy. It wanted no part of the mainlands bureaucratic communism. On the other hand, Taiwanese businesspeople were investing heavily in China, and there was travel back and forth. China liked the Taiwanese investment, but could not agree to give up its claim to sovereignty over the island; finding the right balance between economic pragmatism and aggressive nationalism was a constant challenge for Chinas leaders, especially during election season in Taiwan. I thought China had gone too far with the missile tests, and quickly, but without fanfare, I ordered a carrier group from the U.S. Navys Pacific fleet to sail to the Taiwan Strait. The crisis passed.
After a rocky start in February, Bob Dole won all the Republican primaries in March, wrapping up his partys nomination with a late-month victory in California. Even though Senator Phil Gramm, who ran to the right of Dole, would have been easier to beat, I was pulling for Dole. No election is a sure thing, and if I lost, I believed the country would be in more solid and more moderate hands with him.
While Dole was moving toward the nomination, I campaigned in several states, including an event in Maryland with General McCaffrey and Jesse Jackson to highlight our efforts to stem teen drug use, and a stop at Harman International, a manufacturer of premier speakers in Northridge, California, to announce that the economy had produced 8.4 million jobs in just over three years since I took office; I had promised 8 million in four years. Middle-class incomes were also beginning to rise. In the last two years, two-thirds of the new jobs created were in industries that paid above the minimum wage.
During the course of the month, we didnt reach agreement on the appropriations bills still outstanding, so I signed three more CRs and sent my budget for the next fiscal year up to Capitol Hill. Meanwhile, the House continued to follow the NRA, voting to repeal the assault weapons ban and to delete from the anti-terrorism legislation sections the gun lobby opposed.
At the end of the month, I initiated an effort to accelerate the approval of anti-cancer drugs by the Food and Drug Administration. Al Gore, Donna Shalala, and FDA administrator David Kessler had worked to cut the average approval process for new drugs from thirty-three months in 1987 to just under a year in 1994. The latest approval for an AIDS drug was issued in just forty-two days. It was important for the FDA to determine how drugs would affect the body before they were approved, but the process should be as speedy as safety permitted; lives were riding on it.
Finally, on March 29, eight months after Bob Rubin and I had first requested it, I signed a bill to increase the debt limit. The Damocles sword of default was no longer hanging over our budget negotiations.
On April 3, with springtime in full bloom in Washington, I was working in the Oval Office when I received word that the air force jet carrying Ron Brown and a U.S. trade and investment delegation he had organized to increase the economic benefits of peace to the Balkans had flown off course in bad weather and crashed into St. Johns Mountain near Dubrovnik, Croatia. Everyone on board was killed. Barely a week earlier, on their trip to Europe, Hillary and Chelsea had been on the same plane with some of the same crew members.
I was devastated. Ron was my friend and my best political advisor in the cabinet. As chairman of the DNC, he had brought the Democratic Party back from our loss in 1988 and played a pivotal role in uniting the Democrats for the 1992 election. In the aftermath of the 1994 congressional election losses, Ron had remained upbeat, lifting everyones spirits with his confident prediction that we were doing the right things on the economy and would win in 1996. He had revitalized the Commerce Department, modernizing the bureaucracy and using it to further not only our economic objectives but our larger interests in the Balkans and Northern Ireland. He had also worked hard to increase U.S. exports to ten emerging markets that were sure to loom large in the twenty-first century, including Poland, Turkey, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, and Indonesia. After he died I received a letter from a business executive who had worked with him, saying he was the finest Secretary of Commerce the United States ever had.
Hillary and I drove to Rons house to see his wife, Alma, and his children, Tracey and Michael, and Michaels wife, Tammy. They were part of our extended family, and I was relieved to see them already surrounded by loving friends and dealing with their loss by telling Ron Brown stories; there were many worth repeating from the long journey he had traveled from his boyhood home at the old Hotel Teresa in Harlem to the pinnacle of American politics and public service.
When we left Alma, we went downtown to the Commerce Department to talk to the employees, who had lost both their leader and their friends. One of those who died was a young man Hillary and I knew well. Adam Darling was the idealistic and spunky son of a Methodist minister who had entered our lives in 1992 when he made news by riding his bicycle across America to support the Clinton-Gore ticket.
A few days later, just two weeks before the first anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, Hillary and I planted a dogwood on the back lawn of the White House in memory of Ron and the other Americans who had died in Croatia. Then we flew to Oklahoma City to dedicate a new day-care center to replace the one lost in the bombing and to visit with the victims families who were there. At the University of Central Oklahoma, in nearby Edmond, I told the students that while we had apprehended more terrorists in the last three years than in any other previous time in our history, terror required us to do more: it was the threat of their generation just as nuclear war had been the threat for those of us who had grown up during the Cold War.
The next afternoon we made the sad trip to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where America brings home those who have died in service to the nation. After the caskets had been solemnly carried off the plane, I read the names of all who had perished on Ron Browns plane and reminded those in attendance that tomorrow was Easter, which for Christians marks the passage from loss and despair to hope and redemption. The Bible says, Though we weep through the night, joy will come in the morning. I took that verse as my theme for Rons eulogy on Ap-ril 10 at the National Cathedral, because for all of us who knew him, Ron was always our joy in the morning. I looked at his casket and said, I want to say to my friend just one last time: Thank you; if it werent for you, I wouldnt be here. We laid Ron to rest in Arlington National Cemetery; by then I was so exhausted and grief-stricken after the terrible ordeal that I could hardly stand. Chelsea, hiding her tears behind sunglasses, put her arm around me and I laid my head on her shoulder.
In the awful week between the crash and the funeral, I carried on with my duties as best I could. First, I signed the new farm bill. Just two weeks earlier, I had signed legislation that improved the farm credit system, to make more loans available to farmers at lower interest rates. Although I thought the new farm bill failed to provide an adequate safety net for family farms, I signed it anyway because if the current law expired without a replacement, farmers would have to plant their next crop under the completely inadequate support program put in place back in 1948. Also, the bill had many provisions I did support: greater flexibility for farmers in choosing what crops to plant without losing aid; money for economic development in rural communities; funds to help farmers prevent soil erosion, air and water pollution, and the loss of wetlands; and $200 million to begin work on one of my top environmental priorities, the restoration of Floridas Everglades, which had been damaged by extensive development and sugarcane growing.
On the ninth I signed legislation granting the President a line-item veto. Most governors had the authority and every President since Ulysses Grant in 1869 had sought it. The provision was also part of the Republican Contract with America, and I had endorsed it in my 1992 campaign. I was pleased that it had finally passed, and I thought its main utility would be in the leverage it gave future Presidents to keep wasteful items out of budgets in the first place. Signing the bill had one significant downside: Senator Robert Byrd, the most respected authority in Congress on the Constitution, considered it an unconstitutional infringement on the legislative branch by the executive. Byrd hated the line-item veto with a passion most people reserve for more personal injuries, and I dont think he ever forgave me for signing the bill.
On the day of Ron Browns memorial service, I vetoed a bill that banned a procedure its proponents called partial-birth abortion. The legislation as described by its anti-abortion advocates was highly popular; it prohibited a type of late-term abortion that seemed so heartless and cruel that many pro-choice citizens thought it should be banned. It was a bit more complicated than that. As far as I could determine, the procedure was rare, and it was predominantly performed on women whose doctors had told them it was necessary to preserve their own lives or health, often because they were carrying hydrocephalic babies who were certain to die before, during, or shortly after childbirth. The question was how badly damaged the mothers bodies would be if they carried their doomed babies to term, and whether doing so could render them unable to bear other children. In such cases, it was far from clear that banning the operation was pro-life.
I thought it should be a decision for the mother and her doctor. When I vetoed the bill, I stood with five women who had undergone partial-birth abortions. Three of them, a Catholic, an evangelical Christian, and an Orthodox Jew, were devoutly pro-life. One of them said she had prayed to God to take her life and spare her child, and all of them said they had consented to the late-term procedure only because their doctors had told them their babies could not have lived, and they wanted to be able to have other children.
If you consider how long it took me to explain why I vetoed the bill, you understand why it was terrible politics to do so. I vetoed it because no one had shown me evidence that the womens advocates had been untruthful in saying the procedure was necessary or that there was another alternative procedure that would have protected the mothers and their reproductive capacity. I had offered to sign a bill banning all late-term abortions except in cases where the life or health of the mother was at risk. Several states still permitted them, and such action could have prevented far more abortions than the partial-birth bill, but the anti-abortion forces in Congress killed it. They were looking for a way to erode Roe v. Wade; besides, there was no political advantage to a bill that even most pro-choice senators and representatives would support.
