T he year 1994 was one of the hardest of my life, one in which important successes in foreign and domestic policy were overshadowed by the demise of health-care reform and an obsession with bogus scandal. It began with personal heartbreak and ended in political disaster..http://www.titelhelden.eu.
On the night of January 5, Mother called me at the White House. She had just returned home from her trip to Las Vegas. I told her I had been calling her hotel room for several days and never found her in. She laughed and said she had been out day and night, having the time of her life in her favorite city, and she didnt have time to sit around waiting for the phone to ring. She had loved Barbra Streisands concert, and was especially pleased that Barbra had introduced her and dedicated a song to her. Mother was in high spirits and seemed strong; she just wanted to check in and tell me she loved me. It wasnt much different from the countless calls wed shared over the years, usually on Sunday nights..www.puravidag.com.
About 2 a.m. the phone rang again, waking Hillary and me. Dick Kelley was on the line, crying. He said, Shes gone, Bill. After a perfect but exhausting week, Mother had just gone to sleep and died. I knew it was coming, but I wasnt ready to let her go. Now our last phone conversation seemed too routine, too full of idle chitchat; we had talked like people who think they have forever to talk to each other. I was aching to redo it, but all I could do was tell Dick that I loved him, that I was so grateful to him for making her last years happy, and that Id get home as quickly as I could. Hillary knew what had happened from my end of the conversation. I hugged her and wept. She said something about Mother and her love of life, and I realized that the phone conversation was just the kind Mother would have chosen to be our last one. My mother was always about life, not death..cartier love bracelet replica.
I called my brother, who I knew would be devastated. He worshipped Mother, all the more because she never gave up on him. I told him he had to hold up for her and keep building his life. Then I called my friend Patty Howe Criner, who had been part of our lives for more than forty years, and asked her to help Dick and me with the funeral arrangements. Hillary woke Chelsea and we told her. She had already lost a grandfather, and she and Mother, whom she called Ginger, had a close, tender relationship. On the wall of her study room, she had a terrific pen-and-ink portrait of Mother by Hot Springs artist Gary Simmons, entitled Chelseas Ginger. It was moving to watch my daughter coming to terms with the loss of someone else she loved, trying to express her grief and keep her composure, letting go and holding on. Chelseas Ginger is hanging in her room in Chappaqua today..http://www.hopeonthestreet.co.uk.
Later that morning we put out a release announcing Mothers death, which was all over the news immediately. By coincidence, Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich were on the morning news programs. Undeterred by the moment, interviewers asked about Whitewater; to one, Dole replied that it cries out for the appointment of an independent counsel. I was stunned. I would have thought that even the press and my adversaries would take a time-out on the day of my mothers death. To his credit, a few years later Dole apologized to me. By then, I better understood what had happened. Washingtons narcotic of choice is power. It dulls the senses and clouds the judgment. Dole was not even close to being its worst abuser. I was touched by his apology..http://www.panchro.co.uk.
That same day Al Gore went to Milwaukee to deliver a foreign-policy speech I had agreed to make, and I flew home. Dick and Mothers house was full of their friends, family, and the food Arkansas folks bring to ease common grieving. We all laughed and told stories about her. The next day Hillary and Chelsea arrived, as did some of Mothers other friends from out of state, including Barbra Streisand and Ralph Wilson, the owner of the Buffalo Bills, who had invited Mother to the Super Bowl the previous year when he learned she was a huge Bills fan..http://www.puravidag.com.
No church was big enough to hold all Mothers friends and it was too cold to hold the funeral service at her preferred venue, the racetrack, so we scheduled it for the Convention Center. About three thousand people came, including Senator Pryor, Governor Tucker, and all my college roommates. But most of the attendees were simple working people whom Mother had met and befriended over the years. All the women from her birthday club were there, too. There were twelve members, each with a birthday in a different month. They celebrated them together over monthly lunches. After Mother died, as she requested, the other women picked a replacement; and they renamed their group the Virginia Clinton Kelley Birthday Club..http://www.titelhelden.eu.
The Reverend John Miles presided over the service, referring to Mother as an American original. Virginia, he said, was like a rubber ball; the harder life put her down, the higher she bounced. Brother John reminded the crowd of Mothers automatic response to every problem: Thats no hill for a stepper..www.sigmund-freud.co.uk.
