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W hile the Camp David talks were going on, positive things happened elsewhere. Charlene Barshefsky completed a sweeping trade agreement with Vietnam, and the House adopted an amendment by my longtime supporter Maxine Waters that funded a down payment on our share of the Millennium Debt Relief effort. By this time debt relief had an amazing array of supporters, led by Bono..cartier juste un clou replica.
By then Bono had become a fixture in Washington political life. He turned out to be a first-class politician, partly through the element of surprise. Larry Summers, who knew everything about economics but little about popular culture, came into the Oval Office one day and remarked that hed just had a meeting on debt relief with some guy named Bonojust one namedressed in jeans, a T-shirt, and big sunglasses. He came to see me about debt relief, and he knows what hes talking about..cartier love ring replica.
The trip to Okinawa was a big success, as the G-8 put some teeth into our commitment to have all the worlds children in primary school by 2015. I led off with a $300 million program to provide one good meal a day to nine million children, provided they came to school to get the meal. The initiative had been brought to me by our ambassador to the UN food programs in Rome, George McGovern; McGoverns old partner in pioneering food stamps, Bob Dole; and Congressman Jim McGovern of Massachusetts. I also visited the U.S. forces in Okinawa, thanked Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori for letting them be stationed there, and pledged to reduce the tensions our presence had caused. It was my last G-8 summit, and I was sorry to rush through it to get back to Camp David. The other leaders had been very supportive of my initiatives over eight years, and we had accomplished a lot together..cartier love bracelet replica.
Chelsea traveled to Okinawa with me. One of the best things about the year for both Hillary and me was that Chelsea was home for the last half of it. She had amassed far more credits in her first three years at Stanford than she needed to graduate so that she could spend the last six months in the White House with us. Now she would be dividing her time between campaigning for her mother and helping me with events in the White House and going with me on foreign trips. She did a great job on both counts, and her presence made life much better for her parents..cheap wedding dresses.
At the end of the month I resumed my battle with the Republicans over tax cuts. They still wanted to spend a decades worth of projected surpluses on them, claiming that the money belonged to the taxpayers and we should give it back to them. It was a persuasive argument except for one thing: the surpluses were projected and the tax cuts would take effect whether the surpluses materialized or not. I attempted to illustrate the point by asking people to imagine that they had gotten one of those heavily advertised letters from well-known TV personality Ed McMahon that started with, You may have already won $10 million. I said that the people who would spend $10 million upon receiving that letter should support the Republican plan; everyone else should stick with us and keep the prosperity going..cheap prom dresses.
August was a busy month. It began with the nomination of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in Philadelphia. Hillary and I went to Marthas Vineyard for a couple of fund-raisers for her, then I flew to Idaho to visit firefighters who were fighting a large and dangerous forest fire. On the ninth, I awarded the Medal of Freedom to fifteen Americans, including the late senator John Chafee, Senator Pat Moynihan, Childrens Defense Fund founder Marian Edelman, AIDS activist Dr. Mathilde Krim, Jesse Jackson, civil rights lawyer Judge Cruz Reynoso, and General Wes Clark, who had ended his brilliant military career by commanding our arduous campaign against Milosevic and his ethnic cleansing in Kosovo..cheap prom dresses.
Amid a blizzard of political events, I did one completely nonpolitical one: I went to my friend Bill Hybelss Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, near Chicago, for a conversation before several hundred people at Bills ministers leadership conference. We talked about when I decided to go into politics, where my family went to church and what it meant to me, why so many people still believed I had never apologized for my misconduct, how I used polls, what the most important elements of leadership were, and how I wanted to be remembered. Hybels had an uncanny way of stripping things down to basics and getting me to discuss things I normally would not talk about. I enjoyed taking a few hours away from politics and work to think about the inner life that politics often crowds out..cheap wedding dresses.
On August 14, opening night of the Democratic convention, Hillary gave a moving expression of thanks to the Democrats for their support and a mighty declaration of what was at stake in this years elec-tion. Then, after my third convention film produced by Harry and Linda Thomason, which outlined the accomplishments of our eight years, I was brought onstage to thunderous applause and inspirational music. When the noise died down, I said that the election was about one simple question: Are we going to keep this progress and prosperity going?.cheap prom dresses.
I asked the Democrats to make sure we applied President Rea-gans 1980 standard for whether a party should continue in office: Are we better off today than we were eight years ago? The answer proved that Harry Truman was right when he said, If you want to live like a Republican, you better vote for the Democrats. The crowd roared. We were better off, and not just economically. Jobs were up, but so were adoptions. The debt was down, but so was teen pregnancy. We were becoming both more diverse and more united. We had built and crossed our bridge to the twenty-first century, and were not going back..Giuseppe Zanotti replica.
I made the case for a Democratic Congress, saying that what we did with our prosperity was just as sure a test of Americas character, values, and judgment as how we had dealt with adversity in the past. If we had a Democratic Congress, America would already have the Patients Bill of Rights, a minimum wage increase, stronger equal-pay laws for women, and middle-class tax cuts for college tuition and long-term care..Replica Christian Louboutin UK.
I praised Hillary for thirty years of public service and especially her work in the White House for children and families, and said that just as she had always been there for our family, she would always be there for the families of New York and America..Replica Christian Louboutin UK.
Then I argued for Al Gore, emphasizing his strong convictions, good ideas, understanding of the future, and fundamental decency. I thanked Tipper for her mental-health advocacy and applauded Als selection of Joe Lieberman, and spoke of our thirty-year friendship and Joes work for civil rights in the South in the sixties. As the first Jewish-American ever to be on a major partys national ticket, Joe provided clear evidence of Al Gores commitment to building One America..www.ideafutura.co.uk.
I ended the speech with personal thanks and a personal plea:.www.ideafutura.co.uk.
My friends, fifty-four years ago this week I was born in a summer storm to a young widow in a small southern town. America gave me the chance to live my dreams. And I have tried as hard as I knew how to give you a better chance to live yours. Now, my hair is a little grayer, my wrinkles are a little deeper, but with the same optimism and hope I brought to the work I loved so eight years ago, I want you to know my heart is filled with gratitude..www.ideafutura.co.uk.
My fellow Americans, the future of our country is now in your hands. You must think hard, feel deeply, and choose wisely. And remember . . . keep putting people first. Keep building those bridges. And dont stop thinking about tomorrow.
The next day Hillary, Chelsea, and I flew to Monroe, Michigan, for a passing the torch rally with Al and Tipper Gore. A good crowd in a battleground state sent Al off to Los Angeles to claim the nomination and become the leader of our party, and me to the local McDonalds, a stop I hadnt made in years.
The Bush-Cheney ticket had settled on a two-pronged campaign message. The positive argument was compassionate conservatism, giving America the same good conditions we had provided, but with a smaller government and a bigger tax cut. The negative one was that they would elevate the moral tone and end bitter partisanship in Washington. That was, to say the least, disingenuous. I had done everything I knew to reach out to the Republicans in Washington; they had tried to demonize me from day one. Now they were saying, Well stop misbehaving if you give us the White House back.
The morality argument should have had no resonance, unless people believed Gore had done something wrong, especially with the super-straight Lieberman on the ticket. I wasnt on the ballot; it was both unfair and self-defeating for voters to blame them for my personal mistakes. I knew their strategy wouldnt work unless the Democrats accepted the legitimacy of the Republican argument and failed to remind voters of the impeachment fiasco and how much more damage the right wing could inflict if they controlled both the White House and the Congress. An NRA vice president had already boasted that if Bush were elected, the NRA would have an office in the White House.
After our convention, the polls showed Al Gore had come from behind to hold a narrow lead, and I accompanied Hillary to the Finger Lakes area of upstate New York for a couple of days of vacation and campaigning. She was running a different race from the one she had begun. Mayor Giuliani had withdrawn, and her new opponent, Long Island congressman Rick Lazio, presented a new challenge: he was attractive and smart, a less polarizing figure who was nevertheless more conservative than Giuliani.
I ended the month with two short trips. After meeting in Washington with Vicente Fox, the president-elect of Mexico, I flew to Nigeria to see President Olusegun Obasanjo. I wanted to support his efforts to curb AIDS before Nigerias infection rates reached the levels of southern African nations, and to highlight the recent passage of the African trade bill, which I hoped would help Nigerias struggling economy. Obasanjo and I attended a gathering on AIDS at which a young girl spoke of her efforts to educate her schoolmates about the disease, and a man named John Ibekwe told the gripping story of his marriage to a woman who was HIV-positive, his becoming infected, and his frantic search to get the medicine for his wife that would enable their child to be born without the virus. Eventually John succeeded, and little Maria was born HIV-free. President Obasanjo asked Mrs. Ibekwe to come up onstage, where he embraced her. It was a touching gesture and sent a clear signal that Nigeria would not fall into the trap of denial that had contributed so much to the spread of AIDS in other countries.
From Nigeria, I flew to Arusha, Tanzania, to the Burundi peace talks, which Nelson Mandela had been chairing. Mandela wanted me to join him and several other African leaders for the closing session to exhort the leaders of Burundis numerous factions to sign the agreement and avoid another Rwanda. Mandela gave me clear instructions: We were doing a good cop/bad cop routine. I would give a positive speech urging them to do the right thing, then Mandela would demand that the parties sign on to his proposal. It worked: President Pierre Buyoya and thirteen of the nineteen warring parties signed the agreement. Soon all but two of them would sign. Although it was a burdensome trip, going to the Burundi peace conference was an important way to demonstrate to Africa and the world that the United States was a peacemaker. As I said to myself before we began our Camp David talks, were either going to succeed or get caught trying.
