O n Saturday morning, August 15, with the grand jury testimony looming and after a miserable, sleepless night, I woke up Hillary and told her the truth about what had happened between me and Monica Lewinsky. She looked at me as if I had punched her in the gut, almost as angry at me for lying to her in January as for what I had done. All I could do was tell her that I was sorry, and that I had felt I couldnt tell anyone, even her, what had happened. I told her that I loved her and I didnt want to hurt her or Chelsea, that I was ashamed of what I had done, and that I had kept everything to myself in an effort to avoid hurting my family and undermining the presidency. And after all the lies and abuse we had endured from the start of my presidency, I didnt want to be run out of office in the flood tide that followed my deposition in January. I still didnt fully understand why I had done something so wrong and stupid; that understanding would come slowly, in the months of working on our relationship that lay ahead.

I had to talk to Chelsea, too. In some ways, that was even harder. Sooner or later, every child learns that her parents arent perfect, but this went far beyond the normal. I had always believed that I had been a good father. Chelseas high school years and her freshman year in college had already been clouded by four years of intensely personal attacks on her parents. Now Chelsea had to learn that her father not only had done something terribly wrong, but had not told her or her mother the truth about it. I was afraid that I would lose not only my marriage, but my daughters love and respect as well.
The rest of that awful day was dominated by another terrorist act. In Omagh, Northern Ireland, a breakaway faction of the IRA that did not support the Good Friday accord murdered twenty-eight people in a crowded shopping section of the city with a car bomb. All the parties to the peace process, including Sinn Fein, denounced the bombing. I issued a statement condemning the butchery, extending my sympathy to the victims families, and urging the parties of peace to redouble their efforts. The outlaw group, which called itself the Real IRA, had about two hundred members and supporters, enough to cause real trouble, but not enough to disrupt the peace process: the Omagh bombing showed the utter insanity of going back to the old ways.
On Monday, after spending what time I could preparing, I went downstairs to the Map Room for four hours of testimony. Starr had agreed not to bring me down to the courthouse, probably because of the adverse reaction he got when he made Hillary do it. However, he insisted on videotaping my testimony, allegedly because one of the twenty-four grand jurors couldnt attend the session. David Kendall said the grand jury was welcome to come to the White House if Starr would not videotape my secret testimony. He refused; I suspected that he wanted to send the videotape to Congress, where it could be released without getting him into more hot water.
The grand jury was watching the proceedings on closed-circuit television back at the courthouse while Starr and his interrogators did their best to turn the videotape into a pornographic home movie, asking me questions designed to humiliate me and to so disgust the Congress and the American people that they would demand my resignation, after which he might be able to indict me. Samuel Johnson once said that nothing concentrates the mind as much as the prospect of ones own destruction. Moreover, I believed that a lot more was at stake than what might happen to me.
After the preliminaries, I asked to make a brief statement. I admitted that on certain occasions in 1996 and once in 1997 I engaged in wrongful conduct that included inappropriate intimate contact with Monica Lewinsky; that the conduct, while morally wrong, did not constitute sexual relations as I understood the definition of the term that Judge Wright accepted at the request of the Jones lawyers; that I took full responsibility for my actions; and that I would answer to the best of my ability all the OICs questions relating to the legality of my actions, but would not say more about the specifics of what had happened.
The principal OIC interrogator then took me through a long list of questions dealing with the definition of sexual relations that Judge Wright had imposed. I acknowledged that I had not been trying to be helpful to the Jones lawyers because they, like the OIC, had engaged in repeated unlawful leaks, and since they knew by then that their case had no merit, I believed that their objective in the deposition was to elicit damaging new information from me for the purpose of leaking it. I said that of course I didnt know that by the time I testified Starrs office had already become heavily involved.
Now Starrs lawyers were trying to capitalize on the setup by getting me on videotape discussing things in graphic detail that no one should ever have to talk about publicly.
When the OIC lawyer continued to complain about my deposition answers on the sex questions, I reminded him that both my lawyer and I had invited Joness attorneys to ask specific follow-up questions, and that they declined to do so. I said it was now clear to me that they didnt do so because they were no longer trying to get a damaging admission that they could leak to the press. Instead, they were working for Starr. They wanted the deposition to lay the basis for forcing my resignation, or impeachment, or perhaps even an indictment. So they didnt ask follow-up questions because they were afraid I would give them a truthful answer. . . . They were trying to set me up and trick me. And now you seem to be complaining that they didnt do a good enough job. I confessed that I deplored what the Rutherford Institute lawyers had done in Joness namethe tormenting of innocent people, the illegal leaking, the pursuit of a bogus, politically motivated suitbut I was determined to walk through the minefield of this deposition without violating the law, and I believe I did.
I did acknowledge that I had misled everyone who asked about the story after it broke. And I said over and over again that I never asked anyone to lie. When the agreed-upon four hours had expired, I had been asked many questions six or seven times, as the lawyers tried hard to turn my interrogation into admissions that were humiliating and incriminating. Thats what the, to date, whole four-year $40 million investigation had come down to: parsing the definition of sex.
I finished the testimony at about six-thirty, three and a half hours before I was scheduled to address the nation. I was visibly upset when I went up to the solarium to see friends and staff who had gathered to discuss what had just happened, including White House counsel Chuck Ruff, David Kendall, Mickey Kantor, Rahm Emanuel, James Carville, Paul Begala, and Harry and Linda Thomason. Chelsea was there, too, and to my relief, at about eight, Hillary joined in.
We had a discussion about what I should say. Everyone knew I had to admit that I had made an awful mistake and had tried to hide it. The question was whether I should also take a shot at Starrs investigation and say it was time to end it. The virtually unanimous opinion was that I should not. Most people already knew that Starr was out of control; they needed to hear my admission of wrongdoing and witness my remorse. Some of my friends had given what they thought was strategic advice; others were genuinely appalled by what I had done. Only Hillary refused to express an opinion, instead encouraging everyone to leave me alone to write my statement.