The service featured the hymns she loved. We all sang Amazing Grace and Precious Lord, Take My Hand. Her friend Malvie Lee Giles, who once lost her voice completely, then got it back from God with an extra octave to spare, sang His Eye Is on the Sparrow, and Mothers favorite, A Closer Walk with Thee. Our Pentecostal friend Janice Sjostrand sang a powerful hymn Mother had heard at my inaugural church service, Holy Ground. When Barbra Streisand, who was sitting behind me, heard Janice, she touched my shoulder and shook her head in amazement. When the service was over, she asked, Who is that woman and what is that music? Its magnificent! Barbra was so inspired by Mothers funeral music that she made her own album of hymns and inspirational songs, including one written in Mothers memory, Leading with Your Heart..Cartier love bracelet replica.
After the funeral we drove Mother home to Hope. All along the way, people were standing by the road to show their respect. She was buried in the cemetery across the street from where her fathers store had been, in the plot that had long awaited her, beside her parents and my father. It was January 8, the birthday of her favorite man outside the family, Elvis Presley..cartier love bracelet replica.
After a reception at the Sizzlin Steakhouse, we drove to the airport to fly back to Washington. There was no time to grieve; I had to go back to putting things together. As soon as I dropped Hillary and Chelsea off, I left for a long-planned trip to Europe to establish a process for opening NATOs door to the Central European nations in a way that wouldnt cause Yeltsin too many problems in Russia. I was determined to do everything I could to create a Europe that was united, free, democratic, and secure for the first time in history. I had to make sure NATO expansion didnt simply lead to a new division of Europe farther to the east..http://www.vereo.eu/.
In Brussels, after a speech in the city hall to a group of young Europeans, I received a special gift. Belgium was celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the death of my favorite Belgian, Adolphe Sax, inventor of the saxophone, and the mayor of Dinant, Saxs hometown, presented me with a beautiful new Selmer tenor sax made in Paris..Giuseppe Zanotti Replica.
The next day the NATO leaders approved my Partnership for Peace proposal to increase our security cooperation with Europes new democracies until we could achieve the expansion of NATO itself..Christian Louboutin Replica.
On January 11, I was in Prague with Vclav Havel, twenty-four years to the week after my first trip there as a student. Havel, a small, soft-spoken man with dancing eyes and a biting wit, was a hero to the forces of freedom everywhere. He had been in prison for years and used the time to write eloquent and provocative books. When he was released, he led Czechoslovakia through a peaceful Velvet Revolution, then oversaw the orderly division of the country into two states. Now he was the president of the Czech Republic, eager to build a successful market economy and to claim the security of NATO membership. Havel was a good friend of our UN ambassador, Madeleine Albright, who was born in Czechoslovakia and delighted in every opportunity she had to speak with him in their native tongue..Christian Louboutin Outlet Online.
Havel took me to one of the jazz clubs that had been hotbeds of support for his Velvet Revolution. After the group played a couple of tunes, he brought me up to meet the band and presented me with another new saxophone, this one made in Prague by a company that, in Communist times, had produced saxophones for the military bands throughout the Warsaw Pact nations. He invited me to play it with the band. We did Summertime and My Funny Valentine, with Havel enthusiastically joining in on the tambourine.
On the way to Moscow, I stopped briefly in Kiev to meet with Ukraines president, Leonid Kravchuk, to thank him for the agreement that he, Yeltsin, and I would sign the following Friday, committing Ukraine to eliminate 176 intercontinental ballistic missiles and 1,500 nuclear warheads targeted at the United States. Ukraine was a large country of sixty million people with great potential. Like Russia, it was wrestling with the question of exactly what kind of future it wanted. Kravchuk faced considerable opposition in parliament to getting rid of his nuclear weapons, and I wanted to support him.
Hillary met me in Moscow. She brought Chelsea, too, because we didnt want her to be alone right after Mothers death. Staying together in the guest quarters of the Kremlin and seeing Moscow in the dead of winter would be a good distraction for all of us. Yeltsin knew I was hurting because he also had recently lost his mother, whom he adored.
Whenever we had a chance we took to the streets, shopping for Russian artifacts and buying bread at a small bakery. I lit a candle for Mother at Kazan Cathedral, now fully restored from the ravages of Stalinism, and visited the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church in the hospital. On January 14, after an impressive welcoming ceremony in the Kremlins St. Georges Hall, a massive white room with high arches and columns with the names of more than two hundred years of Russias war heroes emblazoned in gold, Yeltsin and I signed the nuclear agreement with Ukranian president Kravchuk, and held talks about economic and security initiatives.
In the press conference afterward, Yeltsin expressed his appreciation for the American aid package and the one approved at the Tokyo G-7 meeting, for the commitment of $1 billion more in each of the next two years, and for our decision to reduce tariffs on five thousand Russian products. He gave a qualified endorsement of the Partnership for Peace, on the strength of my commitment to work out a special cooperative agreement between NATO and Russia. I was also pleased that we had agreed, as of May 30, not to target our nuclear missiles against each other or any other country, and that the United States would buy $12 billion worth of highly enriched uranium from Russia over the next twenty years, gradually removing it from any possibility of being used to make weapons.
