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H illary and I began the first day of the new century and the last year of my presidency with a joint radio address to the American people, which was also televised live. We had stayed up with the revelers at the White House until about two-thirty in the morning, and we were tired but eager to mark this day. A remarkable worldwide celebration had taken place the night before: billions of people had watched on television as midnight broke first in Asia, then in Europe, then in Africa, South America, and finally North America. The United States was entering the new century of global interdependence with a unique combination of economic success, social solidarity, and national self-confidence, and with our openness, dynamism, and democratic values being celebrated the world over. Hillary and I said that we Americans had to make the most of this opportunity to keep making our own country better and to spread the benefits and share the burdens of the twenty-firstcentury world. Thats what I intended to spend my last year doing..cheap prom dresses.
Defying historical trends, the seventh year of my presidency had been full of achievement because we had continued to work on the publics business through the impeachment process and afterward, following the agenda laid out in the State of the Union address and dealing with problems and opportunities as they arose. The traditional winding down in the last half of a Presidents second term had not occurred. I was determined not to let it happen this year, either..cheap wedding dresses.
The new year brought the loss of one of my old partners, as Boris Yeltsin resigned and was succeeded by Vladimir Putin. Yeltsin had never fully recovered his strength and stamina after his heart surgery, and he believed Putin was ready to succeed him and able to put in the long hours the job required. Boris also knew that giving the Russian people the chance to see Putin perform would increase the chances that he would win the next election. It was both a wise and a shrewd move, but I was going to miss Yeltsin. For all his physical problems and occasional unpredictability, he had been a courageous and visionary leader. We trusted each other and had accomplished a lot together. On the day he resigned we talked on the phone for about twenty minutes, and I could tell he was comfortable with his decision. He left office as he had lived and governed, in his own unique way..cheap prom dresses.
On January 3, I went to Shepherdstown, West Virginia, to open peace talks between Syria and Israel. Ehud Barak had pressed me hard to hold the talks early in the year. He was growing impatient over the peace process with Arafat, and was unsure whether their differences over Jerusalem could be resolved. By contrast, he had told me months before that he was prepared to give the Golan Heights back to Syria as long as Israels concerns could be satisfied about its early-warning station on the Golan and its dependence on Lake Tiberias, otherwise known as the Sea of Galilee, for one-third of its water supply..Giuseppe Zanotti replica.
The Sea of Galilee is a unique body of water: the bottom part is salt water fed by underground springs, while the top layer is fresh water. Because fresh water is lighter, care had to be taken not to draw down the lake too much in any given year lest the covering layer of fresh water becomes too light to hold the salt water down. If the fresh water were to fall below a certain point, the salt water could rush upward and mix with it, taking out a water supply that is essential for Israel..Replica Christian Louboutin UK.
Before he was killed, Yitzhak Rabin had given me a commitment to withdraw from the Golan to the June 4, 1967, borders as long as Israels concerns were satisfied. The commitment was given on the condition that I keep it in my pocket until it could be formally presented to Syria in the context of a complete solution. After Yitzhaks death, Shimon Peres reaffirmed the pocket commitment, and on this basis we had sponsored talks between the Syrians and the Israelis in 1996 at Wye River. Peres wanted me to sign a security treaty with Israel if it gave up the Golan, an idea that was suggested to me later by Netanyahu and would be advanced again by Barak. I had told them I was willing to do it..Replica Christian Louboutin UK.
Dennis Ross and our team had been making progress until Bibi Netanyahu defeated Peres in the election amid a rash of terrorist activity. Then the Syrian negotiations faltered. Now Barak wanted to start them up again, though as yet he was unwilling to reaffirm the precise words of the Rabin pocket commitment..www.ideafutura.co.uk.
Barak had to contend with a very different Israeli electorate from the one Rabin had led. There were many more immigrants, and the Russians in particular were opposed to giving up the Golan. Natan Sharansky, who had become a hero in the West during his long imprisonment in the Soviet Union and had accompanied Netanyahu to Wye in 1998, explained the Russian Jews attitude to me. He said they had come from the worlds largest country to one of its smallest ones, and didnt believe in making Israel even smaller by giving up the Golan or the West Bank. They also considered Syria to be no threat to Israel. They werent at peace but were not at war either. If Syria attacked Israel, the Israelis could win easily. Why give up the Golan?.www.ideafutura.co.uk.
While Barak didnt agree with this view, he had to contend with it. Nevertheless, he wanted to make peace with Syria, was confident the issues could be resolved, and wanted me to convene negotiations as soon as possible. By January, I had been working for more than three months with the Syrian foreign minister, Farouk al-Shara, and by telephone with President Assad to set the stage for the talks. Assad was not in good health and wanted to regain the Golan before he died, but he had to be careful. He wanted his son Bashar to succeed him, and apart from his own conviction that Syria should get back all the land it had occupied before June 4, 1967, he had to make an agreement that would not be subject to attack from forces within Syria whose support his son would need..www.ideafutura.co.uk.
Assads frailty and a stroke suffered by Foreign Minister Shara in the fall of 1999 heightened Baraks sense of urgency. At his request, I sent Assad a letter saying I thought Barak was willing to make a deal if we could resolve the definition of the border, the control of water, and the early-warning post, and that if they did reach agreement, the United States would be prepared to establish bilateral relations with Syria, a move Barak had urged. That was a big step for us, given Syrias past support of terrorism. Of course, Assad would have to stop supporting terrorism in order to achieve normal relations with the U.S., but if he had the Golan back, the incentive to support the Hezbollah terrorists who attacked Israel from Lebanon would evaporate...
Barak wanted peace with Lebanon, too, because he had committed to withdrawing Israeli forces from the country by the end of the year, and a peace agreement would make Israel safer from Hezbollah attacks along the border, and would not make it appear that Israel had withdrawn because of the attacks. As he well knew, no agreement with Lebanon would come without Syrias consent and involvement...
Assad replied a month later in a letter that appeared to back away from his previous position, perhaps because of the uncertainties in Syria that his and Sharas health problems had caused. However, a few weeks after that, when Madeleine Albright and Dennis Ross went to see Assad and Shara, who seemed completely recovered, Assad told them that he wanted to resume negotiations and was ready to make peace because he believed Barak was serious. He even agreed to have Shara negotiate, something he had not done before, as long as Barak would personally handle the Israeli side...
Barak accepted eagerly and wanted to begin immediately. I explained that we could not do it during the Christmas holidays, and he agreed to our timetable: preliminary talks in Washington in mid-December, to be resumed early in the New Year with my participation and to continue uninterrupted until agreement was reached. The Washington talks got off to a bit of a rocky start with an aggressive public statement by Shara. Nevertheless, in the private talks, when Shara suggested that we should start where the talks had left off in 1996, with Rabins pocket commitment of the June 4 line provided Israels needs were met, Barak responded that while he had made no commitment on territory, we do not erase history. The two men then agreed that I could decide the order in which the issuesincluding borders, security, water, and peacewould be discussed. Barak wanted the negotiations to continue uninterrupted; that would require the Syrians to work through the end of Ramadan on January 7 and not go home to celebrate the traditional feast of Eid Al Fitr at the end of the fasting period. Shara agreed, and the two sides went home to prepare...
Although Barak had pushed hard for the early negotiations, he soon began to worry about the political consequences of giving up the Golan without having prepared the Israeli public for it. He wanted some cover: the resumption of the Lebanon track to be conducted by the Syrians in consultation with the Lebanese; the announcement by at least one Arab state of an upgrade of relations with Israel; clear security benefits from the United States; and a free-trade zone on the Golan. I agreed to support all these requests and took things a step further, calling Assad on December 19 and asking him to resume the Lebanese track at the same time as the Syrian talks and to help retrieve the remains of three Israelis still listed as missing in action from the Lebanon war almost twenty years earlier. Assad agreed to the second request and we sent a forensics team to Syria, but unfortunately the remains werent where the Israelis thought they would be. On the first issue, Assad hedged, saying the Lebanese talks should resume once some headway had been made on the Syrian track...
Shepherdstown is a rural community a little more than an hours drive from Washington; Barak had insisted on an isolated setting to minimize leaks, and the Syrians didnt want to go to Camp David or Wye River because other high-profile Middle East negotiations had occurred there. That was fine with me; the conference facilities in Shepherdstown were comfortable, and I could get there from the White House in about twenty minutes by helicopter.
It quickly became apparent that the two sides were not that far apart on the issues. Syria wanted all of the Golan back but was willing to leave the Israelis a small strip of land, 10 meters (33 feet) wide, along the border of the lake; Israel wanted a wider strip of land. Syria wanted Israel to withdraw within eighteen months; Barak wanted three years. Israel wanted to stay in the early-warning station; Syria wanted it manned by personnel from the UN or perhaps from the U.S. Israel wanted guarantees on the quality and quantity of water flowing from the Golan into the lake; Syria agreed as long as it got the same guarantees on its water flow from Turkey. Israel wanted full diplomatic relations as soon as withdrawal began; Syria wanted something less until the withdrawal was complete.
The Syrians came to Shepherdstown in a positive and flexible frame of mind, eager to make an agreement. By contrast, Barak, who had pushed hard for the talks, decided, apparently on the basis of polling data, that he needed to slow-walk the process for a few days in order to convince the Israeli public that he was being a tough negotiator. He wanted me to use my good relationship with Shara and Assad to keep the Syrians happy while he said as little as possible during his self-imposed waiting period.
