I n politics, theres nothing quite like a New York election. First, there are three geographically and psychologically distinct regions of the state: New York City with its five very different boroughs; Long Island and the other suburban counties; and upstate. There are large black and Hispanic populations, the nations largest population of Jewish Americans, plus well-organized groups of Indians, Pakistanis, Albanians, and just about any other ethnic group you can imagine. There is also a lot of diversity within New Yorks black and Hispanic populationsNew Yorks Hispanics include people from Puerto Rico and all the Caribbean nations, including more than 500,000 from the Dominican Republic alone.
It seemed to me that the Republicans were trying to put me in a lose-lose situation. If I went around wearing a hair shirt, they would say I was too damaged to lead. If I was happy, they would say I was gloating and acting as if Id gotten away with something. Six days after my acquittal in the Senate, I had gone to New Hampshire to celebrate the seventh anniversary of my New Hampshire primary. Some of my congressional critics said I shouldnt have been happy, but I was happyand for good reasons: all my old friends came out to see me; I met a young man who said hed cast his first vote for me, and I had done exactly what I said I would do; and I met a woman who said I had inspired her to get off welfare and go back to school to become a nurse. By 1999, she was a member of the New Hampshire Board of Nursing. Those were the people I got into politics for.
Once I mentioned the reporters complaint to Mack, I forgot all about the Travel Office until the firings were announced. The reaction of the press corps was extremely negative. They liked the way they had been cared for, especially on foreign trips. And they had known the people in the Travel Office for years and couldnt imagine that they would do anything wrong. Many in the press felt the Travel Office staff virtually worked for them, not the White House, and felt they should have at least been notified, if not fully consulted, as the investigation proceeded. Despite the criticism, the reconstituted Travel Office provided the same services with fewer federal employees at lower costs to the press.
On June 12, I was in Greeleyville, South Carolina, to dedicate the new Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church, after the congregations old church had been burned. Less than a week earlier, a church in Charlotte, North Carolina, had become the thirtieth black church to be burned in the previous eighteen months. The whole black community in America was in an uproar and expected me to do something about it. I endorsed bipartisan legislation to make it easier for federal prosecutors to punish those who burn houses of worship, and pledged federal loan guarantees to support low-interest loans for the rebuilding efforts. The church burnings seemed to feed off one another, much as a rash of synagogue defacements had in 1992. They werent connected by a conspiracy, but by a contagion of the heart, a hatred of those who are different.
On November 22, after twenty-one days of isolation in Dayton, Holbrooke and his team came to the White House to receive my congratulations and discuss our next steps. We still had a big selling job on the Hill and with the American people, who, according to the latest polls, were proud of the peace agreement but were still overwhelmingly opposed to sending U.S. troops to Bosnia. After Al Gore kicked off the meeting by saying that the military testimony to date had not been helpful, I told General Shalikashvili that I knew he supported our involvement in Bosnia but that many of his subordinates remained ambivalent. Al and I had orchestrated our comments to emphasize that it was time for everybody in the government, not just the military, to get with the program. They had the desired effect.
The same day, I announced that the United States would no longer enforce the arms embargo in Bosnia. The move had strong support in Congress and was necessary because the Serbs had resumed their aggression, with an assault on the town of Bihac; by late November, NATO was bombing Serb missile sites in the area. On the twelfth, I was en route to Indonesia for the annual APEC leaders meeting, where the eighteen Asian-Pacific nations committed themselves to creating an Asian free market by 2020, with the wealthier nations doing so by 2010.
At the end of the year, our family accepted an invitation from Phil and Linda Lader to attend their New Years weekend gathering in Hilton Head, South Carolina, called Renaissance Weekend. The event was then only a couple of years old. Fewer than one hundred families gathered to spend three days talking about everything under the sun, from politics and economics to religion and our personal lives. The attendees were of different ages, religions, races, and backgrounds, all bound together by a simple preference for spending the weekend in serious talk and family fun rather than all-night parties and football games. It was an extraordinary bonding experience. We revealed things about ourselves and learned things about other people that would never have come out under normal circumstances. And all three of us made a lot of new friends, many of whom helped in 1992 and served in my administration. We went to Renaissance Weekend virtually every year after that until the millennium weekend, 19992000, when the national celebration at the Lincoln Memorial required our presence in Washington. After I became President, the event had swelled to more than 1,500 people and had lost some of its earlier intimacy, but I still enjoyed going.