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T hough most of the headlines of my early months in office concerned the effort to define, defend, and pass my economic plan; gays in the military; and Hillarys health-care work, foreign policy was always there, an ever-present part of my daily routine and concern. The general impression among Washington observers was that I wasnt too interested in foreign affairs and wanted to spend as little time as possible on them. Its true that the overwhelming focus of the campaign had been on domestic issues; our economic troubles demanded that. But, as I had said over and over, increasing global interdependence was erasing the divide between foreign and domestic policy. And the new world order President Bush had proclaimed after the fall of the Berlin Wall was rife with chaos and big, unresolved questions..replica christian louboutin.
Early on, my national security advisor, Tony Lake, had declared that success in foreign affairs is often defined by preventing or defusing problems before they develop into headaches and headline grabbers. If we do a really good job, he said, the public may never know it, because the dogs wont bark. When I took office, we had a whole kennel full of barking hounds, with Bosnia and Russia howling the loudest, and several others, including Somalia, Haiti, North Korea, and Japans trade policy, growling in the background..cheap christian louboutin.
The breakup of the Soviet Union and the collapse of communism in the Warsaw Pact nations raised the prospect that Europe might become democratic, peaceful, and united for the first time in history. Whether it would happen turned on four great questions: Would East and West Germany be reunited; would Russia become a truly democratic, stable, nonimperial nation; what would happen to Yugoslavia, a cauldron of diverse ethnic provinces, which had been held together by the iron will of Marshal Tito; and would Russia and the former Communist countries be integrated into the European Union and the transatlantic NATO alliance with the United States and Canada?.http://www.vvon.co.uk.
By the time I became President, Germany had been reunited under the visionary leadership of Chancellor Helmut Kohl, with the strong support of President Bush and despite reservations in Europe about the political and economic power of a resurgent Germany. The other three questions were still open, and I knew that one of my most important responsibilities as President was to see that they were answered correctly..cartier love bracelet replica.
During the election campaign, both President Bush and I had supported aid to Russia. At first I was more assertive than he was, but after prodding by former president Nixon, Bush announced that the G-7, the seven largest industrial nationsthe United States, Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Japanwould provide $24 billion to support democracy and economic reform in Russia. By the time Yeltsin came to Washington in June 1992 as Russias president, he was grateful and openly supporting Bushs reelection. As I mentioned earlier, Yeltsin did agree to a courtesy meeting with me at Blair House on June 18, thanks to the friendship between Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev and Toby Gati, one of my foreign policy advisors. It didnt bother me that Yeltsin was supporting Bush; I just wanted him to know that if I won, I would support him..cartier love ring replica.
In November, a couple of days after the election, Yeltsin called to congratulate me and to urge me to come to Moscow as soon as possible to reaffirm Americas support for his reforms in the face of mounting opposition at home. Yeltsin had a hard row to hoe. He had been elected president of Russia in June 1991, when Russia was still part of the crumbling Soviet Union. In August, Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev was put under house arrest at his summer retreat on the Black Sea by conspirators intent on staging a coup dtat. Russian citizens took to the Moscow streets in protest. The defining moment of the drama came when Yeltsin, in office for just two months, climbed on a tank in front of the Russian White House, the parliamentary building under siege by the coup plotters. He urged the Russian people to defend their hard-won democracy. In effect, he was telling the reactionaries, You may steal our freedom, but youll have to do it over my dead body. Yeltsins heroic clarion call galvanized domestic and international support, and the coup failed. By December, the Soviet Union had dissolved into a collection of independent states, and Russia had taken the Soviet seat on the United Nations Security Council..Cartier Watches Replica.
But Yeltsins problems were not over. Reactionary elements, smarting from their loss of power, opposed his determination to withdraw Soviet troops from the Baltic nations of Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia. Economic disaster loomed, as the rotting remains of the Soviet economy were exposed to free-market reforms, which brought inflation and the sale of state-owned assets at low prices to a new class of ultra-rich businessmen called oligarchs, who made Americas robber barons of the late nineteenth century look like Puritan preachers. Organized-crime networks also moved into the vacuum created by the collapse of the Soviet state and spread their tentacles across the globe. Yeltsin had destroyed the old system, but had not yet been able to build a new one. He also had not developed a good working relationship with the Duma, Russias parliament, partly because he was by nature averse to compromise, partly because the Duma was full of people who longed for the old order or an equally oppressive new one rooted in ultra-nationalism..cartier love ring replica.