On August 30, I flew to Cartagena, Colombia, with Speaker Dennis Hastert and six other House members, Senator Joe Biden and three other senators, and several cabinet members. We all wanted to reinforce Americas commitment to President Andrs Pastranas Plan Colombia, which was intended to free his country of the narco-traffickers and terrorists who controlled about one-third of its territory. Pastrana had risked his life in an attempt to make peace, going alone to meet with the guerrillas in their lair. When he failed, he had asked the United States to help him defeat them with Plan Colombia. With Hasterts strong support, I had gotten more than $1 billion from Congress to do our part.
Cartagena is a beautiful old walled city. Pastrana took us out into the streets to meet officials who were fighting the narco-traffickers and some of the people who had been affected by the violence, including the widow of a police officer slain in the line of duty, one of hundreds killed for their honesty and bravery. Andrs also introduced Chelsea and me to an adorable group of young musicians who called themselves the Children of Vallenato, their home village in an area often ruled by violence. They sang and danced for peace in traditional native dress, and that evening in the streets of Cartagena, Pastrana, Chelsea, and I danced with them.
At the end of the first week of September, after vetoing a bill repealing the estate tax, announcing that I would defer a decision on deploying a missile defense system to my successor, and campaigning with Hillary at the New York State Fair, I went to the United Nations for its Millennium Summit. It was the largest assembly of world leaders ever gathered. My last UN speech was a brief but impassioned appeal for international cooperation on the issues of security, peace, and shared prosperity, in order to build a world that operated according to simple rules: Everyone counts; everyone has a role to play; and we all do better when we help each other.
After the speech I walked out into the hall to sit with Madeleine Albright and Dick Holbrooke to listen to the next speaker: President Mohammed Khatami of Iran. Iran had held several elections in recent years, for the presidency, for parliament, and for municipal offices. In every case the reformers had won between two-thirds and 70 percent of the vote. The problem was that under the Iranian constitution, a council of Islamic fundamentalists led by Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei held enormous power; they could nullify certain legislation and prohibit candidates from running for office. And they controlled Irans foreign intelligence operations and funded its support for terrorism. We had tried to reach out to Khatami and to promote more people-to-people contacts. I had also said that the United States was wrong to support the overthrow of an elected government in Iran in the 1950s. I hoped my gesture of respect would make more progress possible under the next President.
Kofi Annan and I hosted the traditional luncheon, and when it was over I followed my usual custom of standing by my table to shake hands with the leaders who stopped by on the way out. I thought I was at the end when I shook hands with a giant Namibian official, who towered over me. He then moved on, revealing a last greeter who had been invisible behind him: Fidel Castro. Castro stuck out his hand and I shook it, the first President to do so in more than forty years. He said he didnt wish to cause me any trouble but wanted to pay his respects before I left office. I replied that I hoped that someday our nations would be reconciled.
After the UN meetings, OPEC announced an increase in oil production of 800,000 barrels a day, Prime Minister Vajpayee of India came to Washington for a state visit, and on September 19, the Senate followed the House in approving the bill granting normal trade relations with China, thus clearing the way for its entry into the WTO. I was convinced that in time it would prove to be one of the most important foreign policy developments of my eight years.
Hillary had a good September. She won the primary on the twelfth and handily defeated Lazio in their debate moderated by Tim Russert in Buffalo. Lazio had three problems: he claimed that the still distressed economy of upstate New York had turned the corner; ran a misleading ad (for which he was called to account) that implied that Senator Moynihan was supporting him, not Hillary; and got in Hillarys face and tried to bully her into signing a pledge on campaign finance that was not credible. All Hillary had to do was keep her composure and answer the ques-tions, which she did very well. A week later, a new poll showed her leading Lazio 4839 percent, with new strength among suburban women.
On September 16, I bid an emotional farewell to a large, predominantly African-American crowd at the Congressional Black Caucus dinner, reviewing the record, making my case for Gore and Lieberman, and asking their support for well-qualified but still unconfirmed black judges. Then I threw away the script and closed with these words:
I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Toni Morrison once said I was the first black President this country ever had. And I would rather have that than a Nobel Prize, and Ill tell you why. Because somewhere, in the deep and lost threads of my own memory, are the roots of understanding of what you have known. Somewhere, there was a deep longing to share the fate of the people who had been left out and left behind, sometimes brutalized, and too often ignored or forgotten.
I dont exactly know who all I have to thank for that. But Im quite sure I dont deserve any credit for it, because whatever I did, I really felt I had no other choice.
I made the same points a few days later, on September 20, to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus dinner, and to the Bishops Conference of the Church of God in Christ, where I noted that there were only 120 days left in my presidency and that I would give them 120 hard days working with Congress and trying to make peace in the Middle East. I knew Id have an opportunity to win some more victories as Congress wound down, but I wasnt so sure about the Middle East.
Several days later my economic team was with me as I announced that median income had risen by more than $1,000 in the last year, taking it above $40,000 for the first time in our history, and that the number of Americans without health insurance had dropped by 1.7 million the previous year, the first major decline in twelve years.
On September 25, after weeks of efforts by our team to get peace talks back on track, Barak invited Arafat to his home for dinner. Near the end of the meal, I called and had a good talk with both of them. The next day both sides sent negotiators to Washington to take up where they had left off at Camp David. On the twenty-eighth, everything changed, as Ariel Sharon became the first leading Israeli politician to walk on the Temple Mount since Israel captured it in the 1967 war. At the time, Moshe Dayan had said that Muslim religious sites would be respected, and thereafter the mount was overseen by Muslims.
Arafat said he had asked Barak to prevent Sharons stroll, which was clearly intended to affirm Israels sovereignty over the site and to strengthen his hand against a challenge to his leadership of the Likud Party from former prime minister Netanyahu, who was now sounding more hawkish than Sharon. I had also hoped Barak would prevent Sharons inflammatory escapade, but Barak told me he couldnt. Instead, Sharon was forbidden to enter the Dome of the Rock, or the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and was escorted to the Mount by a large number of heavily armed police officers.
I and others on our team had urged Arafat to prevent violence. It was a great opportunity for the Palestinians, for once, to refuse to be provoked. I thought Sharon should have been greeted with flowers by Palestinian children and told that when the Temple Mount was under Palestinian control, he would be welcome anytime. But as Abba Eban had said long ago, the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. The next day there were large Palestinian demonstrations near the Western Wall, during which Israeli police opened fire with rubber bullets on stone throwers and others. At least five people were killed and hundreds were wounded. As the violence persisted, two vivid images of its pain and futility emerged: a twelve-year-old Palestinian boy shot in the crossfire and dying in his fathers arms, and two Israeli soldiers pulled from a building and beaten to death, with their lifeless bodies dragged through the streets and one of their assailants proudly showing his bloodstained hands to the world on television.
While the Middle East was exploding, the Balkans was getting better. In the last week of September, Slobodan Milosevic was defeated for the presidency of Serbia by Vojislav Kostunica in a campaign in which we had helped ensure that the election could not be stolen and Kostunica could get his message out. Milosevic tried to steal the election anyway, but massive demonstrations convinced him he couldnt get away with it, and on October 6, the prime mover behind the Balkan slaughters admitted defeat.
In early October, I hosted a meeting in the Cabinet Room for supporters of the debt-relief initiative. Reverned Pat Robertson was there. His strong support and that of the evangelical Christian community showed how broad and deep support for debt relief had become. In the House, the effort was being pushed by Maxine Waters, one of our most liberal members, and conservative Budget Committee chairman John Kasich. Even Jesse Helms was supporting it, thanks in no small measure to Bonos personal outreach to him. The early results were encouraging: Bolivia had spent $77 million on health and education; Uganda had doubled primary school enrollment; and Honduras was to go from six to nine years of mandatory schooling. I was aiming to get the rest of our contribution in the final budget agreement.
In the second week of the month, Hillary did well in her second, more civilized debate with Rick Lazio. I signed the China trade bill and thanked Charlene Barshefsky and Gene Sperling for their arduous trek to China to hammer out our agreement at the eleventh hour; signed into law my Lands Legacy Initiative and the new investments for Native American communities; and on October 11, in Chappaqua, met Hillary to celebrate our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. It seemed like only yesterday when we were young and just beginning. Now our daughter was almost out of college and the White House years were almost over. I was confident Hillary would win the Senate race, and optimistic about what the future held for all of us.
My brief reverie was shattered the next day, when a small boat laden with explosives blew up beside the USS Cole, in port in Aden, Yemen. Seventeen sailors were killed in what was obviously a terrorist attack. We all thought it was the work of bin Laden and al Qaeda, but we couldnt be sure. The CIA went to work on it, and I sent officials from Defense, State, and the FBI to Yemen, where President Ali Saleh had promised to cooperate fully in the investigation and in bringing the murderers to justice.
Meanwhile, I continued to push the Pentagon and the national security team for more options to get bin Laden. We came close to launching another missile strike at him in October, but the CIA recommended that we call it off at the last minute, believing that the evidence of his presence was insufficiently reliable. The Pentagon recommended against putting Special Forces into Afghanistan, with all the attendant logistical difficulties, unless we had more reliable intelligence on bin Ladens whereabouts. That left bigger military options: a large-scale bombing campaign of all suspected campsites or a sizable invasion. I thought neither was feasible without a finding of al Qaeda responsibility for the Cole. I was very frustrated, and I hoped that before I left office we would locate bin Laden for a missile strike.
After campaign stops in Colorado and Washington, I flew to Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, for a summit on the Middle East violence with President Mubarak, King Abdullah, Kofi Annan, and Javier Solana, now secretary-general of the European Union. All of them wanted to end the violence, as did Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who was not there but had already weighed in on the subject. Barak and Arafat were present, but might as well have been on opposite sides of the world from each other. Barak wanted the violence stopped; Arafat wanted an inquiry into the alleged excessive use of force by the Israeli military and police. George Tenet worked out a security plan with both sides, and I had to sell it to Barak and Arafat, as well as a statement to be read at the end of the summit.