I was, to put it mildly, disappointed. If Barak had dealt with the Syrians before or if he had given us some advance notice, it might have been manageable. Perhaps, as a democratically elected leader, he had to pay more attention to public opinion than Assad did, but Assad had his own political problems, and had overcome his notorious aversion to high-level involvement with the Israelis because he trusted me and had believed Baraks assurances.
Barak had not been in politics long, and I thought he had gotten some very bad advice. In foreign affairs, polls are often useless; people hire leaders to win for them, and its the results that matter. Many of my most important foreign policy decisions had not been popular at first. If Barak made real peace with Syria, it would lift his standing in Israel and across the world, and increase the chances of success with the Palestinians. If he failed, a few days of good poll numbers would vanish in the wind. As hard as I tried, I couldnt change Baraks mind. He wanted me to help keep Shara on board while he waited, and to do it in the isolated setting of Shepherdstown, where there were few distractions from the business at hand.
Madeleine Albright and Dennis Ross tried to think of creative ways to at least clarify Baraks commitment to the Rabin pocket commitment, including opening a back channel between Madeleine and Butheina Shaban, the only woman in the Syrian delegation. Butheina was an articulate, impressive woman who had always served as Assads interpreter when we met. She had been with Assad for years, and I was sure she was in Shepherdstown to guarantee the president an unvarnished version of what was happening.
On Friday, the fifth day, we presented a draft peace agreement with the two sides differences in brackets. The Syrians responded positively on Saturday night, and we began meetings on border and security issues. Again, the Syrians showed flexibility on both matters, saying they would accept an adjustment of the strip of land bordering Galilee to as much as 50 meters (164 feet), provided that Israel accepted the June 4 line as the basis of discussion. There was some practical validity to this; apparently the lake had shrunk in size in the last thirty years. I was encouraged, but it quickly became apparent that Barak still had not authorized anyone on his team to accept June 4, no matter what the Syrians offered.
On Sunday, at a lunch for Ehud and Nava Barak at Madeleine Albrights farm, Madeleine and Dennis made a last pitch to Barak. Syria had shown flexibility on what Israel wanted, providing its needs were met; Israel had not responded in kind. What would it take? Barak said he wanted to resume the Lebanese negotiations. And if not, he wanted to break for several days and come back.
Shara was in no mood to hear this. He said that Shepherdstown was a failure, that Barak was not sincere, and that he would have to say as much to President Assad. At the last dinner, I tried again to get Barak to say something positive that Shara could take back to Syria. He declined, instead telling me privately that I could call Assad after we left Shepherdstown and say he would accept the June 4 line once the Lebanese negotiations resumed or were about to start. That meant Shara would go home empty-handed from negotiations he had been led to believe would be decisive, so much so that the Syrians had been willing to stay through the end of Ramadan and the Eid.
To make matters worse, the latest bracketed text of our treaty leaked in the Israeli press, showing the concessions that Syria had offered without getting anything in return. Shara was subjected to intense criticism at home. It was understandably embarrassing to him, and to Assad. Even authoritarian governments are not immune to popular opinion and powerful interest groups.
When I called Assad with Baraks offer to affirm the Rabin commitment and demarcate the border on the basis of it as long as the Lebanese negotiations also started, he listened without comment. A few days later, Shara called Madeleine Albright and rejected Baraks offer, saying the Syrians would open negotiations on Lebanon only after the border demarcation was agreed upon. They had been burned once by being flexible and forthcoming, and they werent about to make the same mistake again.
For the time being we were stumped, but I thought we should keep trying. Barak still seemed to want the Syrian peace, and it was true that the Israeli public had not been prepared for the compromises that peace required. It was also still in Syrias interest to make peace, and soon. Assad was in ill health and had to pave the way for his sons succession. Meanwhile, there was more than enough still to do on the Palestinian track. I asked Sandy, Madeleine, and Dennis to figure out what we should do next, and turned my attention to other things.
On January 10, after a White House celebration with Muslims marking the end of Ramadan, Hillary and I went to the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis, Maryland, for the funeral of former chief of naval operations Bud Zumwalt, who had become our friend through Renaissance Weekend. After I took office, Bud had worked with us to provide aid to the families of servicemen who, like his late son, had become ill as a result of their exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. He had also lobbied the Senate to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention. His personal support to our family during and after the House impeachment proceedings was a gift of kindness we would never forget. As I was dressing for the funeral, one of my valets, Lito Bautista, a Filipino-American who had been in the navy for thirty years, said he was glad I was going to the service because Bud Zumwalt was the best we ever had. He was for us.
That night I flew to the Grand Canyon, staying at the El Tovar Hotel in a room with a balcony right on the canyons edge. Nearly thirty years earlier, I had seen the sun set over the Grand Canyon; now I wanted to watch it rise, lighting the layers of differently colored rocks from the top down. The next morning, after a sunrise just as beautiful as I had hoped it would be, Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt and I designated three new national monuments and expanded a fourth in Arizona and California, including one million acres around the Grand Canyon and a stretch of thousands of small islands and exposed reefs along the California coast.
It was ninety-two years to the day since President Theodore Roosevelt had set aside the Grand Canyon itself as a national monument. Bruce Babbitt, Al Gore, and I had done our best to be faithful to Roosevelts conservation ethic and to his admonition that we should always be taking what he called the long look ahead.
On the fifteenth I commemorated Martin Luther King Jr.s birth-day in my Saturday morning radio address by marking the economic and social progress of African-Americans and Hispanics in the last seven years and pointing out how far we had to go: Though minor-ity unemployment and poverty rates were at historically low levels, they were still far above the national average. We had also suffered a recent spate of hate crimes against victims because of their race or ethnicityJames Byrd, a black man dragged from the back of a pickup truck and killed by white racists in Texas; bullets fired at a Jewish school in Los Angeles; a Korean-American student, an African-American basketball coach, and a Filipino postal worker all killed because of their race.
A few months earlier, at one of Hillarys millennium evenings at the White House, Dr. Eric Lander, director of the Whitehead Institute Center for Genome Research at MIT, and high-tech executive Vinton Cerf, who is known as the Father of the Internet, discussed how digital chip technology had enabled the human genome project to succeed. The thing I remembered most clearly about the evening was Landers statement that all human beings are more than 99.9 percent alike genetically. Ever since he said that, I had thought of all the blood that had been shed, all the energy wasted, by people obsessed with keeping us divided over that one-tenth of a percent.
In the radio address, I again asked the Congress to pass the hate-crimes bill, and asked the Senate to confirm a distinguished Chinese-American lawyer, Bill Lann Lee, as the new assistant attorney general for civil rights. The Republican majority had been holding him up; they seemed to have an aversion to many of my non-Caucasian nominees. My main guest that morning was Charlotte Fillmore, a one hundredyear-old former White House employee who decades earlier had had to enter the White House through a special door because of her race. This time we brought Charlotte through the front door to the Oval Office.
In the week leading up to the State of the Union address, I followed my usual custom of highlighting important initiatives that would be in the speech. This time I was incorporating two proposals Hillary and Al Gore were advocating on the campaign trail. I recommended allowing parents of children eligible for health insurance under the CHIP program to purchase insurance for themselves, a plan Al was promoting, and I supported making the first $10,000 of college tuition tax-deductible, an idea that Senator Chuck Schumer was pushing in Congress and Hillary was advocating in her campaign.
If all the parents and children who were income-eligibleabout fourteen millionbought into the CHIP program, it would take care of about a third of our uninsured population. If people fifty-five and over were allowed to buy into Medicare as I had recommended, the two programs together would cut the number of uninsured Americans in half. If the tuition tax credit was adopted, along with the college aid expansions I had already signed into law, we could rightly claim to have opened the doors of college to all Americans. The college-enrollment rate had already risen to 67 percent, almost 10 percent higher than when I took office.
In a speech to scientists at California Institute of Technology, I unveiled a proposed increase of nearly $3 billion in research, which included $1 billion for AIDS and other biomedical purposes and $500 million for nanotechnology, and major increases for basic science, space, and clean energy. On the twenty-fourth, Alexis Herman, Donna Shalala, and I asked Congress to help close the 25 percent pay gap between men and women by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act, giving us the funds to clear up the large backlog of employment discrimination cases at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and supporting the Labor Departments efforts to increase female employment in high-wage jobs in which women were underrepresented. For example, in most high-tech occupations, men outnumbered women by more than two to one.
On the day before the speech, I sat down with Jim Lehrer of PBSs NewsHour for the first time since our interview two years earlier, right after the storm over my deposition broke. After we went through the achievements of the administration over the previous seven years, Lehrer asked me if I was worried about what historians were going to write about me. The New York Times had just published an editorial saying historians were beginning to say I was a politician with great natural talent and some significant accomplishments who had missed the greatness that once seemed within his grasp.
He asked me about my reaction to the what might have been assessment. I said that it seemed to me that the time most like our own was at the turn of the last century, when we were also moving into a new era of economic and social change, and were being drawn into the world beyond our shores more than ever before. Based on what had happened then, I thought the tests of my service would be: Did we manage the transition of America into the new economy and an era of globalization well or not? Did we make social progress and change the way we approached our problems to fit the times? Were we good stewards of the environment? And what were the forces we stood against? I told him I felt comfortable with the answers to those questions.