At ten oclock I told the American people about my testimony, said I was solely and completely responsible for my personal failure, and admitted misleading everyone, even my wife. I said I was trying to protect myself and my family from intrusive questions in a politically inspired lawsuit that had been dismissed. I also said that Starrs investigation had gone on too long, cost too much, and hurt too many people, and that two years earlier, another investigation, a truly independent one, had found no wrongdoing by Hillary or me in Whitewater. Finally, I committed to doing my best to repair my family life, and I hoped we could repair the fabric of our nations life by stopping the pursuit of personal destruction and prying into private lives, and moving on. I believed every word I said, but my anger hadnt worn off enough for me to be as contrite as I should have been.
The next day we left for Marthas Vineyard on our annual vacation. Usually I counted the days until we could get away for some family time; this year, though I knew we needed it, I wished that I was working around the clock instead. As we walked out to the South Lawn to get on the helicopter, with Chelsea between Hillary and me and Buddy walking beside me, photographers took pictures that revealed the pain I had caused. When there were no cameras around, my wife and daughter were barely speaking to me.
I spent the first couple of days alternating between begging for forgiveness and planning the strikes on al Qaeda. At night Hillary would go up to bed and I slept on the couch.
On my birthday General Don Kerrick, Sandy Bergers staffer, flew to Marthas Vineyard to go over the targets recommended by the CIA and the Joint Chiefsthe al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and two targets in Sudan, a tannery in which bin Laden had a financial interest and a chemical plant the CIA believed was being used to produce or store a chemical used in the production of VX nerve gas. I took the tannery off the list because it had no military value to al Qaeda and I wanted to minimize civilian casualties. The hit on the camps would be timed to coincide with the meeting the intelligence indicated bin Laden and his top people would be having.
At 3 a.m. I gave Sandy Berger the final order to proceed, and U.S. Navy destroyers in the northern Arabian Sea launched cruise missiles at the targets in Afghanistan, while missiles were fired at the Sudanese chemical plant from ships in the Red Sea. Most of the missiles hit the targets, but bin Laden was not in the camp where the CIA thought he would be when the missiles hit it. Some reports said he had left the camp only a couple of hours earlier, but we never knew for sure. Several people associated with al Qaeda were killed, as were some Pakistani officers who were reported to be there to train Kashmiri terrorists. The Sudanese chemical plant was destroyed.
After announcing the attacks in Marthas Vineyard, I flew back to Washington to speak to the American people for the second time in four days, telling them I had ordered the strikes because al Qaeda was responsible for the embassy bombings, and bin Laden was perhaps the preeminent organizer and financier of international terrorism in the world today, a man who had vowed to wage a terrorist war on America with no distinction between military personnel and civilians. I said that our attacks were not aimed against Islam but against fanatics and killers, and that we had been fighting against them on several fronts for years and would continue to do so, because this will be a long, ongoing struggle.
Around the time I spoke of the long struggle, I signed the first of a series of orders to prepare for it by using all the tools available. Executive Order 13099 imposed economic sanctions on bin Laden and al Qaeda. Later the sanctions were extended to the Taliban as well. To date, we had not been effective in disrupting terrorists financial networks. The executive order invoked the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which we had earlier used successfully against the Cali drug cartel in Colombia.
I had also asked General Shelton and Dick Clarke to develop some options for dropping commando forces into Afghanistan. I thought that if we took out a couple of al Qaedas training operations it would show them how serious we were, even if we didnt get bin Laden or his top lieutenants. It was clear to me that the senior military didnt want to do this, perhaps because of Somalia, perhaps because they would have to send in the Special Forces without knowing for certain where bin Laden was, or whether we could get our troops back out to safety. At any rate, I continued to keep the option alive.
I also signed several Memoranda of Notification (MONs) authorizing the CIA to use lethal force to apprehend bin Laden. The CIA had been authorized to conduct its own snatch operation against bin Laden the previous spring, months before the embassy bombings, but it lacked the paramilitary capability to do the job. Instead, it contracted with members of local Afghan tribes to get bin Laden. When field agents or the Afghan tribals were apparently uncertain of whether they had to try to capture bin Laden before they used deadly force, I made it clear that they did not. Within a few months I had extended the lethal force authorization by expanding the list of targeted bin Laden associates and the circumstances under which they could be attacked.
By and large, the response of the congressional leaders of both parties to the missile strikes was positive, in large part because they had been well briefed and Secretary Cohen had assured his fellow Republicans that the attack and its timing were justified. Speaker Gingrich said, The United States did exactly the right thing today. Senator Lott said the attacks were appropriate and just. Tom Daschle, Dick Gephardt, and all the Democrats were supportive. Soon I was heartened by the arrest of Mohamed Rashed, an al Qaeda operative who was a suspect in the Kenyan embassy bombing.
Some people criticized me for hitting the chemical plant, which the Sudanese government insisted had nothing to do with the production or storage of dangerous chemicals. I still believe we did the right thing there. The CIA had soil samples taken at the plant site that contained the chemical used to produce VX. In a subsequent terrorist trial in New York City, one of the witnesses testified that bin Laden had a chemical weapons operation in Khartoum. Despite the plain evidence, some people in the media tried to push the possibility that the action was a real-life version of Wag the Dog, a movie in which a fictional President starts a made-for-TV war to distract public attention from his personal problems.
The American people had to absorb the news of the strike and my grand jury testimony at the same time. Newsweek ran an article reporting that the publics reaction to my testimony and television address about it was calm and measured. My job rating was 62 percent, with 73 percent supporting the missile strikes. Most people thought I had been dishonest in my personal life but remained credible on public issues. By contrast, Newsweek said, the first reaction of the pundit class was near hysteria. They were hitting me hard. I deserved a whipping, all right, but I was getting it at home, where it should have been administered.
For now, I just hoped that the Democrats wouldnt be pushed by the media pounding into calling for my resignation, and that I would be able to repair the breach I had caused with my family and with my staff, cabinet, and the people who had believed in me through all the years of constant attacks.
After the speech I went back to the Vineyard for ten days. There was not much thaw on the family front. I made my first public appearance since my grand jury testimony, traveling to Worcester, Massachusetts, at the invitation of Congressman Jim McGovern, to promote the Police Corps, an innovative program that provided college scholarships to people who committed to becoming law-enforcement officers. Worcester is an old-fashioned blue-collar city; I was somewhat apprehensive about the kind of reception I would get there, and was encouraged to find a large enthusiastic crowd at an event attended by the mayor, both senators, and four Massachusetts congressmen. Many people in the crowd urged me to keep doing my job; several said they had made mistakes in their lives, too, and were sorry that mine had been aired in public.