On April 12, I named Mickey Kantor secretary of commerce and his able deputy, Charlene Barshefsky, the new U.S. trade representative. I also named Frank Raines, vice chairman of Fannie Mae, the Federal National Mortgage Association, to be head of the Office of Management and Budget. Raines had the right combination of intellect, knowledge of the budget, and political skills to succeed at OMB, and was the first African-American ever to hold the job.
On April 14, Hillary and I boarded Air Force One for a busy one-week trip to Korea, Japan, and Russia. On South Koreas beautiful Cheju Island, President Kim Young-Sam and I proposed that we convene four-party talks with North Korea and China, the other signers of the forty-six-year-old armistice concluding the Korean War, in order to provide a framework within which North and South Korea could talk and, we hoped, make a final peace agreement. North Korea had been saying it wanted peace, and I believed we had to discover whether they were serious about it.
I flew from South Korea to Tokyo, where Prime Minister Hashimoto and I issued a declaration designed to reaffirm and modernize our security relationship, including greater cooperation in counterterrorism, which the Japanese were eager for after the sarin gas subway attack. The United States also pledged to maintain its troop presence of about 100,000 in Japan, Korea, and the rest of East Asia, while reducing our profile on the Japanese island of Okinawa, where criminal incidents involving U.S. military personnel had increased opposition to our presence there. America had a big economic stake in maintaining peace and stability in Asia. The Asians bought half our exports, and those purchases supported three million jobs.
Before leaving Japan, I visited U.S. forces from the Seventh Fleet aboard the USS Independence, attended an elegant state dinner hosted by the emperor and empress at the Imperial Palace, made a speech to the Japanese Diet, and enjoyed a lunch hosted by the prime minister that featured American-born sumo wrestlers and an outstanding Japanese jazz saxophonist.
To reinforce the importance of American-Japanese ties, I had named former vice president Walter Mondale as our ambassador. His prestige and skill at handling difficult problems sent an unmistakable message to the Japanese that they were important to the United States.
We flew on to St. Petersburg, Russia. On April 19, the first anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, Al Gore went to Oklahoma to speak for the administration, while I marked the occasion during a visit to the Russian military cemetery and prepared for a summit on nuclear safety with Boris Yeltsin and the G-7 leaders. Yeltsin had suggested the summit to highlight our commitment to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, START I and START II, and our joint efforts to secure and destroy nuclear weapons and materials. We also agreed to improve safety at nuclear power plants, end the dumping of nuclear materials in the oceans, and help Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma close the Chernobyl power plant within four years. Ten years after the tragic accident there, it was still running.
On the twenty-fourth, I was back home, but not out of foreign affairs. President Elias Hrawi of Lebanon was at the White House at a tense moment in the Middle East. In response to a barrage of Katyusha rockets fired into Israel from southern Lebanon by Hezbollah, Shimon Peres had ordered retaliatory attacks that killed many civilians. I had much sympathy for Lebanon; it was caught up in the conflict between Israel and Syria, and was full of terrorist operatives. I reaffirmed Americas steadfast support for UN Security Council Resolution 425, which calls for a truly independent Lebanon.
The news from the Middle East was not all bad. While I was meeting with the Lebanese president, Yasser Arafat persuaded the PLO executive council to amend its charter to recognize Israels right to exist, a policy shift very important to the Israelis. Two days later Warren Christopher and our Middle East envoy, Dennis Ross, secured an agreement among Israel, Lebanon, and Syria to end the Lebanese crisis and enable us to get back to the business of peace.
Shimon Peres came to see me at the end of the month to sign an anti-terrorism cooperative agreement that included $50 million for our joint efforts to reduce Israels vulnerability to the kind of suicide bombings that had recently caused such havoc and heartbreak.
Just a week earlier, I had signed the anti-terrorism legislation that the Congress had finally passed, a full year after Oklahoma City. In the end, the bill had won strong bipartisan support after the deletion of the provisions requiring traceable markers in black and smokeless powder and giving federal authorities the ability to conduct the kind of roving wiretaps on suspected terrorists that already could be used against organized crime figures. The bill would give us more tools and resources to prevent terrorist attacks, disrupt terrorist organizations, and increase controls over chemical and biological weapons. The Congress also agreed to let us put chemical taggants in plastic explosives and left open the option requiring them in other types of explosives not clearly prohibited by the law.
April was another interesting month in Whitewater World. On the second, Kenneth Starr appeared in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on behalf of four big tobacco companies that, at the same time, were engaged in a heated dispute with my administration over their marketing of cigarettes to teenagers and how much authority the FDA had to stop them. Starr didnt see any conflict of interest in keeping up a lucrative law practice in which he was paid large sums by my adversaries. USA Today had already revealed that in a court appearance defending the Wisconsin school voucher program, which I opposed, Starr had been paid not by the state but by the ultra-conservative Bradley Foundation. Starr was investigating the Resolution Trust Corporation for its inquiry into the conduct of our accuser, L. Jean Lewis, while the RTC was negotiating with his law firm to settle a suit the agency had filed against the firm for its negligence in its representation of a failed Denver savings-and-loan institution. And, of course, Starr had offered to go on television to defend Paula Joness lawsuit. Robert Fiske had been removed as the Whitewater independent counsel on the tenuous claim that his appointment by Janet Reno created the appearance of a conflict of interest. Now we had a prosecutor with real conflicts.
As I said, Starr and his allies in Congress and on the federal courts had created a new definition of conflict of interest: anyone who might remotely be favorable or, as in Fiskes case, even fair to Hillary and me was by definition conflicted; Ken Starrs blatant political and economic conflicts of interest and the extreme bias against me they reflected presented no problem at all to his assumption of unlimited and unaccountable authority to go after us and many other innocent people.
Starr and his allies curious view of what constituted a conflict of interest was never more apparent than in their treatment of Judge Henry Woods, a highly respected veteran jurist and former FBI agent who was assigned to preside over the trial of Governor Jim Guy Tucker and others whom Starr had indicted on federal charges completely unrelated to Whitewater. They involved the purchase of cable television stations. At first, neither Starr nor Tucker objected to Woods hearing the case; he was a Democrat but had never been close to the governor. Judge Woods dismissed the indictments after he determined that Starr had exceeded his authority under the independent counsel law because the charges had nothing to do with Whitewater.
Starr appealed Woodss decision to the Eighth Circuit Court and requested that the judge be thrown off the case for bias. The members of the appeals panel that heard the case were conservative Republicans appointed by Reagan and Bush. The lead judge, Pasco Bowman, rivaled David Sentelle in his right-wing politics. Without even giving Judge Woods an opportunity to defend himself, the court not only reversed his decision and reinstated the indictment but also kicked him off the case, citing not court records, but newspaper and magazine articles critical of him. One of the articles filled with false charges was written by Justice Jim Johnson in the right-wing Washington Times. After the ruling Woods pointed out that he was the only judge in American history to be removed from a case on the basis of press articles. When another enterprising defense lawyer appealed to the Eighth Circuit to get a trial judge removed and cited the Woods case as precedent, a different, less ideological panel refused the request and criticized the Woods decision, saying it was both unprecedented and unjustified. Of course it was, but there were different rules for Whitewater.
On April 17, even the New York Times couldnt take it any longer. Calling Starr defiantly blind to his appearance problems and indifferent to the special obligation he owes to the American people for his refusal to divest himself of his own political and financial baggage, the Times said Starr should step down. I couldnt deny that the grand old paper still had a conscience; they didnt want Hillary and me handed over to a lynch mob. The rest of the Whitewater media was silent on the subject.
On April 28, I gave four and a half hours of videotaped testimony in another Whitewater trial. In this one, Starr had indicted Jim and Susan McDougal and Jim Guy Tucker for misappropriating funds from Madison Guaranty and from the Small Business Administration. The loans were not repaid, but the prosecutors didnt dispute that the defendants intended to repay them; instead, they were charged with crimes arising from the fact that the borrowed money was used for purposes other than those described on the loan application papers.
The trial had nothing to do with Whitewater, Hillary, or me. I mention it here because David Hale dragged me into it. He had swindled the SBA out of millions of dollars and was cooperating with Starr in hopes of getting a reduced prison sentence. In his testimony at the trial, Hale repeated his charge that I had pressured him to make a $300,000 loan to the McDougals.