Yeltsin was up to his ears in alligators, and I wanted to help him. I was encouraged to do so by Bob Strauss, whom President Bush had sent to Moscow as our ambassador even though he was an ardent Democrat and a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Strauss said I could work with Yeltsin and give him good political advice, and he urged me to do both..cartier love bracelet replica.
I was inclined to accept Yeltsins invitation to go to Russia, but Tony Lake said Moscow shouldnt be my first foreign stop, and the rest of my team said it would divert attention from our domestic agenda. They made strong arguments, but the United States had a big stake in Russias success, and we sure didnt want hard-liners, either Communists or ultra-nationalists, in control there. Boris made it easier when he suggested a meeting in a mutually acceptable third country..cartier juste un clou replica.
About this time, I persuaded my old friend and Oxford housemate Strobe Talbott to leave Time magazine and come to work in the State Department to help us with policy on the former Soviet Union. By then, Strobe and I had been discussing Russian history and politics for almost twenty-five years. Ever since he translated and edited Khrushchevs memoirs, Strobe had known and cared more about Russia and the Russian people than anyone else I knew. He had a fine analytical mind and a fertile imagination behind his proper professorial faade, and I trusted both his judgment and his willingness to tell me the unvarnished truth. There was no position in the State Department hierarchy that described what I wanted Strobe to do, so he set out to create one, with the blessing of Warren Christopher and the help of Dick Holbrooke, an investment banker and veteran foreign policy hand who had provided advice during the campaign and who would become one of the most important figures in my administration..cartier love ring replica.
Eventually, Strobes new job had a title: ambassador-at-large and special advisor to the secretary of state on the new independent states of the former Soviet Union. He later became deputy secretary of state. I dont think five people could repeat Strobes title, but everybody knew what he did: he was our go to man on Russia. For eight years, he was by my side in all my meetings with Presidents Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin, eighteen with Yeltsin alone. Since Strobe spoke fluent Russian and took copious notes, his participation with me and his own interactions with the Russians guaranteed a precision and accuracy in our work that would prove invaluable. Strobe chronicles our eight-year odyssey in his book The Russia Hand, which is remarkable not only for its insights but for the verbatim accounts of the colorful conversations I had with Yeltsin. Unlike what happens in most books of the genre, the quotes are not reconstructions; they are, for good or ill, what we actually said. Strobes main point is that I became my own Russia hand because, while not an expert on Russia, I knew one big thing: on the twin issues that had constituted the casus belli of the cold wardemocracy versus dictatorship at home and cooperation versus competition abroadYeltsin and I were, in principle, on the same side..cartier love bracelet replica.
During the transition period, I had talked to Strobe a lot about the deteriorating situation in Russia and the imperative of averting disaster. At Renaissance Weekend, Strobe and his wife, Brooke, who had campaigned full-time with Hillary and was about to become head of the White House Fellows program, were jogging with me on Hilton Head beach. We wanted to talk about Russia, but the leader of our group, the great Olympic hurdler Edwin Moses, set such a brisk pace that I couldnt keep up and talk at the same time. We came upon Hillary taking her morning walk, so the three of us had an excuse to slow down and visit. President Bush was in Moscow signing the START II treaty with Yeltsin. It was good news, though like everything progressive Yeltsin did, it was facing strong opposition in the Duma. I told Strobe that things were changing so much in Russia that we couldnt have a completely defensive strategy; we had to help solidify and accelerate positive developments, especially those that would improve the Russian economy..cheap wedding dresses.
In February, I went over to Strobes house one night to see his family and talk about Russia. Strobe told me about a recent meeting hed had with Richard Nixon, in which the former President had urged us to support Yeltsin heavily. The $24 billion assistance package President Bush had announced the previous spring hadnt done that, because the international financial institutions wouldnt release the money until Russia had restructured its economy. We needed to do something now..cheap prom dresses.