Moreover, I had read enough history to know that it is constantly being rewritten. While I was in office, two major biographies of Grant had been published that dramatically revised the conventional assessment of his presidency upward. That sort of thing was going on all the time. Besides, as I told Lehrer, I was more focused on what I could accomplish in my last year than on what the future might think of me.
Beyond the domestic agenda, I told Lehrer that I wanted to prepare our nation to deal with the biggest security challenges of the twenty-first century. The congressional Republicans first priority was building a national missile defense system, but I said the main threat was the likelihood that youll have terrorists and narco-traffickers and organized criminals cooperating with each other, with smaller and smaller and more difficult to detect weapons of mass destruction and powerful traditional weapons. So weve tried to lay in a framework for dealing with cyberterrorism, bioterrorism, chemical terrorism. . . . Now, this is not in the headlines, but . . . I think the enemies of the nation-state in this interconnected world are likely to be the biggest security threat.
I was thinking about terrorism a great deal then because of the nail-biting two months wed had leading up to the millennium celebration. The CIA, National Security Agency, FBI, and our entire counterterrorism group had worked hard to thwart several planned attacks in the United States and the Middle East. Now two submarines were in the northern Arabian Sea, ready to fire missiles at any point the CIA determined to be bin Ladens whereabouts. Dick Clarkes counterterrorism group and George Tenet were working hard to find him. I felt we were on top of the situation but still did not have either the offensive or defensive capabilities we needed to combat an enemy adept at finding the opportunities to attack innocent people that an increasingly open world offered.
Before the interview was over, Lehrer asked the question I knew was coming: if, two years ago, I had answered his question and other questions about my conduct differently right at the beginning, did I think that there might have been a different result and that I might not have been impeached? I told him that I didnt know, but that I deeply regretted having misled him and the American people. I still dont have the answer to his question, given the hysterical atmosphere that had engulfed Washington at the time. As I told Lehrer, I had apologized and tried to make amends for my mistakes. That was all I could do.
Then Lehrer asked if I took satisfaction in knowing that if there was a conspiracy to run me out of office, it hadnt worked. I believe that was as close as any journalist ever came in my presence to admitting the existence of the conspiracy they all knew existed but could not bring themselves to acknowledge. I told Jim I had learned the hard way that life always humbles you if you give in to anger or take too much satisfaction in having defeated someone, or think that no matter how bad your own sins are, those of your adversaries are worse. I had a year to go; there was no time to be angry or satisfied.
My last State of the Union address was a joy to deliver. We had more than twenty million new jobs, the lowest unemployment rate and smallest welfare rolls in thirty years, the lowest crime rate in twenty-five years, the lowest poverty rate in twenty years, the smallest federal workforce in forty years, the first back-to-back surpluses in forty-two years, seven years of declining teen pregnancies and a 30 percent increase in adoptions, and 150,000 young people who had served in AmeriCorps. Within a month we would have the longest economic expansion in American history, and by the end of the year we would have three consecutive surpluses for the first time in more than fifty years.
I was concerned that America would become complacent in our prosperity, so I asked our people not to take it for granted, but to take that long look ahead to the nation we could build in the twenty-first century. I offered more than sixty initiatives to meet an ambitious set of goals: every child would start school ready to learn and graduate ready to succeed; every family would be able to succeed at home and at work, and no child would be raised in poverty; the challenge of the baby boomers retirement would be met; all Americans would have access to quality, affordable health care; America would be the safest big country on earth and debt-free for the first time since 1835; prosperity would come to every community; climate change would be reversed; America would lead the world toward shared prosperity and security and to the far frontiers of science and technology; and we would at last become one nation, united in all our diversity.
I did my best to reach out to Republicans and Democrats, recommending a mix of both tax cuts and spending programs to move toward the goals; greater support for faith-based efforts to fight poverty and drug abuse and help teen mothers; a tax break for charitable contributions by low- and moderate-income citizens who couldnt claim one now because they didnt itemize their deductions; tax relief from the so-called marriage penalty and another expansion of the EITC; greater incentives to teach English and civics to new immigrants; and passage of the hate crimes bill and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. I also thanked the Speaker for his support of the New Markets initiative.
For the last time, I introduced the people sitting with Hillary who represented what we were trying to accomplish: the father of one of the students killed at Columbine, who wanted Congress to close the gun show loophole; a Hispanic father who proudly paid child support and who would benefit from the tax-relief package for working families I had proposed; an air force captain who had rescued a downed pilot in Kosovo, to illustrate the importance of finishing our work in the Balkans; and my friend Hank Aaron, who had spent his years after baseball working to help poor children and bridge the racial divide.
I closed with an appeal for unity, getting a laugh when I reminded Congress that even Republicans and Democrats were genetically 99.9 percent the same. I said, Modern science has confirmed what ancient faiths have always taught: the most important fact of life is our common humanity.
The speech was criticized by one congressman who said I sounded like Calvin Coolidge in wanting to make America debt-free, and by some conservatives who said I was spending too much money on education, health care, and the environment. Most citizens seemed to be reassured that I was going to work hard in my last year, interested in the new ideas I was advancing, and supportive of my efforts to keep them focused on the future.
The last time America seemed to be sailing on such smooth seas was in the early sixties, with the economy booming, civil rights laws promising a more just future, and Vietnam a distant blip on the screen. Within six years the economy was sagging, there were race riots in the streets, John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. had been killed, and Vietnam had consumed America, driven President Johnson from office, and ushered in a new era of division in our politics. Good times are to be seized and built upon, not coasted through.
After a stop in Quincy, Illinois, to hit the high points of my agenda, I flew to Davos, Switzerland, to address the World Economic Forum, an increasingly important annual gathering of international political and business leaders. I brought five cabinet members with me to discuss the popular uprising against globalization that we had witnessed in the streets of Seattle during the recent WTO meeting. The multinational corporations and their political supporters had largely been content to create a global economy that served their needs, believing that the growth resulting from trade would create wealth and jobs everywhere.
Trade in well-governed countries had helped lift many people out of poverty, but too many people in poor countries were left out: half the world still lived on less than $2 a day, a billion people lived on less than a dollar a day, and more than a billion people went to bed hungry every night. One in four people had no access to clean water. Some 130 million children never went to school at all, and 10 million children died every year of preventable diseases.
Even in wealthy countries, the constant churning of the economy was always dislocating some people, and the United States wasnt doing enough to get them back in the workforce at the same or higher pay. Finally, the global financial institutions had not been able to head off or mitigate crises in developing countries in a way that minimized damage to working people, and the WTO was perceived as being too captive to wealthy countries and multinational corporations.
In my first two years, when the Democrats were in the majority, I had gotten more money for training displaced workers and signed the NAFTA side agreements on the environment and labor standards. Afterward, the Republican Congress was less sympathetic to such efforts, especially those designed to reduce poverty and create new jobs in poor nations. Now it seemed to me that we had a chance to build a bipartisan consensus on at least three initiatives: the New Markets program, the trade bill for Africa and the Caribbean, and the Millennium Debt Relief effort.
The larger question was whether we could have a global econ-omy without global social and environmental policies and more open governance by the economic decision makers, especially the WTO. I thought the anti-trade, anti-globalization forces were wrong in believ-ing that trade had increased poverty. In fact, trade had lifted more people out of poverty and pulled more nations out of isolation. On the other hand, those who thought all we needed were unregulated flows of more than $1 trillion a day of capital and ever increasing trade were wrong, too.
I said globalization imposed on its beneficiaries the responsibility of sharing its gains and its burdens and empowering more people to participate in it. Essentially, I advocated a Third Way approach to globalization: trade plus a concerted effort to give people and nations the tools and conditions to make the most of it. Finally, I argued that giving people hope through economic growth and social justice was essential to our ability to persuade the twenty-firstcentury world to walk away from the modern horrors of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction and the old conflicts rooted in racial, religious, and tribal hatreds.
When the speech was over, I couldnt know if Id succeeded in getting the thousand business leaders there to agree with me, but I felt that they had listened and at least were wrestling with the problems of our global interdependence and their own obligations to create a more unified world. What the movers and shakers of the world needed was a shared vision. When good people with energy act on a shared vision, most of the problems get worked out.
Back home, it was time for my last National Prayer Breakfast. Joe Lieberman, the events first Jewish speaker, gave a fine talk on the values common to all faiths. I discussed the practical implications of his remarks: if we are admonished not to turn away strangers, to treat others as we would like to be treated, and to love our neighbors as ourselves, who are our neighbors, and what does it mean to love them? If we were virtually the same genetically, and our world was so interdependent that I had a cousin in Arkansas who played chess twice a week on the Internet with a man from Australia, we obviously had to broaden our horizons in the years ahead.
The direction of those years, of course, would be shaped by the outcome of this years election. Al Gore and George W. Bush had both won handily in Iowa, as expected. Then the campaign moved on to New Hampshire, where voters in both parties primaries delight in upsetting expectations. Als campaign had gotten off to a rocky start, but when he moved his campaign headquarters to Nashville and began doing informal town hall meetings in New Hampshire, he really started connecting with voters, got better press coverage, and pulled ahead of Senator Bradley. After the State of the Union, in which I featured some of his important accomplishments, he picked up a few more points in the bounce we always received from the speech. Then Bradley began to attack him harshly. When Al didnt respond, Bradley cut into his lead, but Al held on to win 5247 percent. After that, I knew he was home free for the nomination. He was going to carry the South and California big, and I thought he would do well in the large industrial states, too, especially after the AFL-CIO endorsed him.