I testified that Hales account of his conversations with me was false and that I knew nothing of the dealings between the parties that had given rise to the charges. The defense attorneys believed that once the jury knew that Hale had lied about my role in his dealings with the McDougals and Tucker, his entire testimony would be compromised and the prosecutors case would collapse, and therefore the defendants themselves did not need to testify. There were two difficulties with the strategy. First, against all advice, Jim McDougal insisted on testifying in his own defense. He had done so in a previous trial arising out of the collapse of Madison Guaranty in 1990, and he had been acquitted. But the manic depression from which he suffered had progressed since then, and according to many observers, his rambling, erratic testimony damaged not just himself but also Susan and Jim Guy Tucker, who did not testify in their own defense, even after McDougal had unwittingly imperiled them.
The other problem was that the jury didnt have all the facts about David Hales connections to my political adversaries; some of them werent yet known, and others were ruled inadmissible by the judge. The jury didnt know about the money and support Hale had been receiving from a clandestine effort known as the Arkansas Project.
The Arkansas Project was funded by the ultra-conservative billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife from Pittsburgh, who had also pumped money into the American Spectator to fund its negative stories on Hillary and me. For example, the project had paid one former state trooper $10,000 for the ridiculous yarn accusing me of drug smuggling. Scaifes people also worked closely with allies of Newt Gingrich. When David Brock was working on the Spectator article featuring the two Arkansas state troopers who claimed they had procured women for me, Brock had received not only his salary from the magazine but also secret payments from Chicago businessman Peter Smith, the finance chairman of Newts political action committee.
Most of the Arkansas Projects efforts centered on David Hale. Working through Parker Dozhier, a former aide to Justice Jim Johnson, the project set up a haven for Hale at Dozhiers bait shop outside Hot Springs, where Dozhier gave Hale cash and the use of his car and fishing cabin while Hale was cooperating with Starr. During this time Hale also received free legal advice from Ted Olson, a friend of Starrs and a lawyer for the Arkansas Project and the American Spectator. Olson later became the solicitor general in President George W. Bushs Justice Department after a Senate hearing in which he was less than candid about his work for the Arkansas Project.
For whatever reasons, the jury convicted all three defendants on several of the charges against them. In his closing, the lead OIC prosecutor went out of his way to state that I was not on trial and that there had been no allegations of wrongdoing directed at me. But Starr now had what he really wanted: three people he could pressure to give him something damaging on us in order to avoid a jail sentence. Since there was nothing to tell, I didnt worry about it, though I regretted the cost to the taxpayers of Starrs far-flung efforts, and the mounting casualties among people in Arkansas whose principal sin was that they had known Hillary and me before I became President.
I also had serious doubts about the jury verdict. Jim McDougals mental illness had progressed to the point where he was probably not competent to stand trial, much less testify. And I felt that Susan McDougal and Jim Guy Tucker might have been convicted only because they were caught up in Jim McDougals downward mental spiral and David Hales desperate effort to save himself.
May was a relatively quiet month on the legislative front, which enabled me to do some campaigning in several states and to enjoy some of the ceremonial duties of the presidency, including the presentation of a Congressional Gold Medal to Billy Graham, the annual WETA-TV In Performance concert on the South Lawn, featuring Aaron Neville and Linda Ronstadt, and a state visit from the Greek president, Constantinos Stephanopoulos. When we were involved in high-stakes foreign and domestic problems, I often had a hard time relaxing enough to fully enjoy such things.
On May 15, I announced the latest round of community policing grants, which brought us to 43,000 of the 100,000 new police officers Id promised. That same day Bob Dole announced that he was resigning from the Senate to pursue his presidential campaign full-time. He called to tell me of his decision and I wished him well. It was the only sensible course for him; he didnt have time to campaign against me and be majority leader, and the positions the Senate and House Republicans were taking on the budget and other matters were hurting him in his presidential race.
The next day I called for a global ban on anti-personnel land mines. There were about 100 million land mines, mostly relics of past wars, just beneath the surface of the earth in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Many of them had been there for decades but were still lethal; twenty-five thousand people were killed or maimed by them every year. The damage they were doing, especially to children in places like Angola and Cambodia, was awful. There were a lot of them in Bosnia, too; the only casualty our troops had suffered came when an army sergeant was killed trying to pick up a land mine. I committed the United States to destroy four million of our own so-called dumb, or nonself-destructing, mines by 1999 and to help other nations with their demining efforts. Soon we would be financing more than half the cost of demining worldwide.
Unfortunately, what should have been a life-affirming event was marked by yet another tragedy, as I announced that our chief of naval operations, Admiral Mike Boorda, had died that afternoon of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Boorda was the first enlisted man ever to rise through the ranks to the navys highest position. His suicide was triggered by news stories alleging that he had worn two Vietnam battle ribbons on his uniform that he hadnt earned. The facts were in dispute and, in any case, should not have diminished his standing after a long career marked by devotion, stellar service, and evident courage. Like Vince Foster, he had never had his honor and integrity questioned before. Theres a big difference between being told that you are no good at your job and being told that youre just no good.
In mid-May, I signed the reauthorization of the Ryan White CARE Act, which funded medical and support services for people with HIV and AIDS, the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of twenty-five and forty-four. Now we had doubled the money available for AIDS care since 1993, and one-third of the 900,000 people with HIV were receiving services under the act.
That same week I also signed a bill known as Megans Law. Named after a little girl who had been killed by a sex offender, the legislation gave states the power to notify communities of the presence of violent sex offenders; several studies had shown they are rarely rehabilitated.
After the ceremony I flew to Missouri to campaign with Dick Gephardt. I really admired Gephardt, a hardworking, smart, kind man who looked twenty years younger than he was. Even though he was the Democratic leader in the House, he regularly came home on weekends to go into neighborhoods and knock on his constituents doors to talk with them. Often, Dick would give me a list of things he wanted me to do for his district. While lots of congressmen asked for things from time to time, the only other member who regularly provided me a typed to do list was Senator Ted Kennedy.
At the end of the month, I announced that the Veterans Administration would provide compensation to Vietnam veterans for a series of severe illnesses, including cancers, liver disorders, and Hodgkins disease, that were associated with exposure to Agent Orange, a cause long championed by Vietnam veterans, Senators John Kerry and John McCain, and by the late Admiral Bud Zumwalt.
On May 29, I stayed up until well past midnight watching the election returns in Israel. It was a real cliffhanger, as Bibi Netanyahu defeated Shimon Peres by less than 1 percent of the vote. Peres won the Arab vote by a large majority, but Netanyahu beat him badly enough among Jewish voters, who made up more than 90 percent of the electorate, to win. He did it by promising to be tougher on terrorism and slower with the peace process, and by using American-style television ads, including some attacking Peres that were made with the help of a Republican media advisor from New York. Peres resisted the pleas of his supporters to answer the ads until the very end of the campaign, and by then it was too late. I thought Shimon had done a good job as prime minister, and he had given his entire life to the state of Israel, but in 1996, by a narrow margin, Netanyahu proved to be a better politician. I was eager to determine whether and how he and I could work together to keep the peace process going.
In June, against the backdrop of the presidential campaign, I focused on two issues, education and the disturbing rash of black church burnings then sweeping the country. At the Princeton University commencement, I outlined a plan to open the doors of college to all Americans and to make at least two years of college as universally available as high school: a tax credit modeled on Georgias Hope Scholarships of $1,500 (the average cost of community college tuition) for two years of higher education; a tax deduction of $10,000 a year for all higher education beyond the first two years; a $1,000 scholarship to students in the top 5 percent of every high school graduating class; funds to increase college work-study positions from 700,000 to 1 million; and annual increases in Pell Grants for lower-income students.
In mid-month I went to Grover Cleveland Middle School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to support the communitys curfew program, one of several such efforts across the country requiring young people to be in their homes after a certain hour on school nights; they had led to a decline in crime and an improvement in student learning. I also endorsed the policy of requiring school uniforms for elementary and middle school students. Almost without exception, school districts that required uniforms experienced higher student attendance, less violence, and increased student learning. The distinctions between poor and wealthier students diminished as well.
Some of my critics ridiculed my emphasis on what they called small bore issues like curfews, uniforms, character education programs, and the V-chip, saying it was all politics, as well as a reflection of my inability to pass big programs in the Republican Congress. That was inaccurate. At the time, we were also implementing the large education and crime programs passed in my first two years, and I had another major education initiative before Congress. But I knew that federal money and laws could only give Americans the tools to make their lives better; the real changes still had to be effected by citizens at the grassroots level. Partly as a result of our promotion of school uniforms, more and more school districts embraced them, with positive results.
