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W hen 1998 began, I had no idea it would be the strangest year of my presidency, full of personal humiliation and disgrace, policy struggles at home and triumphs abroad, and, against all odds, a stunning demonstration of the common sense and fundamental decency of the American people. Because everything happened at once, I was compelled as never before to live parallel lives, except that this time the darkest part of my inner life was in full view..christian louboutin replica.
January began on a positive note, with three major initiatives: (1) a 50 percent increase in the number of Peace Corps volunteers, primarily to support the new democracies that had emerged since the fall of communism; (2) a $22 billion child-care program to double the number of children in working families receiving child-care subsidies, provide tax credits to encourage employees to make child care available to their employees, and expand before- and after-school programs to serve 500,000 children; and (3) a proposal to allow people to buy into Medicare, which covered Americans sixty-five and older, at age sixty-two, or at age fifty-five if they had lost their jobs. The program was designed to be self-financing through modest premiums and other payments. It was needed because so many Americans were leaving the workforce early, through downsizing, layoffs, or choice, and couldnt find affordable insurance elsewhere after they lost their employer-based coverage..cheap christian louboutin.
In the second week of the month, I went to South Texas, one of my favorite places in America, to urge the largely Hispanic student body at Mission High School to help close the gap between the college-going rates of Hispanic young people and the rest of the student population by taking full advantage of the tremendous increase in college aid the Congress had authorized in 1997. While there, I was informed of the collapse of Indonesias economy, and my economic team went to work on the next casualty of the Asian financial crisis; Deputy Treasury Secretary Larry Summers went to Indonesia to secure the governments agreement to implement the reforms necessary to receive assistance from the International Monetary Fund..cartier love bracelet replica.
On the thirteenth, trouble broke out in Iraq again as Saddams government blocked an American-led UN inspection team from doing its job, the beginning of a protracted effort by Saddam to coerce the United Nations into lifting sanctions in return for continuing the weapons inspections. The same day, the Middle East moved toward crisis as Prime Minister Netanyahus government, which still had not completed the overdue opening of the Gaza airport or provided safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank, put the entire peace process in danger by voting to keep control of the West Bank indefinitely. The only bright spot on the world horizon in January was the White House signing of a NATO partnership with the Baltic nations, which was designed to formalize our security relationship and reassure them that the ultimate goal of all the NATO nations, including the United States, was the full integration of Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia into NATO and other multilateral institutions..moncler outlet online.
On the fourteenth, I was in the East Room of the White House with Al Gore to announce our push for a Patients Bill of Rights, to provide Americans in managed care plans with some basic treatment guarantees that were being denied all too frequently, and Hillary was being questioned by Ken Starr for the fifth time. The topic on this occasion was how the FBI files on Republicans got to the White House, something she knew nothing about..hermes bracelet replica.
My deposition in the Jones case came three days later. I had gone over a series of possible questions with my lawyers and thought I was reasonably well prepared, though I didnt feel well that day and certainly wasnt looking forward to my encounter with the Rutherford Institute lawyers. The presiding judge, Susan Webber Wright, had given Joness lawyers broad permission to delve into my private life, allegedly to see if there was a pattern of sexual harassment involving any women who had held or sought state employment when I was governor or federal employment when I was President, during a time period from five years before Joness alleged harassment to the present day. The judge had also given the Jones lawyers strict instructions not to leak the contents of any deposition or other aspects of their investigation..Hermes H Bracelet replica.
The stated objective could have been achieved less intrusively by simply directing me to answer yes or no to questions about whether I had ever been alone with women working for the government; then the lawyers could have asked the women whether I had ever harassed them. However, that would have rendered the deposition useless. By this time, everyone involved in the case knew there was no evidence of sexual harassment. I was certain that the lawyers wanted to force me to acknowledge any kind of involvement with one or more women that they could then leak to the press, in violation of the judges confidentiality order. As it turned out, I didnt know the half of it..moncler outlet online.
After I was sworn in, the deposition began with a request from the Rutherford Institute lawyers that the judge accept a definition of sexual relations that they had purportedly found in a legal document. Basically, the definition covered most intimate contact beyond kissing by the person being asked the question, if it was done for gratification or arousal. It seemed to require both a specific act and a certain state of mind on my part, and did not include any act by another person. The lawyers said they were trying to spare me embarrassing questions..cartier love bracelet replica.
I was there for several hours, only ten or fifteen minutes of which were devoted to Paula Jones. The rest of the time was spent on a variety of topics with no connection to Jones, including a great many questions about Monica Lewinsky, who had worked in the White House in the summer of 1995 as an intern and then in a staff job from December through early April, when she was transferred to the Pentagon. The lawyers asked, among other things, how well I knew her, whether we had ever exchanged gifts, whether we had ever talked on the phone, and if I had had sexual relations with her. I discussed our conversations, acknowledged that I had given her gifts, and answered no to the sexual relations question..moncler outlet.
The Rutherford Institute lawyers kept asking the same questions with slight variations over and over again. When we took a break, my legal team was perplexed, because Lewinskys name had shown up on the plaintiffs list of potential witnesses only in early December, and she had been given a subpoena to appear as a witness two weeks later. I didnt tell them about my relationship with her, but I did say I was unsure of exactly what the curious definition of sexual relations meant. So were they. At the beginning of the deposition, my attorney, Bob Bennett, had invited the Rutherford Institute lawyers to ask specific and unambiguous questions about my contact with women. At the end of the discussion of Lewinsky, I asked the lawyer who was questioning me if there wasnt something more specific he wanted to ask me. Once again he declined to do so. Instead he said, Sir, I think this will come to light shortly, and youll understand..cheap ball gowns.
I was relieved but somewhat concerned that the lawyer seemed not to want to ask specific questions, nor to want to get my answers to them. If he had asked such questions, I would have answered them truthfully, but I would have hated it. During the government shutdown in late 1995, when very few people were allowed to come to work in the White House and those who were there were working late, Id had an inappropriate encounter with Monica Lewinsky and would do so again on other occasions between November and April, when she left the White House for the Pentagon. For the next ten months, I didnt see her, although we talked on the phone from time to time..cartier love bracelet replica.
In February 1997, Monica was among the guests at an evening taping of my weekly radio address, after which I met with her alone again for about fifteen minutes. I was disgusted with myself for doing it, and in the spring, when I saw her again, I told her that it was wrong for me, wrong for my family, and wrong for her, and I couldnt do it anymore. I also told her that she was an intelligent, interesting person who could have a good life, and that if she wanted me to, I would try to be her friend and help her..christian louboutin replica.
Monica continued to visit the White House, and I saw her on some of those occasions, but nothing improper occurred. In October, she asked me to help her get a job in New York, and I did. She had received two offers and accepted one, and late in December, she came to the White House to say good-bye. By then, she had received her subpoena in the Jones case. She said she didnt want to be deposed, and I told her some women had avoided questioning by filing affidavits saying that I had not sexually harassed them..Giuseppe Zanotti outlet.
What I had done with Monica Lewinsky was immoral and foolish. I was deeply ashamed of it and I didnt want it to come out. In the deposition, I was trying to protect my family and myself from my selfish stupidity. I believed that the contorted definition of sexual relations enabled me to do so, though I was worried enough about it to invite the lawyer interrogating me to ask specific questions. I didnt have to wait long to find out why he declined to do so..Cartier Watches Replica.
On January 21, the Washington Post led with a story that I had had an affair with Monica Lewinsky, and that Kenneth Starr was investigating charges that I had encouraged her to lie about it under oath. The story first emerged publicly early on the eighteenth, on an Internet site. The deposition had been a setup; nearly four years after he first offered to help Paula Jones, Starr had finally gotten into her case.
In the summer of 1996, Monica Lewinsky had begun talking to a co-worker, Linda Tripp, about her relationship with me. A year later, Tripp had started taping their telephone conversations. In October 1997, Tripp offered to play the tapes for a Newsweek reporter and did play them for Lucianne Goldberg, a conservative Republican publicist. Tripp was subpoenaed in the Jones case, though she was never on any witness list provided to my attorneys.