I thought all these actions were good for both the United States and Russia, but not everyone agreed. Yeltsin was having some problems with his new parliament, especially with Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of a sizable bloc of militant nationalists who wanted to return Russia to imperial glory and were convinced I was trying to reduce its power and reach. To push back a bit, I repeated my mantra that the Russian people should define their greatness in terms relevant to the future, not the past.
After the press conference, I did a town hall meeting with young people at the Ostankino television station. They asked questions about all the current issues, but they also wanted to know whether American students could learn anything from Russia, how old I was when I first thought of becoming President, what advice I could give a young Russian who wanted to go into politics, and how I wanted to be remembered. The students made me hopeful about the future of Russia. They were intelligent, idealistic, and fiercely committed to democracy.
The trip was going well, advancing important American interests in building a safer, freer world, but you would never have known it back home, where the only thing the politicians and press wanted to talk about was Whitewater. I even got questions about it on my trip from the American press accompanying me. Even before I left, the Washington Post and the New York Times had joined the Republicans in demanding that Janet Reno appoint an independent counsel. The only new development in recent months was that David Hale, a Republican who had been indicted in 1993 for defrauding the Small Business Administration, had said I had asked him to make a loan to Susan McDougal for which she was ineligible. I had not done so.
The standard for appointing an independent counsel under both the old law, which had expired, and the new one being considered by Congress was credible evidence of wrongdoing. In its January 5 editorial calling for an independent counsel in Whitewater, the Washington Post explicitly acknowledged that there has been no credible charge in this case that either the President or Mrs. Clinton did anything wrong. Nevertheless, the Post said the public interest demanded an independent counsel, because Hillary and I had been partners in the Whitewater real estate deal (on which we lost money), before McDougal bought Madison Guaranty (from which we had never borrowed money). Even worse, we had apparently failed to take the full tax deduction for our losses. It was probably the first time in history when the flames of outrage against a politician were fanned because of money he lost, loans he didnt receive, and a tax deduction he didnt take. The Post said the Justice Department was headed by presidential appointees who couldnt be trusted to investigate me or to decide whether someone else should investigate me.
The independent counsel law was enacted in reaction to President Nixons firing of Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox, who had been appointed by Nixons attorney general and therefore was an executive branch employee subject to termination. Congress recognized both the need for independent investigations of alleged wrongdoing by the President and his major appointees and the danger of giving unlimited power to an unaccountable prosecutor with limitless resources. Thats why the law required credible evidence of wrongdoing. Now the press was saying the President should agree to an independent counsel without such evidence, whenever anyone with whom he had ever been associated was being investigated.
In the Reagan-Bush years, more than twenty people were convicted of felonies by independent counsels. After six years of investigations and a finding by Senator John Towers commission that President Reagan had authorized the illegal sales of arms to the Nicaraguan rebels, Iran-Contra prosecutor Lawrence Walsh indicted Caspar Weinberger and five others, but President Bush pardoned them. The only independent counsel investigation into a Presidents activities before he took office involved President Carter, who was investigated for a disputed loan to a peanut warehouse he and his brother, Billy, owned. The special prosecutor the President requested finished his investigation in six months, exonerating the Carters.
By the time I got to Moscow, several Democratic senators and President Carter had joined the Republicans and the press in calling for an independent counsel, though they couldnt give a reason that approached credible evidence of wrongdoing. Most of the Democrats didnt know a thing about Whitewater; they were just anxious to show they didnt object to Democratic Presidents being investigated, and they didnt want to be on the other side of the Washington Post and the New York Times. They also probably thought that Janet Reno could be trusted to appoint a professional prosecutor who would deal with the problem promptly. Regardless, it was clear that we had to do something, in Lloyd Bentsens words, to lance the boil.
When I arrived in Moscow, I got on a conference call with my staff, David Kendall, and Hillary, who was still in Washington, to discuss what we should do. David Gergen, Bernie Nussbaum, and Kendall were against asking for an independent counsel, because there were no grounds for one, and if we got unlucky, an unscrupulous prosecutor could pursue an endless disruptive investigation. Moreover, it wouldnt have to last long to bankrupt us; I had the lowest net worth of any President in modern history. Nussbaum, a world-class lawyer who had worked with Hillary on the congressional Watergate inquiry, was adamantly against a special prosecutor. He called it an evil institution, because it gave unaccountable prosecutors the ability to do anything they wanted; Bernie said I owed it to the presidency, and to myself, to resist a special prosecutor with everything I had. Nussbaum also pointed out that the Washington Posts disdain for the Justice Departments inquiry was unfounded, since my records were being reviewed by a career prosecutor who had been nominated for a Justice Department position by President Bush.