On June 12, I was in Greeleyville, South Carolina, to dedicate the new Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church, after the congregations old church had been burned. Less than a week earlier, a church in Charlotte, North Carolina, had become the thirtieth black church to be burned in the previous eighteen months. The whole black community in America was in an uproar and expected me to do something about it. I endorsed bipartisan legislation to make it easier for federal prosecutors to punish those who burn houses of worship, and pledged federal loan guarantees to support low-interest loans for the rebuilding efforts. The church burnings seemed to feed off one another, much as a rash of synagogue defacements had in 1992. They werent connected by a conspiracy, but by a contagion of the heart, a hatred of those who are different.
During this time, I also had to acknowledge a problem in my White House operation so severe that I felt it was the first issue of my administration that merited an independent investigation.
In early June, news reports revealed that three years earlier, in 1993, my White House Office of Personnel Security had obtained from the FBI hundreds of FBI file summaries on people who had been cleared for entry into the Bush and Reagan White Houses. The files had been obtained when the office was attempting to replace security files on current White House employees, since those files had been taken away by the departing Bush administration for deposit in the Bush Library. The White House had no business possessing confidential FBI reports on Republicans. I was outraged when I heard about it.
On June 9, Leon Panetta and I apologized for the incident. Within a week, Louis Freeh announced that the FBI had wrongly turned over 408 files to the White House. A few days later, Janet Reno asked Ken Starr to investigate the files case. In 2000, the OIC found that the incident had been simply a mistake. The White House had not engaged in any kind of political espionagethe Secret Service had given the Personnel Security Office an outdated list of White House employees, which included Republicans names, and this was the list that had been sent to the White House.
Late in June, at the annual Gore family conference in Nashville, I called for an expansion of the family leave law to allow people to take up to twenty-four hours a year, or three more workdays, to attend parent-teacher conferences at their childrens school or to take their children, or a spouse, or their parents for routine medical care.
The problem of balancing work and family was weighing heavily on me because of the toll it was taking on the White House. Bill Galston, a brilliant member of the Domestic Policy Council staff whom I had first met through the DLC and who was a continuous source of good ideas, had recently resigned to spend more time with his ten-year-old son: My boy keeps asking where I am. You can get somebody else to do this job; no one else can do that job. I have to go home.
My deputy chief of staff, Erskine Bowles, who had become a close friend and golfing partner and who was a superb manager and our best liaison to the business community, was going home, too. His wife, Crandall, a Wellesley classmate of Hillarys, ran a big textile company and had to travel a lot. Two of their kids were in college; their youngest was about to start his senior year in high school. Erskine told me he loved his job, but my boy should not be at home alone in his last year in high school. I dont want him ever to wonder whether he was the most important thing in the world to his parents. Im going home.
I respected and agreed with the decisions Bill and Erskine had made, and I was thankful that Hillary and I lived and worked in the White House so we had no long commutes to and from work, and at least one of us was almost always with Chelsea for dinner at night and when she got up in the morning. But the experience of my staff members brought home the fact that all too many Americans, in all kinds of jobs earning widely different incomes, went to work every day worried sick that they were neglecting their kids for their jobs. The United States provided less support for balancing work and family than any other wealthy nation, and I wanted to change that.
Unfortunately, the Republican majority in Congress were opposed to imposing any new requirements on employers. A young boy had recently approached me and offered to tell me a joke; as he said, Once you become President, its hard to find a joke you can tell in public. Here it is: Being President with this Congress is like standing in the middle of a cemetery. There are a lot of people under you, but nobody is listening. He was one smart kid.
At the end of the month, as I was preparing to leave for Lyon, France, for the annual G-7 conference, which would primarily be devoted to terrorism, nineteen air force personnel were killed and almost three hundred Americans and others were injured when terrorists drove a truck containing a powerful bomb to a security barrier just outside Khobar Towers, a military housing complex in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. When an American patrol approached the truck, two of its occupants fled and the bomb exploded. I sent an FBI team of more than forty investigators and forensic experts to work with Saudi authorities. King Fahd called me to express his condolences and solidarity, and to pledge the commitment of his government to apprehend and punish the men who had killed our airmen. Eventually, Saudi Arabia would execute the people it determined to be responsible for the attack.
The Saudis had allowed us to establish the base after the Gulf War in the hope that having U.S. forces pre-positioned in the Gulf would deter further aggression by Saddam Hussein and allow us to respond quickly if deterrence was unsuccessful. It achieved that objective, but the base also made our forces more vulnerable to terrorists in the region. The security provisions at Khobar were plainly inadequate; the truck had been able to get too close to the building because our people and the Saudis had underestimated the ability of terrorists to build a bomb that powerful. I appointed General Wayne Downing, former commander in chief of the U.S. Special Operations Command, head of a commission to recommend what steps we should take to make our troops stationed overseas more secure.
As we prepared for the G-7 summit, I asked my staff to draw up recommended steps that the international community could take to work together more effectively against global terrorism. At Lyon, the leaders agreed to more than forty of them, including speeding up the extradition and prosecution of terrorists, doing more to seize the resources that funded their violence, improving our internal defenses, and limiting terrorists access to high-tech communications equipment as much as possible.
By 1996, my administration had settled on a strategy for fighting terror that focused on preventing serious incidents, capturing and punishing terrorists through international cooperation, interrupting the flow of money and communications to terrorist organizations, cutting off access to weapons of mass destruction, and isolating and imposing sanctions on nations that support terrorism. As President Reagans bombing raid on Libya in 1986 and the attack I ordered on Iraqs intelligence headquarters in 1993 demonstrated, American power could deter states that were directly involved in terrorist acts against us; neither nation attempted another one. However, it was more difficult to get at non-state terrorist organizations; the military and economic pressures that were effective against nations were not as easily applied to them.
The strategy had brought many successeswe had prevented several planned terrorist attacks, including attempts to bomb the Holland and Lincoln tunnels in New York and to blow up several planes flying from the Philippines to the United States, and had brought terrorists back to the United States from all over the world to stand trial. On the other hand, terror is more than a form of international organized crime; because of their stated political objectives, terrorist groups often enjoy both state sponsorship and popular support. Moreover, getting to the bottom of the networks could raise difficult and dangerous questions, as the Khobar Towers investigation did when the possibility of Irans support for the terrorists was raised. Even if we had a good defense against attacks, would law enforcement be a sufficient offensive strategy against terrorists? If not, would greater reliance on military options work? In the middle of 1996, it was clear that we didnt have all the answers on how to deal with attacks on Americans in this country and overseas, and that the problem would be with us for years to come.
The summer began with good news at home and abroad. Boris Yeltsin had been forced into a runoff on July 3 against the ultra-nationalist Gennady Zyuganov. The first election was close, but Boris won the runoff handily, after a vigorous campaign across all his countrys eleven time zones that included American-style campaign events and TV ads. The election was a ratification of Yeltsins leadership to secure democracy, modernize the economy, and reach out to the West. Russia still had a number of problems, but I believed it was moving in the right direction.
Things were moving in the right direction in America, too, as the unemployment rate dropped to 5.3 percent, with 10 million new jobs, economic growth at 4.2 percent for the quarter, and a deficit that had dropped to less than half what it was when I took office. Wages were also rising. The next day the stock market fell 115 points, prompting me to tease Bob Rubin again about how much Wall Street hated it when average Americans did well. Actually, it was more complicated than that. The market is about the future; when things are really good, investors tend to think theyll get worse. Soon they changed their minds, and the market resumed its upward movement.
On July 17, TWA Flight 800 exploded off Long Island, killing some 230 people. At the time everyone assumedwrongly, as it turned outthat this was a terrorist act; there was even speculation that the plane had been downed by a rocket fired from a boat in Long Island Sound. While I cautioned against jumping to conclusions, it was clear that we had to do more to strengthen aviation safety.
Hillary and I went to Jamaica, New York, to meet with the victims families, and I announced new measures to increase air travel security. We had been working on the problem since 1993, with a proposal to modernize the air traffic control system; add more than 450 safety inspectors and the issuance of uniform safety standards; and test new high-tech explosive detection machines. Now I said we would hand-search more luggage and screen more bags on domestic and international flights, and would require preflight inspections of every plane cargo hold and cabin before every flight. I also asked Al Gore to head a commission to review aviation safety and security and the air traffic control system, and report back in forty-five days.