Late on Monday, January 12, 1998, Tripp phoned Starrs office, described her secret taping of Lewinsky, and made arrangements to turn over those tapes. She was concerned about her own criminal liability, because the kind of taping she had done was a felony under Maryland law, but Starrs people promised to protect her. The next day Starr had FBI agents wire Tripp so that she could secretly record a conversation with Lewinsky over lunch at the Pentagon City Ritz-Carlton. A couple of days later, Starr asked the Justice Department for permission to expand his authority to encompass the investigation of Lewinsky, apparently being less than truthful about the basis for his request.
On the sixteenth, the day before my deposition, Tripp arranged to meet Lewinsky again at the hotel. This time Monica was greeted by FBI agents and attorneys who took her to a hotel room, questioned her for several hours, and discouraged her from calling a lawyer. One of Starrs lawyers told her she should cooperate if she wanted to avoid going to jail and offered her an immunity deal that expired at midnight. Lewinsky was also pressured to wear a wire to secretly tape conversations with people involved in the alleged cover-up. Finally, Monica was able to call her mother, who contacted her father, from whom she had long been divorced. He got in touch with a lawyer, William Ginsburg, who advised her not to accept the immunity deal until he learned more about the case, and who blasted Starr for holding his client for eight or nine hours without an attorney and for pressuring her to wear a wire to entrap others.
After the story broke, I called David Kendall and assured him that I had not suborned perjury or obstructed justice. It was clear to both of us that Starr was trying to create a firestorm to force me from office. He was off to a flying start, but I thought that if I could survive the public pounding for two weeks, the smoke would begin to clear, the press and the public would focus on Starrs tactics, and a more balanced view of the matter would emerge. I knew I had made a terrible mistake, and I was determined not to compound it by allowing Starr to drive me from office. For now, the hysteria was overwhelming.
I went on doing my job, and I stonewalled, denying what had happened to everyone: Hillary, Chelsea, my staff and cabinet, my friends in Congress, members of the press, and the American people. What I regret the most, other than my conduct, is having misled all of them. Since 1991 I had been called a liar about everything under the sun, when in fact I had been honest in my public life and financial affairs, as all the investigations would show. Now I was misleading everyone about my personal failings. I was embarrassed and wanted to keep it from my wife and daughter. I didnt want to help Ken Starr criminalize my personal life, and I didnt want the American people to know Id let them down. It was like living in a nightmare. I was back to my parallel lives with a vengeance.
On the day the story broke, I did a previously scheduled interview with Jim Lehrer for the PBS NewsHour. I responded to his questions by saying that I had not asked anyone to lie, which was true, and that there is no improper relationship. Although the impropriety was over well before Lehrer asked the question, my answer was misleading, and I was ashamed of telling Lehrer that; from then on, whenever I could, I just said I never asked anybody not to tell the truth.
While all this was going on, I had to keep doing my job. On the twentieth, I met with Prime Minister Netanyahu at the White House to discuss his plans for a phased withdrawal from the West Bank. Netanyahu had made a decision to move the peace process forward as long as he had peace with security. It was a bold move because his governing coalition was shaky, but he could see that if he didnt act, the situation would quickly get out of hand.
The next day Arafat came to the White House. I gave him an encouraging report of my meeting with Netanyahu, assured him that I was pushing the prime minister to fulfill Israels obligation under the peace process, reminded him of the Israeli leaders political problems, and stated, as I always did, that he had to keep fighting terror if he wanted Israel to move forward. The next day Mir Aimal Kansi was sentenced to death for the murder of the two CIA agents in January 1993, the first terrorist act to occur during my presidency.
By January 27, the day of the State of the Union address, the American people had been deluged with a week of coverage of Starrs inquiry, and I had spent a week dealing with it. Starr had already issued subpoenas to a number of White House staff people and for our records. I had asked Harold Ickes and Mickey Kantor to help deal with the controversy. The day before the speech, at the urging of Harold and Harry Thomason, who felt I had been too tentative in my public comments, I reluctantly appeared once more before the press to say I did not have sexual relations with Lewinsky.
On the morning of the speech, on NBCs Today show, Hillary said that she didnt believe the charges against me and that a vast right-wing conspiracy had been trying to destroy us since the 1992 campaign. Starr issued an indignant statement complaining that Hillary had questioned his motives. Though she was right about the nature of our opposition, seeing Hillary defend me made me even more ashamed about what I had done.
Hillarys difficult interview and my mixed reaction to it clearly exemplified the bind I had put myself in: As a husband, I had done something wrong that I needed to apologize and atone for; as President, I was in a legal and political struggle with forces who had abused the criminal and civil laws and severely damaged innocent people in their attempt to destroy my presidency and cripple my ability to serve.
Finally, after years of dry holes, I had given them something to work with. I had hurt the presidency and the people by my misconduct. That was no ones fault but my own. I didnt want to compound the error by letting the reactionaries prevail.
By 9 p.m., when I walked into the packed House chamber, the tension was palpable both there and in living rooms across America, where more people were watching my State of the Union address than since I delivered my first one. The big question was whether I would mention the controversy. I began with what was not in dispute. The country was in good shape, with fourteen million new jobs, rising incomes, the highest rate of home ownership ever, the fewest people on the welfare rolls in twenty-seven years, and the smallest federal government in thirty-five years. The 1993 economic plan had cut the deficit, projected to be $357 billion in 1998, by 90 percent, and the previous years balanced budget plan would get rid of it entirely.
Then I outlined my plan for the future. First, I proposed that before spending the coming surpluses on new programs or tax cuts, we should save Social Security for the baby boomers retirement. In education, I recommended funding to hire 100,000 new teachers and to cut class size to eighteen in the first three grades; a plan to help communities modernize or build five thousand schools; and assistance to help schools end the practice of social promotion, by providing funds for extra learning in after-school or summer-school programs. I reiterated my support for a Patients Bill of Rights, opening Medicare to Americans between the ages of fifty-five and sixty-five, expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act, and called for a large enough expansion in federal child-care assistance to provide support for one million more children.
On the security front, I asked for congressional support in combating an unholy axis of new threats from terrorists, international criminals, and drug traffickers; Senate approval of the expansion of NATO; and continued funding for our mission in Bosnia and our efforts to confront the hazards of chemical and biological weapons and the outlaw states, terrorists, and organized criminals seeking to acquire them.
The last section of my speech dealt with appeals to bring America together and look to the future: tripling the number of empowerment zones in poor communities; launching a new clean water initiative for our rivers, lakes, and coastal waters; providing $6 billion in tax cuts and research funds for the development of fuel-efficient cars, clean-energy homes, and renewable energy; financing the next generation Internet to transmit information up to a thousand times faster; and funding the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which, because of congressional hostility, didnt have the resources to handle sixty thousand backlogged cases alleging discrimination in the workplace. I also proposed the largest increase in history for the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, and the National Science Foundation so that ours will be the generation that finally wins the war against cancer and begins a revolution in our fight against all deadly diseases.
I closed the speech thanking Hillary for leading our millennium campaign to preserve Americas treasures, including the tattered old Star Spangled Banner, which inspired Francis Scott Key to write our national anthem during the War of 1812.
There wasnt a word in the address about the scandal, and the biggest new idea had been to save Social Security first. I was afraid Congress would get into a bidding war for the coming surpluses and squander them on tax cuts and spending before we had dealt with the baby boomers retirement. Most Democrats agreed with me, and most Republicans didnt, though over the coming years we would hold a series of bipartisan forums around the country in which, despite everything else that was going on, we searched for common ground, arguing about how to provide for retirement security rather than whether to do so.