On August 28, the thirty-fifth anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.s famous I have a dream speech, I went to a commemorative service at Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs, which had been a vacation mecca for African-Americans for more than a century. I shared the platform with Congressman John Lewis, who had worked with Dr. King and was one of the most powerful moral forces in American politics. He and I had been friends for a long time, going back well before 1992. He was one of my earliest supporters and had every right to condemn me. Instead, when he rose to speak, John said that I was his friend and brother, that he had stood with me when I was up and would not leave me when I was down, that I had been a good President, and that if it were up to him, I would continue to be. John Lewis will never know how much he lifted my spirits that day.
We returned to Washington at the end of the month to face another tremendous problem. The Asian financial crisis had spread and was now threatening to destabilize the entire global economy. The crisis had begun in Thailand in 1997, then infected Indonesia and South Korea, and now it had spread to Russia. In mid-August, Russia had defaulted on its foreign debt, and by the end of the month the Russian collapse had caused large drops in stock markets across the world. On August 31, the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 512 points, following a drop of 357 just four days earlier; all the gains of 1998 were wiped out.
Bob Rubin and his international economics team had been working on the financial crisis since Thailands trouble began. Although the details of each nations problem were somewhat different, there were some common elements: flawed banking systems, bad loans, crony capitalism, and a general loss of confidence. The situation was aggravated by the lack of economic growth in Japan over the past five years. With no inflation and a 20 percent savings rate, the Japanese could stand it, but the absence of growth in Asias largest economy increased the adverse consequences of bad policies elsewhere. Even the Japanese were getting restless; the stagnant economy had contributed to the election losses that had led to the recent resignation of my friend Ryutaro Hashimoto as prime minister. China, with the regions fastest-growing economy, had kept the crisis from growing even worse by refusing to devalue its currency.
The general formula for recovery in the 1990s was the extension of sizable loans from the International Monetary Fund and wealthy countries in return for necessary reforms in the affected nations. The reforms were invariably politically difficult. They always forced change on entrenched interests and often required fiscal austerity that made things harder on ordinary citizens in the short run, though it brought a quicker recovery and more stability in the long run.
The United States had supported the IMF efforts in Thailand, Indonesia, and South Korea, and had made contributions in the last two cases. The Treasury Department decided not to put money into Thailand because the $17 billion already available was sufficient and because the Exchange Stabilization Fund, which we had used to help Mexico, had some new, albeit temporary, restrictions imposed on it by Congress. The restrictions had expired by the time the other nations needed help, but I regretted not making at least a modest contribution to the Thai package. State, Defense, and the NSC all wanted to do it because Thailand was our oldest ally in Southeast Asia. So did I, but we let Treasury make the call. On the economics and in terms of domestic politics it was the correct decision, but it sent the wrong message to Thais and across Asia. Bob Rubin and I didnt make too many policy errors; I believe this was one of them.
We certainly didnt have the Thai problem with Russia. The United States had been supporting the Russian economy since my first year in office, and we had contributed almost a third of the $23 billion IMF package in July. Unfortunately, the first disbursement of about $5 billion from the package had virtually disappeared overnight, as the ruble was devalued and Russians began to move large sums of their own money out of the country. Russias problems were aggravated by the irresponsible inflationary policies of its central bank and by the Dumas refusal to establish an effective system to collect taxes. The tax rates were high enough, maybe too high, but most taxpayers didnt pay them.
Right after we got back from Marthas Vineyard, Hillary and I took a quick trip to Russia and Northern Ireland with Madeleine Albright, Bill Daley, Bill Richardson, and a bipartisan congressional delegation. Ambassador Jim Collins invited a group of leaders of the Duma to his residence, Spaso House. I tried hard to convince them that no nation could escape the discipline of the global economy, and that if they wanted foreign loans and investment, Russia would have to collect taxes, stop printing money to pay bills and bail out troubled banks, avoid crony capitalism, and pay debts. I dont think I made many converts.
My fifteenth meeting with Boris Yeltsin went as well as it could, given his problems. The Communists and ultra-nationalists were blocking his reform proposals in the Duma. He had tried to create a more effective tax collection system by executive action, but he still couldnt stop the central bank from printing too much money, which only encouraged greater capital flight from the ruble to more stable currencies and discouraged foreign credit and investment. For now, all I could do was encourage him and say the rest of the IMF money would be available as soon as it could make a difference. If we released it now, the funds would disappear as quickly as the first installment had.
We did make one positive announcement, saying that we would remove from each of our nuclear programs about fifty tons of plutoniumenough to make thousands of bombsand render the material incapable of being used to make weapons in the future. With terrorist groups as well as hostile nations trying to get their hands on fissile material, it was an important step that could save countless lives.
After a speech to the new Northern Ireland Assembly in Belfast in which I encouraged the members to continue to implement the Good Friday accord, Hillary and I went with Tony and Cherie Blair, George Mitchell, and Mo Mowlan, the UK secretary of state for Northern Ireland, to Omagh to meet with victims of the bombing. Tony and I spoke as best we could, then we all moved among the families, listening to their stories, seeing the children who had been scarred, and being struck by the victims steady determination to stay on the path of peace. During the Troubles someone had painted a provocative question on a Belfast wall: Is there life before death? Amidst the cruel carnage of Omagh, the Irish were still saying yes.
Before leaving for Dublin, we and the Blairs attended a Gathering for Peace in Armagh, the base from which St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland and now the spiritual center in Northern Ireland for both Catholics and Protestants. I was introduced by a lovely seventeen-year-old girl, Sharon Haughey, who had written to me when she was just fourteen, asking me to help end the fighting with a simple solution: Both sides have been hurt. Both sides will have to forgive.
In Dublin, Bertie Ahern and I spoke with the press after our meeting. An Irish reporter said, It usually seems to take a visit from you to give the peace process a boost. Will we need to see you again? I replied that for their sake I hoped not, but for my own sake I hoped so. Then Bertie said my quick response to the Omagh tragedy had galvanized the parties to make decisions quickly that might have taken weeks and months. Just two days earlier, Martin McGuinness, the chief Sinn Fein negotiator, had announced that he would oversee the arms decommissioning process for Sinn Fein. Martin was Gerry Adamss top aide and a powerful force in his own right. The announcement sent a signal to David Trimble and the Unionists that for Sinn Fein and the IRA, violence, as Adams had said, is a thing of the past, over, done with, and gone. In our private meeting, Bertie Ahern told me that after Omagh, the IRA had warned the Real IRA that if they ever did anything like that again, the British police would be the least of their worries.