Just ten days after the crash, we had an undisputed terrorist incident when a pipe bomb exploded at the Olympics in Atlanta, killing two people. Hillary and I had gone to the opening ceremonies, which featured Muhammad Ali lighting the Olympic flame. Hillary and Chelsea loved the Olympics and spent more time attending the events than I did, but I was able to visit with the American team, as well as with athletes from several other nations. Irish, Croatian, and Palestinian athletes thanked me for Americas efforts to bring peace to their homelands. North and South Korean Olympians sat at adjoining tables in the dining room and talked to each other. The Olympics symbolized the world at its best, bringing people together across old divisions. The pipe bomb planted by a homegrown terrorist who had still not been apprehended was a reminder of how vulnerable the forces of openness and cooperation were to those who rejected the values and rules required to build an integrated global community.
On August 5, at George Washington University, I gave an extended analysis of how terrorism would affect our future, saying that it had become an equal-opportunity destroyer, with no respect for borders. I outlined the steps we were taking to combat the enemy of our generation and said we would prevail if we maintained our confidence and our leadership as the worlds indispensable force for peace and freedom.
The rest of August was taken up with bill signings, the party conventions, and a positive development in Whitewater World. With the election approaching and the budget fight at least temporarily resolved, members of Congress in both parties were eager to give the American people evidence of bipartisan progress. As a result, they produced a raft of progressive legislation the White House had been fighting for. I signed the Food Quality Protection Act, to increase the safeguarding of vegetables, fruits, and grains from harmful pesticides; the Safe Drinking Water Act, to reduce pollution and provide $10 billion in loans to upgrade municipal water systems in the wake of deaths and illnesses caused by the contamination of drinking water by cryptosporidium; and the bill to increase the minimum wage by 90 cents an hour, give small businesses tax relief for new investments in equipment and for hiring new employees, make it easier for small businesses to offer their employees pension plans with a new 401(k) plan, and provide a new incentive that was very important to Hillary, a $5,000 tax credit for adopting a child, with $6,000 for a child with special needs.
In the last week of the month, I signed the Kennedy-Kassebaum bill, which helped millions of people by allowing them to take their health insurance from job to job while prohibiting insurance companies from denying anyone coverage because of a preexisting health problem. I also announced the Food and Drug Administrations final rule to protect young people from the dangers of tobacco. It required young people to prove their age with an ID card before buying cigarettes and significantly restricted advertising and vending machine placement by tobacco companies. We had made some enemies in the tobacco industry, but I thought the effort would save some lives.
On August 22, I signed a landmark welfare reform bill, which had passed with bipartisan majorities of more than 70 percent in both houses. Unlike the two bills I had vetoed, the new legislation retained the federal guarantee of medical care and food aid, increased federal child-care assistance by 40 percent to $14 billion, contained the measures I wanted for tougher child-support enforcement, and gave states the ability to convert monthly welfare payments into wage subsidies as an incentive for employers to hire welfare recipients.
Most advocates for the poor and for legal immigration, and several people in my cabinet, still opposed the bill and wanted me to veto it because it ended the federal guarantee of a fixed monthly benefit to welfare recipients, had a five-year lifetime limit on welfare benefits, cut overall spending on the food stamp program, and denied food stamps and medical care to low-income legal immigrants. I agreed with the last two objections; the hit on legal immigrants was particularly harsh and, I thought, unjustifiable. Shortly after I signed the bill, two high officials in the Department of Health and Human Services, Mary Jo Bane and Peter Edelman, resigned in protest. When they left, I praised them for their service and for following their convictions.
I decided to sign the legislation because I thought it was the best chance America would have for a long time to change the incentives in the welfare system from dependence to empowerment through work. In order to maximize the chances of success, I asked Eli Segal, who had done such a good job in setting up AmeriCorps, to organize a Welfare to Work Partnership to enlist employers who would commit to hiring welfare recipients. Eventually, twenty thousand companies in the partnership would hire more than one million people off welfare.
At the signing ceremony, several former welfare recipients spoke up for the bill. One of them was Lillie Hardin, the Arkansas woman who had so impressed my fellow governors ten years earlier when she said the best thing about leaving welfare for work was that when my boy goes to school and they ask him, What does your mama do for a living? he can give an answer. Over the next four years, the results of welfare reform would prove Lillie Hardin right. By the time I left office, the welfare rolls had been reduced from 14.1 million to 5.8 million, a 60 percent decrease; and child poverty was down 25 percent to its lowest point since 1979.
Signing the welfare reform bill was one of the most important decisions of my presidency. I had spent most of my career trying to move people from welfare to work, and ending welfare as we know it had been a central promise of my 1992 campaign. Though we had pursued welfare reforms through granting waivers from the existing system to most states, America needed legislation that changed the emphasis of assistance to the poor from dependence on welfare checks to independence through work.
The Republicans held their convention in San Diego in mid-month, nominating Bob Dole and his choice for vice president, former New York congressman, secretary of housing and urban development, and Buffalo Bills star quarterback Jack Kemp. Kemp was an interesting man, a free-market conservative with a genuine commitment to bringing economic opportunity to poor people and an openness to new ideas from all quarters, and I thought he would be an asset to Doles campaign.
The Republicans didnt make the mistake of opening with harsh right-wing rhetoric as they had done at their convention in 1992. Featuring Colin Powell, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Representative Susan Molinari, and Senator John McCain, they presented a more moderate, positive, and forward-looking image to the American people. Elizabeth Dole gave an impressive and effective nominating speech for her husband, leaving the podium to speak in a conversational way as she walked among the delegates. Dole gave a good speech, too, focusing on his lifetime of duty, his tax cuts, and his advocacy of traditional American values. He derided me for being part of a baby boomer elite who never grew up, never did anything real, never sacrificed, never suffered, and never learned. He promised to build a bridge back to a better past of tranquillity, faith, and confidence in action. Dole also took a swipe at Hillary for the theme of her book, that it takes a village to raise a child, saying that Republicans thought parents raised children while Democrats thought government should do the job. Doles attack wasnt too harsh, and in a couple of weeks Hillary and I would have our chances to answer him.
While the Republicans were in San Diego, our family went to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for the second time. This time I was finishing up a short book, Between Hope and History, which highlighted the policies of my first term through stories of individual Americans who had been positively affected by them, and articulated where I wanted to take our country in the next four years.
On August 12, we went back to Yellowstone National Park for the only public business of our vacation, as I signed an agreement that stopped a planned gold mine on property adjacent to the park. The agreement was the welcome result of cooperative efforts by the mining company, citizens groups, and members of Congress and the White House environmental team, headed by Katie McGinty.
On the eighteenth, Hillary, Chelsea, and I were in New York City for a big party celebrating my fiftieth birthday at Radio City Music Hall. Afterward, I was saddened to learn that the plane carrying the equipment back to Washington from our Wyoming stay had crashed, killing all nine people on board.
The next day we joined Al and Tipper Gore in Tennessee, where we celebrated the birthday Tipper and I shared by helping to rebuild two rural churches, one white and one black, that had been burned in the recent rash of church burnings.
In the last week of the month, the nations attention turned to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. By then our campaign, chaired by Peter Knight, was well organized, and it was working closely with the White House through Doug Sosnick and Harold Ickes, who had overseen our convention organization. I was excited about going to Chicago because it was Hillarys hometown, had played a pivotal role in my 1992 victory, and had made good use of many of my most important initiatives in education, economic development, and crime control.
On August 25, in Huntington, West Virginia, Chelsea and I began a four-day train trip to Chicago. Hillary had gone ahead of us to be there when the convention opened. We had leased a wonderful old train we dubbed the 21st Century Express for the trip through Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana to Chicago. We made fifteen stops along the way and slowed down as we passed through small towns so that I could wave to the people who had gathered by the tracks. I could feel from the excitement of the crowds that the train was connecting with the American people just as the bus tours had in 1992, and I could see from the expressions on peoples faces that they felt much better about the condition of the country and about their own lives. When we stopped in Wyandotte, Michigan, for an education event, two children introduced me by reading The Little Engine That Could. The book and their enthusiastic reading captured the return of Americas innate optimism and self-confidence.
On many stops we picked up friends, supporters, and local officials who wanted to be aboard for the next leg of the trip. I especially enjoyed sharing the leisurely travel with Chelsea, as we stood on the caboose, waved to the crowds, and talked about everything under the sun. Our relationship was as close as ever, but she was changing, growing into a mature young woman with her own opinions and interests. More and more, I found myself amazed at how she saw the world.
Our convention opened on the twenty-sixth, with appearances by Jim and Sarah Brady, who appreciated the support the Democrats had given to the Brady bill, and Christopher Reeve, the actor who, after being paralyzed in a fall from a horse, had inspired the nation with his courageous fight to recover and his advocacy for more research into spinal cord injuries.