In early March, Yeltsin and I agreed to meet on April 3 and 4 in Vancouver, Canada. On March 8, Richard Nixon called on me at the White House to urge me personally to support Yeltsin. After a brief visit with Hillary and Chelsea, in which he reminded them that he was raised a Quaker and that his daughters, like Chelsea, had gone to Sidwell Friends School, he got down to business, saying I would be remembered as President more for what I did with Russia than for my economic policy. Later that night, I called Strobe to report on the Nixon conversation and to stress again how important it was that we do something at Vancouver to help Russia, with a high-impact follow-up at the annual G-7 summit in Tokyo in July. All through March, as I got updates from our foreign policy team and Larry Summers and his assistant David Lipton at Treasury, I pushed them to think bigger and do more..cheap prom dresses.
Meanwhile, in Moscow, the Duma was reducing Yeltsins power and endorsing the fruitless inflationary policies of the Russian Central Bank. On March 20, Yeltsin struck back with a speech announcing a public referendum for April 25 to determine whether he or the Duma ran the country; until then, he said, his presidential decrees would remain in effect, no matter what the Duma did. I watched the speech on one of two television sets in my private dining room off the Oval Office. The other TV was showing the NCAA tournament basketball game between the Arkansas Razorbacks and St. Johns University. I had a dog in both hunts.
My entire foreign policy team and I had a vigorous debate about how I should respond to Yeltsins speech. They all cautioned restraint, because Yeltsin was stretching the limits of his constitutional authority, and because he might lose. I disagreed. Yeltsin was in the fight of his life against the old Communists and other reactionaries. He was going to the people with a referendum. And I didnt care about the risk of losingI reminded our team that I had lost plenty of times myself. I had no interest in hedging my bets, and instructed Tony Lake to draft a statement of strong support. When he presented it to me, I made it even stronger and gave it to the press. In this case, I went with my gut instincts and placed a bet that Russia would stick with Yeltsin, and stay on the right side of history. My optimism was bolstered by Arkansas come-from-behind victory in the ball game.
Finally, in March, I got an assistance program I could support: $1.6 billion in direct aid to help Russia stabilize its economy, including money to provide housing for decommissioned military officers, positive work programs for now underemployed and frequently unpaid nuclear scientists, and more assistance in dismantling nuclear weapons under the recently enacted Nunn-Lugar program; food and medicine for those suffering from shortages; aid to support small business, independent media outlets, nongovernmental organizations, political parties, and labor unions; and an exchange program to bring tens of thousands of students and young professionals to the United States. The aid package was four times what the previous administration had allocated and three times what I had originally recommended.
Although a public poll said that 75 percent of the American people were opposed to giving Russia more money, and we were already in a hard fight for the economic plan, I felt we had no choice but to press ahead. America had spent trillions of dollars in defense to win the Cold War; we couldnt risk reversal over less than $2 billion and a bad poll. To the surprise of my staff, the congressional leaders, including the Republicans, agreed with me. At a meeting I convened to push the plan, Senator Joe Biden, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, strongly endorsed the aid package. Bob Dole came around on the argument that we didnt want to foul up the postCold War era the way the victors in World War I had done. Their shortsightedness contributed mightily to World War II, in which Dole had served so heroically. Newt Gingrich was passionately in favor of helping Russia, saying it was a great defining moment for America and we had to do the right thing. As I told Strobe, Newt was trying to out-Russia me, which I was only too happy to have him do.
When Yeltsin and I got together on April 3, the meeting began a little awkwardly, with Yeltsin explaining that he had to walk a fine line between receiving U.S. assistance to help Russias transition to democracy and looking as if he was under Americas thumb. When we got to the details of our aid package, he said he liked it but needed more for housing for the military people he was bringing home from the Baltic states, many of whom were actually living in tents. After we resolved that issue, Yeltsin abruptly went on the offensive, demanding that I repeal the Jackson-Vanik amendment, a 1974 law tying U.S. trade to free immigration from Russia, and end the observance of Captive Nations Week, which highlighted Soviet domination of countries like Poland and Hungary that were now free. Both these laws were largely symbolic, without real impact on our relations, and I couldnt expend the political capital to change them and at the same time succeed in getting real help to Russia.
After the first session, my people worried that Id let Yeltsin harangue me the way Khrushchev had hectored Kennedy in their famous meeting in Vienna in 1961. They didnt want me to look weak. I wasnt worried about that, because the historical analogy was flawed. Yeltsin wasnt trying to make me look bad as Khrushchev had done to Kennedy; he was trying to make himself look good against enemies at home who were trying to do him in. In the week before our summit, they had tried to impeach him in the Duma. They had failed, but the motion got a lot of votes. I could take a little bombastic posturing if it helped to keep Russia on the right road.