I told Arafat that I had intended to present a proposal to resolve the outstanding issues in the peace talks but couldnt do so until he agreed to the security plan. There could be no peace without shutting down the violence. Arafat agreed to the plan. We then worked until early in the morning on a statement for me to issue on behalf of all the parties. It contained three parts: a commitment to end the violence; the establishment of a fact-finding committee to look into what had caused the uprising and the conduct of both sides, appointed by the United States with the Israelis and Palestinians and in consultation with Kofi Annan; and a commitment to move forward with the peace talks. It sounds simple, but it wasnt. Arafat wanted a UN committee and immediate resumption of the talks. Barak wanted a U.S. committee and enough delay to see whether the violence would subside. Mubarak and I finally met alone with Arafat and persuaded him to accept the statement. I couldnt have done it without Hosni. I had thought he was often too resistant to getting deeply involved in the peace process, but that night he was strong, clear, and effective.
When I returned to the United States, Hillary, Chelsea, and I went to Norfolk, Virginia, for a memorial service for victims of the USS Cole bombing and private meetings with their grieving families. Like the airmen at Khobar Towers, our sailors had been killed in a very different conflict from the kind they had been trained to fight. In this one, the enemy was elusive, everyone was a potential target, our enormous arsenal was not a deterrent, and the openness and information technology of the modern world were being used against us. I knew that eventually we would prevail in the struggle against bin Laden, but I didnt know how many innocent people would lose their lives before we figured out how to do it.
Two days later Hillary, Al and Tipper Gore, and I went to Jefferson City, Missouri, for a memorial service for Governor Mel Carnahan, his son, and a young aide who had been killed when their small plane crashed. Carnahan and I had been close since he endorsed me early in the 1992 campaign. He had been a fine governor and a leader in welfare reform, and at the time of his death he was in a tight race with the incumbent, John Ashcroft, in the U.S. Senate race. It was too late to put someone else on the ballot. A few days later, Jean Carnahan said that if the people of Missouri voted for her husband, she would serve. They did, and Jean served with distinction.
In the last days of October, as the presidential election came down to the wire, I signed a trade agreement with Jordans King Abdullah, continued to sign and veto bills, and campaigned in Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and New York, where I did several events for Hillary. The most fun was a birthday celebration in which Robert De Niro gave me instructions on how to talk like a real New Yorker.
Ever since the convention Al Gore had framed the election as a contest of the people versus the powerful. That it was; every conceivable conservative interest groupthe health insurance industry, the tobacco companies, the heavily polluting industries, the NRA, and many morewas for Governor Bush. The problem with the slogan was that it didnt give Al the full benefit of our record of economic and social progress or put into sharp relief Bushs explicit commitment to undo that progress. Also, the populist edge sounded to some swing voters as if Al, too, might change the economic direction of the country. Along toward the end of the month, Al started saying, Dont put the prosperity at risk. By the first of November, he was moving up in the polls, though still down by about four points.
In the last week of the campaign, at Governor Gray Daviss request, I flew to California for two days of campaigning for the ticket and our congressional candidates, did a big event in Harlem for Hillary, then on Sunday went home to Arkansas to campaign for Mike Ross, who had served as my driver in the 1982 governors campaign and was running against Republican congressman Jay Dickey.
I spent the day before the election and election day doing more than sixty radio interviews across the country urging people to vote for Al and Joe and our local Democrats. I had already recorded more than 170 radio ads and telephone messages to be dialed into homes of hard-core Democrats and minorities, asking them to vote for our candidates.
On election day, Hillary, Chelsea, and I voted at Douglas Grafflin Elementary School, our local polling station in Chappaqua. It was a strange and wonderful experience: strange because the school was the only place Id ever voted outside Arkansas, and after twenty-six years in political life, my name wasnt on the ballot; wonderful because I got to vote for Hillary. Chelsea and I voted first, then hugged each other as we watched Hillary close the curtain and cast a ballot for herself.
Election night was a roller coaster. Hillary won her election, 5543 percent, a much larger margin than she had in all the pre-election polls but one. I was so proud of her. New York had put her through the wringer, just as it had done to me in 1992. She had been up, down, and up again, but she kept her bearings and pressed ahead.
As we celebrated her victory at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City, Bush and Gore were neck and neck. For weeks everyone had known the election would be close, with many commentators saying that Gore might lose the popular vote but still win the electoral college. Two days before the election, as I looked at the map and the latest polls, I told Steve Ricchetti that I was afraid the reverse could occur. Our base voters had been activated and would turn out as eagerly as the Republicans who wanted the White House back. Al was going to win big states by large margins, but Bush was going to win more small rural states, and they had an advantage in the electoral college because every state got one electoral vote for each House member plus two extra ones for its senators. Going into election day, I still thought Al would win because he had the momentum and he was right on the issues.
Gore did win, by more than 500,000 votes, but the electoral college was in doubt. The race came down to Florida, after Gore won a narrow victory of 366 votes in New Mexico, one of several states that were closer than they would have been had Ralph Nader not been on the ballot. I had asked Bill Richardson to spend the last week in his home state, and he may well have made the difference.
Of the states I had won in 1996, Bush picked up Nevada, Arizona, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, and New Hampshire. Tennessee had been growing increasingly Republican. In 1992, 1996, and 2000, the Democratic vote had held steady at between 47 and 48 percent. The NRA also hurt Al badly there and in several other states, including Arkansas. For example, Yell County, where the Clintons had settled a century earlier, is a populist, culturally conservative county a Democrat has to win to carry the state in a tight race. Gore lost it to Bush 5047 percent. The NRA did that. I might have been able to turn it around, but it would have taken two or three days of rural work to do it, and I didnt know how big the problem was until I went home right before the election.
The gun lobby tried to beat Al in Michigan and Pennsylvania, and might have done so had it not been for a heroic effort by the local labor unions, which had a lot of NRA members themselves. They fought back by saying, Gore wont take your gun away, but Bush will take your union away! Unfortunately, in the rural areas of Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Missouri, and Ohio, there werent enough union members to win the war on the ground.
In Kentucky, our stand against the big tobacco companies marketing cigarettes to kids hurt Al in the tobacco-growing areas. In West Virginia, he was damaged by the failure of Weirton Steel, an employee-owned company; the employees and their families were convinced the collapse was caused by my failure to limit cheap imported steel from Russia and Asia during the Asian financial crisis. The evidence indicated that the company had failed for other reasons, but the Weirton workers thought otherwise and Al paid the price.
New Hampshire went for Bush by a margin of just over 7,000 because Nader got 22,198 votes. Even worse, Nader received more than 90,000 votes in Florida, where Bush was hanging on by a thread in an election contest that would drag on for more than a month.
As the Florida vote battle began, it was clear that we had picked up four seats in the Senate and one in the House. Three incumbent House Republicans were defeated, including Jay Dickey, who lost to Mike Ross in Arkansas, and the Democrats picked up four seats in California, prevailing in all but one of the contested races. Al was at a disadvantage going into the election recount in Florida because the chief election official, Secretary of State Katherine Harris, was a conservative Republican who was close to Governor Jeb Bush, and the state legislature that would certify the electors was dominated by conservative Republicans. On the other hand, the state supreme court, which presumably would have the final say on the counting of ballots, had more judges appointed by Democratic governors and was thought to be less partisan.
Two days later, still not knowing who my successor would be, I saw Arafat in the Oval Office. The violence was subsiding and I thought he might be serious about peace. I told him that I had only ten weeks left to make an agreement. In a private moment I held his arm, stared straight at him, and told him I also had a chance to make an agreement with North Korea to end its long-range missile production, but I would have to go there to do it. The whole trip would take a week or longer by the time I made the obligatory stops in South Korea, Japan, and China.
If we were going to make peace in the Middle East, I knew I would have to close the deal. I told Arafat I had done everything I could to get the Palestinians a state on the West Bank and Gaza while protecting the security of Israel. After all my efforts, if Arafat wasnt going to make peace, he owed it to me to tell me, so that I could go to North Korea to end another serious security threat. He pleaded with me to stay, saying that we had to finish the peace and that if we didnt do it before I left office, it would be at least five years before wed be this close to peace again.
That night, we had a dinner to celebrate the two hundredth anniversary of the White House. Lady Bird Johnson, President and Mrs. Ford, President and Mrs. Carter, and President and Mrs. Bush were all there to mark the birthday of the peoples house, which every President since John Adams had inhabited. It was a wonderful moment in American history, but a tense one for President and Mrs. Bush, who had to be on edge with their sons election hanging fire. I was glad they had come.
A few days later Chelsea and I went to Brunei for the annual APEC summit. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah hosted our meeting in a beautiful new hotel and convention center. We made some headway on the reforms necessary to avoid another Asian financial crisis, and Singapore prime minister Goh Chok Tong and I agreed to start negotiations on a bilateral free-trade agreement. I also enjoyed a round of golf with Prime Minister Goh on a night golf course designed to help golfers manage the intense heat. I had instituted the APEC leaders meeting back in 1993, and I was pleased with the expansion of the group and the work done since then. At my last APEC meeting I thought the effort had borne fruit, not simply in specific agreements, but also in building an institution that tied the United States to Asia in the new century.
After Brunei, Chelsea and I went to Vietnam for a historic visit to Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City (the old Saigon), and a site where Vietnamese were working with Americans to unearth the remains of our men still listed as missing in action. Hillary flew in to join us from Israel, where she had gone to attend the funeral of Leah Rabin.