On the day of my speech, our campaign was rocked by press reports that Dick Morris had frequently been with a prostitute in his hotel room when he was in Washington working for me. Dick resigned from the campaign, and I put out a statement saying that he was my friend and a superb political strategist who had done invaluable work over the past two years. I regretted his departure, but he was obviously under enormous stress and he needed time to work through his problems. I knew Dick was resilient and felt sure he would be back in the political arena before long.
My acceptance speech was easy to give because of the record: the lowest combined rate of unemployment and inflation in twenty-eight years; 10 million new jobs; 10 million people getting the minimum wage increase; 25 million Americans benefiting from the Kennedy-Kassebaum bill; 15 million working Americans with a tax cut; 12 million taking advantage of the family leave law; 10 million students saving money through the Direct Student Loan Program; 40 million workers with more pension security.
I stated that we were going in the right direction and, referring to Bob Doles speech in San Diego, said, with all respect, we do not need to build a bridge to the past; we need to build a bridge to the future . . . let us resolve to build that bridge to the twenty-first century. The Bridge to the 21st Century became the theme of the campaign and the next four years.
As good as the record was, I knew that all elections are about the future, so I outlined my agenda: higher school standards and universal access to college; a balanced budget that protected health care, education, and the environment; targeted tax cuts to support home ownership, long-term care, college education, and child-rearing; more jobs for people on welfare and more investment in poor urban and rural areas; and some new initiatives to fight crime and drugs and clean the environment.
I knew that if the American people saw the election as a choice between building a bridge to the past and building a bridge to the future, we would win. Bob Dole had unintentionally given me the central message of the 1996 campaign. On the day after the convention closed, Al, Tipper, Hillary, and I kicked off my last campaign with a bus tour, beginning in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, with Governor Mel Carnahan, who had been with me since early 1992, going through southern Illinois and western Kentucky, and winding up in Memphis, after several stops in Tennessee, with former governor Ned Ray McWherter, a huge bear of a man who was the only person I ever heard call the vice president Albert. Ned Ray was worth so many votes that I didnt care what he called Al, or me for that matter.
In August, Kenneth Starr lost his first big case, one that reflected just how desperate he and his staff were to pin something on me. Starr had indicted the two owners of the Perry County Bank, lawyer Herby Branscum Jr. and accountant Rob Hill, on charges arising out of my 1990 gubernatorial campaign.
The indictment stated that Branscum and Hill had taken about $13,000 from their own bank for legal and accounting services they did not perform in order to reimburse themselves for political contributions they had made, and that they had instructed the man who ran the bank for them not to report two cash withdrawals of more than $10,000 each from my campaign account to the Internal Revenue Service as required by federal law.
The indictment also named Bruce Lindsey, who had served as my campaign treasurer, as an unindicted co-conspirator, alleging that when Bruce withdrew the money to pay for our election day get out the vote activities, he had urged the bankers not to file the required report. Starrs people had threatened Bruce with an indictment, but he called their bluff; there was nothing wrong with our contributions or the way they had been spent, and Bruce had no motive for asking the bank not to make the required filing on it: we would be making all the information public in three weeks as required by Arkansas state election law. Since the contributions and their expenditure were legal and our public report was accurate, Starrs people knew Bruce hadnt committed a crime, so they settled for smearing him as an unindicted co-conspirator.
The charges against Branscum and Hill were absurd. First, they wholly owned the bank; if they did not impair the banks liquidity, they could take money out of it as long as they paid income taxes on it, and there was no suggestion that they had not done so in this case. As to the second charge, the law that requires a bank to report cash deposits or withdrawals of $10,000 or more is a good one; it permits the government to follow large amounts of dirty money from criminal enterprises like money laundering or drug dealing. The reports filed with the government are checked every three to six months but are not open to the public. As of 1996, there had been two hundred prosecutions for failure to file the reports required by the act, but only twenty of them were for failures to report withdrawals. All of those involved money that was tainted by an illegal enterprise. Until Starr came along, no one had ever been indicted for a negligent failure to report deposits or withdrawals of legitimate funds.
Our campaign money was undisputably clean money that had been withdrawn at the end of the campaign to pay for our efforts to call voters and offer rides to the polls on election day. We had filed the required public report within three weeks after the election, detailing how much money we had spent and how we had spent it. Branscum, Hill, and Lindsey simply had no motive to hide from the government a legal cash withdrawal that would be a matter of public record in less than a month.
That didnt stop Hickman Ewing, Starrs deputy in Arkansas, who was just as obsessed as Starr with going after us and not nearly as good at disguising it. He threatened to send Neal Ainley, who ran the bank for Branscum and Hill and who had been responsible for filing the reports, to prison unless he testified that Branscum, Hill, and Lindsey had ordered him not to file it, even though Ainley had earlier denied any wrongdoing by them. The poor man was a little fish caught in a powerful net; he changed his story. Initially charged with five felonies, Ainley was now allowed to plead to two misdemeanors.
As in the earlier trial of the McDougals and Tucker, I testified on videotape at the request of the defendants. Though I had not been involved in the withdrawals, I was able to say I had not appointed Branscum and Hill to the two state boards on which they served in return for their contributions to my campaign.
After a vigorous defense, Branscum and Hill were acquitted on the reporting charges, and the jury deadlocked on the question of whether they had falsely reported the purposes for which they had withdrawn funds from their own bank. I was relieved that Herby, Rob, and Bruce Lindsey were cleared, but sickened by the abuse of prosecutorial power, the enormous legal costs my friends had been forced to bear, and the staggering costs to the taxpayers of a prosecution over the $13,000 of reimbursements the defendants got from their own bank and the failure to file federal reports on two legal and publicly reported withdrawals of campaign funds.
There were noneconomic costs as well: FBI agents working for Starr went to Rob Hills teenage sons school and dragged him out of class for questioning. They could have talked to him after school or during lunch or on the weekend. Instead, they humiliated the young man in hopes of pressuring his father into telling them something that would damage me, whether it was true or not.
After the trial, several jurors burned the independent counsels office with comments like Its a waste of money. . . . I would hate to see the government waste more money on Whitewater; If theyre going to spend my tax dollars, they need stronger evidence; If anyone is untouchable it is OIC [Office of Independent Counsel]. One juror who identified himself as an anti-Clinton person said, I would have loved for them to have a little more evidence, but they didnt. Even conservative Republicans who lived in the real world, as opposed to Whitewater World, knew the independent counsel had gone too far.
As bad as Starrs treatment of Branscum and Hill was, it was a tea party compared with what he was about to do to Susan McDougal. On August 20, Susan was sentenced to two years in prison. Starrs people had offered to keep her out of jail if she gave them information implicating Hillary or me in some illegal activity. On the day she was sentenced, when Susan repeated what she had said from the beginningthat she knew of nothing either of us had done wrongshe was served with a subpoena to appear before the grand jury. She appeared, but refused to answer the prosecutors questions, fearing that they would charge her with perjury because she wouldnt lie and tell them what they wanted to hear. Judge Susan Webber Wright found her in contempt of court and sent her to jail for an indefinite period until she agreed to cooperate with the special prosecutor. She would remain confined for eighteen months, often under miserable conditions.
September opened with the campaign on a roll. Our convention had been a success, and Dole was tarred by his association with Gingrich and the government shutdown. Even more important, the country was in good shape, and the voters no longer saw issues like crime, welfare, fiscal responsibility, foreign policy, and defense as the exclusive province of the Republican Party. Polls showed that my job and personal approval ratings were around 60 percent, with the same percentage of people saying they felt comfortable with me in the White House.
On the other hand, I expected to be weaker in some parts of Amer-ica because of my positions on the cultural issuesguns, gays, and abortionand, at least in North Carolina and Kentucky, on tobacco. Also, it seemed certain that Ross Perot would receive far fewer votes than he had in 1992, making it harder for me to carry a couple of states where he had taken more votes from President Bush than from me. Still, on balance, I was in much better shape this time around. All through September the campaign drew large, enthusiastic crowds, or October crowds, as I called them, beginning with nearly thirty thousand people at a Labor Day picnic in De Pere, Wisconsin, near Green Bay.
Since presidential elections are decided by electoral votes, I wanted to use our momentum to bring a couple of new states into our column and to force Senator Dole to spend time and money in states a Republican could normally take for granted. Dole wanted to do the same thing to me by contesting California, where I was opposing a popular ballot initiative to end affirmative action in college admissions and where he had helped himself by holding the GOP convention in San Diego.