The first question I got from an American reporter was a request to reply to the stinging rebuke I had received the day before on the floor of the Senate from my longtime friend Joe Lieberman. I replied, I agree with what he said . . . I made a bad mistake, it was indefensible, and Im sorry about it. Some of our staff were upset that Joe attacked me while I was overseas, but I wasnt. I knew he was a devoutly religious man who was angry about what I had done, and he had carefully avoided saying that I should be impeached.
Our last stop in Ireland was in Limerick, where fifty thousand supporters of peace filled the streets, including the relatives of one member of our delegation, Congressman Peter King of New York, who had brought his mother home for the event. I told the crowd that my friend Frank McCourt had memorialized the old Limerick in Angelas Ashes, but I liked the new one better.
On September 9, Ken Starr sent his 445-page report to Congress, alleging eleven impeachable offenses. Even with all the crimes of Watergate, Leon Jaworski hadnt done that. The independent counsel was supposed to report his findings to Congress if he found substantial and credible evidence to support an impeachment; Congress was supposed to decide whether there were grounds for impeachment. The report was made public on the eleventh; Jaworskis never was. In Starrs report, the word sex appeared more than five hundred times; Whitewater was mentioned twice. He and his allies thought they could wash away all their sins over the last four years in my dirty laundry.
On September 10, I called the cabinet to the White House and apologized to them. Many of them didnt know what to say. They believed in what we were doing and appreciated the opportunity I had given them to serve, but most of them felt I had been selfish and stupid and had left them hanging for eight months. Madeleine Albright led off, saying that I had done wrong and she was disappointed, but our only option was to go back to work. Donna Shalala was tougher, saying it was important for leaders to be good people as well as to have good policies. My longtime friends James Lee Witt and Rodney Slater talked about the power of redemption, and quoted scripture. Bruce Babbitt, a Catholic, talked about the power of confession. Carol Browner said she had been forced to talk with her son about subjects she never thought shed have to discuss with him.
Listening to my cabinet, I really understood for the first time the extent to which the exposure of my misconduct and my dishonesty about it had opened a Pandoras box of emotions in the American people. It was easy enough to say that I had been through a lot in the past six years, and that Starrs inquisition had been awful and the Jones lawsuit was bogus and politically motivated; easy enough to say that even a Presidents personal life should remain private. But once what I had done was out there in all its stark ugliness, peoples evaluations of it were inevitably a reflection of their own personal experiences, marked not only by their convictions but also by their own fears, disappointments, and heartbreak.
My cabinets honest and very different reactions gave me a direct sense of what was going on in conversations all across America. As the impeachment hearings grew closer, I received many letters from friends and strangers alike. Some of the letter writers offered touching words of support and encouragement; some told their own stories of failure and recovery; some expressed outrage over the actions of Starr; some were full of condemnation and disappointment over what I had done; and still others reflected a combination of all these views. Reading the letters helped me to deal with my own emotions, and to remember that if I wanted to be forgiven, I had to forgive.
The atmosphere in the Yellow Oval Room remained awkward and tense until Bob Rubin spoke. Rubin was the one person in the room who best understood what my life had been like for the last four years. He had been through an exhaustive investigation of Goldman Sachs that featured one of his partners being hauled away in handcuffs before he was cleared. After several others had spoken, Rubin said, with characteristic bluntness, Theres no question you screwed up. But we all make mistakes, even big ones. In my opinion, the bigger issue is the disproportion of the media coverage and the hypocrisy of some of your critics. The atmosphere got better after that. Im grateful that no one quit. We all went back to work.
On September 15, I hired Greg Craig, a fine lawyer and old friend of Hillarys and mine from law school, to work with Chuck Ruff, David Kendall, Bruce Lindsay, Cheryl Mills, Lanny Breuer, and Nicole Seligman on my defense team. On the eighteenth, just as I knew they would, the House Judiciary Committee voted on a straight party-line vote to release the video of my grand jury testimony to the public.
A few days later, Hillary and I hosted our annual breakfast for religious leaders at the White House. We usually discussed shared public concerns. This time I asked for their prayers during my personal travail:
I have been on quite a journey these last few weeks to get to the end of this, to the rock-bottom truth of where I am and where we all are. I agree with those who have said that in my first statement after I testified, I was not contrite enough. I dont think there is a fancy way to say that I have sinned.
I said that I was sorry for all who had been hurtmy family, friends, staff, cabinet, and Monica Lewinsky and her family; that I had asked for their forgiveness; and that I would pursue counseling from pastors and others to find, with Gods help, a willingness to give the very forgiveness I seek, a renunciation of the pride and the anger which cloud judgment, lead people to excuse and compare and to blame and complain. I also said I would mount a vigorous defense in response to the charges against me and would intensify my efforts to do my job in the hope that with a broken spirit and a still strong heart I can be used for greater good.
I had asked three pastors to counsel me at least once a month for an indefinite period: Phil Wogaman, our minister at Foundry Methodist Church; my friend Tony Campolo; and Gordon MacDonald, a minister and author of several books I had read on living ones faith. They would more than fulfill their commitment, usually coming to the White House together, sometimes separately. We would pray, read scripture, and discuss some things I had never really talked about before. The Reverend Bill Hybels from Chicago also continued to come to the White House regularly, to ask searching questions designed to check my spiritual health. Even though they were often tough on me, the pastors took me past the politics into soul-searching and the power of Gods love.
Hillary and I also began a serious counseling program, one day a week for about a year. For the first time in my life, I actually talked openly about feelings, experiences, and opinions about life, love, and the nature of relationships. I didnt like everything I learned about myself or my past, and it pained me to face the fact that my childhood and the life Id led since growing up had made some things difficult for me that seemed to come more naturally to other people.