In the afternoon, we agreed on a way to institutionalize our cooperation, with a commission headed by Vice President Gore and Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. The idea was developed by Strobe and Georgi Mamedov, the Russian deputy foreign minister, and it worked better than any of us could have imagined, thanks largely to the consistent and concentrated efforts made over the years by Al Gore and his Russian counterparts in working through a host of difficult, contentious problems.
On Sunday, April 4, we met in a more formal setting to discuss security issues, with Yeltsin and his advisors sitting across the table from me and mine. As before, Yeltsin began aggressively, demanding that we change our arms control positions and open American markets to Russian products like satellite rocket launchers without requiring export controls that would prohibit Russian sales of military technology to Americas adversaries like Iran and Iraq. With the help of our hard-nosed expert, Lynn Davis, I hung tough on export controls and rebuffed the arms control demands by referring them to our staffs for further study.
The atmosphere brightened when we moved on to economics. I described the economics package as cooperation, not assistance, then asked Lloyd Bentsen to outline the proposals we would make to the G-7 in Tokyo. Yeltsin became alarmed when he realized that we couldnt get him any money before the April 25 referendum. Though I couldnt give Boris the $500 million check he wanted, at the press conference following our final session I made it plain that a lot of money was coming, because the United States supported Russias democracy, its reforms, and its leader.
I left Vancouver with more confidence in Yeltsin and a better understanding of the magnitude of his challenges and his visceral determination to overcome them. And I liked him. He was a big bear of a man, full of apparent contradictions. He had grown up in primitive conditions that made my childhood look like a Rockefellers, and he could be crude, but he had a fine mind capable of grasping the subtleties of a situation. He would attack one minute and embrace the next. He seemed by turns coldly calculating and genuinely emotional, petty and generous, mad at the world and full of fun. Once when we were walking through my hotel together, a Russian journalist asked him if he was happy with our meeting. He responded quickly, Happy? One cannot be happy outside the presence of a beautiful woman. But I am satisfied. As everyone knows, Yeltsin had a fondness for vodka, but, by and large, in all our dealings he was alert, well prepared, and effective in representing his country. Compared with the realistic alternatives, Russia was lucky to have him at the helm. He loved his country, loathed communism, and wanted Russia to be both great and good. Whenever anyone made a snide remark about Yeltsins drinking, I was reminded of what Lincoln allegedly said when Washington snobs made the same criticism of General Grant, by far his most aggressive and successful commander in the Civil War: Find out what he drinks, and give it to the other generals.
When I got back to Washington, I increased the aid package again, proposing $2.5 billion for all the former Soviet states, with two-thirds going to Russia. On April 25, a large majority of Russian voters supported Yeltsin, his policies, and his desire for a new Duma. After a little more than one hundred days in office, we had made great strides in bolstering Yeltsin and Russian democracy. Unfortunately, the same could not be said about our efforts to end the slaughter and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia.
In 1989, as the Soviet Union crumbled and communisms demise in Europe accelerated, the question of what political philosophy would replace it was being answered in different ways in different countries. The westernmost part of the former Soviet empire plainly preferred democracy, a cause championed for decades by immigrants to the United States from Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and the Baltic states. In Russia, Yeltsin and other democrats were fighting a rear-guard action against Communists and ultra-nationalists. In Yugoslavia, as the nation struggled to reconcile the competing claims of its ethnic and religious constituencies, Serbian nationalism prevailed over democracy under the leadership of the countrys dominant political figure, Slobodan Milosevic.
By 1991, Yugoslavias westernmost provinces, Slovenia and Croatia, both predominantly Catholic, had declared independence from Yugoslavia. Fighting then broke out between Serbia and Croatia, and spilled over into Bosnia, the most ethnically diverse province of Yugoslavia, where Muslims constituted about 45 percent of the population, Serbs were just over 30 percent, and Croatians about 17 percent. The so-called ethnic differences in Bosnia were really political and religious. Bosnia had been the meeting place of three imperial expansions: the Catholic Holy Roman Empire from the west, the Orthodox Christian movement from the east, and the Muslim Ottoman Empire from the south. In 1991, the Bosnians were governed by a coalition of national unity headed by the leading Muslim politician, Alija Izetbegovic, and including the militant Serbian nationalist leader Radovan Karadzic, a Sarajevo psychiatrist.