My main target was Florida. If I could win there and hold most of the states I had won in 92, the election was over. I had worked hard in Florida for four years: helping the state recover from Hurricane Andrew; holding the Summit of the Americas there; announcing the relocation of the U.S. militarys Southern Command from Panama to Miami; working to restore the Everglades; and even making inroads into the Cuban-American community, which normally had given Republicans more than 80 percent of its votes in presidential elections ever since the Bay of Pigs. I was also blessed with a good organization in Florida and the strong support of Governor Lawton Chiles, who had great rapport with voters in the more conservative areas of central and northern Florida. Those people liked Lawton in part because he hit back when attacked. As he said, No redneck wants a dog that wont bite. In early September, Lawton went with me to north Florida to campaign and to honor retiring Congressman Pete Peterson, who had spent six and a half years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and whom I had recently nominated to be our first ambassador there since the end of the war.
I spent most of the rest of the month in states Id won in 92. On a western swing, I also campaigned in Arizona, a state that hadnt voted for a Democrat for President since 1948, but that I thought I could carry because of its growing Hispanic population and the discomfort of many of the states moderate and traditional conservative voters with the more extreme politics of the Republican Congress.
On the sixteenth, I received the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police. The FOP usually endorsed Republicans for President, but our White House had worked with them for four years to put more police on the streets, take guns out of the hands of criminals, and ban cop-killer bullets; they wanted four more years of that kind of cooperation.
Two days later, I announced one of the most important environmental accomplishments of my entire eight years in office, the establishment of the 1.7 millionacre Grand StaircaseEscalante National Monument in the remote and beautiful red rock area of southern Utah, which contains fossils of dinosaurs and the remains of the ancient Anasazi Indian civilization. I had the authority to do so under the Antiquities Act of 1906, which allows the President to protect federal lands of extraordinary cultural, historic, and scientific value. I made the announcement with Al Gore on the edge of the Grand Canyon, which Theodore Roosevelt had first protected under the Antiquities Act. My action was necessary to stop a large coal mine that would have fundamentally changed the character of the area. Most of the Utah officials and many who wanted the mining operations economic boost were against it, but the land was priceless, and I thought the monument designation would bring in tourism income that over time would more than offset the loss of the mine.
Apart from the size and exuberance of the crowds, the September events offered anecdotal evidence that things were going our way. After a rally in Longview, Texas, as I was shaking hands in the crowd, I met a single mother of two who had left welfare to serve in AmeriCorps and was using its scholarship money to go to Kilgore Junior College; another woman who had used the family leave law when her husband became ill with cancer; and a Vietnam veteran who was grateful for the health and disability benefits for children born with spina bifida as a result of their fathers exposure to Agent Orange during the war. He had his twelve-year-old daughter with him. The child had spina bifida and had already endured a dozen operations in her short life.
The rest of the world didnt stop for our campaign. In the first week of September, Saddam Hussein was making trouble again, assaulting and occupying the town of Irbil in the Kurdish area of northern Iraq, in violation of restrictions imposed on him at the end of the Gulf War. Two Kurdish factions had been vying for control of the area; after one of them decided to support Saddam, he had attacked the other. I ordered bomb and missile attacks on the Iraqi forces and they withdrew.
On the twenty-fourth, I went to New York for the opening session of the United Nations, where I was the first of many world leaders to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, using the pen with which President Kennedy had signed the Limited Test Ban Treaty thirty-three years earlier. In my remarks, I outlined a broader agenda to reduce the threat of weapons of mass destruction, urging the UN members to bring the Chemical Weapons Convention into force, strengthen the compliance provisions of the Biological Weapons Convention, freeze the production of fissile materials for use in nuclear weapons, and ban the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of anti-personnel land mines.
While the UN was discussing nonproliferation, the Middle East exploded again. The Israelis had opened a tunnel that ran under the Temple Mount in Jerusalems Old City. The ruins of the Temples of Solomon and Herod were under the mount, atop which stood the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, two of the holiest sites to Muslims. Since the Israelis took East Jerusalem in the 1967 war, the Temple Mount, called Haram al-Sharif by the Arabs, had been under the control of Muslim officials; when the tunnel was opened, the Palestinians saw it as a threat to their religious and political interests, and riots and shooting broke out. After three days, more than sixty people had died, with many more wounded. I called on both sides to end the violence and get back to implementing the peace agreement, while Warren Christopher burned up the phone lines with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat to stop the bloodshed. On Christophers advice, I invited Netanyahu and Arafat to the White House to talk things over.
I ended the month by signing a health-care appropriations bill that ended so-called drive-by deliveries, by guaranteeing a minimum of forty-eight hours of coverage to mothers and newborns; provided medical assistance to children of Vietnam veterans who were born with spina bifida, as I mentioned earlier; and required the same annual and lifetime coverage limits in health insurance policies for mental and physical illness. The breakthrough in mental-health care was a tribute not only to the work of mental-health advocacy groups but also to the personal efforts of Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico, Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, and Tipper Gore, whom I had named my official advisor on mental-health policy.
I spent the first two days of October with Netanyahu, Arafat, and King Hussein, who had agreed to join us to try to get the peace process back on track. At the end of our talks, Arafat and Netanyahu asked me to field all the press questions. I said that while we had not yet resolved the tunnel issue, both sides had agreed to begin immediate talks in the region with a view toward ending the violence and returning to the peace process. In our meeting, Netanyahu had reaffirmed his commitment to implement the agreements made before he took office, including the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Hebron. Not long afterward, the tunnel was sealed again, consistent with the commitment both parties had made to do nothing to change the status quo in Jerusalem until it was negotiated.
On the third, I was back on the campaign trail again, stopping for a rally in Buffalo, New York, a city that had always been good to me, on the way to Chautauqua, to prepare for my first presidential debate with Bob Dole in Hartford, Connecticut, on October 6. Our whole team was there, including my media advisor, Michael Sheehan. George Mitchell came in to play Bob Dole in the mock debates. He cleaned my clock at first, but I got better with practice. In between sessions, Erskine Bowles and I got in a round of golf. My golf game was getting better. In June, I had finally scored below 80 for the first time, but I still couldnt beat Erskine when his game was on.
The debate itself turned out to be civilized, and educational for people who were interested in our different philosophies of government and positions on the issues. There were a few fireworks when Dole hit me for scaring seniors with my ads criticizing the Medicare cuts in the Republican budget I had vetoed, and he repeated his claim from his convention speech that I had filled the administration with young elitists who never grew up, never did anything real, never sacrificed, never suffered, and never learned and who wanted to fund with your earnings their dubious and self-serving schemes. I shot back that one of the young elitists who worked for me in the White House had grown up in a house trailer, and as for the charge that I was too liberal, thats what their party always drags out when they get in a tight race. Its sort of their golden oldie . . . I just dont think that dog will hunt anymore.
The second debate was scheduled ten days later in San Diego. In the interim, Hillary, Al, Tipper, and I visited the massive AIDS quilt that covered the Mall in Washington, with separate squares in honor of people who had died; two of those commemorated were friends of Hillarys and mine. I was gratified that the death rate from AIDS was coming down, and I was determined to keep pushing for more research to develop lifesaving medicines.
Mickey Kantor had negotiated a town hall format for the San Diego debate. On the sixteenth, citizens at the University of San Diego asked good questions, and Dole and I answered them without hitting each other until the end. In his closing statement, Dole appealed to his base, reminding people that I opposed term limits as well as constitutional amendments to balance the budget and to protect the American flag, and forbid restrictions on voluntary school prayer. I closed with a summary of my proposals for the next four years. At least people knew what the choice was.
With two weeks to go until the election, the polls showed me with a twenty-point lead, and 55 percent of the vote. I wish the survey hadnt been released; it took some of the life out of our campaign when our supporters thought the election was over. I kept working hard, concentrating on our pickup targets, Arizona and Florida, and the states wed won before, including three of those I was most worried about, Nevada, Colorado, and Georgia. On October 25, we had a great rally in Atlanta, where my longtime friend Max Cleland was in a tight race for the U.S. Senate. Sam Nunn gave a particularly effective argument for my reelection, and I left the state thinking we might have a chance.
On November 1, I headed into the homestretch of the campaign with a morning rally at Santa Barbara City College. On a warm, sunny day, a large crowd gathered on the campus hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Santa Barbara was a good place to end the California campaign, a once solidly Republican area that had been trending our way.