I met with the Communist Party leader, the president, the prime minister, and the mayor of Ho Chi Minh City. The higher the position, the more likely the leader was to sound like an old-style Communist. The party leader, Le Kha Phieu, tried to use my opposition to the Vietnam War to condemn what the United States had done as an imperialist act. I was angry about it, especially since he said it in the presence of our ambassador, Pete Peterson, who had been a prisoner of war. I told the leader in no uncertain terms that while I had disagreed with our Vietnam policy, those who had pursued it were not imperialists or colonialists, but good people who believed they were fighting communism. I pointed at Pete and said he hadnt spent six and a half years in the prison known as the Hanoi Hilton because he wanted to colonize Vietnam. We had turned a new page with normalized relations, the trade agreement, and two-way cooperation on MIA issues; now was not the time to reopen old wounds. The president, Tran Duc Luong, was only a little less dogmatic.
Prime Minister Phan Van Khai and I had established a good relationship at the APEC meetings; a year earlier he had told me he appreciated my opposition to the war. When I said that the Americans who disagreed with me and supported the war were good people who wanted freedom for the Vietnamese, he replied, I know. Khai was interested in the future and hoped the United States would give Vietnam assistance in caring for the victims of Agent Orange and developing its economy. The mayor of Ho Chi Minh City, Vo Viet Thanh, sounded like every good aggressive American mayor I knew. He bragged about balancing his budget, reducing his payroll, and working for more foreign investment. Besides the officials, I shook hands with a large crowd of friendly people who gathered spontaneously to greet us after an informal lunch at a local restaurant. They wanted to build a common future.
The trip to the MIA site was an experience none of us would ever forget. I thought back over the years to my high school classmates who had died in Vietnam and to the man Id helped when I was in Moscow in 1970, who was searching for information about his missing son. The Americans working with the Vietnamese crew believed, based on information from local residents, that a missing pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence Evert, had crashed there more than thirty years earlier. His now grown children accompanied us to the site. Working knee-deep in mud with the Vietnamese, our soldiers cut the mud into large chunks, took it to a nearby shed, and sifted through it. They had already recovered parts of the plane and a uniform, and were close to having enough for an identification. The work was supervised by an American archaeologist who was himself a Vietnam veteran. He said this was the most rewarding dig in the world. The care and detail of their work was amazing, as were the efforts of the Vietnamese to help. Soon, the Everts found their father.
On the way home from Vietnam, I found out that Chuck Ruff, my White House counsel during the impeachment proceeding, had died suddenly. When I landed, I went to see his wife, Sue; Chuck was an extraordinary man who had led our defense team in the Senate with skill and courage.
The rest of November was consumed by the Middle East and the Florida recount, which was cut off with thousands of votes still uncounted in three big counties, a result unfair to Gore since it was obvious from the votes that had been thrown out for errors resulting from confusing ballots and flawed punch-card devices that thousands more Floridians had intended to vote for Gore than for Bush. Gore contested the election in court. At the same time, Barak and Arafat were meeting again in the Middle East. It wasnt clear to me whether we were going to win or lose either the battle for Florida or the struggle for peace.
On December 5, Hillary went to Capitol Hill for her initiation as a freshman senator. The night before, I kidded her about going to her first day of Senator School, telling her she had to get a good nights sleep and wear a nice outfit. She was excited about it, and I was really happy for her.
Three days later, I traveled to Nebraska, the only state I had not yet visited as President, for a speech at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. It was in effect a valedictory address in the heartland urging continued American leadership in the world beyond our borders. Meanwhile, the Florida Supreme Court ordered the inclusion of more recounted votes in Palm Beach and Dade counties, and the recount of 45,000 more votes according to the standard of Florida law: a ballot was to be counted only if the intent of the voter was clear. Bushs margin was now down to 154 votes.
Governor Bush immediately appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the recount. Several lawyers told me the Supreme Court wouldnt take the case; the mechanics of elections were a question of state law unless they were used to discriminate against a group of citizens, like racial minorities. Also, it is difficult to get a court-ordered injunction against an otherwise legal action, like an election recount or razing a building when the owner agrees. To do so, a party must show that irreparable harm would result unless the activity is stopped. In a 54 decision, Justice Scalia wrote an astonishingly honest opinion granting the injunction. What was the irreparable harm? Scalia said. That counting the ballots might cast a cloud upon what [Bush] claims to be the legitimacy of his election. Well, he was right about that. If Gore got more votes than Bush in Florida, it would be harder for the Supreme Court to give Bush the presidency anyway.
We were having a Christmas reception at the White House that night, and I asked every lawyer who came through the receiving line if he or she had ever heard of such a ruling. No one had. The Court was to hand down another opinion shortly, on the underlying issue of whether the recount itself was constitutional. Now we knew they would kill it 54. I told Hillary that Scalia would never be allowed to write the second opinion; he had been too candid in this one.
On December 11, Hillary, Chelsea, and I flew to Ireland, to the land of my ancestors and the scene of so much of the peacemaking I had done. We stopped in Dublin to see Bertie Ahern, then went to Dundalk near the border for a massive rally in a city that was once a hotbed of IRA activity and was now a force for peace. The streets were bright with Christmas lights as the large crowd cheered wildly and sang Danny Boy to me. Seamus Heaney once said of Yeats: His interest was to clear a space in the mind and in the world for the miraculous. I thanked the Irish for filling that space with the miracle of peace.
We went to Belfast, where I met with the Northern Irish leaders, including David Trimble, Seamus Mallon, John Hume, and Gerry Adams. Then we went with Tony and Cherie Blair, Bertie Ahern, and George Mitchell to a large meeting of both Catholics and Protestants in the Odyssey Arena. It was still somewhat unusual for them to gather together in Belfast. Some sharp disputes remained involving the new police force and the schedule and method of putting arms beyond use. I asked them to keep working on the problems and remember that the enemies of peace didnt need their approval: All they need is your apathy. I reminded the audience that the Good Friday accord had given heart to peacemakers the world over, and cited the just announced agreement ending the bloody conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia that the United States had helped broker. I closed by saying how much I had loved working with them for peace, but the issue is not how I feel; its how your kids are going to live.
After the event, my family flew to England to stay with the Blairs at Chequers and listen to Al Gore give his concession speech. The night before, at 10 p.m., the Supreme Court had ruled, 72, that the Florida recount was unconstitutional because there were no uniform standards for defining the clear intent of the voter for purposes of a recount, and therefore different vote counters might count or interpret the same ballots differently. Therefore, the Court said, allowing any of the disputed votes to be counted, no matter how clear the voters intent, would deny equal protection of the law to those whose ballots werent counted. I disagreed strongly with the decision, but I was heartened that Justices Souter and Breyer wanted to send the case back to the Florida Supreme Court to set a standard and proceed with the recount in a hurry. The electoral college was meeting soon. The other five justices in the majority disagreed. By 54, the same five justices who had stopped the vote count three days earlier now said it had to give the election to Bush because under Florida law the recount had to be finished by midnight on that day anyway.
It was an appalling decision. A narrow conservative majority that had made a virtual fetish of states rights had now stripped Florida of a clear state function: the right to recount votes the way it always had. The five justices who didnt want the votes counted by any standard claimed to advance equal protection by depriving thousands of people of their constitutional right to have their votes counted even if their intent was crystal clear. They said Bush should be awarded the election because the votes couldnt be counted in the next two hours, when, after already killing three days of recounting, they had delayed issuing the opinion until 10 p.m., to make absolutely sure the recount could not be completed on time. The five-vote majority didnt make any bones about what it was up to: the opinion clearly stated that the ruling could not be used as precedent in future election law cases; its reasoning was limited to the present circumstances, for the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities. If Gore had been ahead in the vote count and Bush behind, theres not a doubt in my mind that the same Supreme Court would have voted 90 to count the votes. And I would have supported the decision.
Bush v. Gore will go down in history as one of the worst decisions the Supreme Court ever made, along with the Dred Scott case, which said that a slave who escaped to freedom was still a piece of property to be returned to its owner; Plessy v. Ferguson, upholding the legality of racial segregation; the cases in the twenties and thirties invalidating legislative protections for workers, like minimum wage and maximum workweek laws, as violations of the property rights of employers; and the Korematsu case, in which the Supreme Court approved the blanket internment of Japanese-Americans in camps after Pearl Harbor. We had lived through and rejected the premises of all those previous reactionary decisions. I knew America would also get beyond this dark day when five Republican justices stripped thousands of their fellow Americans of their votes, just because they could.
Al Gore gave a marvelous concession speech. It was genuine, gracious, and patriotic. When I called to congratulate him, he told me that a friend who was a professional comedian had joked to him that he had gotten the best of both worlds: he had won the popular vote and didnt have to do the job.
The next morning, after Tony Blair and I talked a bit, I walked outside, complimented Al, and pledged to work with President-elect Bush. Then Tony and Cherie accompanied Hillary, Chelsea, and me to the University of Warwick, where I gave another of my farewell speeches, this one on the approach to globalization our Third Way group had embraced: trade plus a global contract for economic empowerment, education, health care, and democratic governance. The speech also gave me a chance to publicly thank Tony Blair for his friendship and our partnership. I had treasured our times together and would miss them.
Before we left England, we went to Buckingham Palace, accepting Queen Elizabeths kind invitation to tea. We had a pleasant visit, discussing the election and world affairs. Then Her Majesty took the unusual step of accompanying us down to the ground floor of the palace and walking us out to our car to say good-bye. She, too, had been gracious and kind to me over the past eight years.
On December 15, I reached an omnibus budget agreement with Congress, the last major legislative victory of my eight years. The education budget was especially good. Finally, I secured more than $1 billion to repair schools; the largest increase ever in Head Start; enough money to put 1.3 million students in after-school programs; a 25 percent increase in the fund to hire 100,000 teachers; and more funding for Pell Grants, for our Gear Up mentoring program, and for our efforts to turn around failing schools. The bill also included the New Markets initiative, a large increase in biomedical research, health-care coverage for welfare recipients and disabled people moving into the workforce, and the Millennium Debt Relief initiative.