At first Izetbegovic wanted Bosnia to be an autonomous multi-ethnic, multi-religious province of Yugoslavia. When Slovenia and Croatia were recognized by the international community as independent nations, Izetbegovic decided that the only way Bosnia could escape Serbian dominance was to seek independence, too. Karadzic and his allies, who were tied closely to Milosevic, had a very different agenda. They were supportive of Milosevics desire to turn as much of Yugoslavia as he could hold on to, including Bosnia, into a Greater Serbia. On March 1, 1992, a referendum was held on whether Bosnia should become an independent nation in which all citizens and groups would be treated equally. The result was an almost unanimous approval of independence, but only two-thirds of the electorate voted. Karadzic had ordered the Serbs to stay away from the polls and most of them did. By then, Serb paramilitary forces had begun killing unarmed Muslims, driving them from their homes in Serb-dominated areas in the hope of carving up Bosnia into ethnic enclaves, or cantons, by force. This cruel policy came to be known by a curiously antiseptic name: ethnic cleansing.
The European Community envoy, Lord Carrington, tried to get the parties to agree to peacefully divide the country into ethnic regions but failed, because there was no way to do it without leaving large numbers of one group on land controlled by another, and because many Bosnians wanted to keep their country together, with the different groups living together in peace, as they had done successfully for most of the previous five hundred years.
In April 1992, the European Community recognized Bosnia as an independent state for the first time since the fifteenth century. Meanwhile, Serbian paramilitary forces continued to terrorize Muslim communities and kill civilians, all the while using the media to convince local Serbs that it was they who were under attack from the Muslims and who had to defend themselves. On April 27, Milosevic announced a new state of Yugoslavia comprising Serbia and Montenegro. He then made a show of withdrawing his army from Bosnia, while leaving armaments, supplies, and Bosnian Serb soldiers under the leadership of his handpicked commander, Ratko Mladic. The fighting and killing raged throughout 1992, with European Community leaders struggling to contain it and the Bush administration, uncertain of what to do and unwilling to take on another problem in an election year, content to leave the matter in Europes hands.
To its credit, the Bush administration did urge the United Nations to impose economic sanctions on Serbia, a measure initially opposed by Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the French, and the British, who said they wanted to give Milosevic a chance to stop the very violence he had incited. Finally, sanctions were imposed in late May, but with little effect, as supplies continued to reach the Serbs from friendly neighbors. The United Nations also continued to maintain the arms embargo against the Bosnian government that originally had been imposed against all Yugoslavia in late 1991. The problem with the embargo was that the Serbs had enough weapons and ammunition on hand to fight for years; therefore, the only consequence of maintaining the embargo was to make it virtually impossible for the Bosnians to defend themselves. Somehow they managed to hold out throughout 1992, acquiring some arms by capturing them from Serb forces, or in small shipments from Croatia that managed to evade the NATO blockade of the Croatian coast.
In the summer of 1992, as television and print media finally brought the horror of a Serb-run detention camp in northern Bosnia home to Europeans and Americans, I spoke out in favor of NATO air strikes with U.S. involvement. Later, when it became clear that the Serbs were engaging in the systematic slaughter of Bosnian Muslims, especially targeting local leaders for extermination, I suggested lifting the arms embargo. Instead, the Europeans focused on ending the violence. British prime minister John Major attempted to get the Serbs to lift the siege of Bosnian towns and put their heavy weapons under UN supervision. At the same time, many private and government humanitarian missions were launched to provide food and medicine, and the United Nations sent in eight thousand troops to protect the aid convoys.
In late October, just before our election, Lord David Owen, the new European negotiator, and the UN negotiator, former U.S. secretary of state Cyrus Vance, put forward a proposal to turn Bosnia into a number of autonomous provinces that would be responsible for all government functions except defense and foreign affairs, which would be handled by a weak central government. The cantons were sufficiently numerous, with the dominant ethnic groups geographically divided in a way that Vance and Owen thought would make it impossible for the Serb-controlled areas to merge with Milosevics Yugoslavia to form a Greater Serbia. There were several problems with their plan, the two largest of which were that the sweeping powers of the canton governments made it clear that Muslims couldnt safely return to their homes in Serb-controlled areas, and that the vagueness of the canton boundaries invited continued Serb aggression intended to expand their areas, as well as the ongoing, though less severe, conflict between Croats and Muslims.