Gergen agreed, but argued forcefully that I should turn over all our records to the Washington Post. So did Mark Gearan and George Stephanopoulos. David said Len Downie, the Posts executive editor, had achieved his spurs with Watergate and had convinced himself we were covering something up. The New York Times seemed to think so, too. Gergen thought the only way to defuse the pressure for an independent counsel was to produce the documents.
All the lawyersNussbaum, Kendall, and Bruce Lindseywere against releasing the records because, while we had agreed to give the Justice Department everything wed found, the records were incomplete and scattered, and we were still in the process of rounding them up. They said as soon as we couldnt answer a question or produce a document, the press would return to the drumbeat for an independent counsel. In the meantime, wed get lots of bad stories full of innuendo and speculation.
The rest of my staff, including George Stephanopoulos and Harold Ickes, who had come to work as deputy chief of staff in January, thought that because the Democrats were taking the path of least resistance, the special prosecutor was inevitable, and we should just go on and ask for it, so we could get back to the peoples business. I asked Hillary what she thought. She said that asking for the prosecutor would set a terrible precedent, basically changing the standard from requiring credible evidence of wrongdoing to giving in whenever a media frenzy could be stirred up, but that it had to be my decision. I could tell she was tired of fighting my staff.
I told everyone on the call that I wasnt worried about an investigation, because I hadnt done anything wrong and neither had Hillary, nor did I have any objections to releasing the records. After all, we had endured a lot of irresponsible Whitewater stories since the campaign. My instincts were to release the records and fight the prosecutor, but if the consensus was to do the reverse, I could live with it. Nussbaum was distraught, predicting that whoever was appointed would be frustrated when nothing was there, and would keep widening the investigation until he found something someone I knew had done wrong. He said if I felt I had to do more, we should just dump the records on the press and even offer to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Stephanopoulos thought that was a terrible idea because of all the publicity it would generate. He said Reno would appoint an independent counsel who would satisfy the press and the whole thing would be over in a few months. Bernie disagreed, saying that if Congress passed a new independent counsel law and I signed it, which I had promised to do, the judges on the Washington, D.C., Court of Appeals would appoint a new prosecutor and start all over again. George got angry, saying Bernie was paranoid and it would never happen. Bernie knew that Chief Justice Rehnquist would name the panel and it would be dominated by conservative Republicans. He laughed nervously at Georges outburst and said maybe the chances of a second prosecutor were only fifty-fifty.
After further discussion I asked to speak with just Hillary and David Kendall. I told them I thought we had to go along with the consensus of the nonlegal staff for a special prosecutor. After all, I had nothing to hide, and all the clamor was diverting the attention of Congress and the country from our larger agenda. The next day the White House asked Janet Reno to appoint a special prosecutor. Though I had said I could live with it, I almost didnt live through it.
It was the worst presidential decision I ever made, wrong on the facts, wrong on the law, wrong on the politics, wrong for the presidency and the Constitution. Perhaps I did it because I was completely exhausted and grieving over Mother; it took all the concentration I could muster just to do the job I had left her funeral to do. What I should have done is release the records, resist the prosecutor, give an extensive briefing to all the Democrats who wanted it, and ask for their support. Of course, it might not have made any difference. At the time I wasnt that worried about it, because I knew I hadnt broken any laws, and I still believed that the press wanted the truth.
Within a week Janet Reno appointed Robert Fiske, a Republican former prosecutor from New York, who would have completed his investigation in a timely way had he been left to do his job. Of course, Fiske was not allowed to finish, but Im getting ahead of myself. For now, agreeing to the special prosecutor was like taking aspirin for a cold; it brought temporary relief. Very temporary.
On the way home from Russia, after a brief stop in Belarus, I flew to Geneva, for my first meeting with President Assad of Syria. He was a ruthless but brilliant man who had once wiped out a whole village as a lesson to his opponents, and whose support of terrorist groups in the Middle East had isolated Syria from the United States. Assad rarely left Syria, and when he did it was almost always to come to Geneva to meet with foreign leaders. On our visit, I was impressed by his intelligence and his almost total recall of detailed events going back more than twenty years. Assad was famous for long meetingshe could go on for six or seven hours without taking a break. I, on the other hand, was tired and needed to drink coffee, tea, or water to stay awake. Fortunately, the meeting ran only a few hours. Our discussion produced the two things I wanted: Assads first explicit statement that he was willing to make peace and establish normal relations with Israel, and his commitment to withdraw all Syrian forces from Lebanon and respect its independence once a comprehensive Middle East peace was reached. I knew the success of the meeting resulted from more than personal chemistry. Assad had received a lot of economic support from the former Soviet Union; that was gone now, so he needed to reach out to the West. To do that, he had to stop supporting terrorism in the region, which would be easy to do if he made an agreement with Israel that succeeded in giving back to Syria the Golan Heights, lost in the 1967 war.