John Podesta, Steve Ricchetti, my legislative aide Larry Stein, and our whole team had done a great job. My last year, when I was supposed to be a lame duck, had resulted in the passage of a surprising number of the State of the Union recommendations. Besides those mentioned above, Congress had passed the Africa-Caribbean trade bill, the China trade bill, the Lands Legacy initiative, and a large increase in child-care assistance to working families.
I was still deeply disappointed in the election outcome and concerned about the Middle East, but after the visit to Ireland and England and the budget victories, I was finally getting into the Christmas spirit.
On the eighteenth, Jacques Chirac and Romano Prodi came to the White House for my last meeting with European Union leaders. By then we were old friends, and I was glad to receive them one last time. Jacques thanked me for supporting the growth of the EU and transatlantic relations. I responded that we had managed three great questions well: the growth and expansion of the EU; the expansion of NATO and the new relationship with Russia; and the problems of the Balkans.
While I was meeting with Chirac and Prodi, the Middle East teams began talks at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, Hillary received Laura Bush at the White House, and our family went house shopping in Washington. The people of New York had decided she wasnt leaving town after all. Eventually we found a lovely house that bordered Rock Creek Park in the embassy area off Massachusetts Avenue.
The next day President-elect Bush came to the White House for the same meeting I had had with his father eight years earlier. We talked about the campaign, White House operations, and national security. He was putting together an experienced team from past Republican administrations who believed that the biggest security issues were the need for national missile defense and Iraq. I told him that based on the last eight years, I thought his biggest security problems, in order, would be Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda; the absence of peace in the Middle East; the standoff between nuclear powers India and Pakistan, and the ties of the Pakistanis to the Taliban and al Qaeda; North Korea; and then Iraq. I said that my biggest disappointment was not getting bin Laden, that we still might achieve an agreement in the Middle East, and that we had almost tied up a deal with North Korea to end its missile program, but that he probably would have to go there to close the deal.
He listened to what I had to say without much comment, then changed the subject to how I did the job. My only advice was that he should put together a good team and try to do what he thought was right for the country. Then we talked a little more politics.
Bush had been a very adept politician in 2000, building a coalition with moderate rhetoric and quite conservative-specific proposals. The first time I had seen him give his compassionate conservative speech in Iowa, I knew he had a chance to win. After the primaries he was badly positioned way out on the right and behind in the polls, but he had walked back to the center by moderating his rhetoric, urging the Republican Congress not to balance the budget on the backs of the poor, and even supporting my position on a couple of foreign policy issues. When he was governor, his conservatism had been leavened by the need to work with a Democratic state legislature and by the support he had received from Democratic lieutenant governor Bob Bullock, who wielded a lot of the day-to-day power under the Texas system. Now he would govern with a conservative Republican Congress. He had to choose his own way. After our meeting I knew he was fully capable of getting his way, but I couldnt tell whether it would be the path he had followed as governor or the one he had taken to defeat John McCain in the South Carolina primary.
December 23 was a fateful day for the Middle East peace process. After the two sides had been negotiating again for several days at Bolling Air Force Base, my team and I became convinced that unless we narrowed the range of debate, in effect forcing the big compromises up front, there would never be an agreement. Arafat was afraid of being criticized by other Arab leaders; Barak was losing ground to Sharon at home. So I brought the Palestinian and Israeli teams into the Cabinet Room and read them my parameters for proceeding. These were developed after extensive private talks with the parties separately since Camp David. If they accepted the parameters within four days, we would go forward. If not, we were through.
I read them slowly so that both sides could take careful notes. On territory, I recommended 94 to 96 percent of the West Bank for the Palestinians with a land swap from Israel of 1 to 3 percent, and an understanding that the land kept by Israel would include 80 percent of the settlers in blocs. On security, I said Israeli forces should withdraw over a three-year period while an international force would be gradually introduced, with the understanding that a small Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley could remain for another three years under the authority of the international forces. The Israelis would also be able to maintain their early-warning station in the West Bank with a Palestinian liaison presence. In the event of an imminent and demonstrable threat to Israels security, there would be provision for emergency deployments in the West Bank.
The new state of Palestine would be nonmilitarized, but would have a strong security force; sovereignty over its airspace, with special arrangements to meet Israeli training and operational needs; and an international force for border security and deterrence.
On Jerusalem, I recommended that the Arab neighborhoods be in Palestine and the Jewish neighborhoods in Israel, and that the Palestinians should have sovereignty over the Temple Mount/Haram and the Israelis sovereignty over the Western Wall and the holy space of which it is a part, with no excavation around the wall or under the Mount, at least without mutual consent.
On refugees, I said that the new state of Palestine should be the homeland for refugees displaced in the 1948 war and afterward, without ruling out the possibility that Israel would accept some of the refugees according to its own laws and sovereign decisions, giving priority to the refugee populations in Lebanon. I recommended an international effort to compensate refugees and assist them in finding houses in the new state of Palestine, in the land-swap areas to be transferred to Palestine, in their current host countries, in other willing nations, or in Israel. Both parties should agree that this solution would satisfy UN Security Council Resolution 194.
Finally, the agreement had to clearly mark the end of the conflict and put an end to all violence. I suggested a new UN Security Council resolution saying that this agreement, along with the final release of Palestinian prisoners, would fulfill the requirements of resolutions, 242 and 338.
I said these parameters were nonnegotiable and were the best I could do, and I wanted the parties to negotiate a final status agreement within them. After I left, Dennis Ross and other members of our team stayed behind to clarify any misunderstanding, but they refused to hear complaints. I knew the plan was tough for both parties, but it was timepast timeto put up or shut up. The Palestinians would give up the absolute right of return; they had always known they would have to, but they never wanted to admit it. The Israelis would give up East Jerusalem and parts of the Old City, but their religious and cultural sites would be preserved; it had been evident for some time that for peace to come, they would have to do that. The Israelis would also give up a little more of the West Bank and probably a larger land swap than Baraks last best offer, but they would keep enough to hold at least 80 percent of the settlers. And they would get a formal end to the conflict. It was a hard deal, but if they wanted peace, I thought it was fair to both sides.
Arafat immediately began to equivocate, asking for clarifications. But the parameters were clear; either he would negotiate within them or not. As always, he was playing for more time. I called Mubarak and read him the points. He said they were historic and he could encourage Arafat to accept them.
On the twenty-seventh, Baraks cabinet endorsed the parameters with reservations, but all their reservations were within the parameters, and therefore subject to negotiations anyway. It was historic: an Israeli government had said that to get peace, there would be a Palestinian state in roughly 97 percent of the West Bank, counting the swap, and all of Gaza, where Israel also had settlements. The ball was in Arafats court.
I was calling other Arab leaders daily to urge them to pressure Arafat to say yes. They were all impressed with Israels acceptance and told me they believed Arafat should take the deal. I have no way of knowing what they told him, though the Saudi ambassador, Prince Bandar, later told me he and Crown Prince Abdullah had the distinct impression Arafat was going to accept the parameters.
On the twenty-ninth, Dennis Ross met with Abu Ala, whom we all respected, to make sure Arafat understood the consequences of rejection. I would be gone. Ross would be gone. Barak would lose the upcoming election to Sharon. Bush wouldnt want to jump in after I had invested so much and failed.
I still didnt believe Arafat would make such a colossal mistake. The previous day I had announced that I would not travel to North Korea to close the agreement banning its production of long-range missiles, saying I was confident the next administration would consummate the deal based on the good work that had been done. I hated to give up on ending the North Korean missile program. We had stopped their plutonium and missile testing programs, and had refused to deal with them on other issues without involving South Korea, setting the stage for Kim Dae Jungs sunshine policy. Kims brave outreach offered more hope for reconciliation than at any time since the end of the Korean War, and he had just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for it. Madeleine Albright had made a trip to North Korea and was convinced that if I went, we could make the missile agreement. Although I wanted to take the next step, I simply couldnt risk being halfway around the world when we were so close to peace in the Middle East, especially after Arafat had assured me that he was eager for an agreement and had implored me not to go.
Besides the Middle East and the budget, a surprising number of other things had happened in the last thirty days. I marked the seventh anniversary of the Brady bill with the announcement that it had now prevented 611,000 felons, fugitives, and stalkers from buying handguns; observed World AIDS Day at Howard University with representatives from twenty-four African countries, saying that we had cut the death rate by more than 70 percent in the United States and now had to do much more in Africa and other places where the disease was raging; unveiled the design of my presidential library, a long, narrow glass-and-steel bridge to the twenty-first century jutting out above the Arkansas River; announced an effort to increase immunizations among inner-city children, whose vaccination rates remained far below the national average; signed my last veto, of a bankruptcy reform bill that was much harsher to lower-income debtors than to wealthy ones; issued strong regulations to protect the privacy of medical records; hailed Indias decision to maintain its cease-fire in Kashmir and Pakistans upcoming withdrawal of troops along the Line of Control; and announced new regulations to reduce unhealthy diesel fuel emissions from trucks and buses. Together with the year-old emissions standards on cars and SUVs, the new rules ensured that by the end of the decade, new vehicles would be up to 95 percent cleaner than those now on the road, preventing many thousands of cases of respiratory illness and premature death.
Three days before Christmas, I granted executive clemency or commutations of sentences to sixty-two people. I hadnt given many pardons in my first term and was anxious to deal with the backlog. President Carter had granted 566 clemencies in four years. President Ford had granted 409 in two and a half years. President Reagans total was 406 in his eight years. President Bush had granted only 77, and they included the controversial pardons of the Iran-Contra figures, and the release of Orlando Bosch, an anti-Castro Cuban the FBI believed to be guilty of multiple murders.