By the time I became President, the arms embargo and European support for the Vance-Owen plan had weakened Muslim resistance to the Serbs, even as evidence of their slaughter of Muslim civilians and violations of human rights in detention camps continued to surface. In early February, I decided not to endorse the Vance-Owen plan. On the fifth, I met with Prime Minister Brian Mulroney of Canada and was pleased to hear him say he didnt like it either. A few days later, we completed a Bosnian policy review, with Warren Christopher announcing that the United States would like to negotiate a new agreement and would be willing to help enforce it.
On February 23, UN Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali agreed with me on an emergency plan to airdrop humanitarian supplies to the Bosnians. The next day, in my first meeting with John Major, he too supported the airdrops. The airdrops would help a lot of people stay alive, but would do nothing to address the causes of the crisis.
By March, we seemed to be making some progress. Economic sanctions had been strengthened and seemed to be hurting the Serbs, who were also concerned about the possibility of military action by NATO. But we were a long way from a unified policy. On the ninth, in my first meeting with French president Franois Mitterrand, he made clear to me that, although he had sent five thousand French troops to Bosnia as part of a UN humanitarian force to deliver aid and contain the violence, he was more sympathetic to the Serbs than I was, and less willing to see a Muslim-led unified Bosnia.
On the twenty-sixth, I met with Helmut Kohl, who deplored what was happening and who, like me, had favored lifting the arms embargo. But we couldnt budge the British and French, who felt lifting the embargo would only prolong the war and endanger the UN forces on the ground that included their troops but not ours. Izetbegovic was also in the White House on the twenty-sixth to meet with Al Gore, whose national security aide, Leon Fuerth, was responsible for our success in making the embargo more effective. Both Kohl and I told Izetbegovic we were doing our best to get the Europeans to take a stronger stand to support him. Five days later, we succeeded in getting the United Nations to extend a no fly zone over all of Bosnia, to at least deprive the Serbs of the benefit of their monopoly on airpower. It was a good thing to do, but it didnt slow the killing much.
In April, a team of U.S. military, diplomatic, and humanitarian aid personnel returned from Bosnia urging that we intervene militarily to stop the suffering. On the sixteenth, the United Nations accepted our recommendation for declaring a safe area around Srebrenica, a town in eastern Bosnia where Serb killing and ethnic cleansing had been especially outrageous. On the twenty-second, at the dedication of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel publicly pleaded with me to do more to stop the violence. By the end of the month, my foreign policy team recommended that if we could not secure a Serbian cease-fire, we should lift the arms embargo against the Muslims and launch air strikes against Serb military targets. As Warren Christopher left for Europe to seek support for this policy, the Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, hoping to avoid the air strikes, finally signed the UN peace plan, even though his assembly had rejected it just six days earlier. I didnt believe for a minute that his signature signaled a change in his long-term objectives.
At the end of our first one hundred days, we were nowhere near a satisfactory solution to the Bosnian crisis. The British and French rebuffed Warren Christophers overtures and reaffirmed their right to take the lead in dealing with the situation. The problem with their position, of course, was that if the Serbs could take the economic hit of the tough sanctions, they could continue their aggressive ethnic cleansing without fear of further punishment. The Bosnian tragedy would drag on for more than two years, leaving more than 250,000 dead and 2.5 million driven from their homes, until NATO air attacks, aided by Serb military losses on the ground, led to an American diplomatic initiative that would bring the war to an end.
I had stepped into what Dick Holbrooke called the greatest collective security failure of the West since the 1930s. In his book To End a War, Holbrooke ascribes the failure to five factors: (1) a misreading of Balkan history, holding that the ethnic strife was too ancient and ingrained to be prevented by outsiders; (2) the apparent loss of Yugoslavias strategic importance after the end of the Cold War; (3) the triumph of nationalism over democracy as the dominant ideology of post-Communist Yugoslavia; (4) the reluctance of the Bush administration to undertake another military commitment so soon after the 1991 Iraq war; and (5) the decision of the United States to turn the issue over to Europe instead of NATO, and the confused and passive European response. To Holbrookes list I would add a sixth factor: some European leaders were not eager to have a Muslim state in the heart of the Balkans, fearing it might become a base for exporting extremism, a result that their neglect made more, not less, likely.