I returned to Washington to a whole series of those all-too-typical days when everything happens at once. On the seventeenth, Los Angeles was struck with the most costly earthquake in U.S. history, which caused billions of dollars of damage to homes, hospitals, schools, and businesses. I flew out on the nineteenth with James Lee Witt, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to view the damage, including a large stretch of interstate highway that had completely split open. On the twentieth, virtually the entire cabinet and I met with Mayor Dick Riordan and other state and local leaders in an airplane hangar in Burbank to plan emergency efforts. Thanks to a remarkable partnership, the recovery occurred quickly: the main freeway was rebuilt in three months; FEMA gave financial help to more than 600,000 families and businesses; and thousands of homes and businesses were rebuilt with Small Business Administration loans. The entire effort involved more than $16 billion in direct aid. I was distressed for Californians; theyd borne the brunt of the recession and the defense downsizing, suffered severe fires, and now the earthquake. One of the local officials joked to me that he was just waiting for a plague of locusts. His sense of humor reminded me of Mother Teresas famous observation that she knew God would never give her a heavier burden than she could carry, but sometimes she wished He didnt have so much confidence in her. I returned to Washington to do an interview with Larry King on the first anniversary of the start of my presidency, telling him that I liked my job, even on the bad days. After all, I hadnt signed up to have a good time, but to change the country.
A few days later, President Assads eldest son, whom he had groomed to succeed him, was killed in a car accident. When I called to express my condolences, Assad was obviously heartbroken, a reminder that the worst thing that can happen in life is losing a child.
That week I named the deputy secretary of defense, Bill Perry, to succeed Les Aspin, who had resigned as secretary not long after the day of Black Hawk Down. We had conducted an exhaustive search, and all the while the best candidate had been right under our noses. Perry had led several defense-related organizations, been a professor of mathematics and engineering, and done a superb job at the Pentagon, promoting Stealth technology, procurement reform, and realistic budgeting. He was a soft-spoken, modest man whose demeanor disguised a surprising toughness. He would turn out to be one of my best appointments, probably the finest secretary of defense since General George Marshall.
On the twenty-fifth, I gave my State of the Union address. Its the only time in a year when a President gets the chance to speak to the American people, unfiltered, for a whole hour, and I wanted to make the most of it. After a tribute to the late House Speaker Tip ONeill, who had died the day before Mother, I summarized the long list of congressional achievements in 1993, saying that the economy was producing jobs; that millions of Americans had saved money by refinancing their homes at lower rates; that only 1.2 percent of the American people had had their income taxes increased; that the deficit would be 40 percent lower than previously predicted; and that we would reduce the federal payrolls by more than 250,000 instead of the 100,000 I had previously promised.
The rest of the speech was an outline of my 1994 agenda, beginning with education. I asked Congress to pass my Goals 2000 initiative to help public schools reach the national education goals the governors and the Bush administration had given the country, through reforms like school choice, charter schools, and connecting all our schools to the Internet by 2000; and to measure schools progress toward reaching the goals the old-fashioned way, by whether our students were learning what they needed to know.
I also asked for more investments in new job-creating technologies and defense conversion projects; urged passage of the crime bill and a ban on assault weapons; and promoted three environmental laws: a Safe Drinking Water Act, a revitalized Clean Water Act, and a reformed Superfund program. The Superfund was a public/private partnership to clean up polluted sites that had been abandoned and had become ugly, unusable health hazards. It was important to me and to Al Gore, and by the time we left office we had cleaned up three times as many Superfund sites as the Reagan and Bush administrations combined.
I then asked Congress to pass both welfare reform and health-care reform in 1994. One million people were on the welfare rolls because it was the only way they could get health care for their children. When people left welfare for low-wage jobs without benefits, they were in the incredible position of paying taxes to support the Medicaid program, which provided health care for families that had stayed on welfare. At some time during each year, nearly sixty million Americans found themselves without health insurance. More than eighty million Americans had pre-existing conditions, health problems that meant they were paying more for insurance, if they could get it, and often couldnt change jobs without losing it. Three out of four Americans had policies with lifetime limits on how much of their health-care costs would be covered, meaning they could lose their insurance just when they needed it most. The system hurt small businesses, too; their premiums were 35 percent higher than those paid by large businesses and government. To control costs, more and more Americans were being forced into health maintenance organizations, which restricted patients in their choice of a doctor, and doctors in their choice of care, and forced health-care professionals to spend more and more time on paperwork and less on their patients. All these problems were rooted in one fundamental fact: we had a crazy-quilt pattern of coverage in which insurance companies called the shots.