John McCain defeated George W. Bush in New Hampshire 4931 percent. It was a state tailor-made for McCain. They liked his independent streak and his support for campaign finance reform. The next big contest was in South Carolina, where McCain would be helped by his military background and the endorsements of two congressmen, but Bush had the backing of both the party establishment and the religious right.
On Sunday afternoon, February 6, Hillary, Chelsea, Dorothy, and I drove from Chappaqua to the State University of New Yorks campus in nearby Purchase for Hillarys formal announcement of her Senate candidacy. Senator Moynihan introduced her. He said that he had known Eleanor Roosevelt and that she would love you. It was a sincere compliment and a funny one, since Hillary had taken a lot of good-natured ribbing for saying she had had imaginary conversations with Mrs. Roosevelt.
Hillary gave a terrific speech, one she had written carefully and practiced hard; it displayed how much she had learned about the concerns of the different regions of the state and how clearly she understood the choices voters were facing. She also had to explain why she was running; show that she understood why New Yorkers might be wary of voting for a candidate, even one they liked, who had never lived in the state until a few months before; and say what she would do as a senator. There was some discussion about whether I should speak. New York was one of my best states; at the time my job approval was over 70 percent there and my personal approval was at 60 percent. But we decided I shouldnt talk. It was Hillarys day, and the voters wanted to hear from her.
For the rest of the month, while politics dominated the news, I was dealing with a wide variety of domestic and foreign policy issues. On the home front, I endorsed a bipartisan bill to provide Medicaid coverage to lower-income women for breast and cervical cancer treatment; made a deal with Senator Lott to bring five of my judicial nominees to the Senate floor for a vote in return for appointing the person he wanted, a rabid foe of campaign finance reform, to the Federal Election Commission; argued with the Republicans over the Patients Bill of Rightsthey said theyd pass it as long as no one could bring a law-suit to enforce it, and I argued that that would make it a bill of suggestions; dedicated the White House press room to James Brady, President Reagans courageous press secretary; announced a record increase in funds for Native American education and health care; supported a change in food stamp regulations to allow welfare recipients who went to work to own a used car without losing their food aid; received an award from the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) for my economic and social policies and for my major Hispanic appointments; and hosted the National Governors Association for the last time.
In foreign affairs, we dealt with a lot of headaches. On the seventh, Yasser Arafat suspended his peace talks with Israel. He was convinced that Israel was putting Palestinian issues on the back burner in favor of pursuing peace with Syria. There was some truth in it, and at the time, the Israeli public was more willing to make peace with the Palestinians, with all the difficulties that entailed, than to give up the Golan Heights and put the Palestinian talks at risk. We spent the rest of the month trying to get things going again.
On the eleventh, the UK suspended home rule in Northern Ireland, despite the IRAs last-minute assurance of an act of arms decommissioning to General John de Chastelain, the Canadian who was overseeing the process. I had gotten George Mitchell involved again, and we had done our best to help Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair avoid this day. The fundamental problem, according to Gerry Adams, was that the IRA wanted to disarm because their people had voted for it, not because David Trimble and the Unionists had made decommissioning the price of their continued participation in the government. Of course, without decommissioning, the Protestants would lose faith in the process, and eventually Trimble would be replaced, a result Adams and Sinn Fein did not want. Trimble could be dour and pessimistic, but beneath his stern Scots-Irish front was a brave idealist who was also taking risks for peace. At any rate, the sequencing issue had delayed establishment of the government for more than a year; now we were back to no government. It was frustrating, but I thought the impasse would be resolved because no one wanted to return to the bad old days.
On March 5, I commemorated the thirty-fifth anniversary of the voting rights march in Selma, Alabama, by walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge as the civil rights demonstrators had on that Bloody Sunday, risking their lives to gain the right to vote for all Americans. Many of the veterans of the civil rights movement who had marched with or supported Martin Luther King Jr. marched arm in arm again that day, including Coretta Scott King, Jesse Jackson, John Lewis, Andrew Young, Joe Lowery, Julian Bond, Ethel Kennedy, and Harris Wofford.
In 1965, the Selma march galvanized the conscience of the nation. Five months later, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. Before the Voting Rights Act, there were only 300 black elected officials at any level, and just three African-American congressmen. In 2000, there were nearly 9,000 black elected officials and 39 members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
In my remarks, I noted that Martin Luther King Jr. was right when he said that when black Americans win their struggle to become free, those who have held them down will themselves be free for the first time. After Selma, white and black southerners crossed the bridge to the New South, leaving hatred and isolation behind for new oppor-tunities and prosperity and political influence: Without Selma, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton would never have become President of the United States.
Now, as we crossed the bridge into the twenty-first century with the lowest unemployment and poverty rates and the highest home and business ownership rates among African-Americans ever recorded, I asked the audience to remember what was yet to be accomplished. As long as there were wide racial disparities in income, education, health, vulnerability to violence, and perceptions of fairness in the criminal justice system, as long as discrimination and hate crimes persisted, we have another bridge to cross.
I loved that day in Selma. Once again, I was swept back across the years to my boyhood longing for and belief in an America without a racial divide. Once again, I returned to the emotional core of my political life in saying farewell to the people who had done so much to nourish it: As long as Americans are willing to hold hands, we can walk with any wind, we can cross any bridge. Deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome.
I spent most of the first half of the month campaigning for my gun safety measures: closing the gun show loophole, putting child trigger locks on guns, and requiring gun owners to have a photo-ID license showing that they had passed the Brady background check and had taken a gun safety course. America had been rocked by a series of tragic shooting deaths, one of them caused by a very young child firing a gun he had found in his apartment. The accidental gun death rate for children under fifteen in America was nine times higher than that of the twenty-five next largest economies combined.
Despite the crying need and rising public support for gun control, the NRA so far had kept anything from happening in Congress, though most gun manufacturers, to their credit, were now providing child trigger locks. On the gun show loophole, the NRA said, as it had in opposing the Brady bill, that it didnt object to instant background checks, but it didnt want anyone inconvenienced for the publics safety by having to endure a three-day waiting period. Already, 70 percent of the checks were completed in an hour, 90 percent in a day. A few took longer. If we didnt have a waiting period, people with bad records could buy their guns at closing time on Friday afternoon. The NRA was also adamantly against licensing gun owners, seeing it as the first step toward depriving them of the right to own weapons. It was a spurious argument; we had required drivers licenses for a long time, and no one had ever suggested banning automobile possession.
Still, I knew the NRA could scare a lot of people. I had grown up in the hunting culture in which its influence was greatest and had seen the devastating impact the NRA had had on the 94 congressional elections. But I had always felt most hunters and sports shooters were good citizens and would listen to a reasonable argument plainly stated. I knew I had to try, because I believed in what I was doing and because Al Gore had put himself squarely within the NRAs gunsights by endorsing the licensing idea even before I did.
On the twelfth, Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the NRA, said that I needed a certain level of violence and was willing to accept a certain level of killing to further my political objectives, and his vice presidents, too. LaPierres position was that we should prosecute gun crimes more severely and punish adults who recklessly allow children access to guns. The next day, in Cleveland, I answered him, saying that I agreed with his proposals for punishment but that I thought his position that no preventive measures were needed was nonsense. The NRA was even against banning cop-killer bullets. It was they who were willing to accept a certain level of violence and killing to keep their membership up and their ideology pure. I said Id like to see LaPierre look into the eyes of the parents who had lost their children at Columbine, or in Springfield, Oregon, or Jonesboro, Arkansas, and say those things.
I didnt think I could beat the NRA in the House, but I was having a good time trying. I asked people how they would feel if the NRAs no prevention, all punishment strategy were applied to every aspect of our lives: getting rid of seat belts, air bags, and speed limits and adding five years to the sentences of reckless drivers who kill people; and getting rid of airport metal detectors and adding ten years to the sentence of anyone who blows up a plane.
On my previous trip to Cleveland, I had visited an elementary school where AmeriCorps volunteers were tutoring young children in reading. A six-year-old boy looked up at me and asked, Are you really the President? When I said that I was, he replied, But youre not dead yet! He knew only about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. I was running out of time, but with a high-class fight like this one on my hands, I knew the boy was right. I wasnt dead yet.
The presidential nominating process was over by the second week of March, as John McCain and Bill Bradley withdrew after Al Gore and George W. Bush won big victories in the sixteen Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses. Bill Bradley had run a serious campaign, and in pressing Al early he had made him a better candidate, as Al scrapped his endorsement-laden approach for a grassroots effort in which he looked more like a relaxed but aggressive challenger. Bush had righted his campaign after losing in New Hampshire by winning in South Carolina, aided by a telephone campaign into conservative white households reminding them that Senator McCain had a black baby. McCain had adopted a child from Bangladesh, one of the many reasons I admired him.