From Santa Barbara, I flew on to Las Cruces, New Mexico, then to El Paso and the biggest crowd of the campaign, as more than forty thousand people came out to the airport to show their support, and finally to San Antonio and the traditional rally at the Alamo. I knew we couldnt win Texas, but I wanted to honor the loyalty of the states Democrats, especially the Hispanics who had stuck with me.
As we headed into the last three days of the campaign, I had a choice to make. Senate candidates from several relatively small states were asking me to campaign for them. Mark Penn said that if I spent the last days of the campaign doing that, instead of going to the larger states, I might not get a majority of the vote, for several reasons. First, our campaigns momentum had been slowed in the last two weeks by allegations that the DNC had received several hundred thousand dollars in illegal campaign contributions from Asians, including people I had known when I was governor. When I heard about it, I was angry; my finance chair, Terry McAuliffe, had made sure the contributions to our campaign were reviewed scrupulously, and the DNC was also supposed to have a vetting operation to reject questionable contributions. There were clearly problems with the DNC clearance procedures. All I could say was that any unlawful contributions should be returned immediately. Regardless, the controversy seemed certain to hurt us on election day. Second, Ralph Nader was running on the Green Party ticket and would take some votes away from me on the left. Third, Ross Perot, who had entered the campaign in October, too late to get into the debates, wasnt doing nearly as well as he had in 1992, but he was ending this campaign as he had the previous one, with vicious attacks on me. He said that I would be totally occupied for the next two years in staying out of jail, and called me a draft dodger who was tainted by ethical lapses, corrupt campaign financing, and a lax attitude toward drug use. Finally, voter turnout was likely to be well below that of 1992, because the voters had been told for several weeks that the campaign was over.
Mark Penn advised me that if I wanted to win a majority of the votes, I needed to fly into the large media markets in the big states and ask people to go to the polls. Otherwise, he said, with the outcome not in doubt, lower-income Democrats were far less likely than more affluent or ideologically driven Republicans to vote. I was already scheduled to be in Florida and New Jersey, and on Marks advice we added a stop in Cleveland. Beyond that, I scheduled appearances in the Senate race states: Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Iowa, and South Dakota. In the presidential race, only Kentucky was in doubt; I was well ahead in all the others except South Dakota, where I expected the Republicans to come home to Dole at the end. I decided to go to these states because I thought it was worth two or three points off my vote total to elect more Democrats to the Senate, and the candidates in six of the seven states had helped me in 92 or in the Congress.
On Sunday, November 3, after attending services at St. Pauls AME Church in Tampa, I flew to New Hampshire to support our Senate candidate, Dick Swett; to Cleveland, where Mayor Mike White and Senator John Glenn gave me a last-minute boost; and to Lexington, Kentucky, for a rally at the state university with Senator Wendell Ford, Governor Paul Patton, and our Senate candidate, Steve Beshear. I knew it was going to be tough to hold Kentucky because of the tobacco issue, and I was heartened by the presence on the stage of the University of Kentucky basketball coach, Rick Pitino. In a state where everyone loved the basketball team and nearly half of them disliked me, Pitinos presence was helpful and a gutsy move on his part.
By the time I got to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, it was 8 p.m. I really wanted to be there for Tom Harkin, who was in a tight race for reelection. Tom had strongly supported me in the Senate, and after the 92 primary he and his wife, Ruth, a lawyer who was serving with the administration, had become close friends of mine.
The last stop of the night was Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where Democratic congressman Tim Johnson had a real chance to unseat incumbent Republican Larry Pressler. Both Johnson and his chief supporter, Senator Tom Daschle, had been very good to me. As Senate minority leader, Daschle had been invaluable to the White House during the budget fights and the shutdown; when he asked me to come to South Dakota, I couldnt say no.
It was nearly midnight when I got up in the Sioux Falls Arena and Convention Center to speak at the last rally of the last campaign I will ever run. Because it was my final speech, I gave them the whole load on the record, the budget fight, and what I wanted to do for the next four years. Since I was in a rural state like Arkansas, I told them a joke. I said the Republicans budget reminded me of the story of a politician who wanted to ask a farmer to vote for him but was reluctant to come into his yard because a barking dog was there. The politician asked the farmer, Does your dog bite? No, the farmer replied. When the politician walked through the yard toward the farmer, the dog bit him. I thought you said your dog didnt bite! he shouted. The farmer replied, Son, that aint my dog. The budget was their dog.
The election went as Mark Penn predicted: there was a record low turnout, and I won 49 to 41 percent. The electoral vote was 379 to 159, as I lost three states I had carried in 1992, Montana, Colorado, and Georgia, and won two new ones, Arizona and Florida, for a net gain of nine electoral votes.
Underneath the aggregate numbers, subtle differences in the state totals between 1992 and 1996 revealed the extent to which cultural factors influenced the election in some states, while more traditional economic and social matters dominated in others. All competitive elections are determined by such shifts, and in 1996 they told me a lot about what mattered to different groups of Americans. For example, in Pennsylvania, a state with many NRA members and pro-life voters, my winning percentage was the same as it had been in 1992, thanks to a bigger margin in Philadelphia and a strong vote in Pittsburgh, while my vote went down in the rest of the state because of guns and my veto of the partial-birth abortion bill. In Missouri, the same factors cut my victory margin almost in half, from 10 to 6 percent. I still got a majority in Arkansas, but my victory margin was slightly smaller than in 1992; in Tennessee, the margin was cut from 4.5 to 2.5 percent.
In Kentucky, tobacco and guns cut our margin from 3 to 1 percent. For the same reasons, though I was ahead in North Carolina all the way to the end, I lost by 3 percent. In Colorado, I went from a 4 percent victory in 1992 to a 1.5 percent loss because the 92 Perot voters in the West were more likely to vote Republican in 96 and because the Republicans had gained 100,000 registered voters on the Democrats since 1992, partly as a result of the large number of Christian Right organizations that had located their headquarters in the state. In Montana, I lost this time around largely because, as in Colorado, the lower vote for Perot meant more votes for Senator Dole than for me.
In Georgia, the last poll had me ahead by 4 percent; I lost by 1 percent. The Christian Coalition deserved a lot of credit for that; in 1992, they had cut my margin from 6 percent to under 1 percent with heavy distribution of their voting guides in conservative churches the Sunday before the election. Democrats had worked black churches like that for years, but the Christian Coalition, at least in Georgia, was particularly effective at it, changing the outcome by 5 percent in both 1992 and 1996. I was disappointed to lose Georgia, but glad that Max Cleland survived by getting a few more white votes than I did. The South was tough because of the cultural issues; the only southern state to give me a substantially larger victory margin in 1996 was Louisiana, which went from 4.5 to 12 percent.
By contrast, my winning percentage increased a good deal in less culturally conservative or more economically sensitive states. My margin over the Republicans was up 10 percent or more in 1996 over 1992 in Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island. We held on to our big 92 margins in Illinois, Minnesota, Maryland, and California, and substantially increased the edge in Michigan and Ohio. Despite the gun issue, I also gained 10 percent over my 92 margin in New Hampshire. And I held on for a 1 percent victory in Nevada, largely because of my opposition to dumping Americas nuclear waste there without scientific evidence that it was safe to do so, and the constant publicity my position received thanks to my friend and Georgetown classmate Brian Greenspun, the president and editor of the Las Vegas Sun, who felt passionately about the issue.
On balance, I was happy with the results. I had won more electoral votes than in 1992, and four of the seven Senate candidates I had campaigned for won: Tom Harkin, Tim Johnson, John Kerry, and, in Louisiana, Mary Landrieu. But the fact that my share of the vote was considerably lower than my job rating, my personal approval rating, the percentage of people who said they felt comfortable with my presidency, was a sober reminder of the power of cultural issues like guns, gays, and abortion, especially among white married couples in the South, the intermountain West, and the rural Midwest, and among white men all across the country. All I could do was to keep searching for common ground, keep trying to temper the bitter partisanship in Washington, and keep doing my best as President.
The atmosphere at the victory rally at the Old State House in Little Rock was quite different this time around. The crowd was still large, but the celebration was marked not so much by shouting exuberance as by a genuine happiness that our nation was in better shape and that the American people had approved of the job I was doing.
Because the election had not been in doubt for several weeks, it was easy to miss its significance. After the 1994 elections, I had been ridiculed as an irrelevant figure, destined for defeat in 1996. In the early stages of the budget fight, with the government shutdown looming, it had been far from clear that I would prevail or that the American people would support my stance against the Republicans. Now I was the first Democratic President to be elected to a second term since FDR in 1936.