Bill Clinton in Living History, by Hillary Rodham Clinton

On Abortion: Reversed global gag order on family planning

In Kazakhstan, I visited a small women's-wellness center funded through US foreign aid. Because of the unavailability of contraception, abortion had become a common form of family planning under communism. The Clinton Administration's policy was to make abortion "safe, legal and rare." We worked to discourage abortion and minimize the spread of sexually transmitted diseases by providing aid for family planning and improved maternal health. This policy contradicted the global gag rule that had been imposed by President Reagan, continued by Bush and rescinded by Bill on the second day of his Presidency (later reinstated by George W. Bush). The doctors at the Almaty clinic told me that the rates of both abortion and maternal deaths were decreasing, further proof that our practical policy was more effective at making abortion rare than the Republicans' more visceral anticontraception approach.
Source: Living History, by Hillary Rodham Clinton, p.431 Nov 1, 2003

On Budget & Economy: 1993 budget signaled the return of fiscal responsibility

Bill's economic plan [finally passed in August 1993]. Before the vote, I had spoken with wavering Democrats. In the end, not a single Republican voted for the balanced budget package. It squeaked through the House by one vote, and Al Gore had to vote to break a 50-50 vote tie.

The plan wasn't everything the Administration had wanted, but it signaled the return of fiscal responsibility for the government and the beginning of an economic turnaround for the country, unprecedented in American history. The plan slashed the deficit in half; extended the life of Medicare Trust Fund; expanded a tax cut called the Earned Income Tax Credit, which benefited fifteen million lower-income working Americans' reformed the student loan program, saving taxpayers billions of dollars; and created empowerment zones an enterprise communities that provided tax incentives for investing in distressed communities. To pay for these reforms, the plan raised taxes on gasoline and on highest-income Americans.

Source: Living History, by Hillary Rodham Clinton, p.179 Nov 1, 2003

On Foreign Policy: Months of preparation went into Arafat-Rabin handshake

Bill was focused on preparations for the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat and the signing of a Middle East peace accord. The meeting that took place on the White House lawn on September 13, 1993, was the result of months of negotiations in Oslo, Norway and was known as the Oslo Accords. It was important to establish our government’s support for the agreement because the US is the only country that could push both sides to actually implement the agreement’s terms and be trusted by Israel to protect its security.

On that day, Bill persuaded Yitzhak to shake hands with Arafat as a tangible sign of their commitment to the peace plan. Rabin agreed. Unfortunately, the handshake and agreement were seen by some Israelis and Arabs as a rebuke to their political interests and religious beliefs, which later led to violence and Rabin’s tragic assassination.

Source: Living History, by Hillary Clinton, p.184-185 Nov 1, 2003

On Foreign Policy: 1980: Sent state troopers for refugee riot in Fort Chaffee

In spring 1980, hundreds of detained Cuban refugees were sent to a "resettlement camp" at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. In late May, the refugees rioted and hundreds broke out of the fort, heading toward the nearby community of Fort Smith. County deputies and local citizens loaded their shotguns and waited for the expected onslaught. The situation was made worse because the Army, under a doctrine known as posse comitatus, had no police authority off the base and were not even empowered to forcefully keep the detainees--who were not technically prisoners--on the grounds. Bill sent state troopers.

I attended some tense meetings Bill held with the frustrated general in command of Fort Chaffee, and representatives from the White House. Bill wanted federal assistance to contain the detainees, but the White House message seemed to be: "Don't complain, just handle the mess we gave you." Bill had done just that, but there was a big political price to pay for supporting his President.

Source: Living History, by Hillary Rodham Clinton, p. 88-89 Nov 1, 2003

On Foreign Policy: 1993 Somalia crisis at same time as Russian coup attempt

Two Black Hawk helicopters had been shot down in Somalia. Details were vague, but it was clear that American soldiers had been killed and that there might be ongoing violence. Troops had originally been sent to the famine-ravaged country by President Bush on a humanitarian aid mission, but it had evolved into a more aggressive peacekeeping effort.

Then the news got worse: The body found of an American serviceman had been dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, an appalling act of barbarity orchestrated by the Somali warlord General Mohamed Aideed.

Bill was given terrible news about Russia, too. There had been an attempted military coup against President Boris Yeltsin. On October 5, in Culver City, California, Bill cut short a town hall meeting about health care reform and returned to Washington. Over the next few weeks, Bill, the news media and the nation were consumed by Somalia and the unrest in Russia, and health care reform took a backseat.

Source: Living History, by Hillary Rodham Clinton, p.191 Nov 1, 2003

On Health Care: 1992 campaign: “It’s the economy, stupid” but healthcare too

I don’t think that Bill expected that health care reform would become a cornerstone of his campaign. After all, James Carville’s famous war room slogan was “It’s the economy, stupid.” But the more Bill studied the problem, the clearer it became that reforming health care and reining in costs were integral to fixing the economy, as well as taking care of people’s urgent medical needs.