My philosophy on pardons and commutations of sentences, developed while I was attorney general and governor of Arkansas, was conservative when it came to shortening sentences and liberal in granting pardons for nonviolent offenses once people had served their sentences and spent a reasonable amount of time afterward as law-abiding citizens, if for no other reason than to give them their voting rights back. There was a pardon office in the Justice Department that reviewed applications and made recommendations. I had been receiving them for eight years and had learned two things: the people over at Justice took too long to review the applications, and they recommended denial in almost all the cases.
I understood how it had happened. In Washington everything was political and almost every pardon was potentially controversial. If you were a civil servant, the only surefire way to stay out of trouble was to say no. The Justice Departments pardon office knew that they couldnt get heat for delaying cases or for recommending denials; a constitutional function vested in the President was slowly being transferred into the bowels of the Justice Department.
For the last several months, we had been pushing Justice hard to send us more files, and they were doing better. Of the fifty-nine people I pardoned and the three whose sentences I commuted, most were people whod made a mistake, served their time, and become good citizens. I also issued pardons in the so-called girlfriend cases. They involved women who had been arrested because their husbands or boyfriends had committed an offense, usually drug-related. The women were threatened with long sentences, even if they hadnt themselves been directly involved in the crime, unless they provided testimony against their men. Those who refused or didnt know enough to be helpful got long jail terms. In several cases, the men in question later cooperated with prosecutors and received shorter sentences than the women had. We had been working on these cases for months. I had already pardoned four of them the previous summer.
I also pardoned former House Ways and Means Committee chairman Dan Rostenkowski. Rostenkowski had done a lot for his country and had more than paid for his mistakes. And I pardoned Archie Schaffer, an executive of Tyson Foods who was caught in the Espy investigation and was facing a mandatory jail sentence for violating an old law Schaffer knew nothing about, because he had made travel arrangements, as instructed, so that Espy could come to a Tyson retreat.
After the Christmas clemencies, we were flooded with requests, many from people upset at the delay in the regular process. Over the next five weeks we worked through hundreds of requests, rejecting hundreds more and granting 140, bringing my eight-year total to 456, out of more than 7,000 petitions for clemency. My White House counsel Beth Nolan, Bruce Lindsey, and my pardon attorney, Meredith Cabe, worked through as many as they could, getting information and clearance from the Justice Department. Some of the decisions were easy, like the cases of Susan McDougal and Henry Cisneros, who had been horribly mistreated by independent counsels; more girlfriend cases; and a large number of routine requests that probably should have been granted years earlier. One of them was a mistake based on inadequate information because the Justice Department didnt know that the man in question was under investigation in a different state. Most of the pardons were for people of modest means who had no way to break through the system.
The most controversial pardons went to Marc Rich and his partner, Pincus Green. Rich, a wealthy businessman, had left the United States for Switzerland shortly before he was indicted on tax and other charges for allegedly falsely reporting the price of certain oil transactions to minimize his tax liability. There were several such cases in the 1980s, when some oil was under price controls and some was not, inviting the dishonest to underestimate their income or to overcharge their customers. During that time, several people and companies were charged with violating the law, but the individuals were usually charged with a civil offense. It was extremely rare for tax charges to be prosecuted under the racketeering statutes, as Rich and Green were, and after they were charged, the Justice Department ordered U.S. attorneys to stop doing it. After he was indicted, Rich stayed overseas, mostly in Israel and Switzerland.
The government had allowed Richs business to continue to operate after he agreed to pay $200 million in fines, more than four times the $48 million in taxes the government claimed he had evaded. Professor Marty Ginsburg, a tax expert and husband of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Harvard Law professor Bernard Wolfman had reviewed the transactions in question and concluded that Richs companies were right in their tax computations, which meant that Rich himself had not owed any taxes on these transactions. Rich agreed to waive the statute of limitations so that he could still be sued by the government in a civil action as all other offenders had been. Ehud Barak asked me three times to pardon Rich because of Richs services to Israel and his help with the Palestinians, and several other Israeli figures in both major parties urged his release. Finally, the Justice Department said it had no objections and would lean toward granting the pardon if it advanced our foreign policy interests.
Most everyone thought I was wrong to pardon a wealthy fugitive whose ex-wife was a supporter of mine and who had retained one of my former White House counsels on his legal team, along with two prominent Republican lawyers. Rich had also been recently represented by Lewis Scooter Libby, Vice Presidentelect Dick Cheneys chief of staff. I may have made a mistake, at least in the way I allowed the case to come to my attention, but I made the decision based on the merits. As of May 2004, Rich still had not been sued by the Justice Department, a surprising development, since the burden of proof is much easier for the government to make in a civil case than in a criminal one.
Although I would later be criticized for some of the pardons I granted, I was more concerned by a few I didnt grant. For example, I thought Michael Milken had a persuasive case, because of the good work he had done on prostate cancer after his release from prison, but Treasury and the Securities and Exchange Commission were adamantly against my pardoning him, saying it would send the wrong signal at a time when they were trying to enforce high standards in the financial industry. The two cases I most regretted turning down were Webb Hubbell and Jim Guy Tucker. Tuckers case was on appeal and Hubbell had actually broken the law and had not been out of jail for the usual period before being considered for a pardon. But they both had been abused by Ken Starrs office for their refusal to lie. Neither of them would have endured a fraction of what they did had I not been elected President and fallen into Starrs clutches. David Kendall and Hillary strongly urged me to pardon them. Everyone else was adamantly against it. Finally, I gave in to my staffs hard-nosed judgment. Ive regretted it ever since. I later apologized to Jim Guy Tucker when I saw him and will do the same to Webb one day.
Our Christmas was like all the others, but more savored because we knew it was our last at the White House. I would enjoy these last receptions more and the chance to see so many people who shared our time in Washington. I was looking more carefully now at all the ornaments Chelsea, Hillary, and I put on our tree, and at the bells, books, Christmas plates, stockings, pictures, and standing Santa Clauses with which we filled the Yellow Oval Room. I found myself taking time to walk into all the rooms on the second and third floors to look more closely at all the paintings and old furniture. And I finally got around to getting the White House ushers to provide me with a history of all the White House grandfather clocks, which I used as I studied them. The portraits of my predecessors and their wives took on a new meaning as Hillary and I realized wed be among them before long. Both of us had chosen Simmie Knox to paint our portraits: we liked Knoxs lifelike style, and he would be the first African-American portraitist to have his work hang in the White House.
In the week after Christmas I signed a few more bills and appointed Roger Gregory to be the first African-American judge on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Gregory was well qualified, and Jesse Helms had blocked a black judge there long enough. It was a recess appointment, one a President can make for a year, when Congress is not in session. I was betting the new President wouldnt want an all-white court of appeals in the Southeast.
I also announced that with the budget just enacted, there would be enough money to pay $600 billion of the debt down over four years, and if we stayed on the present course, we would be debt-free by 2010, freeing up twelve cents of every tax dollar for tax cuts or new investments. Because of our fiscal responsibility, long-term interest rates were now, after all the growth, 2 percent lower than when I took office, reducing the costs of mortgages, car payments, business loans, and student loans. The low interest rates had put more money in peoples pockets than tax cuts would have.
Finally, on the last day of the year, I signed the treaty by which America joined the International Criminal Court. Senator Lott and most Republican senators were strongly opposed to it, fearing that U.S. soldiers sent to foreign lands would be hauled before the court for political purposes. I had been concerned about that, too, but the treaty was now drafted in a manner that I was convinced would prevent that from happening. I had been among the first world leaders to call for an International War Crimes Tribunal, and I thought the United States should support it.
We passed up Renaissance Weekend again that year so that our family could spend the last New Years at Camp David. I still hadnt heard from Arafat. On New Years Day, I invited him to the White House the next day. Before he came, he received Prince Bandar and the Egyptian ambassador at his hotel. One of Arafats younger aides told us that they had pushed him hard to say yes. When Arafat came to see me, he asked a lot of questions about my proposal. He wanted Israel to have the Wailing Wall, because of its religious significance, but asserted that the remaining fifty feet of the Western Wall should go to the Palestinians. I told him he was wrong, that Israel should have the entire wall to protect itself from someone using one entrance of the tunnel that ran beneath the wall from damaging the remains of the temples beneath the Haram. The Old City has four quarters: Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Armenian. It was assumed that Palestine would get the Muslim and Christian quarters, with Israel getting the other two. Arafat argued that he should have a few blocks of the Armenian quarter because of the Christian churches there. I couldnt believe he was talking to me about this.
Arafat was also trying to wiggle out of giving up the right of return. He knew he had to but was afraid of the criticism he would get. I reminded him that Israel had promised to take some of the refugees from Lebanon whose families had lived in what was now northern Israel for hundreds of years, but that no Israeli leader would ever let in so many Palestinians that the Jewish character of the state could be threatened in a few decades by the higher Palestinian birthrate. There were not going to be two majority-Arab states in the Holy Land; Arafat had acknowledged that by signing the 1993 peace agreement with its implicit two-state solution. Besides, the agreement had to be approved by Israeli citizens in a referendum. The right of return was a deal breaker. I wouldnt think of asking the Israelis to vote for it. On the other hand, I thought the Israelis would vote for a final settlement within the parameters I had laid out. If there was an agreement, I even thought Barak might be able to come back and win the election, though he was running well behind Sharon in the polls, in an electorate frightened by the intifada and angered by Arafats refusal to make peace.