Two days after the speech, Judge Wright ordered that all evidence related to Monica Lewinsky be excluded from the Jones case because it was not essential to the core issues, making Starrs inquiry into my deposition even more questionable, since perjury requires a false statement about a material matter. On the last day of the month, ten days after the firestorm began, the Chicago Tribune published a poll showing that my job approval rating had risen to 72 percent. I was determined to show the American people that I was on the job and getting results for them.
On February 5 and 6, Tony and Cherie Blair came to the United States for a two-day state visit. They were a sight for sore eyes for both Hillary and me. They made us laugh, and Tony gave me strong support in public, emphasizing our common approach to economic and social problems and to foreign policy. We took them to Camp David for a dinner with Al and Tipper Gore, and held a state dinner at the White House with entertainment by Elton John and Stevie Wonder. After the event Hillary told me that Newt Gingrich, who had been seated at her table with Tony Blair, had said the charges against me were ludicrous, and meaningless even if true, and werent going anywhere.
At our press conference, after Tony said that I was not just his colleague but his friend, Mike Frisby, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, finally asked the question I had been waiting for. He wanted to know whether, given the pain and all the issues about my personal life, at what point do you consider that its just not worth it, and do you consider resigning the office? Never, I answered. I said I had tried to take the personal venom out of politics, but the harder I tried, the harder others have pulled in the other direction. Still, I would never walk away from the people of this country and the trust theyve placed in me, so Im just going to keep showing up for work.
In mid-month, as Tony Blair and I continued to build support around the world for launching air strikes on Iraq in response to the expulsion of the UN inspectors, Kofi Annan secured a last-minute agreement from Saddam Hussein to resume the inspections. It seemed that Saddam never moved except when forced to do so.
Besides plugging my new initiatives, I spent time working for the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill, which the Senate Republicans killed at the end of the month; swearing in a new surgeon general, Dr. David Satcher, the director of the Centers for Disease Control; touring tornado damage in central Florida; announcing the first grants to help communities strengthen their efforts to prevent violence against women; and raising funds to help Democrats in the coming election.
In late January and in February, several White House staffers were called before the grand jury. I felt terrible that they had been caught up in all this, especially Betty Currie, who had tried to befriend Monica Lewinsky and was now being punished for it. I also felt bad that Vernon Jordan had been caught up in the maelstrom. We had been close friends for so long, and time and again I had seen him help people who needed it. Now he was being targeted because of me. I knew he hadnt done anything wrong and hoped someday he would be able to forgive me for the mess I had gotten him into.
Starr also subpoenaed Sidney Blumenthal, a journalist and old friend of Hillarys and mine who had come to work in the White House in July 1997. According to the Washington Post, Starr was exploring whether Sids criticism of him amounted to an obstruction of justice. It was a chilling indication of how thin-skinned Starr was, and how willing to use the power of his office against anyone who criticized him. Starr also subpoenaed two private investigators who had been hired by the National Enquirer to run down a rumor that he had been having an affair with a woman in Little Rock. The rumor was false, apparently a case of mistaken identity, but again, it reflected a double standard. He was using FBI agents and private investigators to look into my life. When a tabloid looked at his, he went after them.
Starrs tactics were beginning to draw the attention of the press. Newsweek published a two-page chart, Conspiracy or Coincidence, which traced the connections of more than twenty conservative activists and organizations that had promoted and financed the scandals Starr was investigating. The Washington Post ran a story in which a number of former federal prosecutors expressed discomfort not just with Starrs new focus on my private conduct, but with the arsenal of weapons he has deployed to try to make his case against the president.
Starr was particularly criticized for forcing Monica Lewinskys mother to testify against her will. Federal guidelines, which Starr was supposed to follow, said that family members should ordinarily not be forced to testify unless they were part of the criminal activity being investigated, or there were overriding prosecutorial concerns. By early February, according to an NBC News poll, only 26 percent of the American people thought Starr was conducting an impartial inquiry.
The saga continued into March. My deposition in the Jones case was leaked, obviously by someone on the Jones side. Although the judge had repeatedly warned the Rutherford Institute lawyers not to leak it, no one was ever sanctioned. On the eighth, Jim McDougal died in a federal prison in Texas, a sad and ironic end to his long downward slide. According to Susan McDougal, Jim had changed his story to suit Starr and Hick Ewing because he desperately wanted to avoid dying in jail.
In mid-month, 60 Minutes ran an interview with a woman named Kathleen Willey, who claimed I had made an unwanted advance toward her while she was working in the White House. It wasnt true. We had evidence that cast doubt on her story, including the affidavit of her friend Julie Hiatt Steele, who said Willey had asked her to lie by saying she had told Steele about the alleged episode shortly after it happened, when in fact she hadnt.
Willeys husband had killed himself, leaving her responsible for more than $200,000 of outstanding debt. Within a week, news stories reported that after I called her to offer my condolences on her husbands death, she had told people I was coming to his funeral; this was after the alleged incident. Eventually we released about a dozen letters Willey had written to me, again after the alleged encounter, saying things like she was my number one fan and that she wanted to help me in any way that I can. After a report that she had sought $300,000 to tell her story to a tabloid or in a book, the story faded away.
I mention Willeys sad tale here because of what Starr did with it. First, in a highly unusual move, he gave her transactional immunitycomplete protection against any kind of criminal prosecutionprovided she told him the truth. When she was caught being untruthful about some embarrassing details involving another man, Starr just gave her immunity again. By contrast, when Julie Hiatt Steele, a registered Republican, refused to change her story and lie for Starr, he indicted her. Even though she wasnt convicted, it ruined her financially. Starrs office even sought to challenge the legality of her adoption of a baby from Romania.
On St. Patricks Day, I met with the leaders of all of the political parties in Northern Ireland that were participating in the political process, and had extended visits with Gerry Adams and David Trimble. Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern wanted to reach an agreement. My role was basically to keep reassuring and pushing all the parties into the framework George Mitchell was constructing. There were hard compromises still ahead, but I thought we were getting there.
A few days later, Hillary and I flew to Africa, far away from the clamor at home. Africa was a continent that America had too often ignored, and one that I believed would play a large role for good or ill in the twenty-first century. I was really glad Hillary was going with me; she had loved the trip she and Chelsea had made to Africa the previous year, and we needed the time away together.
The visit began in Ghana, where President Jerry Rawlings and his wife, Nana Konadu Agyemang, got us off to a rousing start with a ceremony in Independence Square; it was filled with more than half a million people. We were flanked on the stage by tribal kings draped in bright-colored native kente cloth and entertained by African rhythms played by several Ghanaians on by far the largest drum I had ever seen.
I liked Rawlings and respected the fact that after seizing power in a military coup, he was elected and reelected president, and was committed to relinquishing his office in 2000. Besides, we had an indirect family connection: when Chelsea was born, the doctor was assisted by a wonderful Ghanaian midwife who had come to Arkansas to continue her education. Hillary and I came to like Hagar Sam very much and were pleased to learn she had also helped to deliver the four Rawlings children.
On the twenty-fourth, we were in Uganda to meet with President Yoweri Museveni and his wife, Janet. Uganda had come a long way since the stifling dictatorship of Idi Amin. Just a few years earlier, it had had the highest AIDS rate in Africa. With a campaign called the big noise, the death rate had been cut in half through a focus on abstinence, education, marriage, and condoms.
The four of us went to two small villages, Mukono and Wanyange, to highlight the importance of education and of American-financed micro-credit loans. Uganda had tripled education funding in the previous five years and had made a real effort to educate girls as well as boys. The schoolchildren we visited in Mukono wore nice pink uniforms. They were obviously bright and interested, but their learning materials were inadequate; the map on the classroom wall was so old it still included the Soviet Union. In Wanyange, the village cook had expanded her operation and another woman had diversified her chicken-raising business to include rabbits with micro-credit loans funded by U.S. aid. We met a woman with a two-day-old baby. She let me hold the infant boy as the White House photographer took a picture of two guys named Bill Clinton.