I told the Congress I knew it was hard to change the system. Roosevelt, Truman, Nixon, and Carter had all tried and failed. The effort virtually destroyed Trumans presidency, driving his approval ratings below 30 percent and helping the Republicans gain control of the Congress. This happened because, for all our problems, most Americans had some kind of coverage, liked their doctors and hospitals, and knew we had a good system of health-care delivery. All those things were still true. Those who profited from the way health care was financed were spending huge sums to convince the Congress and the people that fixing what was wrong with the health-care system would destroy what it did right.
I thought my argument was effective except for one thing: at the end of the health-care portion of the speech, I held up a pen and said I would use it to veto any bill that didnt guarantee health insurance to all Americans. I did it because a couple of my advisors had said that people wouldnt think I had the strength of my convictions unless I demonstrated that I wouldnt compromise. It was an unnecessary red flag to my opponents in Congress. Politics is about compromise, and people expect Presidents to win, not posture for them. Health-care reform was the hardest of all hills to climb. I couldnt do it alone, without compromise. As it turned out, my error didnt matter, because Bob Dole would decide to kill any health-care reform.
In the short run, the State of the Union speech dramatically increased public support for my agenda. Newt Gingrich later said to me that after hearing the speech, he told the House Republicans that if I could persuade the congressional Democrats to deliver on my proposals, our party would be in the majority for a long time. Newt sure didnt want that, so, like Bob Dole, he would try to keep as much from happening before the midterm elections as possible.
In the last week of January, we had a heated debate with our foreign policy team over whether to grant a visa to Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Fein, the political arm of the Irish Republican Army. America had great significance to both sides in the Irish conflict. For years, ardent American supporters of the IRA had provided funds for its violent activities. Sinn Fein had a larger number of partisans here among Irish Catholics who disowned terrorism but wanted to see an end to discrimination against their co-religionists and more political autonomy, with Catholic participation, in Northern Ireland. The British and the Irish Protestants had their supporters, too, who deplored any dealings with Sinn Fein because of its ties to the IRA, and who believed that we had no business meddling in the affairs of the United Kingdom, our strongest ally. That argument had carried the day with all my predecessors, including those sympathetic to the legitimate grievances of Northern Irelands Catholics. Now, with the Declaration of Principles, we had to revisit it.
In the declaration, for the first time ever, the UK pledged that the status of Northern Ireland would be determined by the wishes of its citizens, and Ireland renounced its historic claim to the six counties in the north until a majority of its people voted to change its status. The more moderate Unionist and Irish Nationalist parties were cautiously supportive of the agreement. The Reverend Ian Paisley, leader of the extreme Democratic Unionist Party, was outraged by it. Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein said they were disappointed because the principles lacked specificity as to how the peace process would operate and how Sinn Fein would be able to participate in it. Notwithstanding the ambiguous responses, the British and Irish governments clearly had created pressure on all the parties to work with them for peace.
From the time the declaration was issued, Adamss allies in America had been asking me to grant him a visa to visit the United States. They said it would increase his standing and his ability to get involved in the process and to press the IRA toward giving up violence. John Hume, leader of the moderate Social Democratic and Labour Party, who had built a career on nonviolent action, said he had changed his position on giving Adams a visa; he now thought it would advance the peace process. A number of Irish-American activists agreed, including my friend Bruce Morrison, who had organized our outreach to the Irish-American community in 1992, and our ambassador to Ireland, Jean Kennedy Smith. There was support in Congress from her brother, Senator Ted Kennedy; Senators Chris Dodd, Pat Moynihan, and John Kerry; and New York congressmen Peter King and Tom Manton. House Speaker Tom Foley, who had long been active in Irish issues, remained strongly opposed to the visa.
In early January, Irish prime minister Albert Reynolds informed us that, like John Hume, he now favored granting the visa because Adams was working for peace, and he felt the visa would give him leverage to move the IRA away from violence and into the peace process. The British government remained vehemently opposed to the visa, because of the long history of IRA terror and because Adams had neither renounced violence nor embraced the Declaration of Principles as the basis for settling the problem.
I told Albert Reynolds I would consider a visa if Adams had a formal invitation to speak in the United States. Shortly afterward, Adams, along with the leaders of Northern Irelands other parties, was invited to participate in a peace conference in New York hosted by an American foreign policy group. This put the visa question front and center, where it became the first important issue on which my foreign policy advisors couldnt reach a consensus.