I also came to understand that when I was exhausted, angry, or feeling isolated and alone, I was more vulnerable to making selfish and self-destructive personal mistakes about which I would later be ashamed. The current controversy was the latest casualty of my lifelong effort to lead parallel lives, to wall off my anger and grief and get on with my outer life, which I loved and lived well. During the government shutdowns I was engaged in two titanic struggles: a public one with Congress over the future of our country, and a private one to hold the old demons at bay. I had won the public fight and lost the private one.
In so doing, I had hurt more than my family and my administration. It was also damaging to the presidency and the American people. No matter how much pressure I was under, I should have been stronger and behaved better.
There was no excuse for what I did, but trying to come to grips with why I did it gave me at least a chance to finally unify my parallel lives.
In the long counseling sessions and our conversations about them afterward, Hillary and I also got to know each other again, beyond the work and ideas we shared and the child we adored. I had always loved her very much, but not always very well. I was grateful that she was brave enough to participate in the counseling. We were still each others best friend, and I hoped we could save our marriage.
Meanwhile, I was still sleeping on a couch, this one in the small living room that adjoined our bedroom. I slept on that old couch for two months or more. I got a lot of reading, thinking, and work done, and the couch was pretty comfortable, but I hoped I wouldnt be on it forever.
As the Republicans intensified their criticism of me, my supporters started to stand up. On September 11, eight hundred Irish-Americans gathered on the South Lawn as Brian ODwyer presented me with an award named after his late father, Paul, for my role in the Irish peace process. Brians remarks and the crowds response to them left no doubt about why they were really there.
A few days later, Vclav Havel came to Washington for a state visit, telling the press I was his great friend. As the press continued to ask questions about impeachment, resignation, and whether I had lost my moral authority to lead, Havel said America had many different faces: I love most of these faces. There are some I dont understand. I dont like to speak about things which I dont understand.
Five days after that I went to New York for the opening session of the UN General Assembly, to deliver a speech on the worlds shared obligations to fight terrorists: to give them no support, sanctuary, or financial assistance; to bring pressure on states that do; to step up extradition and prosecutions; to sign the global anti-terror conventions and strengthen and enforce the ones designed to protect us against biological and chemical weapons; to control the manufacture and export of explosives; to raise international standards for airport security; and to combat the conditions that breed terror. It was an important speech, especially at that time, but the delegates in the cavernous hall of the General Assembly were also thinking about events in Washington. When I stood up to speak, they responded with an enthusiastic and prolonged standing ovation. It was unheard of for the normally reserved UN, and I was profoundly moved. I wasnt sure whether the unprecedented act was more a gesture of support for me or opposition to what was going on in Congress. While I was speaking to the UN about terrorism, all the television networks were showing the videotape of my grand jury testimony.
The next day, at the White House, I held a reception for Nelson Mandela with African-American religious leaders. It was his idea. The Congress had voted to give him the Congressional Gold Medal and he was to receive it the following day. Mandela called to say he suspected the timing of the award was no accident: As the President of South Africa I cannot decline this award. But I would like to come a day early and tell the American people what I think about what the Congress is doing to you. And thats exactly what he did, saying that he had never seen a reception at the UN like the one I had received, that the world needed me, and that my adversaries should leave me alone. The pastors applauded their approval.
As good as Mandela was, the Reverend Bernice King, Martin Luther King Jr.s daughter, stole the show. She said that even great leaders sometimes commit grievous sins; that King David had done something far worse than I had in arranging the death in battle of Bathshebas husband, who was Davids loyal soldier, so that David could marry her; and that David had to atone for his sin and was punished for it. No one could tell where Bernice was going until she got to the closing: Yes, David committed a terrible sin and God punished him. But David remained king.
Meanwhile, I kept working, pushing my proposal for school modernization and construction funds in Maryland, Florida, and Illinois; talking to the National Farmers Union about agriculture; giving an important address on modernizing the global financial system at the Council on Foreign Relations; meeting with the Joint Chiefs on the readiness of our armed forces; drumming up support for another minimum wage increase at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union; receiving the final report of the Presidents Advisory Commission on Race from John Hope Franklin; holding a dialogue with Tony Blair, Italian prime minister Romano Prodi, and President Peter Stoyanov of Bulgaria on the applicability to other nations of the Third Way philosophy Tony and I had embraced; having my first meeting with the new Japanese prime minister, Keizo Obuchi; bringing Netanyahu and Arafat to the White House in an attempt to get the peace process going; and appearing at more than a dozen campaign events for Democrats in six states and Washington, D.C.
On September 30, the last day of the fiscal year, I announced that we had run a budget surplus of about $70 billion, the first one in twenty-nine years. Although the press was focused on little besides the Starr report, there were, as always, a lot of other things going on, and they had to be dealt with. I was determined not to let the publics business grind to a halt and was gratified that the White House staff and cabinet felt the same way. No matter what was in the daily news, they kept doing their job.
In October the House Republicans, led by Henry Hyde and his colleagues on the Judiciary Committee, continued to push for my impeachment. The committee Democrats, led by John Conyers of Michigan, fought them tooth and nail, arguing that even if the worst charges against me were true, they didnt amount to the high crimes and misdemeanors the Constitution required for impeachment. The Democrats were right on the law, but the Republicans had the votes; on October 8 the House voted to open an inquiry into whether I should be impeached. I wasnt surprised; we were just a month away from the midterm elections and the Republicans were running a single-issue campaign: get Clinton. 
After the election I believed the moderate Republicans would look at the facts and the law and decide against impeachment in favor of a resolution of censure or reprimandwhich is what Newt Gingrich had received for false statements and apparent violations of the tax laws.
Many of the pundits were predicting disaster for the Democrats. The conventional wisdom was that we would lose twenty-five to thirty-five seats in the House and four to six seats in the Senate because of the controversy. It seemed a safe bet to most people in Washington. The Republicans had $100 million more than the Democrats to spend, and more Democrats than Republicans were up for reelection in the Senate. Among the contested Senate seats, the Democrats seemed sure to pick up the one in Indiana, where the candidate was Governor Evan Bayh, while Ohio governor George Voinovich seemed certain to win the seat being vacated by John Glenn for the Republicans. That left seven seats up in the air, five currently held by Democrats and only two by Republicans.