At times Arafat seemed confused, not wholly in command of the facts. I had felt for some time that he might not be at the top of his game any longer, after all the years of spending the night in different places to dodge assassins bullets, all the countless hours on airplanes, all the endless hours of tension-filled talks. Perhaps he simply couldnt make the final jump from revolutionary to statesman. He had grown used to flying from place to place, giving mother-of-pearl gifts made by Palestinian craftsmen to world leaders and appearing on television with them. It would be different if the end of violence took Palestine out of the headlines and instead he had to worry about providing jobs, schools, and basic services. Most of the young people on Arafats team wanted him to take the deal. I believe Abu Ala and Abu Mazen also would have agreed but didnt want to be at odds with Arafat.
When he left, I still had no idea what Arafat was going to do. His body language said no, but the deal was so good I couldnt believe anyone would be foolish enough to let it go. Barak wanted me to come to the region, but I wanted Arafat to say yes to the Israelis on the big issues embodied in my parameters first. In December the parties had met at Bolling Air Force Base for talks that didnt succeed because Arafat wouldnt accept the parameters that were hard for him.
Finally, Arafat agreed to see Shimon Peres on the thirteenth after Peres had first met with Saeb Erekat. Nothing came of it. As a back-stop, the Israelis tried to produce a letter with as much agreement on the parameters as possible, on the assumption that Barak would lose the election and at least both sides would be bound to a course that could lead to an agreement. Arafat wouldnt even do that, because he didnt want to be seen conceding anything. The parties continued their talks in Taba, Egypt. They got close, but did not succeed. Arafat never said no; he just couldnt bring himself to say yes. Pride goeth before the fall.
Right before I left office, Arafat, in one of our last conversations, thanked me for all my efforts and told me what a great man I was. Mr. Chairman, I replied, I am not a great man. I am a failure, and you have made me one. I warned Arafat that he was single-handedly electing Sharon and that he would reap the whirlwind.
In February 2001, Ariel Sharon would be elected prime minister in a landslide. The Israelis had decided that if Arafat wouldnt take my offer he wouldnt take anything, and that if they had no partner for peace, it was better to be led by the most aggressive, intransigent leader available. Sharon would take a hard line toward Arafat and would be supported in doing so by Ehud Barak and the United States. Nearly a year after I left office, Arafat said he was ready to negotiate on the basis of the parameters I had presented. Apparently, Arafat had thought the time to decide, five minutes to midnight, had finally come. His watch had been broken a long time.
Arafats rejection of my proposal after Barak accepted it was an error of historic proportions. However, many Palestinians and Israelis are still committed to peace. Someday peace will come, and when it does, the final agreement will look a lot like the proposals that came out of Camp David and the six long months that followed.
On January 3, I sat in the Senate with Chelsea and the rest of Hillarys family as Al Gore administered the oath of office to New Yorks new senator. I was so excited I almost jumped over the railing. For seventeen more days we would both be in office, the first couple to serve in the White House and the Senate in American history. But Hillary was on her own now. About all I could do was ask Trent Lott not to be too hard on her and offer to be Hillarys caseworker for Westchester County.
The next day we held a White House event that for me was about Mother: a celebration of the Breast and Cervical Cancer Protection and Treatment Act of 2000, which allowed women without health insurance who were diagnosed with these cancers to have full Medicaid benefits.
On the fifth, I announced that we would protect sixty million acres of pristine national forest in thirty-nine states from road-building and logging, including the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, the last great temperate rain forest in America. The timber interests were against the move and I thought the Bush administration might try to undo it on economic grounds, but only 5 percent of the nations timber came from national forests, and only 5 percent of that amount came from roadless areas. We could do without that tiny amount of logging to preserve another priceless national treasure.
After the announcement I drove out to Fort Myer to receive the traditional farewell tribute from the armed forces, a fine military ceremony that included the presentation of an American flag, a flag with the presidential seal, and medals from each of the service branches. They gave Hillary a medal, too. Bill Cohen noted that in appointing him I became the only President ever to ask an elected official of the opposite party to become secretary of defense.
Being President carries no greater honor than being Commander in Chief of men and women of every race and religion who trace their ancestry to every region on earth. They are the living embodiment of our national creed, E pluribus unum. I had seen them cheered in refugee camps in the Balkans, helping the victims of disasters in Central America, working against narco-traffickers in Colombia and the Caribbean, welcomed with open arms in the former Communist nations of Central Europe, manning distant outposts in Alaska, standing guard in the deserts of the Middle East, and patrolling the Pacific.
Americans know about our forces when they go into battle. There will never be a full account of the wars never fought, the losses never suffered, the tears never shed because American men and women stood guard for peace. I may have gotten off to a rocky start with the military, but I worked hard at being Commander in Chief, and I was confident that I was leaving our military in even better shape than I found it.
On Saturday, January 6, after a visit to the National Zoo to see the pandas, Hillary and I held a farewell party on the South Lawn with Al and Tipper for all the people who had worked or volunteered in the White House over the past eight years. Hundreds of people came, many from long distances. We talked and reminisced for several hours. Al got a rousing welcome when I introduced him as the peoples choice in the recent election. When he asked for a show of hands of all the people who had married or had children during our time in the White House, I was amazed at the number of hands that shot up. No matter what the Republicans said, we were a pro-family party.
The White House social secretary, Capricia Marshall, who had supported me since 1991 and had been with Hillary since early in our first campaign, had arranged a special surprise for me. The curtain behind us rose to reveal Fleetwood Mac singing Dont Stop Thinkin About Tomorrow one more time.
On Sunday, Hillary, Chelsea, and I went to Foundry United Methodist Church, where the Reverend Phil Wogaman invited Hillary and me to make farewell remarks to the congregation that had embraced us for eight years. Chelsea had made good friends there and had learned a lot working in a distant hollow of rural Kentucky on the churchs Appalachian Service Project. The church members came from many races and nations, and were rich and poor, straight and gay, old and young. Foundry had supported Washingtons homeless population and refugees in parts of the world where I tried to make peace.
I didnt know what I was going to say, but Wogaman had told the congregation that I would tell them what I anticipated my new life would be like. So I said that my faith would be tested by a return to commercial air travel and that I would be disoriented by walking into large rooms because no band would be playing Hail to the Chief. And I said I would do whatever I could to be a good citizen, to lift the hopes and fortunes of those who deserve a better hand than they have been dealt, and to keep working for peace and reconciliation. Despite my best efforts for the last eight years, that kind of work still seemed to be in strong demand.
Later that night in New York City, I spoke to the pro-peace Israel Policy Forum. At the time we still had some hope of making peace. Arafat had said he accepted the parameters with reservations. The problem was that his reservations, unlike Israels, were outside the parame-ters, at least on refugees and the Western Wall, but I treated the acceptance as if it were real, based on his pledge to make peace before I left office. The American-Jewish community had been very good to me. Some, like my friend Haim Saban and Danny Abraham were deeply involved with Israel and had given me helpful advice over the years. Many others simply supported my work for peace. Regard-less of what happened, I thought I owed it to them to explain my proposal.
The next day, after presenting the Citizens Medal to twenty-eight deserving Americans, including Muhammad Ali, I went over to the Democratic Party headquarters to thank the chairmen, Mayor Ed Rendell of Philadelphia and Joe Andrew, and to give a plug to Terry McAuliffe, who had done so much for Al Gore and for me, and who now was campaigning to be the new party chair. After all the work hed done, I couldnt believe Terry wanted the job, but if he did, I was for him. I told the people whod slaved away at the party work without glory or recognition how much I appreciated them.
On the ninth, I began a farewell tour to places that had been especially good to me, Michigan and Illinois, where victories in the primaries on St. Patricks Day 1992 had virtually assured me of the nomination. Two days later, I went to Massachusetts, which gave me the highest percentage of any state in 96, and to New Hampshire, where they had made me the Comeback Kid in early 1992. In between, I dedicated a statue of Franklin Roosevelt in his wheelchair at the FDR Memorial on the Mall. The disability community had lobbied hard for it, and most of the Roosevelt family had supported it. Of the more than 10,000 photos of FDR in his archives, only four depict him in his wheelchair. Disabled Americans had come a long way since then.
I said farewell to New Hampshire in Dover, where almost nine years earlier I had promised to be with them til the last dog dies. Many of my old supporters were in the audience. I called several by name, thanked them all, then gave them a full account of the record their hard work in that long-ago winter had made possible. And I asked them never to forget that, even though I wont be President, Ill always be with you until the last dog dies.
On the eleventh through the fourteenth, I had parties for the cabinet, the White House staff, and friends at Camp David. On the night of the fourteenth, Don Henley gave us a wonderful solo concert after dinner in the Camp David Chapel. The next morning was our familys last Sunday in the beautiful chapel, where we had shared many services with the fine young sailors and marines who staffed the camp and their families. They had even let me sing with the choir, always leaving the sheet music in Aspen, our family cabin, on Friday or Saturday so that I could review it in advance.
On Monday, I spoke at the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday celebration at the University of the District of Columbia. Usually I marked the day by doing some community service work, but I wanted to take this opportunity to thank the District of Columbia for being my home for eight years. The D.C. representative in Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Mayor Tony Williams were good friends of mine, as were several city council members. I had worked to help them get needed legislation through Congress and to prevent unduly meddlesome laws from being enacted. The District still had a lot of problems, but it was in much better condition than it had been eight years earlier when I took my pre-inaugural walk down Georgia Avenue.
I also sent my last message to Congress: The Unfinished Work of Building One America. It was based in large part on the final report of the Commission on Race and included a wide array of recommendations: further steps to close the racial divide in education, health care, employment, and the criminal justice system; special efforts to help low-income absent fathers succeed at parenting; new investments for Native American communities; improved immigration policies; passage of the hate crimes bill; reform of the voting laws; and the continuation of AmeriCorps and the White House Office on One America. We had made a lot of headway in eight years, but America was growing more diverse, and there was still much to be done.