Bill and expert advisers began developing ideas about how to tackle health care. Bill previewed those plans in a campaign book entitled Putting People First and in a speech. The reforms he outlined included controlling spiraling health care costs, reducing paperwork and insurance industry red tape, making prescriptions more affordable to those in need, and, most important, guaranteeing that all Americans had health insurance. We knew that trying to fix the health care system would be a huge political challenge. But we believed that if voters chose Bill Clinton on Nov. 3, it meant that change was what they wanted.

Source: Living History, by Hillary Clinton, p.115-116 Nov 1, 2003

On Health Care: OpEd: Opposition to reform are "theologically-held" opinions

Pres. Nixon recognized the draining effects of health costs on the economy and proposed a system of universal health care as an "employer mandate." Presidents Ford and Carter also pursued reform in the 1970s, but they ran into the same political obstacle that had blocked change for most of the 20th century. Over several decades, the health insurance industry had grown increasingly powerful.

The historical odds were against Bill because attitudes about health care reform were diverse, even among Democrats. As one expert put it, opinions are "theologically held"--this impervious to reason, evidence or argument. But Bill felt he had to show the public and the Congress that he had the political will to move forward and make good on his campaign promise to take immediate action on health care. Reform was not only good public policy that would help millions of Americans. It also was inextricably tied to reducing the deficit.

Source: Living History, by Hillary Rodham Clinton, p.146-147 Nov 1, 2003

On Health Care: Allowing patients to choose doctors is non-negotiable

Bill and other Democrats [in 1994] rejected the single-payer and Medicare models, preferring a quasi-private system called "managed competition" that relied on private market forces to drive down costs through competition. The government would have a smaller role, including setting standards for benefit packages and helping to organize purchasing cooperatives.

The best model was the Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan, which covered nine million federal employees and offered an array of insurance options to its members. Prices and quality were monitored by the plan's administrators.

Under managed competition, hospitals and doctors would no longer bear the expense of treating patients who weren't covered because everyone would be insured through Medicare, Medicaid, the veterans and military health care plans or one of the purchasing groups.

Perhaps most important, the system would allow patients to choose their own doctors, a non-negotiable item in Bill's view.

Source: Living History, by Hillary Rodham Clinton, p.150 Nov 1, 2003

On Health Care: Despite reform failure, smaller reforms helped millions

[After reform failure], Bill signed a series of bills, including laws ensuring that women be allowed to stay in the hospital for more than 24 hours after childbirth, promoting mammography and prostate screening, increasing research into diabetes and improving childhood vaccination rates. None of these actions represented a seismic shift on the order of the Health Security Act. But collectively, these reforms of health care policy improved conditions for tens of millions of Americans.

On balance I think we made the right decision to try to reform the whole system. By 2002, with the economy in trouble again and the financial savings of managed care in the 90s having leveled out, health insurance costs were again rising, the number of people without insurance was going up and seniors on Medicare still didn't have prescription drug coverage. Someday we will fix the system. When we do it, it will be the result of more than 50 years of efforts by Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Bill and me.

Source: Living History, by Hillary Rodham Clinton, p.248-249 Nov 1, 2003

On Principles & Values: Nominated Dukakis at 1988 Convention; turned into fiasco

Although Bill decided not to run in 1988, the nominee, Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts, asked him to give the nominating speech at the Democratic Convention in Atlanta. It turned into a fiasco. Dukakis and his staff had reviewed and approved every word of Bill’s text ahead of time, but the speech was longer than the delegates or the television networks expected. Some delegates on the floor began yelling at Bill to finish. This was a humiliating introduction to the nation, and many observers assumed Bill’s political future was over. Eight days later, though, he was on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, making fun of himself and playing his saxophone. Yet another comeback.
Source: Living History, by Hillary Clinton, p. 98 Nov 1, 2003

On Principles & Values: Loves Hillary but has caused pain in their marriage

We appeared on “60 Minutes” right after the Super Bowl to discuss the Gennifer Flowers issue.

The interviewer started with a series of questions about our relationship, adultery and divorce. We declined to answer such personal questions about our personal lives. But Bill acknowledged that he had caused pain in our marriage and said he would leave it to voters to decide whether that disqualified him from the Presidency.

Q: You seem to have reached some sort of an understanding or an arrangement.

Bill: Wait a minute. You’re looking at two people who love each other. This is not an arrangement or an understanding. This is a marriage. That’s a very different thing.

Hillary: I’m not sitting here, some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette. I’m sitting here because I love him and I respect him. If that’s not enough for people, then heck, don’t vote for him.

23 days later, Bill became known as the “Comeback Kid” for his strong 2nd-place finish in N.H.
Source: Living History, by Hillary Clinton, p.106-107 Nov 1, 2003

On Principles & Values: Gave up job with McGovern 1972 campaign to follow Hillary

Bill had signed on to work in Senator George McGovern’s presidential campaign and that the campaign manager, Gary Hart, had asked Bill to organize the South for McGovern. The prospect of driving from one Southern state to another convincing Democrats both to support McGovern and to oppose Nixon’s policy in Vietnam excited him.

Although Bill had worked in Arkansas on campaigns for Senator J. William Fulbright and others, and in Connecticut for Joe Duffey and Joe Lieberman, he’d never had the chance to be in on the ground floor of a presidential campaign.

I tried to let the news sink in. I was thrilled.