The Secret Service didnt want me to go to Rwanda because of ongoing security problems, but I felt that I had to. As a concession to the security issue, I met at the Kigali airport with the leaders of the country and with survivors of the genocide. President Pasteur Bizimungu, a Hutu, and Vice President Paul Kagame, a Tutsi, were trying to put the country back together. Kagame was the nations most powerful political leader; he had decided that it would advance the reconciliation process to begin with a president from the majority Hutu tribe. I acknowledged that the United States and the international community had not acted quickly enough to stop the genocide or to prevent the refugee camps from becoming havens for the killers, and I offered to help the nation rebuild and to support the war crimes tribunal that would hold accountable the perpetrators of the genocide.
The survivors told me their stories. The last speaker was a dignified woman who said her family had been identified to the rampaging killers as Tutsis by Hutu neighbors whose children had played with hers for years. She was badly wounded by a machete and left for dead. She awoke in a pool of her own blood to find her husband and six children lying dead beside her. She told Hillary and me that she had cried out to God in despair that she had survived, then came to understand that my life must have been spared for a reason, and it could not be something as mean as vengeance. So I do what I can to help us start again. I was overwhelmed; that magnificent woman had made my problems seem pathetically small. She had deepened my resolve to do whatever I could to help Rwanda.
I began the first visit by any American President to South Africa in Cape Town, with a speech to the parliament in which I said I had come in part to help the American people see the new Africa with new eyes. It was fascinating to me to witness the supporters and victims of apartheid working together. They didnt deny the past or hide their current disagreements, but they seemed confident that they could build a common future. It was a tribute to the spirit of reconciliation that emanated from Mandela.
The next day Mandela took us to visit Robben Island, where he had spent the first eighteen years of his captivity. I saw the rock quarry where he had worked and the cramped cell where he was kept when he wasnt breaking rocks. In Johannesburg, I called on Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, who had been meeting with Al Gore twice a year on our common agenda and was almost certain to be Mandelas successor; dedicated a commercial center named after Ron Brown, who had loved South Africa; and visited a primary school. Hillary and I went to church with Jesse Jackson in Soweto, the teeming township that had produced so many of the anti-apartheid activists.
By this time I had developed a real friendship with Mandela. He was remarkable not only because of his astonishing journey from hatred to reconciliation during twenty-seven years in prison, but also because he was both a tough-minded politician and a caring person who, despite his long confinement, never lost his interest in the personal side of life or his ability to show love, friendship, and kindness.
We had one especially meaningful conversation. I said, Madiba [Mandelas colloquial tribal name, which he asked me to use], I know you did a great thing in inviting your jailers to your inauguration, but didnt you really hate those who imprisoned you? He replied, Of course I did, for many years. They took the best years of my life. They abused me physically and mentally. I didnt get to see my children grow up. I hated them. Then one day when I was working in the quarry, hammering the rocks, I realized that they had already taken everything from me except my mind and my heart. Those they could not take without my permission. I decided not to give them away. Then he looked at me, smiled, and said, And neither should you.
After I caught my breath, I asked him another question. When you were walking out of prison for the last time, didnt you feel the hatred rise up in you again? Yes, he said, for a moment I did. Then I thought to myself, They have had me for twenty-seven years. If I keep hating them, they will still have me. I wanted to be free, and so I let it go. He smiled again. This time he didnt have to say, And so should you.
The only vacation day on the trip came in Botswana, which had the highest per capita income in sub-Saharan Africa and the highest AIDS rate in the world. We went on a safari in Chobe National Park and saw lions, elephants, impalas, hippos, crocodiles, and more than twenty different species of birds. We got very close to a mother elephant and her childapparently too close. She raised her trunk and sprayed us with water. It made me laugh to think how happy the Republicans would have been if they could have seen their partys mascot watering me. Late in the afternoon we took a leisurely boat ride down the Chobe River; Hillary and I held hands and counted our blessings as we watched the sun go down.
Our last stop was Senegal, where we visited the Door of No Return on Gore Island, the point from which so many Africans were taken to slavery in North America. As I had in Uganda, I expressed my regret over Americas responsibility for slavery and the long, hard struggle of African-Americans for freedom. I introduced the large delegation with me representing over thirty million Americans that are Africas great gift to America, and pledged to work with the Senegalese and all Africans for a better future. I also visited a mosque with President Abdou Diouf, out of respect for Senegals overwhelmingly Muslim population; a village that had recovered a section of desert with the help of American aid; and Senegalese troops being trained by American military personnel as part of the African Crisis Response Initiative, which my administration had initiated, our effort to better prepare Africans to stop wars and prevent other Rwandas.
The trip was the longest and most comprehensive ever taken to Africa by an American President. The bipartisan congressional delegation and the prominent citizens who accompanied me, as well as the specific programs I was supporting, including the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, demonstrated to Africans that we were turning a new page in our shared history. For all its problems, Africa was a hopeful place. I had seen it in the faces of the massive crowds in the cities, in those of the schoolchildren and villagers in the bush and on the edge of the desert. And Africa had given me a great gift: in the wisdom of a Rwandan widow and of Nelson Mandela, I had found more peace of mind to face what lay ahead.
On April 1, while we were still in Senegal, Judge Wright granted my lawyers motion for a summary judgment in the Jones case, dismissing it without a trial, because she found that Jones had produced no credible evidence to support her claim. The dismissal exposed the raw political nature of Starrs investigation. Now he was pursuing me on the theory that I had given a false statement in a deposition the judge had said was not relevant, and that I had obstructed justice in a case that had no merit in the first place. No one was even talking about Whitewater anymore. On April 2, to no ones surprise, Starr said he would press on.
A few days later Bob Rubin and I announced that the United States would block the importation of 1.6 million assault weapons. Although we had banned the manufacture of nineteen different assault weapons in the 1994 crime bill, ingenious foreign gun makers were trying to evade the law by making modifications on guns whose only purpose was to kill people.
Good Friday, April 10, was one of the happiest days of my presidency. Seventeen hours past the deadline for a decision, all the parties in Northern Ireland agreed to a plan to end thirty years of sectarian violence. I had been up most of the night before, trying to help George Mitchell close the deal. Besides George, I talked to Bertie Ahern, and to Tony Blair, David Trimble, and Gerry Adams twice, before going to bed at 2:30 a.m. At five, George woke me with a request to call Adams again to seal the deal.
The agreement was a fine piece of work, calling for majority rule and minority rights; shared political decision making and shared economic benefits; continued ties to the United Kingdom and new ties to Ireland. The process that produced the pact began with the determination of John Major and Albert Reynolds to seek peace, continued when John Bruton succeeded Reynolds, and was completed by Bertie Ahern, Tony Blair, David Trimble, John Hume, and Gerry Adams. My first visa to Adams and the subsequent intense engagement of the White House made a difference, and George Mitchell handled the negotiations brilliantly.
Of course, the main credit went to those who had to make the hard decisions, the Northern Irish leaders, Blair, and Ahern, and to the people of Northern Ireland who had chosen the promise of peace over a poisoned past. The agreement would have to be ratified in a referendum by the voters of Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic on May 22. With a touch of Irish eloquence, it became known as the Good Friday accord.
At around that time, I also flew to the Johnson Space Center in Houston to discuss our newest shuttle mission to conduct twenty-six experiments on the impact of space on the human body, including how the brain adapts and what happens to the inner ear and the human balance system. One of the crew was in the audience, seventy-seven-year-old senator John Glenn. After flying 149 combat missions in World War II and Korea, John had been one of Americas first astronauts more than thirty-five years earlier. He was retiring from the Senate and was itching to go into space once more. NASAs director, Dan Goldin, and I were strongly in favor of Glenns participation because our space agency wanted to study the effects of space on aging. I had always been a strong supporter of the space program, including the International Space Station and the upcoming mission to Mars; John Glenns last hurrah gave us a chance to show the practical benefits of space exploration.