My own options were constrained by the dug-in positions I found when I took office. For example, I was reluctant to go along with Senator Dole in unilaterally lifting the arms embargo, for fear of weakening the United Nations (though we later did so in effect, by declining to enforce it). I also didnt want to divide the NATO alliance by unilaterally bombing Serb military positions, especially since there were European, but no American, soldiers on the ground with the UN mission. And I didnt want to send American troops there, putting them in harms way under a UN mandate I thought was bound to fail. In May 1993, we were still a long way from a solution.
At the end of the first one hundred days of a new presidency, the press always does an assessment of how well the new administration is doing in keeping its campaign promises and dealing with the other challenges that have arisen. The consensus of the reviews was that my initial performance was mixed. On the positive side of the ledger, I had created a National Economic Council in the White House and put together an ambitious economic program to reverse twelve years of trickle-down economics, and it was making progress in the Congress. I had signed the family leave law, and the motor voter law to make voter registration easier, and had reversed the Reagan-Bush abortion policies, including the ban on fetal-tissue research and the gag rule. I had reduced the size of the White House staff, despite its increasing workload; for example, we received more mail in the first three and a half months than had come to the White House in all of 1992. I had also ordered a reduction of 100,000 in total federal employment, and put Vice President Gore in charge of finding new savings and better ways to serve the public with a reinventing government initiative whose considerable results would eventually prove the skeptics wrong. I had sent legislation to Congress to create my national service program, to double the Earned Income Tax Credit and create empowerment zones in poor communities, and to dramatically cut the cost of college loans, saving billions of dollars for both students and taxpayers. I had put health-care reform on a fast track and had taken strong action to strengthen democracy and reform in Russia. And I was blessed with a hardworking and able staff and cabinet who, apart from the leaks, worked well together, without the backbiting and infighting that had characterized many previous administrations. After a slow start, I had filled more required presidential appointments in the first hundred days than President Reagan or President Bush had in the same period of time, not bad considering how cumbersome and overly intrusive the whole appointments process had become. At one point, Senator Alan Simpson, the witty Republican whip from Wyoming, joked to me that the process was so overdone that he wouldnt even want to have dinner with someone who could be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
On the negative side, I had temporarily dropped the middle-class tax cut in the face of the growing deficit; lost the stimulus program to a Republican filibuster; maintained the Bush policy of forcibly returning Haitian refugees, though we were taking in more Haitians by other means; lost the gays-in-the-military fight; delayed presenting the health-care plan beyond my hundred-day goal; mishandled at least the public part of the Waco raid; and failed to convince Europe to join with the United States in taking a stronger stand in Bosnia, although we had increased humanitarian aid, strengthened sanctions against Serbia, and created an enforceable no-fly zone.
One reason my scorecard was mixed was that I was trying to do so much in the face of determined Republican opposition and mixed feelings among the American people about how much government could or should do. After all, the people had been told for twelve years that government was the source of all our problems, and was so incompetent it couldnt organize a two-car parade. Clearly, I had overestimated how much I could do in a hurry. The country had been going in one direction for more than a decade, living with wedge politics, reassuring bromides about how great we were, and the illusory, though fleeting, comforts of spending more and taxing less today and ignoring the consequences for tomorrow. It was going to take more than a hundred days to turn things around.
In addition to the pace of change, I may have overestimated the amount of change I could achieve, as well as how much of it the American people could digest. In one posthundred-days analysis, a Vanderbilt University political scientist, Erwin Hargrove, observed, I wonder whether the president isnt spreading himself too thin. He was probably right, but there was so much to do, and I didnt stop trying to do it all at once until the voters hit me between the eyes with a two-by-four in the 1994 midterm elections. I had let my sense of urgency blot out the memory of another of my laws of politics: Everyone is for change in general, but against it in particular, when they themselves have to change.