“Why,” I asked, “do you want to give up the opportunity to do something you love to follow me to California?”

“For someone I love, that’s why,” he said.

He had decided, he told me, that we were destined for each other, and he didn’t want to let me go just after he’d found me.

Source: Living History, by Hillary Rodham Clinton, first chapter Nov 1, 2003

On Principles & Values: DLC echoed in U.K. by Tony Blair's "Third Way"

Tony Blair was trying to devise alternatives to traditional liberal rhetoric, assumptions and positions in the hope of finding ways to advance economic growth, individual empowerment and social justice in the global informative age.

Whether you call it New Democrats, New Labour, the Third Way or the Vital Center, Tony Blair and Bill Clinton clearly shared a political vision. But the question confronting each of them was how to invigorate a progressive movement that had lost steam through much of the 1970s and 1980s, giving rise to Reaganism in the US and Thatcherism in Britain.

Shocked by the margin of their party's losses in 1964, several Republican multimillionaires embarked on a strategy to seed conservative, even right-wing political philosophy, and to develop and advance specific policies to further it. They funded think tanks, endowed professorships and seminars and developed media channels for communicating ideas and opinions.

Source: Living History, by Hillary Rodham Clinton, p. 423 Nov 1, 2003

On Principles & Values: Employed Dick Morris for gubernatorial & presidential races

Bill and I considered Dick Morris a creative pollster and a brilliant strategist, but he came with serious baggage. First of all, he had no compunction about working both sides of the aisle and all sides of an issue. Although he had helped Bill win five gubernatorial races, he also worked for conservative Republican Senators.

Morris's specialty was identifying the swing voters who seesawed between the two parties. His advice was sometimes off-the-wall; you had to sift through it to extract the useful insights and ideas. And he had the people skills of a porcupine. Nonetheless, I thought Morris's analysis might be instructive, if we could involve him carefully and quietly. With his skeptical views about politics and people, Morris served as a counterweight to the ever optimistic Bill Clinton. Where Bill saw a silver lining in every cloud, Morris saw thunderstorms.

Starting in 1978, Morris worked for Bill on all his gubernatorial campaigns except the one he lost in 1980.

Source: Living History, by Hillary Rodham Clinton, p.251 Nov 1, 2003

On Principles & Values: Worked for Joe Lieberman's Senate campaign in 1970s

[During Monicagate], Joe Lieberman admonished him publicly. Lieberman, who had been a friend since Bill had worked on his first campaign for the Connecticut state senate in the early 70s, took to the Senate floor to denounce the President's conduct as immoral and harmful because "it send as message of what is acceptable behavior to the larger American family."

When Bill was asked to respond to Lieberman's speech, he replied: "Basically I agree with what he said. I've already said that I made a bad mistake. It was indefensible, and I'm sorry about it. I'm very sorry about it."

It was the first of many unconditional public apologies my husband would make on his long journey of atonement. But I realized that apologies would never be enough for hardcore Republicans and might not be enough to avert a meltdown within the Democratic Party. Other Democratic leaders condemned the President's personal actions and said he should in some way be held accountable. None, however, advocated impeachment.

Source: Living History, by Hillary Rodham Clinton, p.473 Nov 1, 2003

On War & Peace: Bombed Iraq on eve of impeachment vote

Bill continued to monitor closely the defiance of Saddam Hussein, who refused to agree to a resumption of UN arms inspections in Iraq. From a political point of view, this was the worst possible time for a military response against Hussein. With the impeachment vote looming, any action by the President could be challenged as an attempt to distract or delay Congress. On the other hand, if Bill put off air strikes on Iraq, he could accused of sacrificing national security to avoid the political heat. The Islamic holy month of Ramadan was imminent, and the window of opportunity for an attack was closing. On December 16, Bill's defense advisers informed him that the time was right. Bill ordered air strikes to knock out Iraq's known and suspected weapons of mass destruction sites and other military targets.

An openly skeptical Republican leadership postponed the impeachment debate when the bombing started. But on December 18, as bombs fell on Iraq, the impeachment debate began again.

Source: Living History, by Hillary Rodham Clinton, p.488-489 Nov 1, 2003

On Welfare & Poverty: Make welfare pro-work and pro-family

Bill promised to "end welfare as we know it" and to make the program pro-work and pro-family.

At the time Bill took office America's welfare program, AFDC, received more than half of its funds from the federal government but was administered by the states, which contributed between 17% and 50% of the payments. Federal law required coverage of poor mothers and children, but the states set the monthly benefits. As a result, there were 50 different systems. The Republican plan provided minimal support to help people make the transition to work.

The Republicans passed a bill with strict limits on welfare, no supports for the transition to work, no benefits for legal immigrants, an end to federal oversight and accountability in how states spent federal welfare money. In short, the states would be free to determine what to offer in monthly payments, child care, food stamps & medical care or whether to offer them at all. After a vigorous debate in the White House, the President vetoed the bill.

Source: Living History, by Hillary Rodham Clinton, p.366-368 Nov 1, 2003

The above quotations are from Living History, by Hillary Rodham Clinton.
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Page last updated: Feb 14, 2019