Before the primaries were over, an ad hoc veterans group supporting Bush accused McCain of betraying his country in the five and a half years he was a POW in North Vietnam. In New York, the Bush people attacked McCain for opposing breast cancer research. Actually, he had voted against a defense bill with some breast cancer money in it to protest all the pork-barrel spending included in the bill; the senator had a sister with breast cancer and had always voted for the appropriations that contained well over 90 percent of the cancer research funds. Senator McCain didnt hit back hard at the Bush campaign or the right-wing extremists for smearing him until it was too late.
The developments on the international front in March were largely positive. Barak and Arafat agreed to restart their talks. On my last St. Patricks Day as President, Seamus Heaney read his poetry, we all sang Danny Boy, and it was clear that, although the government was still down in Northern Ireland, no one was prepared to let the peace process die. I spoke with King Fahd of Saudi Arabia about the possibility of OPEC increasing its production. A year earlier, the price of oil had dropped to $12 a barrel, too low to meet the basic needs of producing countries. Now it was jumping to between $31 and $34, too high to avoid adverse effects in the consuming nations. I wanted to see the price stabilize at between $20 and $22 a barrel and hoped OPEC could increase production enough to do that; otherwise, the United States could have significant economic problems.
On the eighteenth, I left for a week-long trip to India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. I was going to India to lay the foundation for what I had hoped would be a positive long-term relationship. We had wasted too much time since the end of the Cold War, when India had aligned itself with the Soviet Union principally as a counterweight to China. Bangladesh was the poorest country in South Asia, but a large one with some innovative economic programs and a friendly attitude toward the United States. Unlike Pakistan and India, Bangladesh was a non-nuclear nation that had ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which was more than could be said for the United States. My stop in Pakistan was the most controversial because of the recent military coup there, but I decided I had to go for several reasons: to encourage an early return to civilian rule and a lessening of tensions over Kashmir; to urge General Musharraf not to execute the deposed prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, who was on trial for his life; and to press Musharraf to cooperate with us on bin Laden and al Qaeda.
The Secret Service was strongly opposed to my going to Pakistan or Bangladesh because the CIA had intelligence that indicated al Qaeda wanted to attack me on one of those stops, either on the ground or during takeoffs or landings. I felt I had to go because of the adverse consequences to American interests of going only to India and because I didnt want to give in to a terrorist threat. So we took sensible precautions and proceeded. I believe it was the only request the Secret Service ever made that I refused.
Hillarys mother, Dorothy, and Chelsea were going with me to India. We flew there first, where I left them in the good hands of our ambassador, my old friend Dick Celeste, the former Ohio governor, and his wife, Jacqueline. Then I took a reduced group on two small planes into Bangladesh, where I met with the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina. Later, I was forced to make another concession to security. I had been scheduled to visit the village of Joypura with my friend Muhammad Yunus to observe some of Grameen Banks micro-credit projects. The Secret Service had determined that our party would be defenseless on the narrow roads or flying in a helicopter to the village, so we brought the villagers, including some schoolchildren, to the American embassy in Dacca, where they set up a classroom and some displays in the inner courtyard.
While I was in Bangladesh, thirty-five Sikhs were murdered in Kashmir by unknown killers intent on getting publicity tied to my visit. When I got back to Delhi, in my meeting with Prime Minister Vajpayee I expressed outrage and deep regret that terrorists had used my trip as an excuse to kill. I got on well with Vajpayee and hoped he would have an opportunity to reengage Pakistan before he left office. We didnt agree on the test ban treaty, but I already knew that, because Strobe Talbott had been working with Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh and others for months on nonproliferation issues. However, Vajpayee did join me in pledging to forgo future tests, and we agreed upon a set of positive principles that would govern our bilateral relationship, which had been cool for so long.
I also had a good visit with the leader of the opposition Congress Party, Sonia Gandhi. Her husband and mother-in-law, the grandson and daughter of Nehru, were both victims of political assassination. Sonia, an Italian by birth, had bravely remained in public life.
On the fourth day of my trip, I had the opportunity to address the Indian parliament. The Parliament Building is a large circular structure in which the several hundred parliamentarians sit tightly bunched at row after row of narrow tables. I spoke of my respect for Indias democracy, diversity, and impressive strides in building a modern economy, frankly discussed our differences over nuclear issues, and urged them to reach a peaceful solution to the Kashmir problem. Somewhat to my surprise, I got a grand reception. They applauded by slapping the table, demonstrating that the Indians were as eager as I was for our long estrangement to end.
Chelsea, Dorothy, and I visited the Gandhi Memorial, where we were given copies of his autobiography and other writings, and we traveled to Agra, where the Taj Mahal, perhaps the worlds most beautiful structure, was threatened by severe air pollution. India was working hard to establish a pollution-free zone around the Taj, and Foreign Minister Singh and Madeleine Albright signed an agreement for Indo-U.S. cooperation on energy and the environment, with the United States providing $45 million in USAID funds and $200 million from the Export-Import Bank to develop clean energy in India. The Taj was breathtaking, and I hated to leave.
On the twenty-third, I visited Naila, a small village near Jaipur. After the village women in their brightly colored saris greeted me by surrounding me and showering me with thousands of flower petals, I met with the elected officials who were working together across caste and gender lines that had traditionally divided Indians, and discussed the importance of micro-credit loans with the women of the local dairy cooperative.
The next day I went to the thriving high-tech city of Hyderabad as the guest of the states chief minister, Chandrababu Naidu, an articulate and very modern political leader. We visited the HITECH Center, where I was amazed to see the variety of companies that were growing like wildfire, and a hospital where, along with USAID administrator Brady Anderson, I announced a grant of $5 million to help it deal with AIDS and tuberculosis. At the time, AIDS was just beginning to be recognized in India, and there was still a lot of denial. I hoped our modest grant would help increase public awareness and willingness to act before the AIDS problem in India reached Africas epidemic proportions. My last stop was in Mumbai (Bombay), where I met with business leaders, then had an interesting conversation with young leaders at a local restaurant. I left India feeling that our nations had begun a solid relationship, but wishing I had another week to absorb the countrys beauty and mystery.
On the twenty-fifth, I flew to Islamabad, the leg of the trip the Secret Service thought was most dangerous. I took as few people as possible, leaving most of our party behind, to fly on the larger plane to our refueling stop in Oman. Sandy Berger joked that he was a little older than I, and since we had been through so much in almost thirty years of friendship he might as well go along to Pakistan for the ride. Again we went in on two small planes, one with U.S. Air Force markings, the other, in which I was riding, painted plain white. The Pakistanis had cleared an area a mile wide around the runway to make certain that we couldnt be hit by a shoulder-fired missile. Nevertheless, landing was a bracing experience.
Our motorcade traveled an empty highway to the Presidential Palace for a meeting with General Musharraf and his cabinet and a televised address to the people of Pakistan. In the speech, I noted our long friendship through the Cold War and asked the Pakistani people to turn away from terror and nuclear weapons toward a dialogue with India on Kashmir, to embrace the test ban treaty, and to invest in education, health, and development rather than arms. I said I had come as a friend of Pakistan and the Muslim world who had stood against the slaughter of Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo, spoken to the Palestinian National Council in Gaza, marched with the mourners at the funerals of King Hussein and King Hassan, and celebrated the end of Ramadan at the White House with American Muslims. The point I tried to make is that our world was not divided by religious differences, but between those who chose to live with the pain of the past and those who chose the promise of the future.
In my meetings with Musharraf, I saw why he had emerged from the complex, often violent culture of Pakistani politics. He was clearly intelligent, strong, and sophisticated. If he chose to pursue a peaceful, progressive path, I thought he had a fair chance to succeed, but I told him I thought terrorism would eventually destroy Pakistan from within if he didnt move against it.
Musharraf said he didnt believe Sharif would be executed, but he was noncommittal on the other issues. I knew he was still trying to solidify his position and was in a tough spot. Sharif subsequently was released into exile in Jedda, Saudi Arabia. When Musharraf began serious cooperation with the United States in the war against terror after September 11, 2001, it remained a risky course for him. In 2003, he survived two assassination attempts within days of each other.
On the way home, after the stop in Oman to see Sultan Qaboos and get our delegation back on Air Force One, I flew to Geneva to meet with President Assad. Our team had been working to get Barak to make a specific proposal on Syria for me to present. I knew it wouldnt be a final offer, and the Syrians would know it, too, but I thought that if Israel finally responded with the same flexibility the Syrians had shown at Shepherdstown, we might still be able to make a deal. It was not to be.
When I met Assad, he was friendly as I gave him a blue tie with a red-line profile of a lion, the English meaning of his name. It was a small meeting: Assad was joined by Foreign Minister Shara and Butheina Shaban; Madeleine Albright and Dennis Ross accompanied me, with the National Security Councils Rob Malley serving as notetaker. After some pleasant small talk, I asked Dennis to spread out the maps I had studied carefully in preparing for our talks. Compared with his stated position at Shepherdstown, Barak was now willing to accept less land around the lake, though he still wanted a lot, 400 meters (1,312 feet); fewer people at the listening station; and a quicker withdrawal period. Assad didnt want me even to finish the presentation. He became agitated and, contradicting the Syrian position at Shepherdstown, said that he would never cede any of the land, that he wanted to be able to sit on the shore of the lake and put his feet in the water. We tried for two hours to get some traction with the Syrians, all to no avail. The Israeli rebuff in Shepherdstown and the leak of the working document in the Israeli press had embarrassed Assad and destroyed his fragile trust. And his health had deteriorated even more than I knew. Barak had made a respectable offer. If it had come at Shepherdstown, an agreement might have emerged. Now, Assads first priority was his sons succession, and he had obviously decided that a new round of negotiations, no matter how it came out, could put that at risk. In less than four years, I had seen the prospects of peace between Israel and Syria dashed three times: by terror in Israel and Peress defeat in 1996, by the Israeli rebuff of Syrian overtures at Shepherdstown, and by Assads preoccupation with his own mortality. After we parted in Geneva, I never saw Assad again.
