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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.23 days later, Bill became known as the “Comeback Kid” for his strong 2nd-place finish in N.H.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The above quotations are from Living History, by Hillary Rodham Clinton.
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