I disagreed with the conventional wisdom for several reasons. First, a majority of Americans disapproved of the way Starr was conducting himself, and resented the fact that the Republican Congress was more interested in hurting me than in helping them. Almost 80 percent disapproved of the release of my grand jury videotape, and overall approval of the Congress had dropped to 43 percent. Second, as Gingrich had shown with the Contract with America in 1994, if the public believed one party had a positive agenda and the other didnt, the party with the plan would win. The Democrats were united with a midterm program for the first time ever: save Social Security first before spending the surplus on new programs or tax cuts; put 100,000 teachers in our schools; modernize old schools and build new ones; raise the minimum wage; and pass the Patients Bill of Rights. Finally, a sizable majority of Americans were opposed to impeachment; if Democrats ran on their plan and against impeachment, I thought they might actually be able to win the House.
I did some political events at the beginning and end of October, most of them near Washington, in settings designed to emphasize the issues our candidates were stressing. Otherwise, I spent most of the month on the job. There was plenty of work to do, by far the most important of which involved the Middle East. Madeleine Albright and Dennis Ross had been laboring for months to get the peace process back on track, and Madeleine had finally gotten Arafat and Netanyahu together when they were in New York for the UN General Assembly session. Neither of them was ready to take the next steps or to be seen by his own constituents as compromising too much, but both were concerned that the deteriorating situation could easily get out of hand, especially if Hamas launched a new round of attacks.
The next day, the leaders came down to Washington to see me, and I announced plans to bring them back to the United States within a month to hammer out an agreement. In the interim, Madeleine went to the region to see them. They met on the border between Israel and Gaza, then Arafat took them to his guest house for lunch, making the hard-liner Netanyahu the first Israeli prime minister to go into Palestinian Gaza.
Months of work had gone into preparation of the summit. Both parties wanted the United States to work with them on the hard decisions and believed that the high drama of the event would help them sell those decisions back home. Of course, in any summit theres always a risk that the two sides wont be able to reach an agreement, and that the high-profile effort will damage all involved. My national security team was worried about the possibility of failure and its consequences. Both Arafat and Netanyahu had staked out tough positions in public, and Bibi had bolstered his rhetoric by naming Ariel Sharon, the most hard-line of the prominent Likud leaders, foreign minister. Sharon had referred to the 1993 peace agreement as national suicide for Israel. It was impossible to know whether Netanyahu had given Sharon the portfolio to have someone to blame if the summit failed or to provide himself cover on the right if it succeeded.
I thought the summit was a good idea and was eager to hold it. It seemed to me that we didnt have much to lose, and I always preferred failure in a worthy effort to inaction for fear of failure.
On the fifteenth, we kicked things off at the White House, then the delegations moved to the Wye River Conference Center in Maryland. It was well suited to the task at hand; the public meeting and dining spaces were comfortable, and the living quarters were laid out in such a way that the delegations could each have all their people staying together and at a fair distance from the other side.
Originally, we had planned for the summit to last four days; it would end two days before Netanyahu had to be back in Israel to open the new session of the Knesset. We agreed on the usual rules: neither side was bound by interim agreements on specific issues until a complete accord was reached, and the United States would draft the final agreement. I told them I would be there as much as I could, but would helicopter back to the White House at night, no matter how late, so that I could work in the office the next morning to sign legislation and continue negotiating with Congress on the budget bills. We were in the new fiscal year, but less than a third of the thirteen appropriations bills had been passed and signed into law. The marines who ran HMX1, the presidential helicopter, did a great job for me over eight years, but during Wye River they were even more invaluable, staying on duty to fly me back to the White House at two and three oclock in the morning after the late sessions.
At the first dinner I urged Arafat and Netanyahu to think about how they could help each other cope with their domestic opposition. They thought and talked for four days, but were exhausted from trying and were nowhere near an agreement. Netanyahu told me we couldnt reach agreement on all the issues and suggested a partial one: Israel would withdraw from 13 percent of the West Bank and the Palestinians would dramatically improve cooperation on security, following a plan developed with the help of CIA director George Tenet, who enjoyed the confidence of both sides.
Late that night I met alone with Ariel Sharon for the first time. The seventy-year-old former general had been part of Israels creation and all its subsequent wars. He was unpopular among Arabs not only for his hostility to trading land for peace but also for his role in the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, in which a large number of unarmed Palestinian refugees were killed by the Lebanese militia that was allied with Israel. During our meeting, which ran more than two hours, I mostly asked questions and listened. Sharon was not without sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians. He wanted to help them economically, but did not believe giving up the West Bank was in Israels security interest, nor did he trust Arafat to fight terror. He was the only member of the Israeli delegation who would not shake hands with Arafat. I enjoyed hearing Sharon talk about his life and his views, and when we finished, at nearly three in the morning, I had a better understanding of how he thought.
One thing that surprised me was how hard he pushed me to pardon Jonathan Pollard, a former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst who had been convicted in 1986 of spying for Israel. Rabin and Netanyahu had previously asked for Pollards release, too. It was obvious that this was an issue in Israeli domestic politics and that the Israeli public didnt think the United States should have punished Pollard so severely since it was to an ally that he had sold highly sensitive information. The case would come up again before we finished. Meanwhile, I continued to work with the leaders and to talk with their team members, including the Israeli defense minister, Yitzhak Mordechai; Arafats senior advisors Abu Ala and Abu Mazen, both of whom would later become Palestinian prime ministers; Saeb Erekat, Arafats chief negotiator; and Mohammed Dahlan, the thirty-seven-year-old security chief in Gaza. Both the Israelis and the Palestinians were diverse, impressive groups. I tried to spend time with all of them; there was no telling who might make a decisive case for peace when they were alone in their separate delegations.
When we hadnt reached consensus by Sunday night, the parties agreed to extend the talks, and Al Gore joined me to add his powers of persuasion to our team, which included Sandy Berger, Rob Malley, and Bruce Reidel from the White House, and Secretary Albright, Dennis Ross, Martin Indyk, Aaron Miller, Wendy Sherman, and Toni Verstandig from the State Department. Every day they would take turns working on their Israeli and Palestinian counterparts on various issues, always looking for that streak of light that might break through the clouds.
The State Department translator, Gemal Helal, also played a unique role in these and other negotiations. The members of both delegations spoke English, but Arafat always conducted business in Arabic. Gemal was usually the only other person in the room during my one-on-one meetings with Arafat. He understood the Middle East and the role each member of the Palestinian delegation played in their deliberations, and Arafat liked him. He would become an advisor on my team. On more than one occasion, his insight and his personal connection with Arafat would prove invaluable.