That same day Vladimir Putin was elected president of Russia in the first round, with 52.5 percent of the vote. I called to congratulate him and hung up the phone thinking he was tough enough to hold Russia together and hoping he was wise enough to find an honorable way out of the Chechnya problem and committed enough to democracy to preserve it. He was soon off to a strong start, as the Duma ratified both START II and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Now even the Russian Duma was more progressive on arms control than the U.S. Senate.
In April, I continued to travel the country pushing my education, gun safety, and technology access issues from the State of the Union address; established another national monument, Grand Sequoia, in California; vetoed the bill to put all Americas low-level nuclear waste in Nevada because I didnt think all the legitimate questions had been answered; signed the bill ending the earnings limitations for retirees who were collecting Social Security; visited the people of the Navajo Nation in Shiprock in northern New Mexico to highlight our efforts to use the Internet to bring educational, health, and economic opportunities to remote communities; and dedicated the simple but powerful memorial to the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing, 168 empty chairs in rows on a small knoll flanked by two large entryways and overlooking a large reflecting pool.
April also brought the final act in the long saga of little Elin Gonzlez. Several months earlier his mother had fled Cuba with him for the United States in a rickety boat. The boat capsized and she drowned after putting Elin in an inner tube to save his life. The boy was taken to Miami and put in the temporary custody of a great-uncle, who was willing to keep him. His father in Cuba wanted him back. The Cuban-American community made Elins case a crusade, saying that his mother had died trying to bring her son to freedom and it would be wrong to send him back to Castros dictatorship.
The governing law seemed clear. The Immigration and Naturalization Service was supposed to determine whether the boys father was a fit parent; if he was, Elin had to be returned to him. An INS team went to Cuba and discovered that though Elins parents were divorced, they had maintained a good relationship and had shared child-rearing duties. In fact, Elin had spent about half his time with his father, who lived closer to the boys school. The INS found that Juan Miguel Gonzlez was a fit parent.
Advocates for the American relatives took the case to court in an attempt to question the validity of the process in Cuba, thinking it might have been compromised by the presence of Castros people at the hearing. Some sought to apply the normal state-law standard in child custody cases: what is in the best interest of the child? The Congress got in on the act, with various bills being proposed to keep Elin in the United States. Meanwhile, the Cuban-American community was whipped into a frenzy by permanent demonstrations outside the house of Elins relatives and regular TV interviews with one of them, a highly emotional young woman.
Janet Reno, who had served as prosecuting attorney in Miami and had been a popular figure among Cuban-Americans, enraged them by stating that federal law should control the situation and Elin should be returned to his father. It wasnt easy for Janet. She told me that one of her former secretaries would hardly speak to her; the womans husband had been jailed for fifteen years by Castro, and she had waited all that time for him to be released and reunited with her. Many Cuban-Americans and other immigrants believed the boy would be better off staying here.
I backed Reno, believing that the fact that Elins father loved him and had been a good parent should count for more than the poverty or the closed and repressive politics of Cuba. Moreover, the United States had frequently tried to get children returned to our country who had been taken away, usually by parents who had lost child custody cases here. If we kept Elin, our arguments for the return of those children to their American parents would be weakened.
Eventually, the case became an election issue. Al Gore publicly disagreed with us, saying that he had problems with the INS process and that even if Elins father was a fit parent, the boy might still be better off in America. It was a defensible position on the merits, and understandable, given the importance of Florida in the election. I had worked for eight years to strengthen our position in the state and among Cuban-Americans; at least in that community, the Elin case had wiped out most of our gains. Hillary saw the case as a child advocate and a parent: she backed our decision to reunite the boy and his father.
Early in the month Juan Miguel Gonzlez came to America hoping to take custody of his son, in accordance with a federal court order. A couple of weeks later, after Janet Reno had tried for several days to secure the voluntary surrender of the boy, a group of four leading citizensthe president of the University of Miami, a highly regarded lawyer, and two respected Cuban-Americanssuggested that the Miami family hand over custody to the father in a secluded place where they could all be together for a few days to ease the transition. On Good Friday evening, I talked to Reno at midnight and they were still negotiating, but she was running out of patience. At two oclock Saturday morning, John Podesta called to say the talks were still going on. At quarter to five, Podesta called again and said the Miami family was now refusing even to recognize the fathers custody rights. Thirty minutes later, at five-fifteen, I got another call from John saying it was over. Reno had authorized a pre-dawn raid on the great-uncles house by federal officials. It lasted three minutes, no one was hurt, and Elin was returned to his father. A small boy had become a pawn in the never-ending struggle against Castro.
Photographs of an obviously happy Elin with his father were published, and sentiment shifted markedly in favor of the reunification. I was confident we had followed the only course open to us, but I was still concerned that it could cost Al Gore Florida in November. Juan Miguel and Elin Gonzlez remained in the United States a few more weeks, until the Supreme Court finally upheld the lower courts custody order. Mr. Gonzlez could have stayed in the United States, but he wanted to take his son home to Cuba.
In May, I toured schools in Kentucky, Iowa, Minnesota, and Ohio to push our education package; hosted a state visit for Thabo Mbeki, who had just been elected president of South Africa; and promoted the China trade bill, which was necessary for Chinas admission into the WTO. Presidents Ford and Carter, along with James Baker and Henry Kissinger, came to the White House to promote it. This turned out to be a very difficult legislative fightan especially tough vote for Democrats who depended on labor supportand I brought groups of a dozen or so members down to the residence for several weeks in an intensive effort to explain the importance of integrating China into the global economy.
On May 17, I gave my last service academy speech to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. In eight years I had now spoken to each of the service academies twice. Every class filled me with pride in the quality of young men and women who wanted to serve our country in uniform. I was also proud of the young people who came to our service academies from all over the world. This class included graduates from our Cold War adversaries Russia and Bulgaria.
I spoke to the new officers about the fateful struggle in which they would be engaged between the forces of integration and harmony and those of disintegration and chaos, a struggle in which globalization and information technology had magnified both the creative and destructive potential of humankind. I discussed the attacks that Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda had planned for the millennium, which were thwarted through hard work and domestic and international cooperation. To build on that work, I said that I was allocating another $300 million to our anti-terrorism budget; on top of the $9 billion request I had already sent to Congress, it amounted to an increase of more than 40 percent in three years.
After discussing other security challenges, I made the best case I could for an activist foreign policy, cooperating with others in a world in which no nation was protected any longer by geography or conventional military strength.
In late May, just before I left on a trip to Portugal, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine, I went to Assateague Island, Maryland, to announce a new initiative to protect our coral reefs and other marine treasures. We had already quadrupled funding for national marine sanctuaries. I signed an executive order to create a national protective network for our coasts, reefs, underwater forests, and other important structures, and I said we were going to permanently protect the coral reefs of the northwest Hawaiian Islands, more than 60 percent of Americas total, stretching over 1,200 miles. It was the biggest conservation step I had taken since preserving 43 million roadless acres in our national forests, and a needed one, since ocean pollution was threatening reefs the world over, including the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
I went to Portugal for the annual meeting between the United States and the European Union. Portuguese prime minister Antonio Guterres was serving as president of the European Council. He was a bright young progressive who was a member of our Third Way group, as was EU president Romano Prodi. We saw eye to eye on most things, and I enjoyed the meeting, as well as my first visit to Portugal. It was beautiful and warm, with friendly people and a fascinating history.
On June 2, I went with Gerhard Schroeder to the ancient city of Aachen to receive the Charlemagne Prize. In a sunny outdoor ceremony in a public space near the medieval city hall and the old cathedral holding Charlemagnes remains, I thanked Chancellor Schroeder and the German people for giving me an honor shared by Vclav Havel and King Juan Carlos and rarely awarded to an American. I had done everything I could to help Europe become united, democratic, and secure, to expand and strengthen the transatlantic alliance, to reach out to Russia, and to end ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. It was gratifying to be recognized for it.
The next day Gerhard Schroeder hosted another of our Third Way conferences in Berlin. This time Gerhard, Jean Chrtien, and I were joined by three Latin AmericansHenrique Cardoso of Brazil, President Ricardo Lagos of Chile, and President Fernando de la Ra of Argentinaas we outlined the kinds of progressive partnerships leaders of developed and developing countries should form. Tony Blair wasnt there because he and Cherie, already the parents of three children, had recently brought a fourth into the world, a boy they named Leo.
I flew into Moscow for my first meeting with Vladimir Putin since his election. We agreed to destroy another thirty-four metric tons each of weapons-grade plutonium, but could not reach accord on amending the ABM Treaty to enable the United States to deploy a national missile defense system. I wasnt too concerned about that; Putin probably wanted to wait to see how the U.S. election turned out. The Republicans had been enamored of missile defense since the Reagan era, and many of them wouldnt hesitate to abrogate the ABM Treaty in order to deploy it. Al Gore basically agreed with me. Putin didnt want to have to deal with this twice.