I then flew to Chile for a state visit and the second Summit of the Americas. After the long, harsh dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, Chile seemed firmly committed to democracy under the leadership of President Eduardo Frei, whose father had also been president of Chile in the 1960s. Shortly after the summit, Mack McLarty resigned as my special envoy to the Americas. By then my old friend had made more than forty trips to the region in the four years since he had taken the job and, in so doing, had sent an unmistakable message that the United States was committed to being a good neighbor.
The month ended on two high notes. I held a reception for members of Congress who had voted for the 1993 budget, including those who had lost their seats for doing so, to announce that the deficit had been completely eliminated for the first time since 1969. It was a development that would have been unthinkable when I took office, and impossible without the hard vote for the economic plan in 1993. On the last day of the month, the Senate voted, 8019, to approve another of my major prioritiesbringing Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic into NATO.
In mid-May our efforts to ban nuclear testing were shaken when India conducted five underground tests. Two weeks later, Pakistan responded with six tests of its own. India claimed its nuclear weapons were needed as a deterrent to China; Pakistan said it was responding to India. Public opinion in both nations strongly supported the possession of nuclear weapons, but it was a dangerous proposition. For one thing, our national security people were convinced that, unlike the United States and the Soviet Union in the Cold War, India and Pakistan knew little about each others nuclear capabilities and policies for using them. After the Indian tests, I urged Pakistans prime minister Nawaz Sharif not to follow suit, but he couldnt resist the political pressure.
I was deeply concerned about Indias decision, not only because I considered it so dangerous, but also because it set back my policy of improving Indo-U.S. relations and made it harder for me to secure Senate ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. France and the UK had already done so, but there was a growing sense of isolation and unilateralism in Congress, as evidenced by the failure of the fast-track legislation and the refusal to pay our UN dues or our contribution to the International Monetary Fund. The IMF funding was especially important. With an Asian financial crisis threatening to spread to fragile economies in other parts of the world, the IMF needed to be able to organize an aggressive and well-funded response. The Congress was compromising the stability of the global economy.
While the nuclear testing controversy was unfolding, I had to leave on another trip, to the annual G-8 summit being held in Birmingham, England. On the way, I stopped in Germany for a meeting with Helmut Kohl at Sans Souci, the palace of Frederick the Great; for a celebration marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Berlin airlift; and for a public appearance with Kohl at a General Motors Opel plant in Eisenach, in the former East Germany.
Kohl was in a tough fight for reelection, and my appearances with him beyond the airlift ceremonies raised a few questions, especially since his Social Democratic Party opponent, Gerhard Schroeder, was running on a platform that was a lot like what Tony Blair and I were advocating. Helmut had already served longer than any German chancellor except Bismarck, and he was behind in the polls. But he had been Americas friend, and mine, and no matter how the election came out, his legacy was secure: a reunited Germany, a strong European Union, a partnership with democratic Russia, and German support for ending the Bosnian war. Before I left Germany, I also had a good talk with Schroeder, who had risen from modest beginnings to the summit of German politics. He struck me as tough, smart, and clearheaded about what he wanted to do. I wished him well, and told him that if he won I would do whatever I could to help him succeed.
When I arrived in Birmingham, I saw that the city had undergone a remarkable revival and was much more beautiful than it had been when I first visited there almost thirty years earlier. The conference had a useful agenda, calling for international economic reforms; greater cooperation against drug trafficking, money laundering, and trafficking in women and children; and a specific alliance between the United States and the European Union against terrorism. However important, it was overshadowed by unfolding world events: the Indian nuclear tests; the political and economic collapse of Indonesia; the stalled peace process in the Middle East; the looming prospect of war in Kosovo; and the coming referendum on the Good Friday accord. We condemned the Indian nuclear tests, reaffirmed our support for the Nuclear Nonproliferation and Comprehensive Test Ban treaties, and said we wanted a global treaty to stop the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons. On Indonesia, we urged both economic and political reforms, which seemed unlikely to occur because the countrys finances were in such a terrible mess that the necessary reforms would make life even harder for ordinary Indonesians in the short run. Within a couple of days, President Suharto resigned, but Indonesias problems did not leave with him. They would soon claim more of my time. Nothing could be done on the Middle East for the moment, until the Israeli political situation was sorted out.
In Kosovo, the southernmost province of Serbia, the majority of the people were Albanian Muslims who were chafing under Milosevics rule. After Serbian attacks on the Kosovars earlier in the year, the United Nations had placed an arms embargo on the former Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) and several nations had imposed economic sanctions on Serbia. A Contact Group consisting of the United States, Russia, and several European nations was working to defuse the crisis. The G-8 supported the Contact Groups efforts, but soon we would have to do more.
Again, the only good news was in Northern Ireland. More than 90 percent of Sinn Fein party members had endorsed the Good Friday accord. With both John Hume and Gerry Adams working for it, a huge Catholic vote in favor of the agreement was certain. Protestant opinion was more closely divided. After consulting with the parties, I decided not to go from Birmingham to Belfast to speak in person for the agreement. I didnt want to give Ian Paisley any ammunition to attack me as an outsider telling the Northern Irish what to do. Instead, Tony Blair and I met with reporters and did two lengthy television interviews with the BBC and CNN supporting the referendum.
On May 20, two days before the vote, I also delivered a brief radio address to the people of Northern Ireland, pledging Americas support if they voted for a lasting peace for yourselves and your children. Thats exactly what they did. The Good Friday accord was approved by 71 percent of the people in Northern Ireland, including a solid majority of Protestants. In the Irish Republic, more than 90 percent of the people voted for it. I was never more proud of my Irish heritage.
After a stop in Geneva to urge the World Trade Organization to adopt a more open decision-making process, take more account of labor and environmental conditions in trade negotiations, and listen to the representatives of ordinary citizens who felt left out of the global economy, I flew home to America, but not away from the worlds problems.
That week, at the commencement ceremony of the U.S. Naval Academy, I outlined an aggressive approach to deal with sophisticated global terrorist networks, including a plan to detect, deter, and defend against attacks on our power systems, water supplies, police, fire and medical services, air traffic control, financial services, telephone systems, and computer networks, and a concerted effort to prevent the spread and use of biological weapons and protect our people from them. I proposed to strengthen the inspection system of the Biological Weapons Convention; vaccinate our armed forces against biological threats, especially anthrax; train more state and local officials and National Guard personnel to respond to biological attacks; upgrade our system of detection and warning; stockpile medicines and vaccines against the most likely biological attacks; and increase research and development to create the next generation of vaccines, medicines, and diagnostic tools.
Over the previous several months I had become particularly worried about the prospect of a biological attack, perhaps with a weapon that had been genetically engineered to resist existing vaccines and medicines. The previous December, at Renaissance Weekend, Hillary and I had arranged to have dinner with Craig Venter, a molecular biologist whose company was attempting to finish sequencing the human genome. I asked Craig about the possibility that genetic mapping would permit terrorists to develop synthetic genes, reengineer existing viruses, or combine smallpox with another deadly virus to make it even more harmful.
Craig said those things were possible and urged me to read Richard Prestons new novel, The Cobra Event, a thriller about a mad scientists efforts to reduce the worlds population by infecting New York City with a brainpox, a combination of smallpox and an insect virus that destroys nerves. When I read the book I was surprised that Prestons acknowledgments included more than one hundred scientists, military and intelligence experts, and officials in my own administration. I urged several cabinet members and Speaker Gingrich to read it.
We had begun working on the biological warfare issue in 1993, after the World Trade Center bombing made it clear that terrorism could strike at home, and a defector from Russia had told us that his country had huge stocks of anthrax, smallpox, Ebola, and other pathogens, and had continued to produce them even after the demise of the Soviet Union. In response, the mandate of the Nunn-Lugar program was broadened to include cooperation with Russia on biological as well as nuclear weapons.