On the seventeenth, I held my last ceremony in the East Room, as Bruce Babbitt and I announced eight more national monuments, two of them along the trail Lewis and Clark blazed in 1803 with their Indian guide Sacagawea and a slave named York. We had now protected more land in the lower forty-eight states than any administration since that of Theodore Roosevelt.
After the announcement, I left the White House on the last trip of my presidency, going home to Little Rock to address the Arkansas legislature. Some of my old pals were still in the state House or Sen-ate, as were people who had gotten their start in politics working with me and a few who began by working against me. More than twenty Arkansans who were then serving or had served with me in Wash-ington joined me that day, as did three of my high school class-mates who lived in the Washington area, and several Arkansans who had served as my liaisons to the legislature when I was governor. Chelsea came with me, too. We passed two of her schools on the way in from the airport, and I thought of how much she had grown up since Hillary and I had attended her school programs at Booker Arts Magnet School.
I tried to thank all the Arkansans who had helped me reach this day, beginning with two men who were no longer living, Judge Frank Holt and Senator Fulbright. I urged the legislators to keep pushing the federal government to support the states on education, economic development, health care, and welfare reform. Finally, I told my old friends that I would leave office in three days grateful that somehow the mystery of this great democracy gave me the chance to go from a little boy on South Hervey Street in Hope, Arkansas, to the White House. . . . I may be the only person ever elected President who owed his election purely to his personal friends, without whom I could never have won. I left my friends and flew home to finish the job.
The next night, after a day working on last-minute business, I gave a brief farewell address to the nation from the Oval Office. After thanking the American people for giving me the chance to serve and briefly summarizing my philosophy and record, I offered three observations about the future, saying that we should stay on the path to fiscal responsibility; that our security and prosperity required us to lead in the fight for prosperity and freedom and against terrorism, organized crime, narco-trafficking, the spread of deadly weapons, environmental degradation, disease, and global poverty; and finally, that we must continue to weave the threads of our coat of many colors into the fabric of one America.
I wished President-elect Bush and his family well and said I would leave the presidency more idealistic, more full of hope than the day I arrived, and more confident than ever that Americas best days lie ahead.
On the nineteenth, my last full day as President, I issued a statement on land mines, saying that since 1993 the United States had destroyed more than 3.3 million of our own land mines, spent $500 million to remove land mines in thirty-five countries, and was making a vigorous effort to find a sensible alternative to mines that would protect our troops as well. I asked the new administration to continue our global demining effort for ten more years.
When I got back to the residence it was late and we still werent completely packed. There were boxes everywhere, and I still had to decide which clothes were going whereto New York, Washington, or Arkansas. Hillary and I didnt want to sleep; we just wanted to keep strolling from room to room. We felt as honored to be living in the White House on our last night as we had when we came home after our first inaugural balls. I never ceased to be thrilled by it all. It seemed almost unbelievable that it had been our home for eight years; now it was almost over.
I went back into the Lincoln Bedroom, read Lincolns handwritten copy of the Gettysburg Address one last time, and stared at the lithograph of him signing the Emancipation Proclamation, on the very spot where I was standing. I went into the Queens Room and thought of Winston Churchill spending three weeks there in the difficult days of World War II. I sat behind the Treaty Table in my office looking at the empty bookshelves and bare walls, thinking of all the meetings and calls Id had in that room on Northern Ireland, the Middle East, Russia, Korea, and domestic struggles. And it was in this room where I read my Bible and books and letters, and prayed for strength and guidance all through 1998.
Earlier in the day I had pre-recorded my final radio address, to be aired not long before I was to leave the White House for the inaugural ceremony. In it I thanked the White House staff, the residence staff, the Secret Service, the cabinet, and Al Gore for all they had done to make my service possible. And I kept my promise to work until the last hour of the last day, releasing another $100 million to fund more police officers; those new police had helped give America the lowest crime rate in a quarter century.
Well past midnight, I went back to the Oval Office again to clean up, pack, and answer a few letters. As I sat alone at the desk, I thought about all that had happened during the last eight years, and how quickly it would be over. Soon I would observe the transfer of power and take my leave. Hillary, Chelsea, and I would board Air Force One for a last flight with the fine crew that had taken us to the far corners of the world; our closest staff members; my new Secret Service detail; some of the career military staff such as Glen Maes, the navy steward who baked all my specially decorated birthday cakes, and Glenn Powell, the air force sergeant who made sure our luggage never got lost; and a few of the folks who brought me to the dancethe Jordans, the McAuliffes, the McLartys, and Harry Thomason.
Several members of the press corps were also scheduled to make the last trip. One of them, Mark Knoller of CBS Radio, had covered me all eight years and had conducted one of the many wrap-up interviews I had done in the past several weeks. Mark had asked me if I was afraid that the best part of your life is over. I said I had enjoyed every part of my life and that in each stage I had been absorbed, interested, and found something useful to do.
I was looking forward to my new life, to building my library, doing public service work through my foundation, supporting Hillary, and having more time for reading, golf, music, and unhurried travel. I knew I would enjoy myself and believed that if I stayed healthy I could still do a lot of good. But Mark Knoller had hit a soft spot with his question. I was going to miss my old job. I had loved being President, even on the bad days.
I thought about the note to President Bush I would write and leave behind in the Oval Office, just as his father had done for me eight years earlier. I wanted to be gracious and encouraging, as George Bush had been to me. Soon George W. Bush would be President of all the people, and I wished him well. I had paid close attention to what Bush and Cheney had said in the campaign. I knew they saw the world very differently from the way I did and would want to undo much of what I had done, especially on economic policy and the environment. I thought that they would pass their big tax cut and that before long we would be back to the big deficits of the 1980s, and in spite of Bushs encouraging comments on education and AmeriCorps, he would feel pressure to cut back on all domestic spending, including education, child care, after-school programs, police on the streets, innovative research, and the environment. But those were not my calls to make anymore.
I thought that the international partnerships that we had developed in the aftermath of the Cold War could be strained by the more unilateral approach of the Republicansthey were opposed to the test ban treaty, the climate change treaty, the ABM Treaty, and the International Criminal Court.
I had watched the Washington Republicans for eight years and imagined that President Bush would, from the outset of his term, be under pressure to abandon compassionate conservatism by the more right-wing leaders and interest groups now in control of his party. They believed in their way as deeply as I believed in mine, but I thought the evidence, and the weight of history, favored our side.
I couldnt control what happened to my policies and programs; few things are permanent in politics. Nor could I affect the early judgments on my so-called legacy. The history of Americas move from the end of the Cold War to the millennium would be written and rewritten over and over. The only thing that mattered to me about my presidency was whether I had done a good job for the American people in a new and very different era of global interdependence.
Had I helped to form a more perfect union by widening the circle of opportunity, deepening the meaning of freedom, and strengthening the bonds of community? I had certainly tried to make America the twenty-first centurys leading force for peace and prosperity, freedom and security. I had tried to put a more human face on globalization by urging other nations to join us in building a more integrated world of shared responsibilities, shared benefits, and shared values; and I had tried to lead America through its transition into this new era with a sense of hope and optimism about what we could do, and a sober sense of what the new forces of destruction could do to us. Finally, I had tried to build a new progressive politics rooted in new ideas and old values, and to support like-minded movements around the world. No matter how many of my specific initiatives the new administration and its congressional majority might undo, I believed that if we were on the right side of history, the direction I had taken into the new millennium would eventually prevail.
On my last night in the now-barren Oval Office, I thought of the glass case I had kept on the coffee table between the two couches, just a few feet away. It contained a rock Neil Armstrong had taken off the moon in 1969. Whenever arguments in the Oval Office heated up beyond reason, I would interrupt and say, You see that rock? Its 3.6 billion years old. Were all just passing through. Lets calm down and go back to work.
That moon rock gave me a whole different perspective on history and the proverbial long run. Our job is to live as well and as long as we can, and to help others to do the same. What happens after that and how we are viewed by others is beyond our control. The river of time carries us all away. All we have is the moment. Whether I had made the most of mine was for others to judge. It was almost dawn when I returned to the residence to do some more packing and share some private moments with Hillary and Chelsea.
The next morning, I returned to the Oval Office to write my note to President Bush. Hillary came down, too. We gazed out the windows to take a long, admiring look at the beautiful grounds where we had shared so many memorable times and I had thrown countless tennis balls to Buddy. Then she left me to write my letter. As I placed the letter on the desk, I called my staff in to say good-bye. We hugged, smiled, shed a few tears, and took a few pictures. Then I walked out of the Oval Office for the last time.
As I stepped out the door with my arms opened wide, I was greeted by members of the press there to capture the moment. John Podesta walked with me down the colonnade to join Hillary, Chelsea, and the Gores on the state floor, where we would soon greet our successors. The entire residence staff had gathered to say good-byethe housekeeping staff, the kitchen staff, the florist, the grounds crew, the ushers, the butlers, my valets. Many of them had become like family. I looked into their faces and stored the memories, not knowing when I would see them again, and knowing that when I did, it would never be quite the same. They would soon have a new family who would need them as much as we had.
A small combo from the marine band was playing in the grand foyer. I sat down at the piano with Master Sergeant Charlie Corrado, who had played for Presidents for forty years. Charlie was always there for us, and his music had brightened a lot of days. Hillary and I had a last dance, and at about ten-thirty the Bushes and the Cheneys arrived. We drank coffee and chatted for a few minutes, then the eight of us got in the limousines, and I rode with George W. Bush for the drive down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol.
Within an hour, the peaceful transfer of power that has kept our country free for more than two hundred years had taken place again. My family said good-bye to the new First Family and drove to Andrews Air Force Base for our last flight on the presidential plane that was no longer Air Force One for me. After eight years as President, and half a lifetime in politics, I was a private citizen again, but a very grateful one, still pulling for my country, still thinking about tomorrow.