On Monday I felt we were making headway again. I kept pushing Netanyahu to give Arafat the benefits of peacethe land, the airport, the safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank, a port in Gazaso that he would be strong enough to fight terror, and I pressed Arafat not only to increase his efforts on security but to call the Palestinian National Council together to formally revise the Palestinian Covenant, excising the language calling for the destruction of Israel. The PLO Executive Council had already renounced the provisions, but Netanyahu thought Israeli citizens would never believe they had a partner for peace until the elected Palestinian Assembly voted to delete the offensive language from the charter. Arafat didnt want to call the council into session because he thought he might not be able to control the outcome. Palestinians the world over were eligible to vote for council members, and many of the expatriates were not as supportive of the compromises inherent in the peace process and of his leadership as were the Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank.
On the twentieth, King Hussein and Queen Noor joined us. Hussein was in the United States for cancer treatments at the Mayo Clinic. I had kept him briefed on our progress and problems. Although he was weakened by his illness and the chemotherapy treatments, he said he would come to Wye if I thought it would help. After talking to Noor, who assured me that he wanted to come, and that they would be fine in whatever guest quarters were available, I told Hussein we could use all the help we could get. It is difficult to describe or overstate the impact Husseins presence had on the talks. He had lost a lot of weight, and the chemotherapy had taken all of his hair, even his eyebrows, but his mind and heart were still strong. He was very helpful, talking common sense to both sides, and the very sight of him diminished the posturing and pettiness that are a usual part of all such negotiations.
On the twenty-first, we had reached agreement only on the security issue, and it looked as if Netanyahu might celebrate his forty-ninth birthday by leaving the failed talks. The next day I came back to stay for the duration. After the two sides met alone for two hours, they came up with an ingenious way to get the Palestinian Council to vote on changing the charter: I would go to Gaza to address the group with Arafat, who would then ask for a show of support by raised hands or clapping or stamping of feet. Sandy Berger, although he was supportive of the plan, warned that it was a risky move for me. That was true, but we were asking the Israelis and Palestinians to take bigger risks; I agreed to do it.
That night we were still hung up on Arafats demand for the release of one thousand Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails. Netanyahu said he couldnt release Hamas members or others with blood on their hands, and he thought no more than five hundred could be let go. I knew we were at a breaking point and had asked Hussein to come to the large cabin where we were dining to talk to both delegations together. When he entered the room, his regal aura, luminous eyes, and simple eloquence seemed magnified by his physical decline. In his deep, sonorous voice, he said that history would judge us all, that the differences remaining between the parties were trivial compared with the benefits of peace, and that they had to achieve it for the sake of their children. His unspoken message was equally clear: I may not have long to live; its up to you not to let the peace die.
After Hussein left, we kept going, with everyone staying in the dining room and collecting around different tables to keep working on various issues. I told my team we were out of time, and I wasnt going to bed. My strategy for success had now boiled down to endurance; I was determined to be the last man standing. Netanyahu and Arafat also knew it was now or never. They and their teams stayed with us through the long night.
Finally, at about 3 a.m., I worked out a deal on the prisoners with Netanyahu and Arafat, and we just kept plowing ahead until we finished. It was almost seven in the morning. There was one more obstacle: Netanyahu was threatening to scuttle the whole deal unless I released Pollard. He said I had promised him I would do so at an earlier meeting the night before, and thats why he had agreed on the other issues. In fact, I had told the prime minister that if thats what it took to make peace, I was inclined to do it, but I would have to check with our people.
For all the sympathy Pollard generated in Israel, he was a hard case to push in America; he had sold our countrys secrets for money, not conviction, and for years had not shown any remorse. When I talked to Sandy Berger and George Tenet, they were adamantly opposed to letting Pollard go, as was Madeleine Albright. George said that after the severe damage the Aldrich Ames case had done to the CIA, he would have to resign if I commuted Pollards sentence. I didnt want to do it, and Tenets comments closed the door. Security and the commitments by the Israelis and Palestinians to work together against terror were at the heart of the agreement we had reached. Tenet had helped the sides to work out details and had agreed that the CIA would support their implementation. If he left, there was a real chance Arafat would not go forward. I also needed George in the fight against al Qaeda and terrorism. I told Netanyahu that I would review the case seriously and try to work through it with Tenet and the national security team, but that Netanyahu was better off with a security agreement that he could count on than he would have been with the release of Pollard.
Finally, after we talked again at length, Bibi agreed to stay with the agreement, but only on the condition that he could change the mix of prisoners to be released, so that he would free more ordinary criminals and fewer who had committed security offenses. That was a problem for Arafat, who wanted the release of people he considered freedom fighters. Dennis Ross and Madeleine Albright went to his cabin and convinced him that this was the best I could do. Then I went to see him to thank him; his last-minute concession had saved the day.
The agreement provided the Palestinians more land on the West Bank, the airport, a seaport, a prisoner release, safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank, and economic aid. In return, Israel would get unprecedented cooperation in the fight against violence and terror, the jailing of specific Palestinians whom Israelis had identified as the source of continuing violence and killing, the change in the Palestinian Covenant, and a quick start on the final status talks. The United States would provide aid to help Israel meet the security costs of redeployment and support for Palestinian economic development, and would play a central role in cementing the unprecedented security cooperation the two sides had agreed to embrace.
As soon as we finally shook hands on the deal, we had to rush back to the White House to announce it. Most of us had been up for almost forty hours straight and could have used a nap and shower, but it was Friday afternoon, and we had to finish the ceremony before sundown, the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath. The ceremony began at 4 p.m. in the East Room. After Madeleine Albright and Al Gore spoke, I outlined the particulars of the agreement and thanked the parties. Then Netanyahu and Arafat made gracious and upbeat remarks. Bibi was very statesman-like and Arafat renounced violence in unusually strong words. Hussein warned that the enemies of peace would try to undo the agreement with violence and urged the people on both sides to stand behind their leaders, and to replace destruction and death with a shared future for the children of Abraham that is worthy of them under the sun.