After the sarin gas release in the Tokyo subway in 1995, the Counterterrorism Security Group (CSG), headed by National Security Council staffer Richard Clarke, began to focus more on planning defenses against chemical and biological attacks. In June 1995, I signed Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) 39 to allocate responsibilities among various government agencies for preventing and dealing with such attacks, and for reducing terrorists capabilities through covert action and aggressive efforts to capture terrorists abroad. In the Pentagon, a few military and civilian leaders were interested in the issue, including the commandant of the Marine Corps, Charles Krulak, and Richard Danzig, the undersecretary of the navy. In late 1996, the Joint Chiefs endorsed Danzigs recommendation to vaccinate the entire military force against anthrax, and Congress moved to tighten control over biological agents in American labs, after a fanatic, using false identification, was caught buying three vials of plague virus from a lab for about $300.
By late 1997, when it became clear that Russia had even larger stocks of germ warfare agents than we had believed, I authorized American cooperation with scientists who had worked at the institutes where a lot of the bioweapons had been built in the Soviet era, in the hope of finding out exactly what was going on and preventing them from providing their expertise or biological agents to Iran or other high bidders.
In March 1998, Dick Clarke gathered about forty members of the administration at Blair House for a table top exercise on handling terrorist attacks of smallpox, a chemical agent, and a nuclear weapon. The results were troubling. With smallpox, it took them too much time and the loss of too many lives to bring the epidemic under control. The stocks of antibiotics and vaccines were inadequate, the quarantine laws were antiquated, the public-health systems were in bad shape, and the state emergency plans were not well developed.
A few weeks later, at my request, Clarke assembled seven scientists and emergency response experts, including Craig Venter; Joshua Lederberg, a Nobel Prizewinning biologist who had spent decades crusading against biological weapons; and Jerry Hauer, director of Emergency Management in New York City. Along with Bill Cohen, Janet Reno, Donna Shalala, George Tenet, and Sandy Berger, I met with the group for several hours to discuss the threat and what to do about it. Although I had been up most of the previous night helping to close the Irish peace agreement, I listened carefully to their presentation and asked a lot of questions. Everything I heard confirmed that we were not prepared for bio-attacks, and that the coming ability to sequence and reconfigure genes had profound implications for our national security. As the meeting was breaking up, Dr. Lederberg gave me a copy of a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association devoted to the threat of bioterrorism. After reading it, I was even more concerned.
Less than a month later, the group sent me a report containing its recommendations for spending almost $2 billion over the next four years to improve public-health capabilities, build a national stockpile of antibiotics and vaccines, especially against smallpox, and increase research into the development of better medicines and vaccines through genetic engineering.
On the day of the Annapolis speech, I signed two more presidential directives on terrorism. PDD-62 created a ten-point counterterrorism initiative, assigning responsibility to various government agencies for specific functions, including the apprehension, return, and prosecution of terrorists and the disruption of their networks; preventing terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction; managing the aftermath of attacks; protecting critical infrastructure and cybersystems; and protecting Americans at home and overseas.
PDD-62 also established the position of National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Infrastructure Protection; I appointed Dick Clarke, who had been our point person on anti-terrorism from the start. He was a career professional who had served under Presidents Reagan and Bush, and was appropriately aggressive in his efforts to organize the government to fight terror. PDD-63 established a National Infrastructure Protection Center to prepare for the first time a comprehensive plan to protect our critical infrastructure, such as transportation, telecommunications, and water systems.
At the end of the month, Starr tried and failed again to force Susan McDougal to testify before the grand jury; questioned Hillary for nearly five hours and for the sixth time; and indicted Webb Hubbell again on tax charges. Several former prosecutors questioned the propriety of Starrs highly unusual move; essentially Hubbell was being charged again for overcharging his clients because he hadnt paid taxes on the money. To make matters worse, Starr also indicted Hubbells wife, Suzy, because she had signed their joint income tax returns, and Webbs friends, accountant Mike Schaufele and lawyer Charles Owen, because they had given Hubbell advice on his financial affairs, free of charge, when he was in trouble. Hubbell was blunt in his response: They think by indicting my wife and my friends that I will lie about the President and the First Lady. I will not do so . . . Im not gonna lie about the President. Im not gonna lie about the First Lady, or anyone else.
In early May, Starr continued his strategy of intimidation by indicting Susan McDougal on charges of criminal contempt and obstruction of justice for her continuing refusal to talk to the grand jury, the same offense for which she had already served eighteen months for civil contempt. This one took the cake. Starr and Hick Ewing couldnt bully Susan McDougal into lying for them and it was driving them nuts. Although it would take Susan nearly another year to prove it, she was tougher than they were, and in the end she would be vindicated.
In June, Starr finally got into a little hot water. After Steven Brill published an article in Brills Content on Starrs operation that highlighted the OICs strategy of unlawful news leaks, and reported that Starr had admitted the leaks in a ninety-minute interview, Judge Norma Holloway Johnson ruled that there was probable cause to believe that Starrs office had engaged in serious and repetitive leaks to the news media and that David Kendall could subpoena Starr and his deputies to find the source of the leaks. Because the judges decision involved grand jury proceedings, it was rendered in secret. Strangely, it was one aspect of Starrs operation that was not leaked to the press.
On May 29, Barry Goldwater died at the age of eighty-nine. I was saddened by his passing. Although we were of different parties and philosophies, Goldwater had been uncommonly kind to Hillary and me. I also respected him for being a genuine patriot and an old-fashioned libertarian who thought the government should stay out of citizens private lives and who believed political combat should focus on ideas, not personal attacks.
I spent the rest of the spring lobbying for my legislative program and doing the business at hand: issuing an executive order to prohibit discrimination against gays in federal civilian employment; supporting Boris Yeltsins new economic reform program; receiving the emir of Bahrain at the White House; addressing the UN General Assembly session on global drug trafficking; hosting a state visit for South Korean president Kim Dae Jung; holding a National Ocean Conference in Monterey, California, where I extended the ban on oil drilling off the California coast for fourteen years; signing a bill that provided funds to buy bulletproof vests for the 25 percent of our law-enforcement officers who didnt have them; speaking at three university commencements; and campaigning for Democrats in six states.
It was a busy but fairly normal month, except for an unhappy trip I took to Springfield, Oregon, where a troubled fifteen-year-old boy armed with a semiautomatic weapon had killed and wounded several of his classmates. It was the latest in a series of school shootings that included lethal incidents in Jonesboro, Arkansas; Pearl, Mississippi; Paducah, Kentucky; and Edinboro, Pennsylvania.
The killings were both heartbreaking and perplexing, because the overall juvenile crime rate was finally declining. It seemed to me that the violent outbursts were due, at least in part, to the excessive glorification of violence in our culture and the easy availability of deadly weapons to children. In all the school shooting cases, including several others in which no deaths had occurred, the young perpetrators seemed to be enraged, alienated, or in the grip of some dark philosophy of life. I asked Janet Reno and Dick Riley to put together a guide for teachers, parents, and students on the early warning signals troubled young people frequently exhibited, with suggested strategies on how to deal with them.
I went to the high school in Springfield to meet with the victims families, listen to accounts of what had happened, and speak to the students, teachers, and citizens. They were traumatized, wondering how such a thing could have occurred in their community. Often at times like this, I felt all I could do was share peoples grief, reassure them that they were good men and women, and encourage them to pick up the pieces and go on.
As spring turned to summer, it was time for my long-planned visit to China. Although the United States and China still had significant differences over human rights, religious and political freedom, and other matters, I was looking forward to the trip. I thought Jiang Zemin had done well on his trip to the United States in 1997 and he was eager to have me reciprocate.
The trip was not free of controversy in either country. I would be the first President to go to China since the suppression of pro-democracy forces in Tiananmen Square in 1989. The charges of Chinese attempts to influence the 96 election had not been resolved. Also, some Republicans were attacking me for allowing American companies to launch commercial satellites into space on Chinese missiles, though the satellite technology was not accessible to the Chinese, and the process had begun under the Reagan administration and continued during the Bush years in order to save money for U.S. companies. Finally, many Americans feared that Chinas trade policies and its tolerance of the illegal reproduction and sale of American books, movies, and music were causing job losses in the United States.
