Speaking Truth to President Clinton
Then we went back and worked on the draft and sent it over to him. He read it, and we had another meeting. He had clearly read it, and he’d marked it up, and he’d had some ideas about it. He wanted to add things. We added this and we added that. Finally he came up with an idea—I don’t remember the substance of it, but it had something to do with Japan—that he wanted to put in. I said,Mr. President, there are enough ideas in this speech already. It’s getting too long.And he looked absolutely crestfallen. [laughter]
Alan Greenspan’s Punctuality Contrasted to President Clinton’s Lack of Same
Let me give you one more thing about the lateness. I eventually got used to it, as I’m a fairly prompt person, despite being late this morning. But I eventually got used to this presidential style. Then I went to the Federal Reserve. Alan Greenspan is exactly the opposite. A 10 o’clock meeting at the Federal Reserve means that you are sitting in your seat at 10 o’clock, and Greenspan comes in, and you start talking. If you’re two or three minutes late, nobody says anything, but you never do it again.
On the Ira Magaziner/Hillary Clinton Health Care Task Force
My impression was that universal coverage had become the goal early on of the health task force, particularly of Ira. He really believed it could be done, but it could only be done if it was all done at once—incremental was not a good way to go. But I don’t remember an explicit decision process on that. As far as I knew, that decision had been made, and these people were off and running. The rest of us were trying to figure out how we should help, and shaking our heads and saying,This doesn’t seem like a very good idea to us. It’s too big, and we don’t believe it can be budget neutral.But there wasn’t exactly a confrontation on this because it was almost like there were two separate tracks.
This relates to the point I’ll make later about the WSJ op/ed.
Who Was Intimidating on the Health Care Task Force?
I wasn’t intimidated by Hillary. I think we were all intimidated by Ira. Hillary was usually perfectly willing to talk about anything. Ira was very set on what he wanted to do, and I found that relationship difficult.
Can’t Fight a War Because We Don’t Have the Money
Well, we were talking about what international things OMB was involved in. I do remember one was the invasion of Haiti, where we had to figure out how to fund this invasion. Part of the problem was that it was the end of the fiscal year, and there was no extra money in the military budget. So we were trying to borrow— I don’t know how we solved this problem, but it was a significant difficulty, the fact that it was the end of the fiscal year.
Whatever high military officer I was talking to, I said,Please don’t have another war at the end of the fiscal year. Try to have them in October.
There’s so much more there. I highly recommend reading the whole thing.