In a gesture of friendship and an appreciation of what the Republicans in Congress were up to, Hussein said that he had been friends with nine Presidents, But on the subject of peace . . . neverwith all the affection I held for your predecessorshave I known someone with your dedication, clearheadedness, focus, and determination . . . and we hope you will be with us as we see greater success and as we help our brethren move ahead towards a better tomorrow.
Then Netanyahu and Arafat signed the agreement, just before the sun went down and Shabbat began. The Middle East peace was still alive.
While the talks were going on at Wye River, Erskine Bowles was managing intense negotiations with Congress over the budget. He had told me he was going to leave after the election, and he wanted to make the best agreement he could. We had a lot of leverage because the Republicans wouldnt dare shut the government down again, and they had wasted a lot of time in the previous months squabbling among themselves and attacking me instead of finishing their business.
Erskine and his team adroitly maneuvered through the details of the budget bills, giving a concession here and there in order to secure funding for our big priorities. We announced agreement on the afternoon of the fifteenth, and the next morning there was a celebration of it in the Rose Garden with Tom Daschle, Dick Gephardt, and our entire economic team. The final deal saved the surplus for Social Security reform and provided funding for the first installment of the 100,000 new teachers, a large increase in after-school and summer school programs, and our other education priorities. We secured a solid relief package for farmers and ranchers and scored impressive environmental gains: funding for the clean water initiative to restore 40 percent of our lakes and rivers that were still too polluted for fishing and swimming, as well as money to combat global warming and continue our efforts to protect precious lands from development and pollution. And after eight months of deadlock, we also won approval for Americas contribution to the International Monetary Fund, enabling the United States to continue our efforts to end the financial crisis and stabilize the world economy.
Not all of our agenda passed, so we had plenty of ammunition for the last two and a half weeks of the campaign. The Republicans had blocked the Patients Bill of Rights for the HMOs; killed the tobacco legislation, with its cigarette tax increase and antiteen smoking measures for the big tobacco companies; filibustered campaign finance reform in the Senate, despite unanimous Senate Democratic support for it after it had passed the House; defeated the minimum wage increase; and, most surprising to me, refused to pass my proposal to build or repair five thousand schools. They also refused to pass the tax credit on the production and purchase of clean energy and energy conservation devices. I kidded Newt Gingrich that I had finally found a tax cut that he was against.
Still, it was a superb budget, given the political composition of Congress, and a real tribute to the negotiating skills of Erskine Bowles. After negotiating the balanced budget in 1997, he had come through again. As I said, he had a great closing act.
Four days later, just before I left again for Wye River, I named John Podesta to succeed Erskine, who had strongly recommended him for the job. I had known John for nearly thirty years, since Joe Duffeys campaign for the Senate in 1970. He had already served as White House staff secretary and deputy chief of staff; he understood Congress and had helped guide our economic, foreign, and defense policies; he was an ardent environmentalist; and except for Al Gore, he knew more about information technology than anyone else in the White House. He had the right personal qualities, too: a fine mind, a tough hide, a dry wit, and he was a better hearts player than Erskine Bowles. John gave the White House an exceptionally able leadership team, with Deputy Chiefs of Staff Steve Ricchetti and Maria Echaveste and his aide, Karen Tramontano.
Through our trials and triumphs, our golf matches and card games, Erskine and I had become close friends. I would miss him, especially on the golf course. On many tough days Erskine and I would go out to Army-Navy golf course for a quick round. Until my friend Kevin OKeefe left the counsels office, he often joined us. We were always accompanied around the course by Mel Cook, a retired military man who worked there and knew the place like the back of his hand. Sometimes I would play four or five holes before hitting a decent shot, but eventually the beauty of the layout and my love for the game would drive away the pressures of the day. I kept up my trips to Army-Navy, but I always missed Erskine. At least he was leaving me in good hands with Podesta.
Rahm Emanuel had left, too. Since he had started with me as campaign finance director in 1991, he had married and started a family, and he wanted to provide for them. Rahms great gift was putting ideas into action. He saw the potential in issues everyone else missed, and he stayed on top of the details that often determine success or failure. After our defeat in 1994, he had played a major role in bringing my image back into line with reality. Within a few years Rahm would be back in Washington, as a congressman from Chicago, the city he thought should be capital of the world. I replaced him with Doug Sosnik, the White House political director, who was almost as aggressive as Rahm, understood politics and the Congress, always told me the downside of every situation without wanting me to give in to it, and was a shrewd hearts player. Craig Smith took over the political directors job, the same position he had had in the 1992 campaign.
On the morning of the twenty-second, not long before I left for the last, never-ending day at Wye River, Congress adjourned after having sent me the administrations bill to establish three thousand charter schools in America by 2000. In the last week of the month, Prime Minister Netanyahu survived a no-confidence vote in the Knesset on the Wye River accord, and the presidents of Ecuador and Peru, with help from the United States, settled a contentious border dispute that had threatened to erupt into armed conflict. At the White House, I welcomed the new president of Colombia, Andrs Pastrana, and supported his courageous efforts to end the decades-old conflict with guerrilla groups. I also signed the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 and appointed Robert Seiple, formerly head of World Vision U.S., a Christian charity, to be the secretary of states special representative for international religious freedom.
As the campaign drew to a close, I made several stops in California, New York, Florida, and Maryland and went with Hillary to Cape Canaveral, Florida, to see John Glenn blast into space; the Republican National Committee began a series of television ads attacking me; Judge Norma Holloway Johnson ruled that there was probable cause to believe that Starrs office had violated the law against grand jury leaks twenty-four times; and news reports indicated that, according to DNA tests, Thomas Jefferson had fathered several children with his slave Sally Hemings.
On November 3, despite the huge Republican financial advantage, the attacks on me, and the pundits predictions of the Democrats demise, the elections went our way. Instead of the predicted loss of four to six Senate seats, there was no change. My friend John Breaux, who had helped me restore the New Democrat image of the administration after the 94 election and was a staunch foe of impeachment, was overwhelmingly reelected in Louisiana. In the House of Representatives, the Democrats actually won back five seats, the first time the Presidents party had done so in the sixth year of a presidency since 1822.
The election had presented a simple choice: the Democrats wanted to save Social Security first, hire 100,000 teachers, modernize schools, raise the minimum wage, and pass the Patients Bill of Rights. The Republicans