At the time, we didnt have a missile defense system reliable enough to deploy. As Hugh Shelton had said, shooting down an incoming missile was like a bullet hitting a bullet. If we ever did develop a workable system, I thought that we should offer the technology to other nations and that, in so doing, we could probably persuade the Russians to amend the ABM Treaty. I wasnt at all sure that, even if it worked, erecting a missile defense system was the best way to spend the staggering sums it would cost. We were far more likely to face attacks from terrorists having smaller nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons.
Moreover, putting up a missile defense could actually expose the world to greater danger. For the foreseeable future, the system would knock out only a few missiles even if it worked. If the United States and Russia were to erect such a system, China would probably build more missiles to overcome it in order to maintain its deterrent capability. Then India would follow suit, as would Pakistan. The Euro-peans were convinced it was a terrible idea. But we didnt have to deal with all those issues until we had a system that worked, and so far, we didnt.
Before I left Moscow, Putin hosted a small dinner in the Kremlin with a jazz concert afterward, featuring Russian musicians from teenagers to an octogenarian. The finale began on a dark stage, a haunting series of tunes by my favorite living tenor saxophonist, Igor Butman. John Podesta, who loved jazz as much as I did, agreed with me that we had never heard a finer live performance.
I went to Ukraine to announce Americas financial support for President Leonid Kuchmas decision to close the final reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant by December 15. It had taken a long time, and I was glad to know that at least the problem would be resolved before I left. My last stop was an outdoor speech to a huge crowd of Ukrainians whom I urged to stay on the course of freedom and economic reform. Kiev was beautiful in the late spring sunshine, and I hoped its people could keep up the high spirits I had observed in the crowd. They still had many hurdles to clear.
On June 8, I flew to Tokyo for the day to pay my respects at the memorial service of my friend Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, who had died of a stroke a few days before. The service was held in the indoor section of a soccer stadium, with a few thousand seats on the floor divided by an aisle in the middle, and several hundred more people sitting in balconies above. A stage had been constructed with a large ramp up the front and smaller ones on the side. Behind the stage was a wall covered in flowers twenty-five or thirty feet high. The flowers were beautifully arranged to show the Japanese rising sun against a pale blue sky. At the very top there was an indented space where at the beginning of the ceremony a military aide solemnly placed a box containing Obuchis ashes. After his colleagues and friends had paid tribute to him, several young Japanese women appeared holding trays full of white flowers. Beginning with Obuchis wife and children, members of the imperial family, and leaders of the government, the mourners all walked up the center ramp, bowed in respect before his ashes, and placed our flowers on a waist-high strip of wood that ran the entire length of the flowered wall.
After I bowed to my friend and placed my flower, I returned to the U.S. embassy to see our ambassador, former House Speaker Tom Foley. I turned on the television to see the ceremony still in progress. Thousands of Obuchis fellow citizens were creating a cloud of sacred flowers against the rising sun. It was one of the most moving tributes I had ever witnessed. I stopped briefly at the reception to pay my respects to Mrs. Obuchi and Keizos children, one of whom was in politics her-self. Mrs. Obuchi thanked me for coming and gave me a beautiful enamel letter box that had belonged to her husband. Obuchi had been a friend to me, and to America. Our alliance was important, and he had valued it even as a young man. I wished he had had longer to serve.
Several days later, while I was participating in the Carleton College commencement exercises in Minnesota, an aide passed me a note informing me that President Hafez al-Assad had just died in Damascus, only ten weeks after our last meeting in Geneva. Although we had our disagreements, he had always been straightforward with me, and I had believed him when he said he had made a strategic choice for peace. Circumstances, miscommunication, and psychological barriers had kept it from happening, but at least we now knew what it would take for Israel and Syria to get there once both sides were ready.
As spring turned to summer, I hosted our largest state dinner ever, as more than four hundred people gathered under a tent on the South Lawn to honor King Mohammed VI of Morocco, one of whose ancestors was the first sovereign to recognize the United States shortly after our original thirteen states joined together.
The next day I corrected an old injustice, awarding the Congressional Medal of Honor to twenty-two Japanese-Americans who had volunteered to serve in Europe during World War II after their families were interned in camps. One of them was my friend and ally Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, who had lost an arm and very nearly his life in the war. A week later I nominated the first Asian-American to the cabinet: former congressman Norm Mineta of California agreed to serve for the remainder of my term as commerce secretary, replacing Bill Daley, who was leaving to become the chairman of Al Gores campaign.
In the last week of the month, I held a gathering in the East Room of the White House, where almost two hundred years earlier Thomas Jefferson had spread out the path-breaking map of the western United States that his aide Meriwether Lewis had made on his courageous expedition from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean in 1803. The crowd of scientists and diplomats had gathered to celebrate a twenty-firstcentury map: more than a thousand researchers in the United States, the UK, Germany, France, Japan, and China had decoded the human genome, identifying nearly all of the three billion sequences of our genetic code. After battling each other for years, Francis Collins, head of the government-funded international human genome project, and Celera president Craig Venter had agreed to publish their genetic data together later in the year. Craig was an old friend, and I had done my best to bring them together. Tony Blair joined us on a satellite hookup, giving me a chance to joke that his infant sons life expectancy had just gone up by about twenty-five years.
As the month drew to a close, I announced that our budget surplus would exceed $200 billion, with a ten-year projected surplus of over $4 trillion. Once again, I recommended that we lock away the Social Security surplus, about $2.3 trillion, and that we save about $550 billion for Medicare. It was beginning to look as if we could handle the baby boomers retirement after all.
I also did a number of political events to support Democrats in Arizona and California and to help Terry McAuliffe raise the rest of the money we needed to put on our convention in Los Angeles in August. We were working closely with him and the Gore campaign through my political director Minyon Moore.
Most polls had Gore trailing Bush, and at my press conference on June 28, I was asked by an NBC News reporter whether Al was being held accountable for the scandals of the administration. I said there was no evidence that he was being punished for my mistakes; that the only wrongdoing he had been accused of involved campaign fund-raising, and he wasnt guilty; and that the other so-called scandals were bogus: The word scandal has been thrown around here like a clanging teapot for seven years. I also said I knew three things about Al Gore: he had had a more positive impact on our country as vice president than any of his predecessors; he had the right positions on the issues and would keep the prosperity going; and he understood the future, both its possibilities and its dangers. I believed if all the voters understood that, Al would win.
In the first week of July, I announced that our economy had now produced twenty-two million jobs since I took office, and went out to the Old Soldiers Home a few miles north of the White House to protect the old cottage Abraham Lincoln and his family had used for a summer home when the Potomac generated hordes of mosquitoes and there was no air conditioning. Several other Presidents had used it, too. It was one of Hillarys Save Americas Treasures projects, and we wanted to know the old place would be cared for when we left the White House.
On July 11, I opened a summit with Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat at Camp David in an attempt to resolve the remaining obstacles to peace, or at least to narrow their differences so that we could finish before I left office, a result both leaders said they wanted.
They came to the summit with very different attitudes. Barak had pushed hard for the summit because the piecemeal approach of the 1993 agreement and the Wye River accord didnt work for him. The 180,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank and Gaza were a formidable force. Every Israeli concession that failed to bring an end to terror and a formal Palestinian recognition that the conflict was over was a death by a thousand cuts. Barak had just survived a no-confidence vote in the Knesset by only two votes. He was also eager for a deal before September, when Arafat had threatened to unilaterally declare a state. Barak believed that if he could present a comprehensive peace plan to Israeli citizens, they would vote for it as long as Israels fundamental interests were achieved: security, the protection of its religious and cultural sites on the Temple Mount, an end to the Palestinian claim to an unlimited right of return to Israel, and a declaration that the conflict was over.
Arafat, on the other hand, didnt want to come to Camp David, at least not yet. He had felt abandoned by the Israelis when they turned to the Syrian track, and was angry that Barak had not kept previous commitments to turn over more of the West Bank, including villages near Jerusalem. In Arafats eyes, Baraks unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon and his offer to withdraw from the Golan had weakened him. While Arafat had patiently continued the peace process, Lebanon and Syria had benefited by taking a hard line. Arafat also said he needed two more weeks to develop his proposals. He wanted as close to a hundred percent of the West Bank and Gaza as he could get; complete sovereignty over the Temple Mount and East Jerusalem, except for the Jewish neighborhoods there; and a solution to the refugee problem that did not require him to give up the principle of the right of return.
As usual, each leader saw his own position more clearly than he saw the other side. There was not a high probability of success for the summit. I called it because I believed that the collapse of the peace process would be a near certainty if I didnt.
On the first day, I tried to get Arafat past his grievances to focus on the work ahead and to get Barak to agree on how to move through the issues, especially the most contentious ones: territory, settlements, refugees, security, and Jerusalem. As he had at Shepherdstown, Barak wanted to slow-walk things for a couple of days. It didnt matter that much this timeArafat hadnt come with a set of negotiating points; this was all strange territory to him. In previous negotiations he would just hold out for the best offer he could get from Israel on issues such as land, an airport, connecting roads, and prisoner releases, then pledge his best efforts on the security front. Now if we were going to get this done, Arafat had some compromising of his own to do on concrete matters: He couldnt get a hundred percent of the West Bank or an unlimited right of return to a much smaller Israel. He also would have to meet some of Israels security concerns about potential enemies east of the Jordan River.