Warren Christopher and the State Department, including our ambassador to Great Britain, Ray Seitz, were strongly opposed to issuing the visa, arguing that since Adams wouldnt renounce violence, it would make us look soft on terrorism and that it could do irreparable damage to our vaunted special relationship with Great Britain, including our ability to secure British cooperation on Bosnia and other important matters. The Justice Department, the FBI, and the CIA agreed with State. Their unanimous opinion was entitled to great weight.
Three people were working the Irish issue at the National Security Council: Tony Lake, NSC staff director Nancy Soderberg, and our European affairs person, Army Major Jane Holl. With my support, they were taking an independent look at the visa question, while trying to reach a consensus position with the State Department, working through Undersecretary Peter Tarnoff. The NSC team became convinced that Adams favored an end to IRA violence, full participation by Sinn Fein in the peace process, and a democratic future for Northern Ireland. Their analysis made sense. The Irish were beginning to prosper economically, Europe as a whole was moving toward greater economic and political integration, and tolerance for terrorism among the Irish had dropped. On the other hand, the IRA was a tough nut to crack, full of hard men who had built a life on hatred of the British and the Ulster Unionists, and for whom the idea of peaceful coexistence and continuing to be a part of the UK was anathema. Since the population of the northern counties was about 10 percent more Protestant than Catholic, and the Declaration of Principles committed both Ireland and the UK to a democratic future based on majority rule, Northern Ireland was likely to remain a part of the UK for some time to come. Adams understood that, but he also knew that terror wouldnt bring victory and he seemed genuine when he said he wanted the IRA to give it up in return for an end to discrimination against and isolation of Catholics.
Based on this analysis, the NSC determined that we should grant the visa, because it would boost Adamss leverage within Sinn Fein and the IRA, while increasing American influence with him. That was important, because unless the IRA renounced violence and Sinn Fein became a part of the peace process, the Irish problem could not be resolved.
The debate raged on until a few days before the conference was scheduled to open, with both the British government and Adamss allies in the Congress and the Irish-American community turning up the heat. I listened carefully to both sides, including an impassioned last-minute plea not to do it from Warren Christopher and a message from Adams saying the Irish people were taking risks for peace and I should take a risk, too. Nancy Soderberg said she had come around on the visa because she was convinced that Adams was serious about making peace and that at present he couldnt say more about his desire to move away from violence than he already had without damaging his position within Sinn Fein and the IRA. Nancy had advised me on foreign policy since the campaign, and I had developed great respect for her judgment. I was also impressed that Tony Lake agreed with her. As my national security advisor, he had to deal with the British on many other issues that could be adversely affected by the visa. He also understood the implications of the decision in terms of our overall efforts to combat terrorism. Vice President Gore also clearly grasped the larger context in which the decision had to be made, and he favored the visa, too. I decided to issue it, but to restrict it so that Adams couldnt do any fund-raising or travel outside New York during his three-day stay.
The British were furious. They thought Adams was just a fast-talking deceiver who had no intention of giving up the violence that had included an attempt to assassinate Margaret Thatcher and had already claimed the lives of thousands of British citizens, including innocent children, government officials, and a member of the royal family, Lord Mountbatten, who had overseen the end of British rule in India. The Unionist parties boycotted the conference because Adams was coming. For days John Major refused to take my phone calls. The British press was filled with articles and columns saying I had damaged the special relationship between our countries. One memorable headline read: Slimy Snake Adams Spits Venom at Yanks.
Some of the press implied that I had issued the visa to appeal to the Irish vote in America and because I was still angry at Major for his attempts to help President Bush during the campaign. It wasnt true. I had never been as upset with Major as the British believed, and I admired him for sticking his neck out with the Declaration of Principles; he had a slim majority in Parliament and needed the votes of the Irish Unionists to keep it. Moreover, I despised terrorism, as did the American people; politically, there was a lot more downside than upside to the decision. I was granting the visa because I thought it was the best shot we had to bring the violence to an end. I remembered Yitzhak Rabins adage: You do not make peace with your friends.
Gerry Adams came to the United States on January 31 and received a warm reception from Irish-Americans sympathetic to the cause. During the visit he promised to push Sinn Fein to make concrete positive decisions. Afterward the British accelerated their efforts to get political talks going with the Northern Irish parties, and the Irish government increased its pressure on Sinn Fein to cooperate. Seven months later the IRA declared a cease-fire. The visa decision had worked. It was the beginning of my deep engagement in the long, emotional, complicated search for peace in Northern Ireland.
