Politics began to heat up in June. Al Gore announced for President on the sixteenth. His likely opponent was Governor George W. Bush, the preferred candidate of both the Republican Partys right wing and its establishment. Bush had already raised more money than Al and his primary opponent, former New Jersey senator Bill Bradley, combined. Hillary was moving closer to getting into the Senate race in New York. By the time we left the White House she would have helped me in my political career for more than twenty-six years. I was more than happy to support her for the next twenty-six.
Alas, even our conservation efforts didnt escape controversy. An investigative reporter discovered that one of the projects we funded was a boondoggle. It was designed to train low-income people to chop wood and distribute it to other poor people to burn in their stoves. The Special Alternative Wood Energy Resources project had a descriptive acronym, SAWER, but a lousy record. It had spent ,000 to train six woodchoppers and cut three cords of wood. I fired the director and got someone else who fixed the program, but it was the waste that stuck in the publics mind. To most Arkansans, ,000 was a lot of money.
We finished our vacation in Spain with a stop in Guernica, the town memorialized in Picassos remarkable painting of its bombing in the Spanish civil war. When we got there, a Basque festival was in progress. We liked the music and dancing but had a hard time with one of the native delicacies, cold fish in milk. We explored the nearby caves with their prehistoric drawings and spent a glorious day in the shadow of the snowcapped Pyrenees on a hot beach that had a little restaurant with good, inexpensive food and beer at a nickel a glass. At the border on the way back into Franceby this time it was early August, the vacation month in Europecars were stretched out before us as far as we could see, testament to the good sense of Europeans that life is more than work. For me, that adage would get harder and harder to live by.
In his closing argument to the Senate, Henry Hyde finally gave his interpretation of the constitutional meaning of impeachment when he said in essence that trying to spare oneself embarrassment over private misconduct was more of a justification for removal from office than misleading the nation about an important matter of state. My mother had raised me to look for the good in everybody. When I watched the vituperative Mr. Hyde, I was sure there must be a Dr. Jekyll in there somewhere, but I was having a hard time finding him.
My acceptance speech was easy to give because of the record: the lowest combined rate of unemployment and inflation in twenty-eight years; 10 million new jobs; 10 million people getting the minimum wage increase; 25 million Americans benefiting from the Kennedy-Kassebaum bill; 15 million working Americans with a tax cut; 12 million taking advantage of the family leave law; 10 million students saving money through the Direct Student Loan Program; 40 million workers with more pension security.