I spent the first couple of days trying to get Arafat and Barak in the right frame of mind, while Madeleine, Sandy, Dennis, Gemal Helal, John Podesta, and the rest of our team began working with their Israeli and Palestinian counterparts. I was immensely impressed with the quality of both delegations. They were all patriotic, intelligent, and hardworking, and they genuinely seemed to want an agreement. Most of them had known each other and their counterparts on the other side for years, and the chemistry between the two groups was quite good.
We tried to create a comfortable, informal atmosphere for the Israelis and Palestinians. In addition to our regular Middle East team, I asked Hillarys aide, Huma Abedin, to join us. An Arabic-speaking Muslim American raised in Saudi Arabia, Huma was an impressive young woman who understood the Middle East and was especially effective at making the Israeli and Palestinian delegates feel at home and at ease. Capricia Marshall, the White House social secretary, arranged for the White House butlers, chefs, and valets to come help the Camp David staff in making sure the meals were enjoyable. And Chelsea stayed with me the whole time, entertaining our guests and helping me deal with the endless hours of tension.
Most nights we all had dinner together at Laurel, the large gathering cabin at Camp David, which had dining facilities, a large den, a meeting room, and my private office. Breakfast and lunch were more informal, and the Israelis and Palestinians could often be seen talking among themselves in small groups. Sometimes it was business; often they were telling stories and jokes or relating family histories. Abu Ala and Abu Mazen were Arafats oldest and longest-serving advisors. Abu Ala took a lot of kidding from the Israelis and the Americans for his family. His father was so prolific that the sixty-three-year-old Palestinian had an eight-year-old brother; the boy was younger than some of Abus own grandchildren. Eli Rubinstein, the Israeli attorney general, knew more jokes than I did and told them better.
While the chemistry between the teams was good, the same could not be said of Arafat and Barak. I had put them in cabins close to mine and visited at length with both of them every day, but they didnt visit each other. Arafat continued to feel aggrieved. Barak didnt want to meet alone with Arafat; he was afraid that they would fall into the old patterns where Barak did all the giving and Arafat made no response in kind. Ehud spent most of the day in his cabin, much of it on the phone to Israel trying to hold his coalition together.
By this time, I had gotten to understand Barak better. He was brilliant and brave, and he was willing to go a long way on Jerusalem and on territory. But he had a hard time listening to people who didnt see things the way he did, and his way of doing things was diametrically opposed to honored customs among the Arabs with whom Id dealt. Barak wanted others to wait until he decided the time was right, then, when he made his best offer, he expected it to be accepted as self-evidently a good deal. His negotiating partners wanted trust-building courtesies and conversations and lots of bargaining.
The culture clash made my teams job harder. They came up with a variety of strategies to break the impasse, and some progress was made after the delegations broke up into different groups to work on specific issues, but neither side had permission to go beyond a certain point.
On the sixth day, Shlomo Ben-Ami and Gilead Sher, with Baraks blessing, went well beyond previously stated Israeli positions in the hope of getting some movement from Saeb Erekat and Mohammed Dahlan, younger members of Arafats team who we all believed wanted a deal. When the Palestinians didnt offer Barak anything in return for his moves on Jerusalem and territory, I went to see Arafat, taking Helal with me to interpret and Malley to take notes. It was a tough meeting, and it ended with my telling Arafat that I would end the talks and say he had refused to negotiate unless he gave me something to take back to Barak, who was off the wall because Ben-Ami and Sher had gone as far as they had and gotten nothing in return. After a while Arafat gave me a letter that seemed to say that if he was satisfied with the Jerusalem question, I could make the final call on how much land the Israelis kept for settlements and what constituted a fair land swap. I took the letter to Barak and spent a lot of time talking to him, often alone or with the NSC notetaker for Israel, Bruce Reidel. Eventually Barak agreed that Arafats letter might mean something.
On the seventh day, July 17, we almost lost Barak. He was eating and working when he choked on a peanut and stopped breathing for about forty seconds, until Gid Gernstein, the youngest member of his delegation, administered the Heimlich maneuver. Barak was a tough customer; when he got his breath back, he went back to work as if nothing had happened. For the rest of us, nothing was happening. Barak had kept his entire delegation working with him all day long and into the night.
In any process like this, there are always periods of downtime, when some people are working and others arent. You have to do something to break the tension. I spent several hours of my downtime playing cards with Joe Lockhart, John Podesta, and Doug Band. Doug had worked at the White House for five years while putting himself through graduate and law school at night, and in the spring had become my last presidential aide. He had an interest in the Middle East and was very helpful to me. Chelsea played cards, too. She made the highest Oh Hell! score in the entire two weeks at Camp David.
It was after midnight when Barak finally came to me with proposals. They were less than what Ben-Ami and Sher had already presented to the Palestinians. Ehud wanted me to present them to Arafat as U.S. proposals. I understood his frustration with Arafat, but I couldnt do that; it would have been a disaster, and I told him so. We talked until two-thirty. At three-fifteen he came back, and we talked another hour alone on the back porch of my cabin. Essentially he gave me the go-ahead to see if I could work out a deal on Jerusalem and the West Bank that he could live with and that was consistent with what Ben-Ami and Sher had discussed with their counterparts. That was worth staying up for.
On the morning of the eighth day, I was feeling both anxious and hopeful, anxious because I had been scheduled to leave for the G-8 summit in Okinawa, which I had to attend for a variety of reasons, and hopeful because Baraks sense of timing and his enormous courage had kicked in. I delayed my departure for Okinawa by a day and met with Arafat. I told him that I thought he could get 91 percent of the West Bank, plus at least a symbolic swap of land near Gaza and the West Bank; a capital in East Jerusalem; sovereignty over the Muslim and Christian quarters of the Old City and the outer neighborhoods of East Jerusalem; planning, zoning, and law-enforcement authority over the rest of the eastern part of the city; and custodianship but not sovereignty over the Temple Mount, which was known as Haram al-Sharif to the Arabs. Arafat balked at not having sovereignty over all of East Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount. He turned the offer down. I asked him to think about it. While he fretted and Barak fumed, I called Arab leaders for support. Most wouldnt say much, for fear of undercutting Arafat.
On the ninth day, I gave Arafat my best shot again. Again he said no. Israel had gone much further than he had, and he wouldnt even embrace their moves as the basis for future negotiations. Again I called several Arab leaders for help. King Abdullah and President Ben Ali of Tunisia tried to encourage Arafat. They told me he was afraid to make compromises. It looked as if the talks were dead, and on disastrous terms. Both sides clearly wanted a deal, so I asked them to stay and work while I was in Okinawa. They agreed, though after I left, the Palestinians still refused to negotiate on the basis of the ideas I had advanced, saying they had already rejected them. Then the Israelis balked. That was in part my fault. Apparently I had not been as clear with Arafat as I thought I had been about what the terms of staying on should be.
I had left Madeleine and the rest of our team with a real mess. She took Arafat to her farm and Barak to the famous Civil War battlefield at nearby Gettysburg. It lightened them up, but nothing happened between them. Shlomo Ben-Ami and Amnon Shahak, himself a former general, had good talks with Mohammed Dahlan and Mohamed Rashid, but they were the most forward leaning of their respective groups; even if they agreed on everything, they probably couldnt get their leaders on board.
I returned on the thirteenth day of discussions, and we worked all night again, mostly on security issues. Then we did it again on the fourteenth day, going well past 3 a.m. before giving up when effective control over the Temple Mount and all East Jerusalem was not enough for Arafat without the word sovereignty. In a last-ditch effort I offered to try to sell Barak on full sovereignty for East Jerusalems outer neighborhoods, limited sovereignty over the inner ones, and custodial sovereignty over the Haram. Again Arafat said no. I shut down the talks. It was frustrating and profoundly sad. There was little difference between the two sides on how the affairs of Jerusalem would actually be handled; it was all about who got to claim sovereignty.
I issued a statement saying I had concluded that the parties could not reach agreement at this time given the historical, religious, political, and emotional dimensions of the conflict. To give Barak some cover back home and indicate what had occurred, I said that while Arafat had made clear that he wanted to stay on the path of peace, Barak had shown particular courage, vision, and an understanding of the historical importance of this moment.
I said that the two delegations had shown each other a genuine respect and understanding unique in my eight years of peacemaking around the world, and for the first time had openly discussed the most sensitive matters in dispute. We now had a better idea of each sides bottom line and I still believed we had a chance to reach an agreement before the year was out.
Arafat had wanted to continue the negotiations, and on more than one occasion had acknowledged that he was unlikely to get a future Israeli government or American team so committed to peace. It was hard to know why he had moved so little. Perhaps his team really hadnt worked through the hard compromises; perhaps they wanted one session to see how much they could squeeze out of Israel before showing their hand. For whatever reasons, they had left Barak exposed in a precarious political situation. It was not for nothing that he was the most decorated soldier in the history of Israel. For all his brusque bullheadedness, he had taken great risks to win a more secure future for Israel. In my remarks to the press, I assured the people of Israel that he had done nothing to compromise their security and said they should be very proud of him.
Arafat was famous for waiting until the very last minute to make a decision, or five minutes to midnight as we used to say. I had only six months to go as President. I certainly hoped Arafats watch kept good time.