On the Chinese side, many officials resented our criticism of Chinese human rights policies as interference in their internal affairs, while others believed that, for all my positive talk, American policy was to contain, not cooperate, with China in the twenty-first century.
With a quarter of the worlds population and a rapidly growing economy, China was bound to have a profound economic and political impact on America and the world. If at all possible, we had to build a positive relationship. It would have been foolish not to go.
In the week before I left, I nominated UN Ambassador Bill Richardson to succeed Federico Pea as secretary of energy, and Dick Holbrooke to become the new UN ambassador. Richardson, a former congressman from New Mexico, where two of the Energy Departments important research labs were located, was a natural for the job. Holbrooke had the skills to solve our UN dues problem and the experience and intellect to make a major contribution to our foreign policy team. With trouble brewing in the Balkans again, we needed him.
Hillary, Chelsea, and I arrived in China on the night of June 25, along with Hillarys mother, Dorothy, and a delegation that included Secretary Albright, Secretary Rubin, Secretary Daley, and six members of Congress, including John Dingell of Michigan, the longest-serving member of the House. Johns presence was important because Michigans dependence on the automobile industry made it a center of protectionist sentiment. I was gratified that he wanted to see China firsthand, to make his own judgment about whether China should join the WTO.
We began the trip at the ancient capital of Xian, where the Chinese put on an elaborate and beautiful welcoming ceremony. The next day we had the opportunity to walk among the rows of the famous terra-cotta warriors, and to have a roundtable discussion with Chinese citizens in the small village of Xiahe.
We got down to business two days later, when President Jiang Zemin and I met and held a press conference that was televised live all over China. We frankly discussed our differences as well as our commitment to building a strategic partnership. It was the first time the Chinese people had ever seen their leader actually debate issues like human rights and religious liberty with a foreign head of state. Jiang had grown more confident in his ability to deal with such issues in public and he trusted me to disagree in a respectful way, as well as to stress our common interests in ending the Asian financial crisis, advancing nonproliferation, and promoting reconciliation on the Korean peninsula.
When I advocated more freedom and human rights in China, Jiang responded that America was highly developed, while China still had a per capita income of $700 a year. He emphasized our different histories, cultures, ideologies, and social systems. When I urged Jiang to meet with the Dalai Lama, he said the door was open if the Dalai Lama would first state that Tibet and Taiwan were part of China, and added that there were already several channels of communication with the leader of Tibetan Buddhism. I got a laugh from the Chinese audience when I said I thought that if Jiang and the Dalai Lama did meet, they would like each other very much. I also tried to make some practical suggestions to move forward on human rights. For example, there were still Chinese citizens in prison for offenses no longer on the books. I suggested they be released.
The main point of the press conference was the debate itself. I wanted Chinese citizens to see America supporting human rights that we believe are universal, and I wanted Chinese officials to see that greater openness wouldnt cause the social disintegration that, given Chinas history, they understandably feared.
After the state dinner hosted by Jiang Zemin and his wife, Wang Yeping, he and I took turns conducting the Peoples Liberation Army Band. The next day my family attended Sunday church services at Chongwenmen Church, Beijings earliest Protestant church, one of the few houses of worship the government had sanctioned. Many Christians were meeting secretly in homes. Religious liberty was important to me, and I was pleased when Jiang agreed to let me send a delegation of American religious leaders, including a rabbi, a Catholic archbishop, and an evangelical minister, to pursue the matter further.
After we toured the Forbidden City and the Great Wall, I held a question-and-answer session with students at Beijing University. We discussed human rights in China, but they also asked me about human rights problems in the United States and about what I could do to increase the American peoples understanding of China. These were fair questions from young people who wanted their country to change but were still proud of it.
Premier Zhu Rongji hosted a lunch for the delegation in which we discussed the economic and social challenges facing China, as well as the remaining issues we still had to resolve in order to bring China into the World Trade Organization. I was strongly in favor of doing so, in order to continue Chinas integration into the global economy, and to increase both its acceptance of international rules of law and its willingness to cooperate with the United States and other nations on a whole range of other issues. That night President Jiang and Madame Wang invited us to dine alone with them at their official residence, which lay beside a placid lake inside the compound that housed Chinas most important leaders. The more time I spent with Jiang, the more I liked him. He was intriguing, funny, and fiercely proud, but always willing to listen to different points of view. Even though I didnt always agree with him, I became convinced that he believed he was changing China as fast as he could, and in the right direction.
From Beijing we went to Shanghai, which seemed to have more construction cranes than any other city in the world. Hillary and I had a fascinating discussion about Chinas problems and potential with a group of younger Chinese, including professors, businesspeople, a consumer advocate, and a novelist. One of the most enlightening experiences of the entire trip was a radio call-in show I did with the mayor. There were some good but predictable questions for me on economic and security matters, but the mayor got more questions than I did; his callers were interested in better education and more computers, and worried about the traffic congestion as a result of the citys growing prosperity and expansion. It struck me that if citizens were complaining to the mayor about traffic jams, Chinese politics was evolving in the right direction.
Before going home, we flew to Guilin for a meeting with environmentalists concerned about the destruction of forests and the loss of unique wildlife, and a leisurely boat trip down the Li River, which flows through a stunning landscape marked by large limestone formations that looked as if they had burst up through the landscape of the gentle countryside. After Guilin, we made a stop in Hong Kong to see Tung Chee-hwa, the chief executive chosen by the Chinese after the British left. An intelligent, sophisticated man who had lived in America for several years, Tung had his hands full balancing the boisterous Hong Kong political culture with the much more conformist Chinese central government. I also met again with democracy advocate Martin Lee. The Chinese had promised to let Hong Kong keep its much more democratic political system, but I had the clear impression that the details of their reunion were still being worked out, and that neither side was fully satisfied with the present state of affairs.
In mid-July, Al Gore and I held an event at the National Academy of Sciences to highlight our administrations efforts to avoid computer meltdowns at the dawn of the new millennium. There was widespread concern that many computer systems would not make the change to the year 2000, which would cause havoc in the economy and disrupt the affairs of millions of Americans. We organized an exhaustive effort led by John Koskinen to make sure all government systems were ready for the new millennium and to help the private sector make the adjustment. We wouldnt know for sure whether we had been successful until the date arrived.
On the sixteenth, I signed another of my priorities into law, the Child Support Performance and Incentive Act. We had already increased collections 68 percent since 1992; 1.4 million more families were now receiving child support. This bill penalized states that did not automate their child-support files and gave financial rewards to those that were successful in meeting performance goals.
Around this time I announced the purchase of eighty billion bushels of wheat for distribution to poor nations with food shortages. Grain prices were down, and the purchase would both meet a humanitarian need and raise the price of wheat as much as thirteen cents a bushel for hard-pressed farmers. Because a severe heat wave was destroying crops in parts of the country, I also asked Congress to pass an emergency farm aid package.
Toward the end of the month, Mike McCurry announced that he would resign as White House press secretary in the fall, and I named his deputy, Joe Lockhart, who had served as press secretary for my reelection campaign, to succeed him. McCurry had done a fine job in a demanding position, answering tough questions, explaining the administrations policies with clarity and a quick wit, and working long hours with around-the-clock availability. He wanted to see his kids grow up. I liked Joe Lockhart a lot, and the press seemed to like him, too. Besides, he liked to play cards with me; we would have a smooth transition.
In July, as I continued to push my agenda at home, Dick Holbrooke flew to Belgrade to see Milosevic in an attempt to resolve the Kosovo crisis; Prime Minister Hashimoto resigned after election losses in Japan; Nelson Mandela got married to Graa Machel, the lovely widow of a former president of Mozambique and a leading figure in the struggle to stop the use of children in Africas wars; and Ken Starr continued to build his case against me.