On February 3, I began the day at my second National Prayer Breakfast. Mother Teresa was the guest speaker, and I argued that we should emulate her in bringing more humility and a spirit of reconciliation to politics. That afternoon I did a little reconciliation work myself, lifting our long trade embargo on Vietnam, based on remarkable cooperation from the Vietnamese government in resolving POW and MIA cases and in returning the remains of slain servicemen to the United States. My decision was strongly supported by Vietnam veterans in Congress, especially Senators John Kerry, Bob Kerrey, and John McCain, and Congressman Pete Peterson of Florida, who had been a prisoner of war in Vietnam for more than six years.
In the second week of February, after the brutal shelling of the Sarajevo marketplace by Bosnian Serbs had killed dozens of innocent people, NATO finally voted, with the approval of the UN secretary-general, to bomb the Serbs if they didnt move their heavy guns more than a dozen miles away from the city. It was long overdue, but still not a vote without risk for the Canadians, whose forces in Srebrenica were surrounded by the Serbs, or for the French, British, Spanish, and Dutch, who also had relatively small, and vulnerable, numbers of troops on the ground.
Soon afterward, the heavy weapons were removed or put under UN control. Senator Dole was still pushing for a unilateral lifting of the arms embargo, but for the moment I was willing to stick with it, because we had finally gotten a green light for the NATO air strikes, and because I didnt want others to use our unilateral abandonment of the Bosnian embargo as an excuse to disregard the embargoes we supported in Haiti, Libya, and Iraq.
In the middle of the month, Hillary and Chelsea left for Lillehammer, Norway, to represent America at the Winter Olympics, and I flew down to Hot Springs for a day to see Dick Kelley. It had been five weeks since Mothers funeral, and I wanted to check on him. Dick was lonely in their little house, where Mothers presence was still strong in every room, but the old navy veteran was getting his sea legs back and thinking about how to get on with his life.
I spent the next two weeks plugging health-care reform and the crime bill in different venues across the country, and dealing with foreign policy. We got a piece of good news when Saudi Arabia agreed to buy $6 billion worth of American planes, after intense efforts by Ron Brown, Mickey Kantor, and Transportation Secretary Federico Pea.
We also got a shock when the FBI arrested thirty-one-year veteran CIA agent Aldrich Ames and his wife, breaking one of the biggest espionage cases in American history. For nine years, Ames had made a fortune giving up information that led to the deaths of more than ten of our sources inside Russia, and had done severe damage to our intelligence capability. After years of trying to catch a spy they knew was there, the FBI, with CIA cooperation, finally nailed him. The Ames case called into question both the vulnerability of our intelligence apparatus and our policy toward Russia: if they were spying on us, shouldnt we cancel or suspend aid to them? In a bipartisan congressional meeting and in responses to press questions, I argued against suspending aid. Russia was engaged in an internal struggle between yesterday and tomorrow; yesterdays Russia was spying on us, but our aid was being used to support tomorrows Russia, by strengthening democracy and economic reform, and securing and destroying its nuclear weapons. Besides, the Russians werent the only ones with spies.
Toward the end of the month, a militant Israeli settler, outraged at the prospect of turning the West Bank back to the Palestinians, gunned down several worshippers at the Mosque of Abraham in Hebron. The murderer had struck during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, at a site sacred to both Muslims and Jews because it is thought to be the burial site of Abraham and his wife, Sarah. It seemed clear that his intention was to spark a violent reaction that would derail the peace process. To head that off, I asked Warren Christopher to contact Rabin and Arafat and invite them to send negotiators to Washington as soon as possible and have them stay until they had settled on concrete actions to implement their agreement.
On February 28, NATO fighters shot down four Serb planes for violating the no-fly zone, the first military action in the forty-four-year history of the alliance. I hoped that the air strikes, along with our success in relieving the siege of Sarajevo, would convince the allies to take a stronger posture toward Serb aggression in and around the embattled towns of Tuzla and Srebrenica as well.
One of those allies, John Major, was in America that day to talk about Bosnia and Northern Ireland. I took him first to Pittsburgh, where his grandfather had worked in the steel mills in the nineteenth century. Major seemed to enjoy retracing his roots to the industrial heartland of America. That night he stayed at the White House, the first foreign leader to do so during my tenure. The next day we held a press conference, which was unmemorable except for the larger message it sent: that our disagreement over the Adams visa would not undermine the Anglo-American relationship or keep us from working together closely on Bosnia and other issues. I found Major to be serious, intelligent, and, as I said earlier, genuinely committed to resolving the Irish problem, despite the fact that the very effort to do so posed a threat to his already precarious situation in Parliament. I thought he was a better leader than his press coverage often suggested, and after our two days together we maintained a friendly and productive working relationship.