The public struggles of the first hundred days didnt occur in a vacuum; at the same time, my family was adjusting to a dramatic change in our way of life and dealing with the loss of Hillarys dad. I loved being President and Hillary was deeply committed to her health-care work. Chelsea liked her school and was making new friends. We enjoyed living in the White House, hosting the social events, and having our friends stay with us.
The White House staff was getting used to a first family that kept longer, and later, hours. Though I came to rely on them and greatly value their service, it took me a while to get used to all the help I had in the White House. As governor, Id lived in a mansion with a fine staff, and had been driven everywhere by the state police security detail. But on weekends, Hillary and I usually cooked for ourselves, and I drove the car to church on Sundays. Now I had valets who laid my clothes out every morning, packed for my trips, and went along to unpack and steam the wrinkles out; butlers who stayed late, came early, and worked weekends, serving me food and bringing me diet drinks and coffee; navy stewards who performed those same functions when I was in the Oval Office and traveling; a kitchen staff who prepared food for us even on weekends; ushers to take me up and down in the elevator and bring me papers to sign and memos to read at all hours; round-the-clock medical care; and the Secret Service, who wouldnt even let me ride in the front seat, much less drive.
One of the things I liked best about living in the White House was the fresh flowers that filled the residence and office spaces. The White House always had beautifully arranged flowers. Its one of the things I would miss most after I left.
When we moved in, Hillary redid the little kitchen so that we could eat dinner there at night when it was just the three of us. The upstairs dining room was beautiful, but too big and formal for our taste unless we had guests. Hillary also fixed up the solarium on the third floor, a bright room that leads out to a balcony and the White House roof. We turned it into a family room. Whenever we had relatives or friends staying with us, we always gravitated to the solarium, to talk, watch TV, and play cards or board games. I became addicted to Master Boggle and a game called UpWords; its basically a three-dimensional Scrabble game in which you get more points not by using odd letters or landing on certain spaces, but by building words upon words. I tried to get my family and friends into UpWords, succeeding with some more than others. My brother-in-law Hugh played countless games of UpWords with me, and Roger liked it. But Hillary, Tony, and Chelsea preferred our old standby, pinochle. I continued to play hearts with my staff and we all got hooked on a new card game that Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw taught us when they were visiting. It had a perfect name for Washington political life: Oh Hell!
The Secret Service had been with me since the New Hampshire primary, but once I got into the White House, I presented a challenge to them with my morning jogs. I had several jogging routes. Sometimes I drove out to Haines Point, which had a three-mile route around a public golf course. It was flat, but could be tough in the winter when the winds off the Potomac were strong. From time to time I also ran at Fort McNair, which has an oval route on the grounds of the National Defense University. My favorite jog by far was just to run out the Southwest Gate of the White House to the Mall, then up to the Lincoln Memorial, back down to the Capitol, and home. I met a lot of interesting people on those runs, and never tired of running through American history. When the Secret Service finally asked me to stop because of security concerns, I did, but I missed it. To me, these public runs were a way to keep in touch with the world beyond the White House. To them, with the memory of John Hinckleys assassination attempt on President Reagan never far from their minds and with more knowledge than I had of the hate mail I was getting, my contacts with the public were a worrisome risk to be managed.
Al Gore helped me a lot in the early days, encouraging me to keep making hard decisions and put them behind me, and giving me a continuing crash course in how Washington works. Part of our regular routine was having lunch alone in my private dining room once a week. We took turns saying grace, then proceeded to talk about everything from our families to sports, books, and movies to the latest items on his agenda or mine. We kept our lunch schedule up for eight years, except when one of us was gone for several days at a stretch. Though we had a lot in common, we were very different, and the lunches kept us closer than we otherwise would have been in the Washington pressure cooker, and eased my adjustment to my new life.
All things considered, I felt pretty good, personally and politically, about the first one hundred days. Still, I was under a lot of stress. So was Hillary. For all our excitement and commitment, we were tired going in, not having taken any real time off after the election. Then we were denied the honeymoon traditionally given new Presidents, partly because of the way the gays-in-the military issue surfaced early, perhaps because we made the press angry by restricting access to the West Wing. Hillarys fathers death was a painful loss to her. I missed Hugh, too, and for a while, it was harder for both of us to operate at the top of our games. Though we very much enjoyed the work, the physical and emotional toll of the first hundred days was considerable.