He insisted on taking the testimony of several of my Secret Service agents, including Larry Cockell, the head of my detail. The Secret Service had resisted this, and former President Bush had written two letters opposing it. Except when the President is on the residence floor of the White House, the Secret Service is always with him or just outside the door of whatever room he is in. Presidents depend on the Secret Service to protect them, and to protect their confidences. The agents overhear all kinds of conversations involving national security, domestic policy, political conflicts, and personal struggles. Their dedication, professionalism, and discretion had served Presidents of both parties and the nation well. Now Starr was willing to put all that at riskto investigate not espionage, or Watergate-like abuses of the FBI, or Iran-Contralike willful defiance of the law, but whether I had given false answers and encouraged Monica Lewinsky to do the same in response to questions asked in bad faith, in a case that had been thrown out of court because it had no merit in the first place.
By the end of the month, Starr had granted Monica Lewinsky immunity from prosecution in return for her testimony before the grand jury, and had subpoenaed me to testify as well. On the twenty-ninth, I agreed to testify voluntarily and the subpoena was withdrawn. I cant say I was looking forward to it.
Early in August, I met with ten Indian tribal leaders in Washington to announce a comprehensive effort to increase educational, health care, and economic opportunities for Native Americans. My assistant for intergovernmental affairs, Mickey Ibarra, and Lynn Cutler, my liaison to the tribes, had worked hard on the initiative and it was sorely needed. Although the United States was enjoying its lowest unemployment rate in twenty-eight years, the lowest crime rate in twenty-five years, and the smallest percentage of our citizens on welfare in twenty-nine years, Native American communities that had not grown wealthy from gambling operations were still in bad shape. Fewer than 10 percent of Native Americans went to college, they were three times more likely to suffer from diabetes as white Americans, and they still had the lowest per capita income of any American ethnic group. Some of the tribal communities had unemployment rates in excess of 50 percent. The leaders were encouraged by the new steps we were taking, and after the meeting I had some hope that we could help them.
The next day the American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya were hit by bombs that exploded within five minutes of each other, killing 257 people, including 12 Americans, and injuring 5,000 others. The initial evidence indicated that Osama bin Ladens network, which became known as al Qaeda, had launched the attacks. In late February, bin Laden had issued a fatwa calling for attacks on American military and civilian targets anywhere in the world. In May, he had said his supporters would hit U.S. targets in the Gulf and talked about bringing the war home to America. In June, in an interview with an American journalist, he had threatened to bring down U.S. military aircraft with anti-aircraft missiles.
By this time, we had been following bin Laden for years. Early in my first term, Tony Lake and Dick Clarke had pressed the CIA for more information about the wealthy Saudi, who had been expelled from his own country in 1991, had lost his citizenship in 1994, and had taken up residence in Sudan.
At first, bin Laden seemed to be a financier of terrorist operations, but over time we would learn that he was the head of a highly sophisticated terrorist organization, with access to large amounts of money beyond his own fortune, and with operatives in several countries, including Chechnya, Bosnia, and the Philippines. In 1995, after the war in Bosnia, we had thwarted mujahedin attempts to take over there and, in cooperation with local officials, had also stopped a plot to blow up a dozen planes flying out of the Philippines to the West Coast, but bin Ladens transnational network continued to grow.
In January 1996, the CIA had established a station focused exclusively on bin Laden and his network within its Counterterrorism Center, and shortly thereafter we began to urge Sudan to expel bin Laden. Sudan was then a virtual safe haven for terrorists, including the Egyptians who had tried to kill President Mubarak the previous June and who had succeeded in assassinating his predecessor, Anwar Sadat. The nations leader, Hasan al-Turabi, shared bin Ladens radical views, and the two of them were involved in a whole host of business ventures, running the gamut from legitimate operations to weapons manufacturing and support for terrorists.
As we pressed Turabi to expel bin Laden, we asked Saudi Arabia to take him. The Saudis didnt want him back, but bin Laden finally left Sudan in mid-1996, apparently still on good terms with Turabi. He moved to Afghanistan, where he found a warm welcome from Mullah Omar, leader of the Taliban, a militant Sunni sect that was bent on establishing a radical Muslim theocracy in Afghanistan.
In September 1996, the Taliban captured Kabul and started seizing other areas of the country. By the end of the year, the CIAs bin Laden unit had developed significant information on him and his infrastructure. Almost a year later, Kenyan authorities arrested a man they believed was involved in a terrorist plot against the U.S. Embassy there.
In the week after the bombings, I kept up my regular schedule, traveling to Kentucky, Illinois, and California to promote the Patients Bill of Rights and our clean water initiative, and to help Democrats up for election in those states. Beyond the public events, I spent most of my time with our national security team discussing how we were going to respond to the African attacks.
On August 13, there was a memorial service at Andrews Air Force Base for ten of the twelve American victims. The people bin Laden believed deserved to die just because they were Americans included a career diplomat I had met twice and his son; a woman who had just spent her vacation caring for her aged parents; an Indian-born foreign service officer who had traveled the world working for her adopted country; an epidemiologist working to save African children from disease and death; a mother of three small children; a proud new grandmother; an accomplished jazz musician with a day job in the foreign service; an embassy administrator who had married a Kenyan; and three sergeants, one each in the army, the air force, and the Marine Corps.
By all accounts, bin Laden was poisoned by the conviction that he was in possession of the absolute truth and therefore free to play God by killing innocent people. Since we had been going after his organization for several years, I had known for some time that he was a formidable adversary. After the African slaughter I became intently focused on capturing or killing him and with destroying al Qaeda.
One week after the embassy bombings, and after videotaping an address to the people of Kenya and Tanzania, whose losses were far greater than ours, I met with the national security principals. The CIA and FBI both confirmed that al Qaeda was responsible and reported that some of the perpetrators had already been arrested.
I had also received an intelligence report that al Qaeda had plans to attack yet another embassy, in Tirana, Albania, and that our enemies thought America was vulnerable because we would be distracted by the controversy over my personal behavior. We closed the Albanian embassy, sent in heavily armed marines to guard it, and began working with local authorities to break up the al Qaeda cell there. But we still had other embassies in countries with al Qaeda operations.
The CIA also had intelligence that bin Laden and his top staff were planning a meeting at one of his camps in Afghanistan on August 20 to assess the impact of their attacks and plan their next operations. The meeting would provide an opportunity to retaliate and perhaps wipe out much of the al Qaeda leadership. I asked Sandy Berger to manage the process leading up to a military response. We had to pick targets, move the necessary military assets into place, and figure out how to handle Pakistan. If we launched air strikes, our planes would pass over Pakistans airspace.
Although we were trying to work with Pakistan to defuse tensions on the Indian subcontinent, and our two nations had been allies during the Cold War, Pakistan supported the Taliban and, by extension, al Qaeda. The Pakistani intelligence service used some of the same camps that bin Laden and al Qaeda did to train the Taliban and insurgents who fought in Kashmir. If Pakistan found out about our planned attacks in advance, it was likely that Pakistani intelligence would warn the Taliban or even al Qaeda. On the other hand, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, who was working to minimize the chances of military conflict on the Indian subcontinent, was afraid that if we didnt tell the Pakistanis, they might assume the flying missiles had been launched at them by India and retaliate, conceivably even with nuclear weapons.
We decided to send the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joe Ralston, to have dinner with the top Pakistani military commander at the time the attacks were scheduled. Ralston would tell him what was happening a few minutes before our missiles invaded Pakistani airspace, too late to alert the Taliban or al Qaeda, but in time to avoid having them shot down or sparking a counterattack on India.
My team was worried about one other thing: my testimony before the grand jury in three days, on August 17. They were afraid that it would make me reluctant to strike, or that if I did order the attack, I would be accused of doing it to divert public attention from my problems, especially if the attack didnt get bin Laden. I told them in no uncertain terms that their job was to give me advice on national security. If the recommendation was to strike on the twentieth, then thats what we would do. I said I would handle my personal problems. Time was running out on that, too.